Good morning all, Monday is here which means the beloved weekend has now passed and we face another working week before experiencing another. Fortunately this working week I have Friday off so therefore I only have to bare four days before my weekend and more importantly we have an important Champions League game to help keep us sane.
Tomorrow we face French club Marseille at home in which we’ll be looking to get nothing but three points. Dortmund play Napoli in the other game which I’d expect Dortmund to win, therefore winning against Marseille gives us the chance to stay top of our group before we head to Napoli for the next game. We can still top our group providing we can get at least a point against Napoli however for that to happen we must beat Marseille first.
We can think about the Italians nearer the time because for now our focus needs to be on Marseille. They may be the weakest club in the group and have absolutely no chance of qualifying, but they can’t be underestimated at all. They’re a good side with the potential to score so another solid defensive performance like against Southampton will be required. Santi Cazorla acknowledges their strengths and the importance of getting the win, he said
The main problem I see is that everyone thinks that it’s not going to be an easy game for us to win, there is nothing at stake for Marseille because they have zero points but they are going to make things difficult for us.
We need to understand that it’s a vital match. If we get the right result we can automatically go to the next round.
If we obtained a bad result then it would make things very complicated for us to go to Napoli and win there.
Win and we qualify, leaving just a point to be necessary against Napoli to top the group. Lose or draw and that game becomes a must-win, and pressure like that isn’t something you want to put on your team when you should have beaten Marseille a few weeks prior.
I’ll have more to discuss ahead of the game tomorrow but for now I’d like to return to the positive thinking that’s still very much in the air. After the weekends game against Southampton and the positive comments from their manager about our title chances, Arsene Wenger has expressed his view that the squad are ready for the title fight, saying
This win shows we are ready for a fight when it didn’t go as fluently as we wanted, that is the most pleasing thing. We were tested by being challenged for every single ball and we responded quite well.
We always had the focus and I could never feel that we eased off. They made it very difficult for us.
We could see a good togetherness to help each other out, we knew that we were sometimes in trouble and you felt that they were ready to fight for each other.
That is the solidarity level that was needed. It’s very important.
I think the single most important thing fans want to see in footballers is fight. Fans would rather have a team of lesser talented players that fight to win every game then a bunch of lazy ones that have the potential to do something but rarely do. The thing everybody seems to be applauding about our current side is their work ethic and will to win. Even when we play badly we’re grinding out the three points and that’s what we want to see.
As Wenger points out, there’s certainly a level of togetherness and solidarity in the side now which is absolutely crucial if you want to have a chance of winning the league. We spent several of the last few years with plenty of technical quality but a huge lack of leadership, character and mettle. Chuck in some strength and bite in the forms of Giroud, Flamini and Wilshere, plus some leaders and fighters in Arteta, Mertesacker and Ramsey and you understand how this overall team mentality has been formed.
Title challenge aside, little Santi even believes we can do beautiful things in the Champions League too. The Spanish ball pinging maestro said
We are aware that we can do beautiful things, that we can do important things, last year we went out having won 2-0 at Bayern Munich and this means we are a lot more excited this year about the Champions League.
[The competition] is difficult to win. At the end of the day we have a good team, we’re going through a good patch but in this competition there are the best teams in the world. If you have a bad day you will be out of the tournament.
It’s the best and most consistent team that is going to win. We’re aware that in order to win the Champions League we have to work hard and beat the biggest teams.
The Bayern Munich win certainly created a new level of belief in the squad which has since led to some fantastic results and looking at the Champions League it’s not beyond impossible to go far in it. Winning it requires an extremely special squad – one which usually has an abundance of talent such as Bayern or Barcelona in recent seasons – but as Chelsea showed a lot of fight (and even more luck) can win it for you.
Santi highlighted the importance of beating Dortmund in the group stages too, saying
It was a great victory and it put us in a privileged position, had we lost in Dortmund, it would have been very difficult for us in the table.
Also they hadn’t lost at home for a long time, they didn’t concede any goals to their rival teams and that means that we’ve done things in a really good way and that we can face great teams.
His points further strengthen my comments earlier in the blog that we’re in a great position to go on and win the group now thanks to that win against Dortmund. Going back to our chances of winning the competition itself, I can’t help but feel that if we can beat Bayern and Dortmund at their grounds, then why not go all the way in the competition? We have proved we have the potential but it’s just whether or not we can show it against the other teams such as Real Madrid and Barcelona whilst under the pressure of a semi-final or final.
Anyway it’s all stuff for you to process and think about this morning. We’ll have even more to discuss tomorrow when Le Boss gives his thoughts in todays pre-match interview but until then I suggest you try enjoy your Monday (I know, it’s hard). Thanks for reading!
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