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I'm tipping up Chelsea at Arsenal as I take a Premiership sabbatical

Premier League RSS / / 13 December 2007 / 1

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Legendary manager Frank Gregan takes a break from Non-League football and rolls back the years to explain why now is the time to oppose Arsenal

With no live Conference game on Thursday night, I've been given a free rein by our wizened editor and allowed to write a piece on any live game this weekend. I like to think that my footballing knowledge is a pretty broad church and as such I've elected to write about the visit to the Emirates by Chelsea this weekend.

The story I like to tell in order to highlight the spectrum that my footballing experience encompasses relates to a week in my life during the late 1990's. I was a full time Sergeant Major in the Army but I worked part time in a scouting capacity at Arsenal and also managed Forest Green Rovers. Midweek I watched a game as Arsenal's representative, Saturday I managed Forest Green who were in the middle of an injury crisis so I had to name myself as a substitute and on the Sunday morning my mates were short so I helped them out by playing for the Woolpack Wasps Reserves in the Warminster and District Sunday League!

During that journey I have learned some harsh lessons. One that springs to mind was whilst I was working at Manchester City a few years back. We were playing Arsenal at home on a Monday night live on sky. It was coming up to the end of the season and points were vital as we were very much a part of the relegation dogfight. At Maine Road we had an "office" in the tunnel, which was a small hospitality suite for the staff. The gaffer, Joe Royle, came in with the Arsenal team sheet and said "if we don't beat Arsenal tonight we'll never beat them." The Arsenal team sheet was missing a whole host of names including the two big ones at the time, Henry and Vieira. Everybody got a huge lift and you can only imagine what a mental boost it gave to the Man City players.
We were 4-0 down at half time! They ran us ragged. They were better in every department and quite frankly, were in a different class. I remember being so impressed with their strength in depth and that was the lesson I learned. To be a real contender in the Premier League you have to be strong from 1-24, not just 1-11.

I'm not sure at this point in time Arsenal has that strength in depth. During their recent two game visits to the North East which yielded only 1 point they were missing Fabregas, Flamini, Hleb and Van Persie. That is forty percent of an absolute class outfield team. I appreciate Van Persie came back for sixty five minutes midweek but after a two month absence will he be ready for the cut and thrust of a top of the table English Premier match?

I think it is time to wait for the team sheet. I've never been one for sitting on the fence (not sure they make fences sturdy enough to take my weight these days) but if Arsenal are missing the big gun(ner)s on Sunday I will find the 3.25 available for a Chelsea win irresistible!

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  1. English Premier League | 13 December 2007

    I'm not sure on this one. Arsenal have the potential to win, and are boosted by Van Persie being available to play, but Chelsea have looked strong under Avram Grant. I think this one will end up a draw.