We are only in January, so is it too early to be talking about ‘must win’ games in the Premier League? It isn’t if you’re Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta talking about their top four hopes.
The Gunners head across London to take on Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday (Watch live, 3:15 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) knowing a win will not only boost their faint top four hopes but also put another sizable dent in Frank Lampard‘s hopes of leading the Blues to Champions League qualification.
Chelsea currently sit in fourth place, just five points ahead of Man United in fifth, while Arsenal are 10th and sit 10 points behind Chelsea.
Speaking to the media ahead of the short trip across England’s capital city, Arteta didn’t play down the importance of the clash when asked if it is vital for their top four aspirations.
“It’s really important. It’s very, very important for us to win this game to fight for that,” Arteta said. “Also, the game we played at home, it could have made a big difference and we were very close to it. Tomorrow we need to win. Everyone is having a lot of problems to put together back-to-back wins, the league has been very competitive this season and that is why the gaps aren’t that big. There are still four months to play and a lot of things can happen, a lot of games between the top teams as well so I think that will change.”
Arsenal started very well against Chelsea when they played them on Dec. 29, as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang gave them an early lead but late goals from Jorginho and Tammy Abraham gave the Blues a comeback win.
The Gunners have started well and taken the lead in plenty of recent games but keep coughing up goals to drop points as the same defensive problems are cropping up for Arteta as they did for Unai Emery and Arsene Wenger before him.
That said, there is a different intensity to their play and they will go to Chelsea without star striker Aubameyang who is suspended, but with hope that they can catch out an inconsistent Chelsea who lost at Newcastle on Saturday despite dominating the game.
This London derby will not only be a tense battle over 90 minutes, it will also set the tone for how both teams will fare in the final months of the campaign.