What hope, then, this Sunday, in the continuing quest for a win in a match that matters?
Taking Liverpool out of the equation, as they no longer represent much of a force, Arsenal are gripped in a miserable run against the dual leading lights of English football. In their last two visits to "fortress" Emirates, Manchester United have racked up an aggregate scoreline of 6-2 in their favour; Chelsea, a frightening 7-1.
There is no way that this hasn't affected the Arsenal players. They surely suffer from an inferiority complex now and the only way to turn that around is with a positive result against one of those teams.
Fate has been cruel and left Arsenal looking a little patched-up heading into their latest daunting date with the Blues. The gaping wound that is the goalkeeping crisis is a self-inflicted one, but it seems a little unfair that the absence of Vermalen will most likely leave Drogba in the hands of Squillaci and Koscielny, a pairing fresh from getting humiliated by the great West Bromwich Albion. Then again, Drogba has battered every Arsenal opponent he's faced so far and so maybe it's no bad thing that we will be fielding a partnership that doesn't have to fight those psychological demons.
Scrabbling for positives, I happen upon the fact that Arsenal will also not have to settle for fielding a Russian midget in the centre forward role, as they did in both games against Chelsea and the home one against United last season. And Chamakh has, as stated before, started very well at Arsenal. He carries a threat in behind as well as in the air and his hold-up play tends to be good. His finishing looks a little... hesitant, shall we say but he does have a knack of falling over when touched rather than shooting, which leads to penalties, which means some other prick can miss the chance instead.
Which leads us to the problem of GOALS for this Arsenal team. I don't know if I'm blowing this out of proportion a little but I can see this team dominating games and not winning them. Fabregas may be the best finisher in the squad and you wouldn't call him a natural. He's had to work very hard at it- and he may well not be fit for Chelsea anyway. Arshavin still looks wasteful too often- when he trashed one in early on against Partisan, you got the feeling he'd turned the corner a bit, only for him to produce a woeful penalty that was easily saved later on. Beyond that? Rosicky's always been a three-goal a season man if his glass legs would allow even that. Nasri has had a spurt of late but as he has done in the past, maybe he's about to make the step up.... aaaaannnndddd that's all the straws I can clutch at for now.
Really, there is probably no need to go into this much depth when previewing a game against Chelsea. Even with the squad at full strength and in fine form, I would have grave doubts about their ability to deal with Chelsea's physicality and style. After they got bored to death by Mancini's purveyors of catennacio last weekend, Football365 opined: "Chelsea look all-conquering against Blackpool, Wigan et al, but when presented with a competent defence and a robust tactical game, they looked flat, uninspired and far from the swash-buckling champions elect". If true, that should provide encouragement for a lot of teams. But Arsenal have neither a competent defence nor the capacity to devise a canny tactical plan to stop Chelsea. They will most likely weave some pretty patterns, plant the flag of their principles, and watch it all get steamrolled by a real winning machine.