Paul Parker

Lampard key tonight – and for Chelsea title hopes

Paul Parker

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While the
rest of us were having a relaxing Christmas, Arsenal and Chelsea will have been
building up to a huge Premier League clash tonight at the Emirates.

They both
need a win desperately - and after the comfortable wins for Manchester United
and Manchester City yesterday, a draw is no good at all.

On balance,
though, I think Chelsea need the victory more.

John
Terry has been saying an awful lot in the press recently
, but actions
speak louder than words, and Chelsea's recent run has been horrendous.

At the
moment Florent Malouda is off the boil, Didier Drogba's a shadow of himself - while
Terry and Michael Essien are only just back from injury.

That means
they have two big problems - a shortage of goals and a lack of rhythm.

Frank
Lampard is the man who can help them solve both those problems - not just
tonight, but for the rest of the season.

Having said
that, it's a huge ask for him to do it right away. He's been out for most of
the season, and he's 32 years old now - later in your career it gets harder and
harder to come straight back into the Premier League and be at your best.

If he
plays and makes a difference for Chelsea tonight he'll deserve all the
plaudits he gets. Just being back in the team, though, Lampard will give the Blues a boost.

Once the
confidence comes back to Chelsea, they are too good for their results not to
pick up - and with a win tonight, they will feel like they are right back in
the title race.

But of
course this will be a close one, and with Arsenal able to choose Cesc Fabregas
and Robin Van Persie for the game, they'll have experienced players of their own to call on.

For me,
though, the big test for the Gunners was when they went to Old Trafford a
couple of weeks ago.

They lost
1-0, and it could have been more. Their player of the season until that day -
Samir Nasri - didn't turn up, and too many others failed at a crucial moment. Until
they get a win in a fixture of that nature, they'll be a side who might finish
third or fourth - but won't be serious title contenders.

If
they beat Chelsea tonight, will it prove that they can finally cope with the
big teams again - or will they just be taking an advantage of a team who are
down at the moment?

To my mind, it's the latter.

Arsene Wenger won't spin it that way, of course, and you can be sure that it isn't what he will be telling his players.

But something tells me that even if Arsenal get the result, we'll still be asking all those same questions about their ability in the big games next time around.

 

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