In an exclusive interview with CFCnet, former Chelsea (and Arsenal) star Alan Hudson is backing the Blues to emerge undefeated from their top-of-the-table clash with the Gunners at the Emirates on Sunday …
What do you make of Chelsea’s start to the season?
Well, I’m not surprised they’re clear at the top because I fancied them before a ball was kicked. It will be interesting to see how they get on when they lose players to the African Nations Cup in January, but I think they’ve got enough strength in depth to get through it all. On top of that, I can’t really see where the threat is going to come from the other clubs.
Last season you followed Chelsea’s mixed fortunes very closely while writing about the Blues’ campaign in your new book, ‘Oh what a lovely war’ (to be published in 2010). What do you think are the main reasons for the team’s much more consistent performances this time around?
Chelsea have always had the players to do well, but compared to last season when things went badly wrong it’s clear that the spirit in the squad is a lot better and people want to be playing and be in the side again. Whereas last year the likes of Drogba gave the impression that he wasn’t bothered whether he was injured or not. He didn’t seem too keen about playing and he didn’t seem sure about staying at the club. That’s all changed this season and you can see the results on the pitch, where Chelsea just keep rolling teams over. Some of the credit must go to Ancelotti, who has introduced a slightly more adventurous style than we saw at the end of last season under Hiddink.
Turning to Arsenal, do you see them as realistic title challengers?
No, I don’t. Arsenal have various chinks in their armour which Chelsea don’t have. Defensively they have a few problems and I just can’t see them as a serious contender. I saw them lose at Stoke last season and they’re always likely to crack under the sort of pressure that Stoke put them under that day. The physical side of the game – as we saw again at Sunderland last weekend – has always been a problem for them. That’s been the case for some time and I don’t think it’s something that Wenger has ever got to terms with. If they’re not absolutely on top of their game they seem to struggle.
I think teams know that if they sit back against Arsenal they’re going to get pelted, but if they approach the game properly and try to attack Arsenal there is always the chance that they’ll get something out of it.
How do you think the game will go on Sunday?
I always think Chelsea have got the upper hand over Arsenal, wherever the game is played. I went with Steve Bould to the FA Cup game against Burnley at the Emirates earlier this year and I said to him halfway through that this Arsenal team would never beat Chelsea, simply because Chelsea would be too strong for them all over the pitch.
Fabregas is a good player but there’s too much on his shoulders, and if he’s not pulling all the strings I think they struggle a little bit. With Chelsea it doesn’t matter if, say, Frank Lampard has a quiet game because someone else will step up. I think that’s the key difference between the sides. All round Chelsea are just too strong for Arsenal, so I can’t see them losing on Sunday. You’ve got to remember, too, that the pressure isn’t on Chelsea to win so that’s in their favour as well. They can go there and approach the game in any way they want: they can take Arsenal on or play a bit more cautiously and try to hit them on the break. Arsenal, on the other hand, have got to win if they want to be considered realistic challengers but, as I’ve already said, I can’t see that happening.
AN EVENING WITH ALAN HUDSON
Alan Hudson will be taking part in a Q and A session at Sutton United FC this Friday (November 27th) at 7.30pm. Tickets to the event cost £10 and will be available on the night. (Admission includes a copy of ”The Special Ones: Chelsea by the Fans’ signed by Alan). For further information contact Mark Caswell on 07977 831519 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
CLASSIC HUDDY ON YOUTUBE
One of the most talented players ever to pull on a Chelsea shirt, Alan Hudson helped the Blues win the FA Cup in 1970 (although, sadly, he missed the final against Leeds through injury) and the European Cup Winners’ Cup the following year. He was transferred to Stoke City for a then club record £240,000 in January 1974 and a year later made a brilliant international debut for England in a 2-0 victory against world champions West Germany at Wembley. Edited highlights of this match have recently surfaced on Youtube and are well worth checking out at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=p6ZDhvdupJA
* Clive Batty’s latest book is ‘The Pocket Book of Chelsea’. Please visit http://www.visionsp.co.uk/ for more details.