LONDON: Chelsea’s trip to Arsenal this Sunday is being billed as a Premier League title decider, but in reality it is likely to have more of a bearing on next season.
With 11 wins and two defeats since the turn of the year, Arsenal have amassed more points per game in 2015 than any other team in Europe’s top five leagues, but still they trail Chelsea by 10 points.
Chelsea will be champions if they beat Arsenal and win at Leicester City on Wednesday, but even though defeat on Sunday would probably only delay their coronation, it could herald the start of a north London revolt.
Fixtures between Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal and Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea have traditionally represented a collision of competing ideologies, with Wenger the style-obsessed romantic and Mourinho the cold, hard pragmatist.
While clubs around the world fell over themselves to ape the possession-based approach of Barcelona and Spain during the high point of ‘tiki-taka’—emboldening Wenger to cram even more small, technical midfielders into his starting XIs—Mourinho remained true to his counter-attacking convictions.
Those principles were in evidence last weekend when Chelsea beat Manchester United 1-0 at Stamford Bridge despite seeing only 30 percent of the ball.
It had been a similar story last October, when Chelsea beat Arsenal 2-0 after enjoying less possession and mustering only five attempts at goal to their opponents’ 10.
Wenger reacted to Mourinho’s provocations that day by shoving the Portuguese in the chest during a touchline confrontation, and it was not the first time the Chelsea manager has got under the Frenchman’s skin.
Speaking on Friday (Saturday in Manila), Mourinho declared that Wenger was “not my rival”, adding: “He’s the manager of a big club in the same city where I work. It is a big club with the same objectives we have.”