Olivier Giroud was back in the starting line-up for Arsenal and, somewhat inevitably, scored in the 1-0 win over West Brom at the Emirates in the Premier League on Boxing Day.
Now the Gunners look to gain three more points on New Year’s Day when they host Crystal Palace and will hope to get their title chances back on track against the Eagles, now managed by Sam Allardyce in the wake of the sacking of Alan Pardew.
But it is a game coming up in February that is already attracting huge interest for neutral observers of the top flight; a game that sees Arsene Wenger’s men go to Stamford Bridge to face runaway league leaders Chelsea.
And Eden Hazard has revealed that he and his Blues team-mates have been talking the talk (of winning the Premier League title this season) for some time. What helps, of course, with chatting about getting your hands on the top flight crown this season is often the “walking the walk” follow-up element to this idiom.
The league table with Chelsea at the summit and a blistering run of form prove the Blues may be worth a bet online, led by former Italy manager Antonio Conte, certainly live up to the dressing room chat among their galaxy of stars.
Hazard, it could be argued, is the pick of the Stamford Bridge aces who have helped to shape the season and, when you throw in a tactical masterstroke by the manager, you can begin to understand why it is that they are top of the pile.
And Hazard said:
“We have been talking about the title all season long. We always want to win at Chelsea. We’re happy now. I hope we’ll continue like this through to the end of the season.
“We’re happy, we’re winning matches, that’s the important thing. We’re top of the league, we have to stay there. We’re happy. Everything’s going well. We know it won’t be easy all season, we hope it will be. But it’s up to us to do our utmost for this run to continue.”
The Belgian playmaker is just one of a rich cast, including Pedro and Willian, who have both found form of late; a resurgent Cesc Fabregas, formerly of the N5 parish, and let’s not forget Diego Costa, the Premier League’s top scorer with 13 goals. Chelsea have rediscovered a rhythm, a purpose and a mouth-watering methodology after an inauspicious start to the campaign.
Ironically for Arsenal supporters, the watershed moment for Conte and his tactical approach came after a 3-0 defeat the Emirates back in September. Following the loss, Conte changed his side’s formation to a more flexible 3-5-2 system and then set about an astonishing league winning streak of 13 matches to date.
Arsenal, on the other hand, have stuttered somewhat, though they still possess game-changing talent such as Alexis Sanchez — who has scored 14 goals in all competitions for the Gunners this season — and the mercurial Mesut Ozil, king of the assists, in their ranks.
Wenger’s side’s weakness would appear to be belief, strength of purpose and half-hearted defending and Gunners fans would certainly like to see the return of influential defender Shokran Mustafi, missing through injury of late, to the starting line-up when the two teams lock horns once more on February 4.
Thrown into the mix the transfer window opening on January 1 — in which both managers have hinted at a mini-recruitment drive — and the Chelsea-Arsenal game could well be yet another blockbuster in what has been a season of blockbusters.