Search

Exclusive: Arsenal must conquer ‘mental block’ to beat Mourinho’s Chelsea, says Gunners legend

06:20 20 March 2014

Former Arsenal striker Alan Smith celebrates with the European Cup Winners

Former Arsenal striker Alan Smith celebrates with the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1994. Picture: PA

PA Archive/Press Association Images

Former Arsenal striker Alan Smith says his old club must win at Stamford Bridge on Saturday to banish their “mental block” against the big sides and fuel their title challenge.

The Gunners are just four points behind Chelsea after their 1-0 win over north London rivals Tottenham and they have a game in hand on Jose Mourinho’s men ahead of Saturday’s early kick-off.

Arsenal’s recent record against their closest rivals is patchy, however, and they have not beaten the Blues in five attempts since their 5-3 win at Stamford Bridge in October 2011.

With the visit of Manchester City to follow next week, Smith – who scored 115 goals in 347 appearances for Arsenal between 1987 and 1995 – believes the Gunners must bury their big game anxiety by plundering three points in west London.

“I think they really need to beat one of the big teams – Chelsea or Man City,” Smith told London24.

“That’s something Arsenal haven’t been able to do for a number of years. Even this season up at Old Trafford against an average [Manchester] United team, they couldn’t beat them.

“It’s almost a mental block. If they can get over that hurdle and beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, then it would suddenly infuse them with a bit more self-belief that they can go the distance. Now we’re coming to crunch time.”

Smith admits he didn’t expect Arsenal to mount a serious title challenge this season and the 51-year-old believes the defensive resilience and team spirit they showed at White Hart Lane on Sunday has been the difference.

He said: “It’s been a good season for the most part. They’re riding high near the top of the table and that wasn’t something I was expecting at the start of the year.

“They’ve done really well. What’s changed is I think the team spirit has got better over the last 12 to 18 months. They’ve got a lot more resilience, certainly in defence, and that’s been the basis for their progress.”

Aaron Ramsey could make his long-awaited return against Chelsea – but the injury-hit Gunners will certainly be without his fellow midfielders Jack Wilshere and Mesut Ozil.

“It doesn’t make it any easier for them, but that is an area of the pitch where the lads should be able to make provisions,” added Smith, who was speaking at the Football Legends Awards in aid of Willow Foundation.

“Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has come back and is looking good and strong. Ramsey’s not too far away and then you think of Santi Cazorla, Tomas Rosicky, Mathieu Flamini and Mikel Arteta.

“That’s what squad football is all about. Winning the league is all about coping without some of your best players.”

Related articles

0 comments

Latest Sport Stories

Mauricio Pochettino:

Mauricio Pochettino has likened Tottenham’s efforts to sign a striker to falling in love and finding ‘the one’.

Tottenham's new signing Clinton Njie

Clinton Njie may have to wait to make his Tottenham debut after Mauricio Pochettino stated it would be a “big risk” to start the new signing against Everton on Saturday due to a lack of fitness.

Christian Eriksen will miss Saturday's home game against Everton

Christian Eriksen remains sidelined ahead of Saturday’s Premier Legaue home game against Everton, but Andros Townsend could return to action.

Tottenham head coach Mauricio Pochettino

Mauricio Pochettino has remained tight-lipped on Tottenham’s transfer plans as the clock ticks down towards deadline day, refusing to comment on the club’s moves for West Bromwich Albion’s Saido Berahino and Bayer Leverkusen’s Son Heung-Min.

Most read sport

Property Newsletter Sign-up

Get the latest North London property news and features straight to your inbox with our regular newsletter

I am also happy to receive other emails...
Fields marked with a * are mandatory
Email Marketing by e-shot

Competitions

Shop till you drop!

Home to top name brands at great prices, TK Maxx is more like a treasure hunt than a shop. Perfect for grabbing a bargain or some hidden gems, you arm yourself with a trolley and go wild.

Scones, jam and a cup of Earl Grey anyone?

Luxury boutique hotel Flemings Mayfair has recently launched The Drawing Room, London’s most stylish location for afternoon tea.

Digital Edition

Image
Read the Hampstead & Highgate Express e-edition today E-edition
Family Notices 24


Our trusted business finder