Rio Ferdinand to the effect ‘it wasn’t Chelsea’s first team’ – but former Blues man Jason Cundy believes Arsenal can win the league
Rio Ferdinand says Arsenal fans shouldn’t get too excited over their 1-0 win over Chelsea because it wasn’t the Blues’ first team.
The Gunners reclaimed first place in the Premier League rankings with a convincing win at Stamford Bridge, dominating their London rivals from start till the end.
Many believe Arsenal’s success validates Mikel Arteta‘s credentials as a serious title challenger.
However, given the quality of the Chelsea team that was defeated on Sunday, Manchester United legend Ferdinand has called for a “reality check.”
N’Golo Kante, Reece James, Wesley Fofana, Ben Chilwell, and Kepa Arrizabalaga were all out for Blues manager Graham Potter, and Mateo Kovacic and Kalidou Koulibaly were only fit enough to sit on the bench. With the exception of short absences for Thomas Partey and Oleksandr Zinchenko,
Arsenal‘s full-strength XI has been available nearly every week this season.
Ferdinand stated, speaking on his Vibe with Five YouTube channel: “What I would say is I agree the control without the ball against Chelsea was next level. Unreal.
“It shows you the coaching and hard work that has gone in under the manager. That was a patched up Chelsea team, they are missing Reece James, Ben Chillwell, Kalidou Koulibaly, Wesley Fofana, N’Golo Kante, there is six players that more or less start in that team.
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“I was so impressed with how Arsenal played but let’s have a little ‘reality check’. Arsenal are a serious team now but it wasn’t even their [Chelsea’s] first-team.”
He added: “Most important player is Gabriel Jesus or William Saliba. If those players come out the team, the drop-off from that level is massive.
“You could play Granit Xhaka in Thomas Partey’s position and get through a couple of games, but you won’t get the same output from someone who comes in for Jesus or Saliba.”
Blues boss Graham Potter was without a number of star players, including N’Golo Kante, Reece James, Wesley Fofana, Ben Chilwell and Kepa Arrizabalaga, while Mateo Kovacic and Kalidou Koulibaly were only fit enough for the bench.
Arsenal, meanwhile, have been fortunate with injuries this season, with their full-strength XI available almost every week barring short-term absences for Thomas Partey and Oleksandr Zinchenko.
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The Gunners’ one defeat in the Premier League this season, Old Trafford, came amid injuries to Partey and Zinchenko, while Arteta’s second-string XI has not been quite as convincing in Europe.
Their strength in depth has been questioned in comparison to title rivals Manchester City – and Ferdinand insists a couple of injuries could end Arsenal’s challenge.
However, ex-Chelsea defender Jason Cundy believes Arsenal can win the Premier League title this season.
The talkSPORT host said on the Sports Bar: “They had a really tough October and they’re still top of the table.
“They will probably be top of the table at Christmas due to the World Cup. If you can get through a third of the season and still be top, you have to be in the conversation.
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“They’re playing well. The only problem they will have is trying to keep everyone fit. City have that strength in depth.
“If they can keep their first XI fit, Arsenal can cause Man City problems.
“On Sunday, they were brilliant all over the pitch. They are well-oiled, well-coached, they have a lovely style of play.
“There is a little bit of Man City about them, the way they move through the lines.”