Arsenal cannot afford to lose against Chelsea, says Ray Parlour

Ray Parlour
Image: Ray Parlour: made 339 appearances for Arsenal during 1992 to 2004

Ray Parlour says Arsenal can't afford to lose Sunday's crunch clash with Chelsea.

The former Arsenal midfielder, who made 339 appearances for the club between 1992 and 2004, says the Gunners are battling not for the title, but to avoid being forced to play in the Champions League qualifiers. 

Arsenal, who are currently 10 points behind Chelsea, have not beaten the Blues since 2011 when they won 5-3 at Stamford Bridge thanks to a Robin van Persie hat-trick. But if they can win Sunday they will have beaten all other clubs currently residing in the top four.

And Parlour says that Arsene Wenger's men have the attacking talent to pull off a victory at the Emirates.

“If they can turn up, start on the front foot, put pressure on that back four with the pace they’ve got as well on the wide areas - Danny Welbeck and Alexis Sanchez will be in the wide areas - then they could cause a few problems for Chelsea’s defence," Parlour, who was speaking on behalf of England team sponsor Vauxhall, told Sky Sports News HQ.

“It’s a huge game for both sides - obviously Chelsea have got a great record against Arsenal and it’s a game that Arsenal, really, being at home, have to go and win. We know the battle at the moment is for second, third and fourth. Chelsea will win the league this year, then it’s all about who comes where.

“It’s so important for clubs to come second. Missing out on that European qualification for the Champions League, you have to go back early, disrupting all your pre-season. So it’s a big, big game for Arsenal but the players will be on a high.

“It wasn’t a great performance against Reading in the FA Cup, but they got through to the final so they know going into this game against Chelsea that they’ve got to have the right balance going forward.

“It’s a game that Arsenal can’t afford to lose really because the momentum of the last three or four games is going to be so important. We know City had the win at the weekend, Manchester United are in great form as well - so it’s a big game.

"Chelsea will be happy with a draw, that’s all they need to get really at the Emirates, so it’s all about Arsenal going forward and asking questions of the Chelsea defence. But we know once you do that you’re going to leave yourself wide open at times.

We know the battle at the moment for second, third and fourth, Chelsea will win the league this year, then it’s all about who comes where.
Ray Parlour

“We know how good Chelsea are sitting off, absorbing the pressure and then hitting you on the break with the likes of Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas and Oscar, some great players in that midfield area. So I think it’s a game that is all about Arsenal.

“[Arsene] Wenger is going to have to look at that left-hand side. Hazard has been in sensational form this season - he’s such a key player for Chelsea who have got lots of injuries up front. I don’t know who’s going to play up front at the moment but Hazard is the one who could really turn the game for you.

“So you look at the experience - will he go with Hector Bellerin, a right-back, or go with the experienced Mathieu Debuchy? Probably Debuchy if it was myself because he’s a little bit more defensive minded. He can sit along the back four when he has to. Obviously Bellerin has had a great season but Ramsey could fit in there as well, you could go two in midfield.

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“You have to be balanced and try to do it in a way that if you do lose the ball you’ve got plenty of cover at the back to stop the counter-attack.”

Wenger has an infamously poor record against Jose Mourinho - he has never beaten the Portuguese manager.

“We know the record with Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger, that’ll be in the back of his Wenger's mind but all he’ll be interested in is his team’s performance. He wants them going out and expressing themselves, a little bit like they played at Liverpool. There was some cracking goals there - they got their noses in front and played really well. They got the ball down.

“But you need your key players to play, both sides need that. From Arsenal’s point of view you need Sanchez to turn up, and Mesut Ozil, Olivier Giroud - who has been in great form as well - you need those sort of guys.

“It should be a cracking game, and it’s always a lively game with Jose and Arsene Wenger on the sidelines - and I’m expecting the same at the weekend.”

Watch Arsenal v Chelsea live on Sky Sports 1 HD on Sunday from 3.30pm 

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