London: More should unite Chelsea and Arsenal fans than divide them on Sunday at a London derby being played with discontent at both Premier League clubs. Boos echoed around Stamford Bridge on Wednesday as Chelsea threw away a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with Southampton.
"I will try to concentrate on the games, that is my job," interim manager Rafa Benitez said in response to the renewed jeers from the fans he's failed to win over since taking charge in November. The draw was Chelsea's second setback on Wednesday. Pep Guardiola, who has been high on list to take over next season, opted to join Bayern Munich.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger had been expecting to face Guardiola in the Premier League next season. "He asked me a few times and told me a few times he would like to come to England, so I am bit surprised he has chosen to go to Germany," Wenger said. "It is not a backward step. In Germany, maybe along with Spain, they are a country with the best young players."
The former Barcelona coach had even been touted as a possible replacement for Wenger at the Emirates Stadium as a trophy drought stretching back to 2005 continues for the north London club. At Arsenal, fans have been growing increasingly restless at seeing the team in sixth place after taking just one point from its last two matches.
Despite their patchy form, Chelsea remain on course to capture one of the four Champions League places next season as they sit third in the standings. Eight points might separate the London rivals, but Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere is sure his side has the strength to get the better of Chelsea.
"Chelsea don't like playing against us," Wilshere said, after scoring the match-winner in an FA Cup third-round replay against Swansea. "We play football, so if we can take the game to them and get in behind them, we can cause problems. We have Theo Walcott's pace and Santi Cazorla's ability to get into spaces ... we have to take the game to them and play our football because we're a bit behind in the table and we need points."
Chelsea's recent signing of Demba Ba has paid dividends, and Arsenal could bolster their attacking options by bringing in Edinson Cavani from Napoli this month. "I like him as a player," Wenger said. "Will he cost a lot of money? That's for sure. Nobody would deny that. Our banker lives just next to me at the moment and he is ready if we find the right player."
Regardless of any January additions to their squads, winning the title appears to be beyond Chelsea and Arsenal. Manchester United are leading the way, seven points ahead of Manchester City, who host Fulham on Saturday, and 13 in front of Chelsea.
On Sunday, United travel to Tottenham, who are 15 points adrift in fourth but confident for once facing Alex Ferguson's side after their first victory since 1989 at Old Trafford in September. "That win stood us in good stead," Tottenham winger Gareth Bale said. "It gave us confidence and belief to do what we've done so far this season. We haven't lost in a while and confidence is high."
United laboured to a 1-0 victory over West Ham in an FA Cup third-round replay on Wednesday on a night when top-scorer Robin van Persie was given a rare rest. Ferguson maintains, though, that the team hasn't been over reliant on Van Persie since he joined from Arsenal in August. "I don't go along with the idea we have become a one-man team," Ferguson said, pointing to the goals contributed by Javier Hernandez and Wayne Rooney.
In the relegation battle, France striker Loic Remy is set to make his debut for last-place Queens Park Rangers at West Ham on Saturday.
Reading, who are two points ahead of QPR, are at Newcastle, and Aston Villa, who are five points off the bottom, travel to West Bromwich Albion. Wigan are only out of the drop zone on goal difference heading into the match at Sunderland on Saturday, when Liverpool take on Norwich and Swansea face Stoke.
In the Monday match, fifth-place Everton are at Southampton, who are three points above the relegation zone after drawing at Chelsea.