By Tim Harrison
While Chelsea´s hopes of regaining the league title and, with it, the fun of floodlit European nights at the Bridge do not entirely hinge on the weekend´s match against Arsenal, it will still be a key pointer to the destination of the trophy.
The Blues´ straightforward navigation of the west London derby against Brentford last weekend means there´s an interesting FA Cup trip to Wolverhampton to look forward to, but the next step along the path of this unexpectedly exciting season is to reverse the 3-0 defeat at the Emirates.
In a bizarre way, manager Tony Conte can thank Arsene Wenger for providing him with the means of achieving a superb run of form.
It was halfway through the game on September 24 that Conte was forced to take drastic action, and swap Chelsea´s four-man defence to a three-man line.
The tactical switch was the making of the Blues... and of Conte.
Although Chelsea lost three points that afternoon, a new system was born. No further goals were conceded, and the subsequent use of nippy wing-backs has turned the team into serious contenders for glory.
Saturday lunchtime kick-offs used to perplex the Blues, but the last couple of times there was an early-day outing for Chelsea at a time when most people are still pushing trollies round Waitrose and Lidl, outstanding results were achieved at Palace and at Manchester City.
After the shoal of FA Cup team changes that were made to end the Bees´dreams, there will be a full-strength, high-octane, three-line-whip of a team running out to face the Gunners.
Wenger v Conte pits an old tactical wizard against a new one, but Conte´s star is in the ascendent, while Wenger´s may well be extinguished this summer.
The atmosphere at the Bridge will be one to savour.
The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not necessarily those of Hammersmith & Fulham Council.