By Matt Fortune
A dark cloud loomed ominously over Stamford Bridge in September.
The departure of Jose Mourinho made for an uncertain few weeks in
that part of West London. However, just one defeat and 13 clean
sheets has banished any lingering concerns over the new man at the
Avram Grant has led Chelsea as high as second in the League since he took over, and ensured safe passage to the Champions League Knockout Stage, topping their group in the process. They come to Emirates Stadium in high spirits and seeking revenge for the same fixture last season which saw their two-season reign as Premier League champions finally ended.
We spoke to Tim Harrison of the Kensington and Chelsea News ahead of the weekend game. Read on for an insight into the surprise at such a quick turn in events, the kindness of the fixture list and the fact that Sunday is Grant's first real test.
THE STORY SO FAR
"Well of course the major incident is the departure of Jose [Mourinho]. That firmly shook things up at the Bridge. I suppose though what has been surprising is the way how quickly the dust has settled but it has been purely results driven. Had there been a poor run, a hesitant run, there might have been a few things asked, but right now it seems everybody is content at the Bridge with the way things are going. That is, if they keep going the way they are.
"I don't think anyone would say that Avram Grant has the personality or charisma of Mourinho but he has somehow ground out a good run after that initial defeat at Old Trafford and the fans generally speaking are fairly upbeat about the way things have unfolded.
"Thankfully they had a terrific result in Valencia which really made people accept that perhaps Grant had more to offer than that surly face."
MAN OF THE MOMENT
"People do still miss the charisma of Mourinho. He is sort of manger every fan would love at their club. He is that kind of character. He opens his mouth and is instantly quotable. Grant though has done well. There is nothing to be said against his management stint so far. While he isn't the firm fan favourite that Mourinho was with his charisma and being sparky - Grant does have the look of an undertaker about him. But, so far so good. The results have been good and every manager needs his bit of luck and I would agree the fixture list has been relatively lucky for Grant. The real test comes in the next few days with Arsenal at Emirates and then Liverpool come to us in the Carling Cup and then we are away at Blackburn in a week's time."
CAUSE FOR OPTIMISM
"Because of qualifying early for the next stage of the Champions League they have had the chance to rotate, relax a bit and without much pressure, unlike Liverpool this week. It has meant that combined with a series of, on paper at least, winnable results it has been a relatively stress free run. But Sunday is the big test."
IMPRESSIONS OF ARSENAL
"Everyone has known for about the last five weeks that the real test is on Sunday. This has been the fixture that is going to be the major test."