By Chris Harris
Arsène Wenger won't be fooled by Chelsea's recent dip in form and insists that it could happen to any team.
The champions started the season in fine fettle but have not won in five Premier League games and now lie three points adrift of leaders Manchester United having played a game more.
A number of theories have been put forward for Chelsea's slump: injuries and illness to key players, a perceived lack of squad depth and even the departure of assistant manager Ray Wilkins, whose sacking in November coincided with the start of the poor run.
Wenger refused to delve too deeply into Chelsea's problems when he faced the media ahead of Monday's clash at Emirates Stadium. But he admitted that any top-flight team can lose its way over the course of a long, hard season.
"Chelsea have gone through a period where results are a bit less good but that can happen to anyone in this league," said the Frenchman. "We have seen recently that any team, when you think they are on the brink of breaking through, they have a hiccup. Maybe it’s just the quality of the league.
"It is always disruptive [to lose an assistant manager like Wilkins] but it is very difficult for me to speak about Chelsea. Frankly, they have their problems and we have our problems. I am trying to sort out our problems.
"Football is magic because it is a team sport and the addition of one player to the next player, when the confidence is there, multiplies the qualities of the players. Chelsea is a top team and we know on Monday we will play against a top team and we do not expect any weakness on their side."
Chelsea were something like their bustling best in the second half of their last fixture - a 1-1 draw at Tottenham. Didier Drogba, John Terry and Michael Essien were all back for that game and Frank Lampard is set to return on Monday. Wenger knows exactly how dangerous the England star can be.
"He is a player I like and rate highly," said the manager. "You are not especially pleased he is back against you, but on the other hand we play Chelsea with their real strengths and if we beat them, it will have even more value."Copyright 2013 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 23 Dec 2010