Beating Arsenal not crucial, insists Mourinho

Victory over the Gunners a week on Monday would ensure Chelsea are top on Christmas Day, but the Special One is adamant even a defeat would not derail their title tilt
By Liam Twomey at Stamford Bridge

Jose Mourinho insists beating Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium is not crucial to Chelsea's hopes of winning the Premier League title this season.

The Blues saw off Crystal Palace 2-1 on Saturday to ensure that victory over the Gunners a week on Monday will put them top of the pile for Christmas.

7/2 Chelsea are 7/2 with Bet Victor to win the Premier League this season
But Mourinho is adamant that even a defeat in north London would not derail his team's title charge.

"It's not important," he told reporters after the Palace win.

"In this league to be top by December or even by end of January is not crucial. This will be open until very, very late. Every game is very hard. The distances open, close, open, close.

"Of course we go there to try to win and with the objective to be top of the league, but if we don't I don't think it's crucial."

Goals from Fernando Torres and Ramires gave Chelsea three points against Tony Pulis' resurgent Eagles, though profligate finishing and a Marouane Chamakh strike led to a nervy finish.

"I was expecting an easy victory and big problems," Mourinho added. "I was ready for both situations.

"I knew that when they have the ball and they need to come up and they need to build it's difficult for them.

"But when they sit in the back compact, together, very well organised by Tony (Pulis) and they wait for the right moment to put the long ball into the box and fight for the first and the second ball, they are dangerous.

"I felt it could go in both directions. You score a goal that kills the opponent for 2-0, 3-1, the game is over and you can go for a different result. But if you don't do that I knew they can give you problems.

"This result could have been 5-1 or 2-2."

Despite emerging on the losing side, Tony Pulis paid tribute to his players for producing a spirited display against the odds at Stamford Bridge.

"The Premier League is such a relentless league and you have games like this one where it's very difficult to get points, but the spirit from players over the past five or six games has been fantastic," he said.

"We were on the back foot in the first half, but in the second half we pushed up a bit and to be in the game for 94 minutes is testament to our commitment and effort.

"When we got it to Chamakh we played some good stuff. He slows it down for us, gets a pass off and gives us time to get up the pitch. (Yannick) Bolasie was a threat down one side, (Jason) Puncheon down the other and Cameron Jerome was smashing.

"The important thing is that the lads keep believing we've got a chance and keep playing with that spirit and commitment."