I'm not even 100 per cent, says Arsenal's nemesis

After scoring 12 goals in 10 starts against the Gunners, Didier Drogba is ready to inflict more pain today
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The Independent Football

Standing next to him it is impossible not to be impressed by the sheer physical presence. Didier Drogba is the sort of figure that the Sunderland manager, Steve Bruce, likes to call admiringly"a beast of a man". Pity the centre-halves on whom he is suddenly bearing down; for, although a compassionate man off the field, he does not do pity for opponents, especially when they are wearing the red and white of today's opponents, Arsenal.

In 10 starts he has knocked 12 goals past them, including two in each of his side's victories last season, by 3-0 and 2-0. Chelsea have won the past four meetings by an aggregate of 11-2, Drogba scoring five ofthose goals.

Whether through genuine modesty or not wishing to tempt fate, he does not care to make too much of the fact: "I can say that I'm a bit lucky because I've scored a few goals against them. With that, every game is different. I remember some games where I struggled against Arsenal. This one will be a different one, I don't know how it's going to end."

The more pessimistic Arsenal followers, aware of what humble West Bromwich Albion did to their defence last weekend, must feel that they already know. Of course, even Drogba can suffer an off-day. He did so in his last game, hauled off to his displeasure at Manchester City after an unconvincing 75 minutes as Chelsea went down to their first Premier League defeat following an unblemished five-match start.

It was a useful reminder, he suggests, that complacency is a trap champions can easily fall into, especially when they have been knocking in goals at will. "We could have done better," he admits of that performance. "It's good that this kind of defeat happens now because we still have time to learn from these mistakes, and not two or three games to the end of the season. I don't mind losing against Manchester City if I win the League at the end of the season. It's not a problem."

It would have been more of one had Arsenal, at home to West Bromwich, or Manchester United, at Bolton, been able to extract the advantage they should have done. Yet neither could. In the meantime all three have come away with midweek Champions' League victories, though Chelsea benefited from minimal travel and were on their own admission able to ease up during the 2-0 home win against Marseille.

Suspended for two European games, Drogba was a mere spectator on Tuesday, taking the pitch only to receive a hero's reception from both sets of supporters; at Marseille he once scored 34 times in a season, and promised Jose Mourinho – then at Porto – that one day they would work together. It cost Chelsea £24 million but became a special relationship, even though it was under Carlo Ancelotti's freer-scoring regime last season that the Ivorian exceeded his Marseille record with a total of 37 during the course of it; the last of them winning the FA Cup final to complete the club's first Double.

For most players a short break at this time of the season tends to be welcome after a rush of games. Drogbais not so sure about the benefits, having broken his arm in the build-up to the World Cup and then undergone a hernia operation afterwards. "It's a strange start of the season for me," he said. "Even if I scored goals and I made some assists, I'm not really 100 per cent. With surgery I missed the pre-season, so it's a bit difficult to catch up. I hope that in maybe one, two weeks I will be better."

Woe betide the opposition at that point. In the meantime he says of today's game: "I won't say that it's a critical game because the season is long. Remember last year that Arsenal were 10 points behind usand they came back and they were fighting for the League. Three games to go they were still in the race. So it's going to be an important game. But not the one that's going to say that Chelsea is going to be champions or the one to say that Arsenal is going to be finished for the season."

"Drogba is a winner," Arsène Wenger has said. Not today, Arsenal must hope. Not again.

Chelsea v Arsenal is live on Sky Sports 2 from 3.30pm today (kick-off 4pm)