At the end of a very difficult week for Chelsea, Roberto Di Matteo insisted yesterday he is not worried about how the club is seen from the outside.
The club captain, John Terry has, pending an appeal, been banned for four games for racially abusing Anton Ferdinand last season. The Queen's Park Rangers defender wrote on Twitter yesterday that "people need to read the facts" regarding the incident, and that "footage don't lie". Di Matteo, though, will not allow any external criticism to distract his players.
"We are confident," Di Matteo said, ahead of this afternoon's game at Arsenal, "so we don't really care too much the way the outside world, the external environment sees us, we have to focus on our strength, that's the way we operate.
"That's how I see it, how I feel it. I cannot influence what other people's opinion is. We can only influence the way we play or the way we behave.
"We have to set good standards. I try to set good standards. But, at the end of the day, we won't be liked by our opposition's fans. That's generally speaking for everybody. So we cannot waste too much energy worrying about what they're thinking. We have to think about ourselves, try and win games for the club."
Terry is available for today's game despite missing a few days of training this week to attend his disciplinary hearing at Wembley.
Di Matteo said everything would carry on as normal, and he would pick his team this morning with reference only to the match at the Emirates.
"My criteria will be more or less the same," Di Matteo said. "From what I could see, [Terry] is physically in good form. It will be a normal procedure.
"From my point of view, he's available. It'll be down to me making the team selection to see what I think is the best team to beat Arsenal."
Terry is famously able to play on despite issues that might distract others, and Di Matteo anticipates no loss of focus should he start today.
"He's an experienced player, playing many games before, difficult games under difficult circumstances and environments," he said. "So if [he is] selected I don't think there will be a problem."
While Di Matteo was understandably cautious about discussing recent events, he was quick to praise Terry's character in a professional sense. "All I can judge is his professionalism when he's here at the club," Di Matteo said. "That's spot on. He's always one of the first in. He works hard, applies himself very well, and he's been a wonderful servant for this club, professionally."
Chelsea have started the Premier League season well and are top, but Arsenal will be their strongest domestic opponents so far this year. "It's certainly going to be a big test," Di Matteo acknowledged. "Arsenal away is always a big test, a big challenge for us. But it will be for Arsenal, too, we are a good team."
Although Arsenal sold Robin van Persie and Alex Song this summer, Di Matteo said he predicted they would be a threat from the start. "I said at the start of the season that Arsenal were going to be challenging for the league," the manager said. "I'm not sure anybody believed me but that's the way I saw it, I haven't changed my mind.
"Personnel have changed, but the philosophy has not changed. I don't think they have a different way of playing. They play with a lot of possession and ball retention, but Lukas Podolski and Gervinho have been scoring goals, and Santi Cazorla.
"They have players who are a threat and change positions."
- More about:
- Anton Ferdinand
- Chelsea F.c.
- John Terry
- National Parks
- Queens Park Rangers
- Stephen Carter