Courtois: New year, same ambitions

So far this season Chelsea have performed well on the road against some of the top sides, and Thibaut Courtois says the team are in confident mood as we aim to continue that when we travel across London for our first game of 2018 against Arsenal tonight.

Overall, it was a fruitful festive period for Antonio Conte’s side who picked up seven points from an away game at Everton and successive home matches against Brighton and Stoke.

It’s now just one defeat in 13 Premier League matches for the Blues, who will hope to kick off the New Year in a similar manner to how we ended the previous one.

‘I think it’s important over the Christmas period, with a lot of games, that you pick up as many points as possible, especially now we are playing a big rival who are below us, because if we can win there it will be good for us and we will go up to second again,’ Courtois tells the official Chelsea website.

‘We want to try to close the gap to Man City as much as possible in case they drop points. We are in good form, we are defending well and not conceding goals so hopefully we can keep that run going, but the most important thing against Arsenal is to win.’

Defensively, we have been particularly impressive of late, regardless of which players have been called upon.

With Andreas Christensen out due to illness, and David Luiz still unavailable, Gary Cahill was moved into a central position for the game against Brighton on Boxing Day and continued there at the weekend, and the fact we have been so difficult to breach ensures the whole side, from front to back, is full of confidence.

‘It's good to know that sometimes you need just one goal to win a game, so if you are capable of keeping clean sheets and defending well that’s good,’ says Courtois.

‘At the beginning of the season we struggled to not concede, we gave away some silly goals at times but then we changed. Since then we’ve worked better defensively as a whole and if you can match that with scoring, that’s good.

‘In the last 12 games we’ve had eight clean sheets and only conceded four goals, which is great. In a big game anything is possible, it might be 4-3 or whatever, but hopefully we can have a good game defensively, score and win.’

For Courtois, the last three matches have provided a different type of challenge, with the Belgian a peripheral figure for long spells due to our dominance in those particular fixtures.

The 25-year-old has continued to make important saves on the seldom occasions he has been called upon, though, and he explains how he stays mentally aware in those matches when he has little to do.

‘Against Southampton I saved two one-on-ones, against Brighton there was one shot and Everton didn’t have a shot on target. On Saturday I saved another one-on-one from Berahino and at that point you have to be there, because against a team like Stoke, even when you’re 3-0 up, if they score they get excited and you never know what can happen.

‘In a game when the opposition aren’t shooting a lot it’s important to stay focused and concentrated, and when you need to intervene you have to make the save.

‘Sometimes you can have zero work and then they score a great goal which you can’t do anything about, which is annoying for a goalkeeper, but that’s life when you play for a big team. We just have to keep the clean sheets going and defend well.’

Having already beaten Tottenham and Atletico Madrid on our travels this season, as well as drawing at Liverpool, Conte’s side head to the Emirates with a proven pedigree of possessing the ability to overcome strong opponents away from home.

Arsenal have picked up 25 points from a possible 30 at home this season although both Manchester United and Liverpool have come away from the Emirates with points in recent weeks.

‘The away games are very important and if you want to be high up the table you have to win those,’ Courtois says. ‘Our mentality has been good in those games. We go into away matches in the same way we do when we’re playing at home, with the mindset that we have to score and win.

‘Arsenal create so many chances and they can always win games against the likes of United, City, Tottenham and ourselves. They are in good form, they drew their last game against West Brom but they will be ready and it’s always tough at the Emirates.

‘We had a bad game there last season but it proved to be a turning point. This year at home we drew 0-0 so hopefully we can go there and get the win.’