Old foes meet. Yet, not with the acrimony of the last few seasons when Arsenal host visiting Chelsea at the Emirates tomorrow. As Arsene Wenger takes the field at the start of his 20th year in charge at Arsenal, it is Chelsea that reflect the rise and fall of Arsenal over the last 10 or so years.
From Wenger’s first time in charge of Arsenal until 2005 – Arsenal didn’t lose to Chelsea. 17 matches they would square up against each other in that time and Arsenal would see the better of Chelsea in 10 of those matches.
That all began to change when Arsenal lost to Chelsea in a Champion’s League quarter final 2-1. It should be noted this was the time when Abramovich began to seriously pour money into the Blues. Since the abundance of Abramovich’s wealth has flowed into Chelsea and August 2005 – Arsenal and Chelsea have met 29 times (through the 2015/2016 season) – Arsenal have won 5 of them.
It should be noted that some of those wins occurred the first time Arsenal were facing a Chelsea squad with a new manager at the helm – like tomorrow.
Both teams have had flip flop fortunes at the beginning of the season. Arsenal stuttered out of the blocks but have now had 3 wins in a row, whilst Chelsea tore out of the blocks on a 3-0 tear but now haven’t been as so convincing as they were in the dawn of the new season.
Does it mean anything – most likely no. Ties against these two teams are always acrimonious affairs with last season’s early tie being one of the worst in recent memory as Diego Costa wound up Gabriel and had him sent off and Santi Cazorla saw two yellows that had him sent off. Of course it was all capped off by the pushing and shoving match between the two managers who despise each other the most.
It’s all in the past. Arsenal come into the match healthy for the most part. We were able to completely rotate the full starting XI so it’s likely that everyone who played in the win against Hull will play against Chelsea. The biggest question mark is who does Wenger start in the DM role – Coquelin or Xhaka.
Against, Liverpool, Chelsea played a passive catenaccio style allowing Klopp’s men to have plenty of time on the ball and freedom to probe Chelsea’s stalwart defense. If Chelsea employ a similar style against Arsenal, then it makes more sense to bring in Xhaka who has a passing array that Coquelin just doesn’t have in his tool kit.
Coquelin is great at blocking up the midfield and breaking up play. In a match like this his best role would be to come on if Arsenal were up 2-1 with 10 minutes to go and we needed to lock it down. With Chelsea likely to sit back we need passers who can exploit the channels and space between Chelsea’s two defensive lines.
Don’t get me wrong, having Coquelin and Cazorla side by side isn’t necessarily going to hurt Arsenal. It just takes off an effective weapon against an opposition style of play better suited to Xhaka then Coquelin.
Cooler Heads Must Prevail
Diego Costa is everyone’s least favorite villain and boy did he do a number on us in that first match. Who can forget the major overreaction and near death experience of having Gabriel walk into him. It resulted in Gabriel’s sending off. Simply put the man is a prick but he is effective at what he does and he has a way of getting under player’s skins.
Whatever happens in the match tomorrow, we cannot allow ourselves to be goaded into responding to his antics. He will play his game. He will bitch and moan about not getting calls he will try and rile up our players. We have to walk away from that and play the game we need to play to get all 3 points.
Key Match Up
Alex Iwobi vs Branislav Ivanovic. One player is on the rise and the early stage of their career and another is in his twilight. Ivanovic in his prime was as shut down as you would want from a FB but over the last few weeks he has shown trouble handling speedy players.
Alex Iwobi continues to go from strength to strength and against Hull was just a beast to deal with. He not only possess pace but he complements that with skill and strength that makes him formidable to deal with. If Iwobi is switched on for this match he could have a lot to say about it’s outcome.
We simply don’t do well against Chelsea. Something has to give and I think we’re being given an opportunity to get at Chelsea while they are still coming to terms with Conte’s style of play. It seems a cheap way to try and get a win but you just don’t know what Chelsea will be like once they are well schooled into what Conte wants to do (and Abramovich throws more rubles at players.)
We looked much more together and move the ball with more purpose last week. Of course you could put it down to the opposition but things like shape and movement into space which were hard to come by at the start of the season were a little more on display. Combine that with a squad that didn’t need to play at all in the midweek and it sets up nicely for Arsenal. Now it’s just up to them to take the chance.
Players to Watch:
Arsenal. Laurent Koscielny. As Captain and a likely target of Diego Costa’s, he needs to keep his head and wits about him so he can deal with the threat and get everyone else to keep their heads about them
Chelsea. Diego Costa. Duh. Would it be anyone else? I don’t care much for his antics but the man can play that position. Imagine if he just put his head down and played?
Injuries and Suspensions:
Arsenal: Ramsey (hamstring), Jenkinson (knee), Mertesacker (knee), Welbeck (knee)
Chelsea: Terry (ankle), Van Ginkel (knee) Zouma (knee)
The Manager’s Take (Courtesy Arsenal.com)
“It is an important game for us because we feel we are on the way up and Chelsea is a good test and a good opportunity for us to continue our progress,” he said.
“Chelsea in the last 10 years had very, very strong teams. You realise that today as well. Before that period, we were always beating them, after they were always the stronger team for a few years.
“Now, it looks like it’s a new era where it’s a bit more balanced again and we feel we are progressing at the moment so we have a good opportunity to grab and to change what I call ‘the inconvenient facts’ of the recent years.
“Chelsea have always come to the Emirates with a strong defensive solidity and to [try to] catch us on the break, because they know we like to take the initiative,” added Wenger.
“[Antonio] Conte has very strong players in transition, like Hazard, like Willian, like Diego Costa. For us to stop them, these three players, from being dangerous will be one of the keys of the game.”
“Of course for the result on Saturday it will be important the way we play football, but as well the way we behave, because discipline and results are strongly linked. The results we’ve had in the last two games are that we couldn’t play 11 against 11.”
Referee: Michael Oliver (4M 22Y 0R)
Assistants: G Beswick, S Burt
Fourth official: C Pawson
UK: BT Sport 17.30 GMT
US: NBC Sports Network 12:30 PM EST
Arsenal 2 – 1 Chelsea
Match Facts (Courtesy FourFourTwo.com via Opta)
- The Gunners are winless in their last nine Premier League meetings with Chelsea since a 5-3 win at Stamford Bridge in October 2011 – only against Liverpool have they had a longer such run in the competition (12 between 1994 and 2000).
- Chelsea haven’t lost any of their last five league visits to the Emirates (W2 D3) since a 1-3 loss in December 2010. They’ve conceded just one goal in that run.
- Indeed, Arsenal have failed to score in their last six Premier League games against Chelsea – their joint-longest such run in the competition (also against Liverpool between 1997 and 2000).
- The Blues have won more Premier League games at the Emirates Stadium than any other visiting side (4).
- This will be Arsene Wenger’s 55th meeting against Chelsea as Arsenal manager in all competitions – he’s only faced Man United more with the Gunners (56).
- Antonio Conte will be the 12th Chelsea manager Wenger has faced in the Premier League, more than any other club.
- Conte hasn’t gone three league games without a win since a run of four draws with Juventus in March 2012. Indeed, he’s not lost consecutive league games since December 2009 while at Atalanta.
- The Gunners are looking to record four successive Premier League wins for the first time since October 2015 (a run of five).
- Diego Costa has scored five goals in five Premier League games this season, scoring each of Chelsea’s last three in the competition.
- The Gunners are winless in five London derbies in the league played at home – they last went six without a win on home soil in October 1974.
- Arsenal are winless in their last eight Premier League games in which Michael Oliver was referee (D5 L3), while Chelsea are unbeaten in 13 with Oliver officiating (W7 D6).
- Arsenal have had four players sent off in their last five Premier League meetings with Chelsea and have been given more red cards against the Blues than versus any other opponent (7).