Chelsea head to the Emirates for the Saturday evening clash with Arsenal. A midweek comeback against Leicester city in the league cup has us back to winning ways; let’s hope that can continue this weekend.
In what was overall an extremely poor season last term, one highlight was doing the double over Arsenal in the league. This was done without conceding a goal. A 2-0 home win in the middle of September brought our first home victory of the season at the third attempt. This was followed with a 0-1 victory away in January. The encounter at Stamford Bridge saw Zouma head us in front with his first Chelsea goal from a Fabregas free kick five minutes into the second half, after Arsenal had been reduced to ten men when Gabriel reacted to Diego Costa and got himself sent off at the end of the first half. Carzola also got his marching orders in this match, and comfortable Chelsea possession followed, and a Hazard shot deflected in of Calum Chambers was the nail in the coffin for Arsenal in stoppage time.
The away match also saw Arsenal playing without their full contingent, as Mertesacker was sent off early on when taking down Costa as the last man. Costa later converted to ensure we took all three points.
We also faced Arsenal in the first match of last season at Wembley in the community shield, a 1-0 win for Arsenal.
We are currently nine matches without defeat against Arsenal in the premier league, in which they have only scored twice. Arsenal have failed to find the net in the last six meetings. Arsenal last won a league match against us in the 11/12 season, when Villas Boas’ high backline was torn to pieces in a 3-5 reverse at Stamford Bridge.
The overall head to head between the two sides reads 61 Chelsea wins, 54 draws, and 72 Arsenal wins. This is our most played fixture.
Our record league attendance at Stamford Bridge, and in fact our record recorded home attendance came against Arsenal in 1935 as 82,905 watched a 1-1 draw. The highest attendance at Stamford Bridge came against Moscow Dynamo in 1945, but the official attendance is unrecorded due to not all entries to the ground being via the turnstiles!
Arsenal also played in the league cup on Tuesday night, cruising to a comfortable 0-4 win against Nottingham Forest. We have therefore played an extra half hour than they have midweek, but we are likely to make a few changes anyway.
It is hoped John Terry may be fit enough to return at the back, but not yet known for definite. Conte has largely used the same line up from the outset in the league so far, so Courtois, Ivanovic, Hazard, Costa and Willian are likely to return to the starting eleven. This is perhaps not a given now that Luiz and Alonso have arrived, but if Terry is fit he is more likely to partner Cahill. Ivanovic being rested midweek is likely to see him replace Alonso. Although Fabregas and Moses yet again impressed, Conte seems to like using them as impact players to implement his formation change with, if required.
4-4-2 was used from the outset midweek, as it was in the previous round of the league cup against Bristol Rovers. Conte will no doubt revert back to the three-man midfield for this match though, keeping 4-4-2 as the plan B tactical change.
Arsenal will likely line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with question marks as to who will lead the line for them.
We will certainly need to tighten up at the back if we are to keep our good clean sheet record against Arsenal going. Poor balls out from the back, as well as failing to track runners resulted in us shipping two goals midweek, and poor set piece organisation left three free at the back post against Liverpool for their first.
The Liverpool match also saw us make poor decisions in possession, giving the ball away too much when playing forward. This needs to be irradiated against Arsenal, who will want to control possession at home.
Big positives going in to this match are the form of Costa, who’s movement and link play was excellent when he came on Tuesday night, and he has five goals in five appearances in the league this season, and usually plays well against Arsenal.
In a fixture where our dominance in the mid 2000’s was largely down to our midfield with the likes of Ballack, Essien and Makelele being too much for Arsenal, Kante and Oscar can hopefully make the same impression this time around if they play with the same tenacity and power they have shown so far this season.