Two games into the ‘big four’ consecutive fixtures of our season, and it’s safe to say it hasn’t gone too bad so far, has it? The demolition of our London rivals at Wembley, followed by a very useful 1-0 win over the Champions of Europe have provided two semi- final victories to savour. Only problem is there’s no time to savour, as securing a top-four finish in the Premier League finds itself right back on the agenda, for the weekend at least.
The fact that Saturday’s lunchtime clash with Arsenal lies in between the two Barcelona fixtures is only compensated by the fact the Catalans take part in El Clasico at the Nou Camp just a few hours later, in a game that will go someway to deciding the eventual destination of their domestic league trophy.
The Emirates Stadium has not long been a host to the rivalry between ourselves and the Gunners, and our league record against them since their new ground debuted in 2006 has been split 50/50, with two wins each and one draw. Here, we have a closer look at how we’ve fared …
Arsenal 1-1 Chelsea, Emirates Stadium, Sunday 6th May, 2007
Jose Mourinho’s side were unable to win a third consecutive Premier League trophy as they surrendered their crown to Manchester United with this derby draw. Khalid Boulahrouz conceded an early penalty for a professional foul on Julio Baptista which not only allowed Gilberto Silva to slot home the opener, but also earned himself a red card. Despite the disadvantage, the Blues put in a memorably tenacious performance and were rewarded late on when Michael Essien’s diving header from a Shaun Wright-Phillips cross beat Jens Lehmann, to take a point from the first ever Emirates meeting between the teams.
Arsenal 1-0 Chelsea, Emirates Stadium, Sunday 16th December, 2007
There were few positives for Interim Chelsea Manager Avram Grant to take from this defeat, in a game decided by a goal from former Blue, William Gallas. Emmanuel Eboue’s first-half challenge on John Terry would leave the skipper sidelined for two months following the game, an injury which cast doubt over Chelsea’s title challenge. The victory for Arsene Wenger’s men took them to the top of a Premier League that would ultimately be again won by Manchester United.
Arsenal 1-4 Chelsea, Emirates Stadium, Sunday 10th May, 2009
Arsenal felt the wrath of a Chelsea side that felt they had been unjustly eliminated from a Champions League Semi Final in their previous game against Barcelona, in which referee Tom Henning Ovrebo controversially dismissed a succession of valid penalty claims at Stamford Bridge. Guus Hiddink’s team blew the home side away with goals from Alex, former Gunner Nicolas Anelka, Florent Malouda, and even contributed to the Blues tally themselves with with a Kolo Toure own goal (from an Ashley Cole cross). Nicklas Bendtner scored the consolation goal for his team.
Arsenal 0-3 Chelsea, Emirates Stadium, Sunday 29th November, 2009
Carlo Ancelotti’s eventual title-winners endured significant first-half pressure against a fired-up Arsenal side, but ran out not only unscathed but with all three points and a fantastic result. After soaking up the early Arsenal attacks, Didier Drogba produced an excellent finish (from an Ashley Cole cross), before minutes later Thomas Vermaelen complimented his fine run of spectacular goals by lashing one of equal brilliance into his own net (from an Ashley Cole cross) to give Chelsea a 2-0 lead going into the break. Drogba sealed the triumph with a magnificent 25-yard free-kick in, front of the away support, five minutes from time.
Arsenal 3-1 Chelsea, Emirates Stadium, Monday 27th December, 2010
Ancelotti’s stuttering side made it six games without a win with this demoralising defeat, earned by Arsenal with three goals in the space of nine minutes from Alex Song, Cesc Fabregas, and Theo Walcott. Branislav Ivanovic’s header (from an Ash…sorry, Frank Lampard free-kick) gave the SW6 faithful false hope before a late miss from Gunners legend Samir Nasri spared Chelsea a more embarrassing scoreline.
Arsenal vs Chelsea, Emirates Stadium, Saturday 21st April, 2012
Arsenal’s home defeat to Wigan Athletic was perfectly sandwiched in between two euphoric results for Chelsea in the FA Cup and Champions League, so what are we to expect from this weekend’s trip to North London? And from a game which is arguably just as important as the aforementioned two, no less?
Team selection is again going to be under the microscope, and in no position on the pitch more so than upfront, where, including injury time, Didier Drogba has completed 180 minutes in four days. Logic would suggest that Fernando Torres is a dead-cert for a start against the Gooners, but then logic also suggested that he would have start against either Spurs or Barcelona. Further logic also looks at Didier’s record of terrorising Arsenal ever since he arrived in the Premier League, and the decision of who to go with as front-man becomes all the more difficult. Is it possible that Drogba starts yet again, but Torres plays in the return-leg in the Champions League?
The possibility of rotation at the back is limited with David Luiz injured and Ivanovic unavailable, so a back four of Cole-Terry-Cahill-Bosingwa looks most likely. Midfield is the area with the most opportunity and and most necessity for fresh legs. Seemingly out of favour with Roberto Di Matteo are Michael Essien and Oriol Romeu, neither of whom featured against Spurs or Barca, with the latter unable to secure a place even on the bench. And then in attack there is Danny Sturridge, who has seemingly lost his place in the side to Salamon Kalou. Could the three recently-outcasted players be thrust back into the action on Saturday?
In terms of the Arsenal team, there is one major piece of injury news. The headline ‘Player X Out for the Season’ is a always a little sensationalistic when it gets to mid-April and with four games to play, but Arsenal will nevertheless be weakened by the absence of Mikel Arteta, who will miss the final stages of the campaign with an ankle ligament injury. More significantly for England fans, Jack Wilshere is still out, and we got news this week that he will remain out for longer than previously expected, and certainly through Euro 2012.
If Chelsea take three points back to Stamford Bridge on Saturday afternoon, then they will have perfectly rounded off what has been a sensational week for the club. Arsenal’s run of good form may have been halted at the right time with recent defeats to QPR and Wigan, just as we seem to have come into our own and really are winning the important games again. And however many tired legs we have in the squad at the moment, its all eyes on the prize(s), and hopefully winning another big game on Saturday. From an Ashley Cole cross.
Ryan Hollands, @TheRyski