It is always strange that some teams are considered to be bogey teams, but there is no other word to describe Chelsea’s superiority over Arsenal this century. It is five years since the Gunners beat our London rivals and amazingly we haven’t scored a goal in the last five League meetings, although three of the last four at the Emirates have been goalless draws.
But Arsenal are the League leaders and are at home so we should be hot favourites on paper. Since our crazy defeat against Southampton we have gone five games unbeaten, but it is also worth noting that Chelsea also haven’t lost in the last seven games either, although they remain in 14th place, a massive 19 points behind Arsenal.
Here are some quotes in the preview from the official Chelsea website:
Arsene Wenger’s men have failed to score in their last five Premier League games with Chelsea, and have netted two goals in our last eight top-flight encounters.
North London has prevailed in four of the last 29 clashes with west London in this fixture in league and cup over the past 11 years.
The Gunners last punished the Pensioners in the Premier League in October 2011 when Andre Villas-Boas’s side were beaten 5-3 at Stamford Bridge with a hat-trick from Robin van Persie.
Their last home win against the Blues was in December 2010 when Alexandre Song, Cesc Fabregas and Theo Walcott put the Gunners 3-0 up before Branislav Ivanovic replied in the second half.
The Blues will be boosted should Diego Costa have recovered sufficiently from the shin injury sustained against Everton. The centre-forward is on a run of five goals in as many games and was the architect, along with Cesc Fabregas, of the thrilling comeback from 0-2 and 2-3 down last Saturday. (The former Arsenal skipper found a teammate with more passes than any other Premier League footballer.)
Their connection was hugely influential during last season’s Premier League triumph but teams took steps to block that source of goals. Arsene Wenger, though, tends to eschew counter-measures against opponents. His sides play their own game which can mean they concede chances, and their offside trap can be fallible.
Frustratingly, many of Chelsea’s statistics mark us out as top-four performers: the second highest possession behind Manchester United, fourth best in passing accuracy behind Arsenal, Manchester City and United; most goals direct from free-kicks; the fourth highest number of shots on target. Crucially it is in the keeping ball out and putting it in the net that the west Londoners have been found wanting.
Midfield is often the decisive battleground in our encounters with Arsenal and Fabregas and the impressively solid John Mikel Obi will have their work cut out to spike the leaders if they are the combination selected. In recent weeks Wenger has used a 4-2-3-1 or 4-1-4-1 formation, with Mathieu Flamini and Aaron Ramsey handed the more defensive responsibilities during the continued absence of Francis Coquelin.
Arsenal were conceding an average of around half a goal per game fewer before the injury to Coquelin, who was usually partnered by Santi Cazorla, who is also out.
The Gunners’ January signing Mohamed Elneny has encountered Chelsea three times previously with Basel, losing both 2013 Europa League semi-final games and winning the Champions League group stage match in Switzerland the following season.
Although he is touted by Arsenal as cover for Coquelin, on each occasion Basel deployed Elneny on the right of a central midfield trio, just behind fellow Egyptian Mohamed Salah, who stood out and was later to be bought by the Blues.
It would appear the Gunners will have attacking midfielders Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez back in action this weekend, although the latter, returning from a lengthy hamstring injury, may start on the bench.
However Arsenal’s full-backs are frequently the furthest forward of their players, especially Hector Bellerin, and that offers space to exploit in wide areas. Arsenal’s central defenders, especially Per Mertesacker, have a reputation for being uncomfortable with pace. Only Liverpool (with 22) have committed more defensive mistakes this season than the north Londoners’ 17.
The Blues will hope Eden Hazard is back to his explosive best again this weekend after a stop-start campaign for the Footballer of the Year. The Belgian has netted two penalties against the Gunners and, despite his injuries, only three other players have beaten their man more often than Hazard this season.
Early goals tend to be rare in London derbies, but Chelsea have outscored opponents by four goals to nil over the opening 15 minutes so far this season.
Considering how important it is for both teams not to lose, and given Arsenal’s horrible record against our visitors, it would hardly be surprising if we saw another tactical 0-0 draw this time around….