PRE-MATCH BRIEFING: ARSENAL V CHELSEA - PART TWO
Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton complete their detailed preview of the pre-Christmas London derby…
WE HAVE HISTORY
Chelsea have played more competitive games against Arsenal than any other team. This is London's oldest top-flight derby and tonight is our 181st meeting, though relatively few have been played around this time of year.
Just before Christmas 1955 defending title-holders Chelsea hosted Arsenal at Stamford Bridge. The kick-off was a civilised, pre-floodlights 2.15pm on a Christmas Eve Saturday and 43,000 were there to witness it.
Ted Drake was looking for a reaction against his former team after a 0-4 loss at Bolton. So Les Stubbs returned to the inside-left position occupied for the previous six matches by Roy Bentley, who shifted back to his regular centre-forward slot in place of 20-year-old Ron Tindall.
Tom Whittaker's struggling Gunners were taken apart in a dynamic first-half display from the champions, Bentley opening the scoring midway through and left-winger Frank Blunstone doubling the lead ten minutes before the break. It finished 2-0.
Fifty years later at Highbury on 18 December 2005 Chelsea were again defending the title, and inflicting a third successive league defeat on the Gunners for the first time in 10 years.
The game exposed Arsenal's relative physical weakness compared to the team Arsene Wenger fielded in his earlier years. Michael Essien and Claude Makelele's dominance of a Vieira-less midfield was the telling factor but Didier Drogba was causing havoc in the hosts' defence as usual.
It was the Ivorian who set up the Blues' route victory, controlling a throw-in and cleverly turning the ball into the path of Arjen Robben, who beat the offiside trap and clipped past Jens Lehmann.
The killer blow from the visitors was struck two minutes after a double substitution by Wenger. No sooner had old stagers Dennis Bergkamp and Robert Pires taken the stage than Joe Cole outmuscled Lauren, skipped past Sol Campbell and steered his shot beyond Lehmann.
'Oh what fun it is to see Chelsea win away,' went Chelsea fans' version of 'Jingle Bells.' Come April the tune had become 'We are the champions!' again.
Chelsea are looking for a fourth successive victory against the Gunners in league and cup and third in the Premier League having achieved the double against Wenger's side last season.
Arsenal last beat us in October 2011 when they won 5-3 at Stamford Bridge when Andre Villas-Boas was our manager. 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.
Juan Mata has scored on all four starts he has made against Arsenal.
The Gunners are trophyless for over eight and a half years since they defeated Manchester United on penalties in the 2005 FA Cup final. Over the same period Chelsea have won two Premier Leagues, four FA Cups, one League Cup, two Community Shields, one Europa League and, of course, London's only Champions League trophy.
Our last 10 away league meetings at Arsenal
2003/04 - Arsenal won 2-1
2004/05 - Drew 2-2
2005/06 - Chelsea won 2-0
2006/07 - Drew 1-1
2007/08 - Arsenal won 1-0
2008/09 - Chelsea won 4-1
2009/10 - Chelsea won 3-0
2010/11 - Arsenal won 3-1
2011/12 - Drew 0-0
2012/13 - Chelsea won 2-1
Other match last season
20 January 2013 Barclays Premier League
Mata 5 Walcott 57
Lampard 16 pen
Previous match this season
29 October 2013 Capital One Cup fourth round
Arsenal v Chelsea in all competitions
Games played 180
Chelsea wins 57
Arsenal wins 71
Head to head in the League at Arsenal
Games played 76
Chelsea wins 20
Arsenal wins 36
Biggest league win at Arsenal for each team
Arsenal 5-2 Chelsea - 16/04/1979
Arsenal 1-4 Chelsea - 09/04/1960, 12/11/1960 and 10/05/2009
Chelsea won a trophy: 222
Arsenal won a trophy: 3,138
Liverpool won the league: 8,633
Last time out Arsenal shipped six to a Manchester City side displaying the power and efficiency reminiscent of recent Chelsea teams that reaped similar rewards against the Gunners. The focus in these match always used to be on Didier Drogba's wrecking ball effect on Senderos et al, yet the Blues have won all three meetings since the Ivorian left in 2012.
A key factor in the Capital One Cup victory in late October was getting through the early part of the game and then scoring with Cesar Azpilicueta's opener on 25 minutes. There are no better starters to home games than Arsene Wenger's side, who have hit league sides with five goals without reply in the opening 20 minutes at Emirates.
Jose Mourinho will be aware of that threat and will be happy that Azpilicueta, his top-performing defender of late, is fit and available after the injury that caused his early departure in the midweek loss at Sunderland.
Especially so as Theo Walcott has returned from his lay-off and is looking a very real attacking threat. His pace and diagonal runs need to be tracked by someone of similar speed and more of Arsenal's attacks come from their right flank than elsewhere.
Right-back Bacary Sagna is capable of excellent crosses behind the defence and Mourinho will want to ensure there is someone ahead of Azpilicueta, who he has confirmed will start the game, or Ashley Cole if he comes on, to protect them. At the same time, Sagna has a tendency to leave space behind him that Chelsea will be keen to exploit.
On the other flank Nacho Monreal, more comfortable in an offensive role, played left-back in place of Kieran Gibbs at City. Gibbs uses his extra pace well but has similar tactical issues to Sagna.
Despite the overall disappointment of Wednesday's cup defeat for Chelsea, Willian's harrying and incisiveness with the ball were in evidence again. Rested that night, along with John Terry, Fernando Torres and Petr Cech, were the likes of Oscar, Ramires and Juan Mata. Mata has an outstanding record of scoring four times in five games against the Gunners, including the brilliant right-foot strike in our recent Capital One Cup win.
Midfield is often the key battleground in encounters with Arsenal and they lost their defensive discipline and organisation at City after the removal of deep-lying player Mathieu Flamini.
Jack Wilshere's mute expression of frustration towards the home fans there has led to a ban from today's match but the England man has not been performing as well as fellow midfielders Aaron Ramsey and Flamini, and Mikel Arteta (who himself missed our Cup win at Emirates through suspension) offers slightly more defensive cover.
Wenger suggested his team gifted five of Man City's six goals and Wilshere was partly responsible. He was caught in possession leaving the usually impressive Per Mertesacker exposed for lack of pace.
The German has been the key rear Gunner when they were the Premier League's meanest defence and demonstrated leadership quality when he chided teammate Mezut Ozil at the end of the 3-6 defeat for not applauding the traveling fans.
Lucas Podolski may return from his hamstring problem but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's knee injury may not have cleared until mid-January. The Gunners' biggest loss will be at the back, however. Deep gash victim Laurent Koscielny has been their best-performing defender this season - City had netted just two of their six when he was stretchered off at the Etihad.
This could come into play when it is considered Chelsea have been substantially more of a threat than the Gunners on attacking set-pieces but slightly more susceptible to conceding when defending them. Azpilicueta's opener in the 2-0 came, of course, after a lightning break from an Arsenal corner.