Mon 23 Dec 2013 20:00 (Attendance: 60,039)
The final top-flight game before Christmas pits the capital's highest-placed clubs against each other. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton look in detail at the seasonal summit meeting…
So Sunderland summoned their age-old cup hex over the Blues and everyone at Chelsea has midweek diary dates free in January as a result. Most sympathy lies with those fans arriving back in London at 4.30am afterwards. On Monday the players will be aiming to be more efficient in every department at the Emirates to replicate the fine result and performance that dumped Arsenal out a round earlier.
It has not exactly been a great few weeks for the Premier League leaders, who have taken one point from the last possible six in the Barclays Premier League, shipped half a dozen against Manchester City, and finished second in their Champions League group, eventually being paired with the might of defending champions Bayern Munich.
Chelsea are unbeaten in our last three visits to the Emirates, one short of the sequence between 2004 and 2007. From 1959 to 1965 we managed to avoid defeat at Arsenal seven times in succession. The Gunners are looking to avoid three successive defeats for the first time since April 2010 when they lost to Barcelona, Tottenham and Wigan.
By the time this match kicks off, Liverpool may have gone top with a Saturday lunchtime win over Cardiff City. Chelsea would require the Scousers to drop points in order to lead the table at Christmas, even with another win in north London.
When asked the importance of hitting top spot at this time of year Jose Mourinho told reporters it is not 'crucial' and predicted the title race will end with a dive for the tape.
How indicative of success in May has leading the pack on 25 December been historically? Since 2003/04 seven of the 10 clubs in pole position have finished the season champions. The three who failed were Manchester United in 2003/04, Liverpool in 2008/09 and Arsenal in 2007/08.
The north Londoners' recent travails mean questions are re-emerging about their aptitude against the better sides and the viability of their relatively shallow squad: from the ecstasy of looking like ending the eight-year drought, to 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 Gunners working overtime.
Arsene Wenger complained his side were fatigued after the 3-6 beating at Manchester City, but his players will be fresher than some of Chelsea's as a result of our comfortable 2-0 Capital One Cup win at Emirates a few weeks back - Arsenal have had a free week to rest and prepare.
Following their draw with Everton a fortnight ago Arsenal have dropped more points on home soil than the Blues. The Gunners have the worst home record of the top four sides, with fewest victories and lowest goal difference.
This match also sees the personal battle between Mourinho and Wenger rejoined; after nine meetings the Alsatian has yet to sink his teeth into the Special One.
Barclays Premier League fixtures
Liverpool v Cardiff 12.45pm - BT Sport
Crystal Palace v Newcastle 3pm
Fulham v Manchester City 3pm
Manchester United v West Ham 3pm
Stoke v Aston Villa 3pm
Sunderland v Norwich 3pm
West Brom v Hull 3pm
Southampton v Tottenham 1.30pm - Sky Sports
Swansea v Everton 4pm - Sky Sports
Arsenal v Chelsea 8pm - Sky Sports
|Barclays Premier League top eight|
|Premier London League|
|Top eight mini-league *|
Click on tabs above for more briefing.
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.
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
Chelsea are undefeated in the last eight Barclays Premier League London derbies, comprising six wins and two draws.
Chelsea have gained 11 points from losing positions this season, the best record in the Premier League.
We have kept one clean sheet in our last 11 Premier League games.
The Blues have an identical record compared to the corresponding 16 fixtures last season.
We have won 11 points from a possible 24 away from Stamford Bridge this term.
Chelsea have trailed in five of our last seven league games, four of which have eventually been won.
|Last six results|
|Dec 1||Southampton (h)||W 3-1|
|Dec 4||Sunderland (a)||W 4-3|
|Dec 7||Stoke (a)||L 2-3|
|Dec 11||Steaua Bucharest (Champions League h)||W 1-0|
|Dec 14||Crystal Palace (h)||W 2-1|
|Dec 17||Sunderland (Capital One Cup a)||L 1-2 aet|
League games since
An away win: 1
An away draw: 5
An away defeat: 0
|Chelsea's next three games|
|Thu 26 Dec||Swansea City home||3.00pm|
|Sun 29 Dec||Liverpool home||4.00pm|
|Wed 1 Jan||Southampton away||3.00pm|
Frank Lampard's next converted penalty will be his 50th for the Blues.
13 League championships, last in 2004
10 FA Cups, last in 2005
2 League Cups, last in 1993
12 FA Charity/Community Shields (1 shared), last in 2004
1 European Cup Winners' Cup in 1994
1 Fairs Cup in 1970
Premier League - Fourth
FA Cup - Fifth round
Capital One Cup - Quarter-final
Champions League - Round of 16
Arsenal have won 19 points from a possible 24 at the Emirates this term. Since their only home defeat on the opening day against Aston Villa they have won six against Tottenham, Stoke, Norwich, Liverpool, Southampton and Hull and drew their last game to Everton.
Man Utd are the only team Arsenal have failed to score against in the league this term when David Moyes's team won by the only goal at Old Trafford in November.
The Gunners have conceded three league goals in the last 10 ½ hours at the Emirates.
They have opened the scoring in 13 of their 16 Premier League games and gone on to win 11 of them.
Arsenal have gained only one point from losing positions this term.
Manager Arsene Wenger
Days in charge: 6,293
|Arsenal's last 10 year league history|
|Last six results|
|Nov 26||Marseille (Champions League h)||W 2-0|
|Nov 30||Cardiff (a)||W 3-0|
|Dec 4||Hull (h)||W 2-0|
|Dec 8||Everton (h)||D 1-1|
|Dec 11||Napoli (Champions League a)||L 0-2|
|Dec 14||Man City (a)||L 3-6|
Premier League scorers (33)
Ramsey 8, Giroud 7 (1 pen), Ozil 4, Mertesacker 2, Podolski 2, Walcott 2, Wilshere 2, Arteta 1 (pen), Bendtner 1, Cazorla 1, Flamini 1, Gnabry 1, Sagna 1.
League games since
A home win: 1
A home draw: 0
A home defeat: 7
GUNNERS MAJOR SUMMER MOVES AND AUTUMN LOANS
Ins Mesut Ozil (Real Madrid, £42.5m), Mathieu Flamini (AC Milan, free), Yaya Sanogo (Auxerre, loan), Emiliano Viviano (Palermo, loan).
Outs Andrey Arshavin (Zenit St Petersburg, free), Denilson (Sao Paulo, free), Francis Coquelin (Freiburg, loan), Vito Mannone (Sunderland, £1.5m), Sebastien Squillaci (Bastia, free), Andre Santos (Flamengo, undisclosed), Gervinho (Roma, £8m), Marouane Chamakh (Crystal Palace, undisclosed), Johan Djourou (Hamburg, loan)
THE MAN IN THE MIDDLE
Mike Dean is the official for his second Chelsea match this term. He was the referee for our 1-1 draw with Tottenham at White Hart Lane in September.
Michael Essien (one match) and Arsenal's Jack Wilshere (two matches) are suspended.
David Luiz is one domestic booking away from a suspension having received four yellow cards this season.
The Blues return from north London with a well-earned point following a 0-0 draw with Arsenal at the Emirates.
In a game shorn of many clear-cut opportunities, Frank Lampard went closest to scoring the decisive goal midway through the first half when he raced on to an Eden Hazard chip and smashed his volley against the bar.
The second half followed a similar pattern to the first, with the defensive players on both sides coming out on top, although Olivier Giroud went close twice late on for Arsenal.
A first clean sheet in the league since the 3-0 win at West Ham is most welcome, while for Petr Cech it was his 150th Premier League shut out, and attention now turns to two successive home games, starting with the visit of Swansea City on Boxing Day.
Jose Mourinho made three changes from the 2-1 win over Crystal Palace just over a week ago. Gary Cahill returned to partner captain John Terry in central defence, with David Luiz dropping down to the bench. With Michael Essien suspended, John Mikel Obi returned to the starting line-up, while there was also a start for Lampard. Fernando Torres, who scored the opening goal against the Eagles, led the line once again. A strong substitutes' bench contained both Juan Mata and Oscar.
For Arsenal, Thomas Vermaelen played alongside Per Mertesacker at the heart of the defence and, with Jack Wilshere unavailable due to suspension, Tomas Rosicky was handed a start wide on the left-hand side.
With Arsenal unbeaten at home in the Premier League since the opening day of the season, it was important for us to start the game in a positive, assertive manner, and we were seeing plenty of the ball durng the opening few minutes, albeit without threatening from an attacking perspective.
Tactically, we began the game with Lampard, Mikel and Ramires operating as a midfield trio, and it appeared as though Mourinho had instructed them, and those players further forward, to press Arsenal high up the pitch, with the home side forced into a couple of uncharacteristic early errors.
Having kept only one clean sheet in our previous 11 league games, the team were set up early on to get men behind the ball when Arsenal were in possession and not afford the home side too much space in dangerous areas, and it was a strategy which proved effective for the opening 20 minutes with the hosts struggling to get in behind.
On the first occasion they did, a teasing Bacary Sagna delivery was expertly diverted behind by Cahill as Olivier Giroud looked set to pounce in a crowded penalty area.
Moments later we had our first real sight of goal following a quick break; Willian supplied the cross after Hazard had instigated the move inside our own half, but the header from Ramires lacked power and dropped over Wojciech Szczesny's bar.
Just after the half-hour mark we then produced the first real moment of quality in the game and came agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock.
Lampard rolled the ball into Hazard on the edge of the Arsenal box; the Belgian looked up and chipped the ball back into the path of the midfielder, who had continued his run, and as he met it first time on the volley, the ball flew past Szczesny and crashed against the underside of the bar.
The danger wasn't completely clear, and as the loose ball bounced around inside the Arsenal box, Ramires swivelled and fired straight at the Polish goalkeeper.
Suddenly we were beginning to look a threat, and Torres was next to go close, spinning his marker on the edge of the box and firing towards goal, only to be thwarted by another Szczesny save.
The game, which had struggled to get going for much of the first half, was beginning to spark into life as the clock ticked towards the break, and the home supporters were appealing for a penalty when Willian and Theo Walcott tangled inside our penalty area. Referee Mike Dean, however, waved the claim away.
The Brazilian was then involved in the action at the other end as we broke at pace following an Arsenal corner. Ivanovic climbed highest to head Walcott's delivery away, and as the ball was worked out to Hazard he drove at the retreating defenders and slipped it in to the overlapping Willian whose strike was comfortable for Szczesny.
It was the Blues who threatened first after the restart, once again utilising the pace of our attacking players on the break.
As Cahill did well to block a Rosicky strike, the ball fell kindly for Willian who took two Arsenal players out of the game with a quick burst before feeding Hazard. With Torres to his left, the Belgian opted to seek out Willian, but his cross, intended for Ramires, was headed away to safety by Vermaelen.
Minutes later Willian was released again down the right, but on this occasion, with three players up in support his pass was behind Ramires, and though Hazard was able to retrieve the ball he was left with too much to do and, under pressure from two defenders, the chance went begging.
As the game approached the hour mark, there appeared to be no sign of a breakthrough from either side, and it was becoming increasingly clear the first goal could prove pivotal to the balance of the contest.
Lampard tested Szczesny from distance with a fizzing effort after Torres had done well to head the ball back into his path under pressure, while at the other end Terry was forced into a couple of defensive headers in quick succession as Arsenal attempted to seize the initiative.
As the rain continued to pour down challenges were beginning to fly in; Ivanovic and Mesut Ozil clashed, and minutes later the Serbian was on the receiving end of a late Sagna challenge.
Sensing the need for fresh legs, Mourinho made his first substitution of the night with 16 minutes remaining, replacing Hazard with Andre Schurrle, while soon after Oscar was introduced at the expense of Willian.
As the game began to flow from end to end, Arsenal saw their best chance of the game go to waste. Aaron Ramsey, a peripheral figure up to that point, lifted the ball over the Chelsea defence into the path of Giroud, but as Petr Cech raced off his line to narrow the angle, the Frenchman fired into the side netting.
It was the home side looking the more dangerous as the game entered its final stages, and Giroud again went close when he got the faintest of touches on a Kieran Gibbs cross, but Cech was equal to it and diverted the ball over the bar with his knee.
The home side forced a couple of late corners as they looked to steal it, one of which forced Azpilicueta into a clearance off the line.
At the other end, meanwhile, substitute David Luiz fired a free-kick straight into the Gunners' wall with what was our last real sight of goal.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (c), Azpilicueta; Ramires, Mikel, Lampard; Willian (Oscar 77), Torres (David Luiz 87), Hazard (Schurrle 73).
Unused substitutes: Schwarzer, Cole, Mata, Eto'o.
Booked Ramires 63
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen (c), Gibbs; Arteta, Ramsey; Walcott, Ozil, Rosicky; Giroud.
Unused substitutes: Fabianski, Jenkinson, Monreal, Flamini, Cazorla, Podolski, Bendtner.
Booked Walcott 65, Rosicky 69
Referee Mike Dean