Familiar foes

Tonight's game against Arsenal will be the fourth of five matches between the sides in 2017/18, but it won't be the first time we have become overly familiar with our neighbours in a season.

After being paired together in the semi-final of the Carabao Cup, which is a two-legged tie, the Blues and the Gunners will equal our record for most competitive fixtures between the sides in the same season.

Our three previous meetings this term have been split between the Community Shield and the Premier League, with each game finishing all-square after 90 minutes, although Arsenal emerged victorious from the match at Wembley following a penalty shoot-out.

Back in the 1946/47 season, cup ties weren't yet decided by such a method, which is what allowed us to meet the Gunners five times in only three competitions. Both our league meetings were settled decisively in Chelsea's favour, with Tommy Lawton scoring a brace at the Bridge and a Len Goulden penalty separating the sides at Highbury, with both matches finishing 2-1 to the Blues.

 Len Goulden during a Blues training session

However, it took three attempts for either club to secure victory in the FA Cup third-round tie between the sides. Over 120,000 spectators attended the first two matches, as Chelsea twice came from behind to hold our London rivals to a 1-1 draw.

But then, with White Hart Lane set as the venue for the second replay and the third meeting in just nine days, Lawton proved to be the hero once more, netting both our goals. It mattered little, though, as we crashed out in the next round against Derby County.  

 Tommy Lawton on target against the Gunners at White Hart Lane

While only Blues fans of a certain vintage will be able to recall those five epic tussles, the 2003/04 season is one few of us will ever forget, with that campaign the first of the Roman Abramovich era.

The first three games between Chelsea and Arsenal that season each finished 2-1 to the Gunners, despite fantastic goals from Hernan Crespo and Adrian Mutu in the Premier League and FA Cup fifth round matches at Highbury respectively, and Eidur Gudjohnsen netting inside the first minute in the league at Stamford Bridge.

 Hernan Crespo netted a stunner in a losing cause

The tables were turned in the Champions League, when we were drawn against them in the quarter-finals for what would be the first all-London tie in the competition's history.

After drawing the first leg at the Bridge, it was tantalisingly poised, although we hadn't beaten Arsenal since 1998 and they were favourites to progress.

However, a wretched run of results against the Gunners came crashing to a halt with all of Europe watching. Despite conceding first to Jose Antonio Reyes, Frank Lampard levelled the tie once more. Then, with extra time looming at Highbury, left-back Wayne Bridge sauntered forward and exchanged passes with Gudjohnsen, who slipped the ball through Kolo Toure’s legs, before firing home an 87th minute winner.  

The travelling Chelsea fans erupted, while the rest of Highbury lived up to its library reputation.

If this Carabao Cup semi-final has a similar conclusion to that thrilling tie, there will be few complaints from those of a Blues persuasion.