After three home games in a row, the Blues hit the road once more, albeit one only eight miles long. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton point the compass north-east for the lunchtime London derby…
The first big 'capital classic' of the year is upon us. Both sides enjoyed confidence-boosting wins against lower league opposition in midweek, with visitors Chelsea having one day more to rest and prepare for the early kick-off.
This fixture will not be the same without a certain Ivorian, of course. 'I don't know if Chelsea miss him, but we don't miss him. He did a lot of damage against us,' said Arsène Wenger this week. He was referring to Didier Drogba, maestro of Munich, king of Wembley, spiker of the Gunners.
There is no doubt that the striker, now in China, had the number of Wenger's side, scoring an extraordinary 13 times in 10 matches. He failed to hit the net in just five of the games he started against Arsenal, and in three of those he set up a goal for someone else.
The north Londoners' defence may sleep more peacefully on Friday night in the knowledge they will not join Philippe Senderos and others as gibbering wrecks in the psychiatrist's chair at London Colney.
Yet as Wenger also conceded, the likes of Eden Hazard, whom he admires, are ushering in a new era at the Bridge. Now that the Frenchman has had laser treatment on his eyesight he might even concede the Belgian playmaker and Brazilian Oscar are being denied the type of penalties others seem to be awarded.
The Blues' transition under Roberto Di Matteo is still in its formative stage but the midweek League Cup showed the exhilarating potential of Chelsea's younger talent as we are weaned off Drogs.
Since 2004/05, the only Blues starting line-up with a lower average age than the 24.27 against Championship Wolverhampton Wanderers on Tuesday was that which beat Zilina 2-1 in the 2010/11 group stage of the Champions League. The average age of players who kicked off in that match was 23.91.
The evolution from power to prowess on the ball was evident in the 6-0 thrashing of a weak Wolves, but the trick is to turn entertaining football into triumphant football. For seven years Arsenal have been masters of dazzle with accounts to gaze at but no silverware to polish. A load of goals past League One Coventry City is not yet enough to convince everyone they have kicked their habit.
There are signs they have tightened up the traditionally vulnerable defence, though, and Chelsea will hope to test that severely this weekend.
New boys Lucas Piazon and Cesar Azpilicueta slickly impressed on their debuts on Tuesday. Oriol Romeu bagged his first Chelsea goal with a well-executed penalty, won by Victor Moses, making his first start and running powerfully, then scoring his first too.
Fernando Torres, Drogba's successor as top dog, netted his first goal in five matches from a Juan Mata delivery, the Spanish midfielder in imperious form. Marko Marin, Mata's replacement from the bench, had a hand in the sixth and what should have been a seventh, for Torres.
The Blues' rearguard is also weighing in with unexpected regularity at the other end of the field.
Eight of the total 20 goals scored in all competitions have come from defenders. Members of the back four hit the first two goals in the midweek rout of Wolves. They were followed by two midfielders, then two forwards.
This was the first time Chelsea have ever won 6-0 with six different scorers, but not the only time half a dozen have hit the net in one game.
The first time was against Burslem Port Vale in March 1906, a 7-0 Division Two romp in which one player, Jack Kirwan, hit two. Martin Moran, Jackie Robertson, Frank Pearson, James Robertson and Bob McRoberts were the others.
In September 1971 in the Cup-Winners' Cup Jeunesse Hautcharage were slaughtered 13-0 and seven individuals hit the net - the highest number in any official Chelsea match - Peter Osgood, Tommy Baldwin, Ron Harris, Dave Webb, Alan Hudson, Peter Houseman and John Hollins.
The most recent occurrence was an FA Cup 6-2 victory in January 1978 over Burnley. The scorers then were Mickey Droy, Steve Wicks, Ray Wilkins, Tommy Langley, Kenny Swain and Clive Walker.
Each of those featured one penalty goal; our famous 8-0 May 2010 demolition of Wigan featured five different names on the scoresheet and two spot-kicks.
Never before have three different non-British players of the same nationality scored in one game for the Blues: the Spaniards Mata, Romeu and Torres now share that small honour.
While on defenders, Ryan Bertrand's sweetly executed finish past Dorus De Vries meant Blues left-backs had scored in successive matches for the first time since Graeme Le Saux and Danny Granville netted against Crystal Palace in the league (2-0) and Cup-Winners' Cup opponents Slovan Bratislava (3-0) respectively in September 1997. By coincidence the Blues then faced Arsenal straight afterwards.
Ahead of the same fixture Chelsea will fans need no reminding of the damage those rare full-back goals, especially late ones, can inflict: we think of Lee Dixon in 1995, Nigel Winterburn in 1997, or Silvinho three years later.
But the Blues boast the ultimate example: Highbury Stadium, 6 April 2004, Champions League second leg, Wayne Bridge, pandemonium. (The hosts may just be reminded on Saturday that more recently we have become London's first European champions in that competition.)
Barclays Premier League fixtures
Arsenal v Chelsea 12.45pm - Sky Sports
Everton v Southampton 3pm
Fulham v Manchester City 3pm
Norwich v Liverpool 3pm
Reading v Newcastle 3pm
Stoke v Swansea 3pm
Sunderland v Wigan 3pm
Manchester United v Tottenham 5.30 - ESPN
Aston Villa v West Brom 4pm - Sky Sports
QPR v West Ham 8pm - Sky Sports
|Barclays Premier League table top 10|
Premier League Golden Glove
Cech (Chelsea) 4
Foster (West Brom) 3
Jaaskelainen (West Ham) 3
Howard (Everton) 2
Mannone (Arsenal) 2
Schwarzer (Fulham) 2
Vorm (Swansea) 2
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WE HAVE HISTORY
This is the oldest London derby in the top flight, first contested in 1907/08. Fifty-five thousand saw the Blues triumph 2-1 at Stamford Bridge that season, with 25,000 fewer making it to the Manor Ground, Plumstead, for a 0-0 draw.
Between April 1959 and September 1956 the Blues enjoyed a wonderful unbeaten run at Highbury including six consecutive victories.
One of the most entertaining wins came in March 1964 (pictured below) under Tommy Docherty. The Doc's Diamonds were 'quicker and slicker' on a heavy, waterlogged pitch, according to the Daily Mirror reporter, with only debutant Peter Simpson, 18, matching up to his west London counterpart.
It was a derby that exploded into life, with the afternoon's main protagonist, Bobby Tambling, sprawled on the floor next to goalkeeper Jim Furnell, stabbing out a foot to poke the ball over the line for the opener after just a few minutes.
Terry Neill quickly equalised, side-footing in Geoff Strong's sideways pass. Both sides hit the woodwork but it was 1-1 at the break, after which Tambling - the only player not to have changed his mud-soaked shorts - and others made a mockery of awkward defender Ian Ure.
First, the Chelsea inside-right intercepted Ure's backward header, intended for his keeper, redirecting it into the net. When the same Gunners defender conceded possession to Frank Blunstone, the winger promptly beat three opponents and passed to Tambling for another simple goal. Tambling completed his third inside ten minutes and fourth of the game when Barry Bridges crossed for him.
Strong pulled one back with 15 minutes to go, and the game ended in bizarre fashion, with two Chelsea players requiring treatment for injury having collided, preventing George Armstrong, on his hands and knees, scoring in the six-yard box.
That came in a four-minute denouement during which a Blues fan was arrested for encroaching onto the pitch and having a few words with the referee, and Chelsea's centre-back John Mortimore was struck by a coin hurled from behind the North Bank goal.
Back to this weekend and Chelsea are hoping to avoid a third defeat in four games against the Gunners. The Blues have won two of the last four away league meetings however.
Carlo Ancelotti engineered Chelsea's last win at the Emirates in November 2009 when a brace from Didier Drogba and a Thomas Vermaelen own goal without reply secured the points for the Blues.
Arsenal have won four of the last 21 meetings in all competitions over the last eight years.
Our last 10 away league meetings at Arsenal
2002/03 - Arsenal won 3-2
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
Other match last season
29 October 2011 Premier League
Lampard 14 Van Persie 36, 84, 90+1
Terry 44 Walcott 55
Mata 80 Santos 48
Arsenal v Chelsea in all competitions
Games played 177
Chelsea wins 54
Arsenal wins 71
Head to head in the League at Arsenal
Games played 75
Chelsea wins 19
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: 133
Arsenal won a trophy: 2,688
Liverpool won the league: 8,183
Visit tomorrow for the second part of the briefing.