Our derby date with the Gunners completes this weekend’s Premier League fixtures. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton end their preview of the match with past recollections and present-day notes…
WE HAVE HISTORY
On 26 April last season, leaders Chelsea knew that avoiding defeat at the Emirates would keep the club on course for the title, and that the attacking onus would be on the hosts, 10 points behind.
The absence through injury of striker Diego Costa inclined Jose Mourinho towards a counter-attacking strategy with Oscar leading the line, and fellow Brazilian Willian just behind him.
Arsenal had plenty of possession but could not carve out genuine chances, and it was the Blues who came closer to opening the scoring when Cesc Fabregas, virtually booed by the formerly adoring Emirates crowd – set Oscar loose.
David Ospina came out to clatter the Chelsea man, who clipped the ball goalwards just in time, but with insufficient power to prevent Hector Bellerin clearing off the line. Bizarrely the referee saw fit not to punish the home goalkeeper in any way for his foul, though Oscar eventually left the field concussed.
Another ball behind caught out the Gunners’ rearguard, but Ramires’s attempted flick was too close to Ospina.
For the hosts, Per Mertesacker flashed a shot wide and Danny Welbeck failed to connect with a cross inside the six-yard area. Chelsea comfortably saw out time and ended the game in celebratory mood.
Back in May 2009, Guus Hiddink took a team across town that was still smarting from the midweek Champions League travesty of Tom Henning Ovrebo’s refereeing against Barcelona.
They might have been forgiven for a less-energetic display, but instead showed incredible spirit and hunger and took out all their frustrations on the Gunners.
The Blues took the lead inside half an hour when Didier Drogba crossed a free-kick to Alex, who left Lukasz Fabianski standing, his header going in off the bar. The lead was doubled six minutes before half-time when former Gunner Nicolas Anelka embarked on a purposeful run that ended in a flashing low drive just inside the post.
Arsenal’s hopes of a swift comeback were dashed soon after the break when Kolo Toure turned in a fine cross by another former Arsenal man, Ashley Cole, for an own-goal.
Nicklas Bendtner headed in goal for the hosts with 20 minutes remaining that always had the appearance of a consolation, and so it proved. With four minutes to go, Florent Malouda provoked a mass exodus from the home stands by following up an Anelka shot that rebounded off the post, completing the record 4-1 scoreline.
You may enjoy the highlights of that game here.
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 reverse fixture this season
19 September 2015 Premier League
Chambers og 90+1
Chelsea v Arsenal in all competitions
Games played 186
Chelsea wins 60
Arsenal wins 72
Head to head in the League at Stamford Bridge
Games played 78
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
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.
One on one
Eden Hazard returned to full training earlier this week and may play for the first time since leaving the pitch early at Selhurst Park on 3 January. In-form goalscorer Diego Costa has trained less following a shin injury sustained against Everton but is available. Falcao is still injured.
Arsenal’s key men Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil have been slated to return this weekend, while Tomas Rosicky has been training, but Danny Welbeck, Santi Cazorla, Francis Coquelin and Jack Wilshere remain sidelined.