A quirk of the fixture list means less than a month after our last league clash, it's Chelsea versus Arsenal again tonight. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton get ready for the double century of meetings between two famous London rivals...
‘Blue Monday’ depression may have been exposed as a marketing myth, but surely a proper Blues Tuesday in London’s oldest top-flight derby tonight would sweep away any lingering melancholia for Chelsea fans.
This is the first of a batch of matches against rivals for the top four – the Gunners, then Leicester, Manchester United, and Tottenham – either side of the winter break. Three of them take place at the Bridge, and opponents who cannot afford to sit deep and defend will surely present opportunities to help improve a patchy home record to date.
Victories against Arsenal and Tottenham would be particularly prized as only once in our entire history – the 2005/06 back-to-back title season – have Chelsea beaten both those sides home and away in the same league campaign.
Despite Saturday’s daylight robbery under the St James’ Park floodlights, the Blues start the evening 10 points and six places clear of the Gunners. They have taken three points in just one of their past 10 top-flight games on the road, keeping a solitary clean sheet in the process.
Arsenal are also winless in 24 top-flight games away to the so-called ‘big-six’ clubs since a 2-0 success at Manchester City in January 2015. Their current coach, Mikel Arteta, missed that win through injury.
Chelsea and Arsenal meet this evening for the 200th time in all competitions – the first time the Blues have reached that milestone against any club.
— Key Stat
Chelsea’s brilliant away form has faltered since the win at Arsenal on 29 December, while results at the Bridge have picked up. Frank Lampard’s men managed the first league double of the season against Burnley last time at the Bridge, but Newcastle used a blanket defence on home soil and nicked the points, much like visiting sides West Ham and Bournemouth have in SW6.
The worry for Lampard will once again be that his side created and missed a few great opportunities, and the Magpies’ winning goal had a familiar ring: ‘We didn’t defend the cross right, we maybe should have headed it away, and maybe saved it with Kepa.’
While crediting Newcastle for defending well on Saturday evening, Tammy Abraham has admitted the players were angry with the result and will ‘just have to take our anger out’ against an Arsenal side stripped of suspended Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (responsible for nine of their 12 away goals), but intent on taking the game to Chelsea.
The Blues coach has mixed and matched his middlemen this season, including during the corresponding encounter at Emirates in December. Half-an-hour in, at 0-1, Jorginho came off the bench to join N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic, and the formation morphed from 3-4-3 to 4-3-3. Arsenal eventually wearied and we capitalised fully, winning 2-1 thanks to late goals from Jorginho and Abraham.
Premier League goals
Jamie Vardy 17
Sergio Aguero 15
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang 14
Danny Ings 14
Marcus Rashford 14
Tammy Abraham 13
Harry Kane 11
Sadio Mane 11
Mohamed Salah 11
Raheem Sterling 11
Chelsea’s men need look no further than their female counterparts for inspiration: the Women smashed leaders Arsenal 4-1 at Boreham Wood on Sunday to complete an entire calendar year unbeaten in the WSL.
Less bounce to the ounce?
This is the first of two matches at the Bridge (the other being Tottenham) against London clubs with a slightly faded ‘under new management’ notice in the front window.
The boost of a new person taking charge mid-season seems to work in some instances and not in others. Since his appointment on 9 December, Nigel Pearson has helped Watford scoop up 67 per cent of the points available to them; his predecessor Quique Sanchez Flores was on 23 per cent. Likewise Marco Silva steered Everton to 17 points from 16 top-flight outings this season, a 35 per cent points return, while his successor Carlo Ancelotti has matched Pearson on 67 per cent.
Things are less clear at Arsenal. During the tenure of Unai Emery, who took over from Arsene Wenger, the Gunners took 58 per cent of available Premier League points. With caretaker Freddie Ljungberg in charge that dropped to 33 per cent, but so far under Mikel Arteta the return is up to 40 per cent.
The north Londoners have squandered 13 points when in a winning position this season, more than half of those coming since December under their former midfielder. One such occasion involved the Blues, who became the first visiting team to overturn a losing position at the Emirates since Tottenham a decade ago.
FA Cup and Champions League catch-up
After their second successive league defeat, at Derby, Hull have seven clear days to prepare for the Blues’ FA Cup visit on Saturday.
Bayern Munich returned from German football’s winter break to win 4-0 at Hertha in the Bundesliga, with Robert Lewandowski netting a penalty following his recent groin operation.
Arsenal’s longest-serving manager Wenger appeared on beIN Sports this week with some controversial words on the club’s past 14 years. ‘We built a new stadium,’ he said, ‘but we never found our soul – we left our soul at Highbury.’
During the 10 years at the ‘marble halls’ up to the Emirates opening in August 2006, Arsenal won seven major trophies, including three Premier League titles. (Chelsea gained six, including two Premier Leagues.)
Since the move, the Gunners’ plush new trophy cabinet has had just three additions, all FA Cups. The Blues, meanwhile, have added 13 major honours: three Premier League titles, a Champions League, two Europa Leagues, five FA Cups, and two League Cups.
(Crystal Palace, Brighton, Bournemouth, and Watford have never won a major trophy.)
Winter Cup of Nations
The Africa Cup of Nations hosted by Cameroon will revert to a January/February tournament in 2021, following its summer staging in Egypt in 2019.
As things stand, the squads of several of our close rivals could be affected by the change. Arsenal, for instance, could be without Pierre-Emerick Aubmeyang of Gabon (who is suspended tonight) and Ivory Coast’s Nicolas Pepe this time next year.
Leicester might have to cope without striker Kelechi Iheanacho and Wilfred Ndidi, both of Nigeria, and Ghana’s Daniel Amartey. Tottenham could lose Serge Aurier to the Elephants, and Kenyan middleman Victor Wanyama, and Manchester United might be looking for cover for Ivory Coast’s Eric Bailly. The Chelsea squad currently includes no one who plays for an African nation.
Our next league hosts Leicester, who have lost two on the spin, are at home to West Ham tomorrow, then travel to west London on Saturday to face in-form Brentford in the FA Cup.
After a magnificent WSL win at Arsenal, Chelsea Women are away to Championship relegation candidates Charlton in the FA Cup on Sunday, a 2pm kick-off at the Oakwood, Crayford, followed by a Conti Cup semi-final at Manchester United.
PL2 league-leaders Chelsea U-23s are away to mid-table Everton on Friday, a 7pm kick-off at the Pure Stadium, Southport, which has a cash turnstile open at every match.
Remember tonight’s kick-off is at the unusual time of 8.15pm, resulting from the fact BT Sport are also showing the Sheffield United-Manchester City match from 7.30pm.
On the positive side it provides a little extra time to view a new installation at the Bridge commemorating the liberation of Auschwitz 75 years ago on 27 January 1945.
The stunning mural on the wall of the West Stand, painted by Solomon Souza, depicts two Jewish footballers and a British prisoner of war who were imprisoned in the Nazi death camp during World War 2 and is part of the club’s award-winning Say No To Anti-Semitism campaign.
Supporters heading to the Bridge should also note North End Road is closed in both directions by the junction of Walham Grove.
If you're not at the game, a brand new matchday show will be streamed live on The 5th Stand app from 8pm, wth a mix of live reaction to the team news and the match action, plus analysis and debate throughout the evening.
Bye bye, Mr Derek
Since Derek Fowlds, who died last week, was ‘Mr Derek’, the companion of children’s TV star Basil Brush from 1969 to 1973, you might expect him to support the Foxes. Far from it – Fowlds was a lifelong Blue like so many thespians. In 1997 Clive Mantle recalled the first words with his co-star on the set of ‘Casualty’ a few years earlier:
‘“You live in Bath?” And I said, “Ye-es.” “You play golf?” And I said, “Ye-es.” “And you’re also a Chelsea supporter?” And I said, “Ye-es.” I wondered what he was about to accuse me of, and then he grinned and said, “Well I’m all three of those things too!”’
They attended games together after that. It would be nice if there was a ‘Boom! Boom!’ moment or two in his honour this evening. Everyone at Chelsea FC offers condolences to Derek’s family and friends.
Premier League fixtures
Aston Villa v Watford - 7.30pm
Bournemouth v Brighton - 7.30pm
Crystal Palace v Southampton - 7.30pm
Everton v Newcastle - 7.30pm
Sheffield United v Manchester City - 7.30pm (BT Sport)
Chelsea v Arsenal - 8.15pm (BT Sport)
Leicester v West Ham - 7.30pm (BT Sport)
Tottenham v Norwich - 7.30pm
Manchester United v Burnley - 8.15pm (BT Sport)
Wolves v Liverpool - 8pm (BT Sport)
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