The FourFourTwo Preview: Arsenal vs Chelsea
Top-of-the-table London derby as the Christmas crackers continue.
Manchester City vs Arsenal, Spurs vs Liverpool, Arsenal vs Chelsea, Manchester City vs Liverpool, Chelsea vs Liverpool: But sir, wiv zis Chreesmas feexture leest you are really spoiling us!
- Man City 6-3 Arsenal (Prem)
- Napoli 2-0 Arsenal (CL)
- Arsenal 1-1 Everton (Prem)
- Arsenal 2-0 Hull (Prem)
- Cardiff 0-3 Arsenal (Prem)
- S'land e2-1 Chelsea (LC)
- Chelsea 2-1 Palace (Prem)
- Chelsea 1-0 Steaua (CL)
- Stoke 3-2 Chelsea (Prem)
- S'land 3-4 Chelsea (Prem)
After Man City dispatched Arsenal in a nine-goal thriller last weekend the big games keep on coming with a North London showdown between Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger, the former unbeaten against the latter in their nine games all the way back to the days when Jose was accusing his managerial counterpart of being a "voyeur".
The game comes at a tricky - and thus crucial - time for both teams. Chelsea were dumped out of the League Cup by Sunderland in midweek and had to deal with the added misfortune of playing an extra, leg-sapping 30 minutes. This after singularly failing to convince in a frankly undeserved 2-1 win over Crystal Palace, where the visitors were unfortunate to lose against a Chelsea team that looked nervous, defensively wobbly and laboured in attack.
Meanwhile, Arsenal's veneer of magisterial Premier League supremacy was shattered at the Etihad Stadium last week as Manuel Pellegrini's home boys executed a lunchtime demolition of the league's table-toppers. The gap between Blues and Reds is now two points, and Mourinho will look to extend his lengthy unbeaten run against Arsenal with a second victory at the Emirates this season.
Arsenal are waiting for news on Laurent Koscielny's gash, while Jack Wilshere misses two games after another indiscretion - this time giving City fans the old two-finger salute - that only further enhanced his growing status as one of English football's bad boys. Yaya Sanogo, Lukas Podolski, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Abou Diaby are out.
Michael Essien is suspended for Chelsea while Ryan Bertrand and Marco van Ginkel are out injured.
Player to watch: Mesut Ozil (Arsenal)
There was some serious bromance on show between Arsenal's £42.5 million conjurer-in-chief and Mourinho at the Emirates back in October, when the Blues knocked Arsenal out of the League Cup in a 2-0 win. Ozil came on as a sub and gave his old boss his shirt at the end of the game - indicative of the close relationship between the two after years spent battling Barcelona in La Liga.
As is pretty obvious by the fact he tops the Premier League assists table with 7, Ozil will be a key man for the Gunners if they are to get back to winning ways - but there have been very slight signs of late that the Germany international may be feeling the pace of his new league.
As those who study Spanish football will tell you, Ozil's stamina issues are well-known. While undoubtedly a brilliant player, he can tend to drift out of games past the 70-minute mark as fatigue sets in, and he was regularly substituted during his time at Real Madrid for this very reason. Ozil's passing stats in his last two games against Everton and Man City show a player far less involved than in his first two games for Arsenal, against Sunderland and Stoke.
He completed 123 passes in those first two games compared to 87 in his most recent matches, as Arsenal dropped five points. While this is, of course, a minor statistic in the grand scheme of things (he still scored and provided an assist in those two games after all), Ozil's performance level has dropped a little of late and he's struggled to really influence big games against Manchesters City and United so far.
This game against Chelsea provides Ozil with another chance to show he can really swing the balance of a big game the way the league's best - think Luis Suarez, Sergio Aguero or Robin van Persie - can.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Arsenal 0-2 Chelsea (LC, Oct 13)
- Chelsea 2-1 Arsenal (PL, Jan 13)
- Arsenal 1-2 Chelsea (PL, Sept 12)
- Arsenal 0-0 Chelsea (PL, Apr 12)
- Chelsea 3-5 Arsenal (PL, Oct 11)
As mentioned above, Mourinho is yet to lose against Wenger in nine meetings since Jose first rocked up at Stamford Bridge in 2004, winning five and drawing four. Goals from Cesar Azpilicueta and Juan Mata extended the run in a League Cup clash at the Emirates in October, while the previous eight encounters include two Blues wins at the Millennium Stadium; a 2-1 League Cup final triumph in 2007 and Community Shield win in 2005.
The pair have cleared the air since Mourinho's October 2005 slur, with Jose saying before October's League Cup reunion: "We have no problems. Wenger is a nice guy.
"I had a chance to meet him much, much better after I left England. I started meeting him in UEFA coaching meetings, at the Euros, the World Cup. When you are not in the same league and not playing against each other, it is easier to get to know people. I respect him a lot. In football, things like this happen."
TIPS & TRENDS
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Facts and figures
- In the opening 13 Premier League seasons, Arsenal won 9 of their home games against Chelsea, drawing the other 4.
- Since then they have won just 2 of the last 8, losing 4.
- There have been fewer than 3 goals in each of Arsenal’s last 8 home encounters with top-six clubs.
- Chelsea have gone in level at the break in 8 of their last 10 away matches against top-six clubs.
- They have conceded first in 12 of their previous 18 away top-six encounters.
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Jose Mourinho's Indian sign over Arsenal continues. 2-1 Chelsea.