The FourFourTwo Preview: Chelsea vs Arsenal
Jose’s chance to gatecrash the party and ruin Wenger’s 1,000th game in charge.
A thousand games, that’s some achievement. To stick with any side for so long is truly remarkable; to do so at a Premier League club challenging for (if not always winning) trophies is frankly astonishing. Hats off, Arsene.
- Chelsea 2-0 Galatasaray (CL)
- Aston Villa 1-0 Chelsea (Prem)
- Chelsea 4-0 Spurs (Prem)
- Fulham 1-3 Chelsea (Prem)
- Galatasaray 1-1 Chelsea (CL)
- Spurs 0-1 Arsenal (Prem)
- Bayern 1-1 Arsenal (CL)
- Arsenal 4-1 Everton (FAC)
- Stoke 1-0 Arsenal (Prem)
- Arsenal 4-1 S'land (Prem)
But for all the Frenchman’s achievements during his time in England – from the revolution in training and nutrition he inspired to the Invincibles - Wenger has an unsightly and ever-growing blot on his CV: he has yet to register a win over Jose Mourinho. In 10 meetings, the Portuguese has triumphed five times, with five draws. On Saturday, he’ll like nothing more than to make that six wins, making a day that should be about his opposite number all about him.
A quick look at the stats and the Special One will be confident he can do just that. Aside from the fact that Chelsea never lose at home under Jose, this season his side have taken a league high 41 points on their own turf; they’re the only side in the league not to lose at home. When Chelsea do go behind, they know how to retrieve the game; Mourinho’s tactical tweaks and half-time rhetoric has seen Chelsea take 14 points from losing positions, another league best.
By the same token, Wenger could look at his factsheet and take heart. With their win at Spurs, Arsenal have the best away record in the league, taking 29 points on the road (OK, so this is equal with Spurs, but they have a better goal difference than their north London rivals). Just as impressive, The Gunners have won seven times at Stamford Bridge, more than any other visiting side in the Premier League. And they, too, know a thing or two about overcoming adversity: five of those seven wins saw Wenger’s side come from behind.
The trouble with all these stats is that they’re open to interpretation. As well as Arsenal have done on their travels, they’ve failed when it counts against their direct rivals. They have failed to win any of their last 11 Premier League games against Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United, with a trip to Anfield ending in a 5-1 drubbing.
Good but not quite good enough; a summary of Wenger’s recent time in charge and an assessment that will probably ring true this weekend.
For Arsenal, it could be argued that they go to Stamford bridge without their first choice midfield with Mesut Ozil (hamstring), Jack Wilshere (foot), Aaron Ramsey (thigh) and Theo Walcott (knee) all crocked.
On the other hand, Chelsea’s two absentees – Ashley Cole and Marco van Ginkel (both knee) – can’t even get into the team. 1-0 to the Blues.
Player to watch: Samuel Eto’o (Chelsea)
The 35-year-old Cameroonian (what’s that, he’s only 33 you say?) is proving that age is just a number (that your manager can occasionally use to make a joke at your expense). But with two goals in his last two games, Grampa Eto’o is having the last laugh, showing he still knows the way to goal, especially in the big games.
This season he’s scored crucial goals against Spurs, Man United and Liverpool. He brings more than just big-match goal-getting, though. Against Spurs, he recovered the ball 5 times in the opposition half and, as everyone knows, winning the ball high up the pitch is essential to all Mourinho teams. But he doesn’t have to play well to score - against Liverpool he had a stinker. He misplaced passes, gave away a free-kick that led to a goal, failed with every take-on and aerial dual, and still scored the winner from two-yards out. Classic Eto’o.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Arsenal 0-0 Chelsea (Prem, Dec 13)
- Arsenal 0-2 Chelsea (LC, Oct 13)
- Chelsea 2-1 Arsenal (Prem, Jan 13)
- Arsenal 1-2 Chelsea (Prem, Sep 12)
- Arsenal 0-0 Chelsea (Prem, Apr 12)
Chelsea sit atop the league, yet an indication of just how successful Mourinho has been at Chelsea is that this is his lowest points tally after 30 games with the Blues. But then this race for the title is more tortoise than hare: only three of the last 10 title races have had a slower pace.
Wenger’s current record at Arsenal reads: wins 572, draws 235, losses 192. The questions is, which figure will change on Saturday? We know what the smart money says?
Facts and figures
- Chelsea are unbeaten in 24 home games in the Premier League and have won all 8 home matches this season against teams currently in the top half.
- Since 2009/10 Arsenal have lost 12 of 14 trips to top-four finishers and current top-four teams this season, including 10 defeats where they were trailing at half-time.
- 9 of Chelsea’s last 10 home matches against top-half teams have had at least 3 goals.
- Chelsea have won 2-1 in 5 of their last 8 home matches against top-six teams and have also beaten Arsenal by the same score in 2 of their last 3 meetings.
Best Bet: Correct Score Chelsea 2-1 @ 9.50
Enter Jose the party pooper. 2-1 Chelsea.