The FourFourTwo Preview: Chelsea vs Arsenal
The Specialist in Winning Last Season's FA Cup vs The Specialist in Winning Nothing Last Season But Probably Winning a Lot This Season.
- Sporting 0-1 Chelsea (CL)
- Chelsea 3-0 Villa (Prem)
- Chelsea 2-1 Bolton (LC)
- Man City 1-1 Chelsea (Prem)
- Chelsea 1-1 Schalke (CL)
- Arsenal 4-1 Galatasaray (CL)
- Arsenal 1-1 Spurs (Prem)
- Arsenal 1-2 So’ton (LC)
- Villa 0-3 Arsenal (Prem)
- Dortmund 2-0 Arsenal (CL)
The thing about there now being a 'Big Seven' in the Premier League is that these mouth-watering, Sky-arousing megafixtures come along pretty much every week (literally - there are 42 of them a year and only 38 rounds of 10 matches).
That somewhat takes the edge off the Premier League's 'summit meetings' - both of these teams have played Manchester City in the last three weeks, for example - but this encounter does promise to be an entertaining one.
The two London sides fared altogether differently in their Premier League matches against rival title-chasers last season. While Chelsea dropped just two points in their six matches against the rest of the top four, Arsenal only picked up five of a possible 18 points against Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool.
As you won't need reminding (particularly if you saw any of those 'controversial' BT Sport ads over the summer), the Gunners were walloped in the three away matches, conceding a total of 17 goals - 41% of the goals they shipped in the entire Premier League season came in those three games.
The fact they've already dropped points to Everton, City and Spurs in the opening weeks of the season suggests Arsene Wenger's side are still not quite masters of the big occasion, but at least they haven't been gubbed - or, indeed, been beaten at all.
Much focus on Sunday afternoon will naturally be placed on Cesc Fabregas, who has taken no time in refamiliarising himself with the Premier League assist table.
The Spaniard has already teed up six goals - mostly for Diego Costa. This has led some pundits to question Wenger's decision to pass on bringing his former protege back to the Emirates - quick-witted playmakers being the one area where the Gunners are always rather light.
Arsenal's midweek mauling of Galatasaray will give them confidence, but with Fabregas and Chelsea seemingly somewhere near top gear, their unbeaten league start looks in real jeopardy.
Arsenal will be without Mathieu Debuchy, Nacho Monreal, Aaron Ramsey, Mikel Arteta, Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud because they're Arsenal. The one saving grace for the men from N5 is that perennial Gooner heart-breaker Didier Drogba is out, which will presumably have some bearing on any last goalscorer bets.
Ramires (abductor muscle) also missed the midweek win in Lisbon against Sporting, where Diego Costa played the full 90 minutes despite Jose Mourinho's concerns about his star striker's hamstring.
Key battle: Cesc Fabregas vs Mathieu Flamini
Fabregas is generally not the kind of player you expect to make 100+ passes in a game (although he did against Villa last weekend). Instead he'll push into the attacking third and look to make things happen - particularly with neat through-balls between centre-backs, something Man City defended well two weeks ago.
The former Arsenal man may leave gaps which Arsenal's own playmakers can exploit, but Flamini must be sure to deny him the space and time to do damage at the other end.
Flamini hasn't had the best of times in Arsenal's last two 'big' matches. Against City he cheaply gave away possession, then failed to track Sergio Aguero's run, allowing the Argentine to open the scoring.
Against Tottenham, he was easily dispossessed by Christian Eriksen, who quickly shifted the ball to Erik Lamela in the build-up to Nacer Chadli's opener. He'll need to be on his game if Arsenal are to avoid another Stamford Bridge pasting. Cutting off Chelsea's supply at the source would help.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Chelsea 6-0 Arsenal (PL, Mar 14)
- Arsenal 0-0 Chelsea (PL, Dec 13)
- Arsenal 0-2 Chelsea (LC, Oct 13)
- Chelsea 2-1 Arsenal (PL, Jan 13)
- Arsenal 1-2 Chelsea (PL, Sep 12)
It's not quite as tetchy or tasty as it used to be, but there's still an undercurrent of resentment between Mourinho and Arsene Wenger. Mourinho's 'specialist in failure' remark last season will surely have irked Wenger, although he will clearly have felt rather smug when he lifted the FA Cup as Jose sat watching at home.
Facts and figures
- Arsenal have lost just 1 of their last 14 Premier League games since defeat at Stamford Bridge in March.
- Arsenal have won at Chelsea more often than any other visiting side in the Premier League (7).
- Arsenal have conceded 199 goals in Premier League London derbies while Chelsea have conceded 198.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
It definitely won't be 6-0. No chance. Well, not unless.... no, not 6-0. Maybe 3-0, though.
Back 3-0 at 12/1 with Bet365. Odds right at time of publication