The magic of the Premier League. This very fixture last season had a top of the table clash, with Chelsea sitting comfortably 10 points clear at the top of the league and Arsenal in the race for 2nd place sitting in 3rd. But how things have changed this season. Instead of a ‘title race clash’, we have current leaders Arsenal welcome the visit of 14th placed Chelsea, 19 points adrift and 13 places in the table from Arsenal. Despite the gap, Arsene Wenger has insisted however, that this matchup on Sunday is still a direct rivalry.
With Chelsea looking for a season double over Arsenal again, Arsenal will need to make a statement of intent. If Arsenal really do believe they have the credentials to win the league, this will be a massive boost to the dressing room if they overcome the wrath that Chelsea has held tightly over them in recent years. However, Arsenal’s torrid record against Chelsea was arguably a case of the presence of Jose Mourinho in the opposite dugout, as Arsene has yet to defeat Jose Mourinho in the league in 13 different attempts. So, with Guus Hiddink at the helm, does that give Arsenal hope? The last time Arsenal defeated Chelsea in the league was back at Stamford Bridge almost 5 years ago to date, but one that will be tough to forget for Arsenal fans and rightfully so. Arsenal ran riot that day scoring 5 goals to Chelsea’s 3, creating quite the Premier League classic. Arsene Wengers men also enjoyed a win the season prior to the 5-3 victory, this time at the Emirates, a 3-1 win orchestrated by current Chelsea man Cesc Fabregas. The last two meetings at the Emirates however, have resulted in underwhelming stalemates. Guus Hiddink and Arsene Wenger have so far only faced each other once, but one that Wenger will want to forget. Guus Hiddink guided Chelsea to a 4-1 win at the Emirates in 2009, Arsenal’s biggest home defeat at the Emirates to date.
Arsenal have reported that Alexis Sanchez has trained this week and is available for selection, which is fantastic news for all fans of the Gooners, with the news almost feeling like a victory itself. Mesut Özil is also set to return as he missed out in last week’s stalemate to Stoke City, so the Arsenal team is approaching full strength. It will be great to see Alexis and Mesut starting together again, as we will see Mesut Ozils definitive and architectural touches combine with Sanchez’ tenacity and directness. Tomas Rosicky also featured for the Arsenal under 21’s midweek, although I do not think his availability will alter the Arsenal starting XI. It will be interesting to see if Wenger puts his trust into new signing Mohamed Elneny also, as the fans have yet to see him in action. On the other side of the coin we have Chelsea, who are indeed full strength, although Chelsea fans may of forgotten the meaning of the term ‘full strength’ this season. The good news for Chelsea fans is that Diego Costa is available, despite his hospital appearance last week after their draw to Everton. Eden Hazard is expected to replace Pedro in the starting line up also.
In Arsene’s pre match conference he had some very interesting things to say about the game.
“It is another one where we can show we have moved forward,” he said. “It is another game where people look at us and see how we behave because, even if Chelsea are not in the best position, you look at their squad. “It is a big game because of the quality of players on the pitch and it has a big importance to us because we play at Emirates Stadium and we know it will be important to win these types of games.”
“We have certainly proved our battling potential through big solidarity, through great togetherness and as well because we are ambitious and we have more experience than in the past,” he continued.
Arsenal have took 11 points in their last 6, while Chelsea have taken 10.
Head to Head Stats
Chelsea have kept 5 clean sheets in a row in league action versus Arsenal.
Chelsea are unbeaten in their last 8 league games to the Gunners.
Arsenal have 7 straight wins at home currently, only conceding 4 in that time.
Chelsea are currently on the longest unbeaten run in the league, with no defeats in 6.