Chelsea v Arsenal: Premier League Match Preview
Chelsea host Arsenal in the Premier League at Stamford Bridge today (12.30pm kick-off UK time).
The Blues start this weekend’s round of fixtures with a nine-point lead over the Gunners at the top of the Premier League table.
Despite dropping two points in a 1-1 draw against Liverpool at Anfield on Tuesday, Chelsea increased their lead at the top of the table.
Arsenal were beaten 2-1 on the same evening at home by Watford, with Tottenham Hotspur moving above them into second place on goal difference after their goalless draw with Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.
Chelsea have won eight successive Premier League home games – their best run in the competition since a sequence of 10 wins that ended in January 2015. The aggregate score in these eight games is 24-3 in Chelsea’s favour.
The Blues have won 13 of their 14 home matches under Antonio Conte in all competitions, including their last 10.
The only home game they have failed to win this season was the 2-1 defeat by Liverpool on 16 September.
Chelsea have kept 13 clean sheets in the league this season, a joint-high in the top five European leagues with Paris St-Germain.
No team has let in fewer Premier League goals than Chelsea (16).
The Blues have used fewer players (20) than any other team in the Premier League in 2016/17 .
Chelsea have not conceded a Premier League goal this season after Antonio Conte has made a substitution.
Arsenal have lost as many of their last eight Premier League games as they did in their previous 30 in the competition (3).
The Gunners will hope to keep eleven players on the pitch. Arsenal have had three players sent off in their last three Premier League games at Stamford Bridge (Gabriel, Santi Cazorla and Kieran Gibbs).
Arsenal have conceded seven penalties in the Premier League this season – only Hull, with 10, have a worse record.
Leicester City are the only team to stop Arsenal scoring away in the Premier League this season. The Gunners average 2.4 goals a game away from the Emirates this term.
Arsenal have won 21 from a possible 33 points away from home this season. They have won six at Watford, Hull, Burnley, Sunderland, West Ham and Swansea, three draws at Leicester, Manchester United and Bournemouth and have lost twice at Everton and Manchester City.
Arsenal have won 10 points by scoring winners or equalisers from the 86th minute onwards in the Premier League this term.
Having beaten Chelsea 3-0 in the reverse fixture in September, Arsenal can do the double over the Blues for the first time since their title-winning 2003/04 season.
That defeat was Chelsea’s heaviest against Arsenal since April 1997 (also 3-0). They were previously unbeaten in nine Premier League games against Arsenal (W6 D3).
The 3-0 loss to Arsenal in September was Antonio Conte’s heaviest league defeat since October 2010 when he was manager of Siena (0-3 vs Empoli).
The Gunners have lost their last four games at Stamford Bridge, conceding 12 goals and scoring just one.
Arsenal scored more goals in the first half against Chelsea in their last Premier League meeting than they had in their previous nine clashes with the Blues.
Theo Walcott was the last Arsenal player to score at Stamford Bridge, in January 2013 in a 2-1 loss. He also scored in Arsenal’s last Premier League win there, 5-3 in October 2011.
Diego Costa has scored 15 goals and has 5 assists this season. He has taken on the mantle from Didier Drogba to become Arsenal’s nemesis.
Costa has scored in two of his four league games against Arsenal and has been booked in the other two. The Gunners though did keep him quiet and scoreless when the teams met earlier in the season. Costa was also booked as Arsenal C an out 3-0 winners.
Alexis Sanchez has scored 15 Premier League goals so far this season. That puts him on course to beat his best league goal return for Arsenal. He scored 16 in his first season with the Gunners in 2014-15.
Conte lost his Premier League match with Arsenal 3-0 in September. The last Chelsea manager to fail to win either of his first two league games against the Gunners was Jose Mourinho in 2004/05, while the last Chelsea boss to lose both was Glenn Hoddle in 1993/94.
On Chelsea appearing to have an unassailable lead at the top of the Premier League table, Conte said.
“I repeat: if someone thinks the league is finished, I’m not so sure. I want to have this right tension. In the past I fought to win the title, and I know we must pay great attention.
There are 15 games to play and there are a lot of great teams behind us, Conte added.
I like to repeat to my players: it’s more important to look at ourselves than to look at the others.
It is important to keep the antenna very high! I have a bit of experience in football as a player and manager. I want to keep our concentration very high. Me, my players, the club, the fans. Anything can happen, above all if we don’t show great concentration.”
On seeking to avenge the 3-0 defeat against Arsenal earlier in the season, Conte added.
“It was a bad defeat, 3-0 in the first half. In my mind this defeat is always present. I hope also it is in the mind of my players because tomorrow this game will be very difficult.
A lot of things have changed now. For sure we are a team, we want to have a good game against Arsenal and try to win.
At this moment it’s very important to exploit this momentum. We are in good shape; we are playing good football with intensity. Now we have a good opportunity to show this.
‘We play at home, we have our fans to push us a lot, but for sure we must pay great attention.
I watched their game [against Watford] and sometimes the final result doesn’t tell the truth. Arsenal were unlucky. Watford played a really good game. Arsenal had a lot of opportunities to score a goal and win the game.
‘They are in good shape and good form, and the result is a strange result.’
Arsene Wenger has lost his last four league games at Stamford Bridge. The only away ground where he’s lost more in succession is Old Trafford (2009-2013).
Wenger will also be serving the third of his four-match touchline ban. On news that he will be sitting amongst the Chelsea fans tomorrow, Wenger said.
“We have sorted it out with Chelsea. I can communicate (with my bench).
I don’t think it will have a huge impact. I trust my assistant Steve Bould and I don’t think it is an explanation for the other night.”
On Chelsea’s recent good home record against Arsenal and the Blues achievement in topping the table with such a commanding points lead, Wenger said.
“The history always gives confidence to a team.
For years we had to sell our best players and Chelsea bought the best players. We changed this run by beating them at home and we have another opportunity to change that run away tomorrow.
When you beat them 3-0 I didn’t expect them to go 13 games unbeaten. they have found a better balance.
Kante has a huge impact in that team. Hazard and Costa have come back to good form and they are very efficient going forward.
I believe the most important thing is we turn up with a positive performance. We’ve shown we can beat Chelsea. What’s at stake here is how we respond.
We will be more on alert than we were against Watford.”
Chelsea have no injury problems going into the match. Despite reports that David Luis and Eden Hazard have been carrying injuries for the past few weeks.
Antonio Conte will need to decide whether Pedro and Cesc Fabregas should come into the side that started against Liverpool on Tuesday.
Branislav Ivanovic’s nine-year stay with Chelsea ended earlier this week when he moved to Zenit St Petersburg.
Provisional squad: Courtois, Begovic, Alonso, Fabregas, Zouma, Kante, Hazard, Loftus-Cheek, Moses, Pedro, Costa, Matic, Willian, Batshuayi, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta, Chalobah, Luiz, Eduardo, Aina, Ake.
Aaron Ramsey will be out for three weeks with the calf injury sustained in the first half of the home defeat to Watford on Tuesday.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain picked up a knock to the knee in the match with Watford, but should be passed fit.
Olivier Giroud faces a fitness test but should also be in the squad.
Danny Welbeck could return to the matchday squad after being left out against Watford.
Granit Xhaka serves the third of his four-match ban for being sent off against Burnley.
Mohamed Elneny is still away representing Egypt at the African Cup of Nations.
Santi Cazorla (Achilles) remains out.
Provisional squad: Cech, Ospina, Martinez, Bellerin, Debuchy, Jenkinson, Holding, Gabriel, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal, Gibbs, Maitland-Niles, Coquelin, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Walcott, Reine-Adelaide, Iwobi, Sanchez, Perez, Giroud.
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Assistants: S Burt, S Child
Fourth official: S Attwell
A 1-1 draw.