Everything you need to know ahead of the Premier League clash at Stamford Bridge on Sunday
Questions were asked about Antonio Conte when Arsenal scored three past a disastrous Blues defence back in September, but four months on it appears that those questions are now being asked of Gunners boss Arsene Wenger who faces the biggest game of the season so far on Saturday lunchtime.
Wenger takes his team to Stamford Bridge, a place where he has lost his last four league games, following the midweek defeat to Premier League strugglers Watford who came away with a surprise victory in north London.
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The game against Watford was one which many expected Arsenal to win comfortably and it means the importance of Saturday’s match has now turned up a notch, with the Gunners’ title chances likely to be ended if they drop points at the Bridge.
Arsenal do face a midfield injury crisis of sorts with Aaron Ramsey ruled out of the game, Mohamed Elneny away at the Africa Cup of Nations and Granit Xhaka still serving a suspension.
Hector Bellerin will almost certainly start at right-back after sitting out the defeat to Watford and his pace down the right hand side could prove vital in setting up and preventing attacks. Ramsey is not expected to be involved after injuring his hamstring in midweek while Elneny is away on international duty with Egypt.
Danny Welbeck is another player who is expected to be handed a chance in attack for the Gunners after being rested for the Watford game, and his tremendous goalscoring performance at Southampton provided a glimpse of what he can provide for the team when he’s fully fit.
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Olivier Giroud and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are both likely to be in the squad despite suffering knocks in the midweek loss, while Mathieu Debuchy’s return to full training gives Wenger the option of a more natural substitute right-back compared to Gabriel.
Santi Cazorla is the only long-term absentee on the sidelines, with an expected return date pencilled in at six to eight weeks.
Granit Xhaka is serving the third of his four-game suspension.
Similarly, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger will watch his third consecutive match from the stands after being charged by the FA following his misconduct towards the end of the Gunners’ victory over Burnley.
ARSENAL POTENTIAL STARTING LINE-UP
Midfield is the big worry for Arsenal and with Ramsey, Elneny, Cazorla and Xhaka all out it’s likely that Oxlade-Chamberlain will partner Francis Coquelin in the middle.
Bellerin’s inevitable return at right-back paves the way for a potential right wing partnership with Theo Walcott, while Welbeck could start alongside Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez in attack.
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Defensively, a few supporters have encouraged the reintroduction of Kieran Gibbs to the starting XI and his pace may prove handy in keeping out Chelsea’s willing runners ahead of the slower Nacho Monreal.
Chelsea’s nine-point lead over Tottenham and Arsenal has given them a comfortable cushion going into this one.
They were previously unbeaten in nine Premier League games against Arsenal (W6 D3) before the 3-0 defeat to the Gunners in September and will be feeling confident on home ground.
Premier League table
Since Antonio Conte changed his formation after that game, results have looked completely different and Chelsea have been producing better results on the pitch, keeping a relatively injury-free squad together.
They both have similar records in their past five league games, winning three, drawing once and losing one – but it was the consecutive losses to Everton and Manchester City back in December which really dented Arsenal’s title chances.
Diego Costa is their top scorer with 15 goals in the Premier League so far.
BEST OPTA MATCH FACTS
- Arsenal have not done the double over Chelsea in the same season since 2003/04 – the season in which they last won the Premier League.
- 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).
- The Gunners have had three players sent off in their last three Premier League games at Stamford Bridge (Gabriel, Santi Cazorla and Kieran Gibbs).
- Diego Costa has scored in two of his four league games against Arsenal and has been booked in the other two.
- 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.
- Arsenal have lost as many of their last eight Premier League games as they did in their previous 30 in the competition (3).
TV COVERAGE & KICK-OFF TIME
Kick off is at 12:30pm on Saturday 4th February and the match will be broadcast live on Sky Sports 1.