Arsenal v Chelsea - Can Antonio Conte's Chelsea maintain our excellent recent record against Arsenal?
Antonio Conte and his Chelsea side travel the short distance across London to the Emirates to ta...
Antonio Conte and his Chelsea side travel the short distance across London to the Emirates to take on Arsenal this evening. After victory over Leicester in midweek, Chelsea will be looking to bounce back and rediscover winning ways after defeat last week to Liverpool.
Chelsea has an excellent record against our hosts in recent times, with Arsenal failing to score against Chelsea since the days of Rafa Benitez in charge. However, as we have seen of late with the absence of John Terry marshalling our defence, we look vulnerable and would do well to maintain our recent record.
London derbies are always hard to predict because as we have seen over the years, the outcome could go against the form books. A team could come into a game full of confidence, winning games and as the outright favorites but anything can happen on the day. It’s whoever settles into the game, gets into their rhythm and imposes themselves on their opponents early on that can usually dictate the outcome.
Chelsea have managed to impose themselves on Arsenal and for years Didier Drogba proved to be the main tormentor of Arsene Wenger sides scoring regularly against them.
"I want to say I'm lucky, but when you score 16 goals against Arsenal, it's not luck anymore." – Didier Drogba.
Now Chelsea turn to Diego Costa who, as with Drogba, has proven to be another thorn in Wenger’s side for one reason or another. We have seen the sublime to the ridiculous against Arsenal from our Warrior up front but Arsene Wenger has noted that there appears to be a change in Costa this season:
“He’s a very strong player. He looks since the start of the season to have cleaned up his act, that he behaves more focused on the game. And that makes him more dangerous.” – Arsene Wenger.
Diego Costa looks set to torment Arsenal again this evening despite Michy Batshuayi’s performance in midweek. Although the Belgian played well and demonstrated his willingness to work hard, the game changed with the arrival of Costa and Leicester struggled to deal with his presence. As with Drogba, Costa has the ability to impose himself on his direct opponents, the ability to hold onto the ball under immense pressure and has re-discovered his goal scoring form with comparisons being made to his first season at Chelsea.
We are all aware of our defensive frailties and I sincerely hope we have worked hard on our shape in the build up to this one because Arsenal have players who can expose those issues at will this evening. Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott, Mesut Ozil and Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain could cause us plenty of problems if they are given the space and time on the ball to do so. N’Golo Kante will be key for us this evening as we look to him to ensure the door is closed at every opportunity.
It’s whomever Antonio Conte decides to start as the two midfielders alongside Kante in the middle of our midfield that could decide the outcome of the game. Nemanja Matic is certain to take one of those positions but, after an excellent performance and timely reminder of what he offers the team; Cesc Fabregas has put himself right into consideration in place of Oscar for a start.
With speculation surrounding his future at Chelsea throughout the summer and into the new season, reports would have you believe that Fabregas had been offered out on loan to AC Milan, was in contact with Real Madrid over a move back to Spain and that Jose Mourinho tried to lure him away from Stamford Bridge to which all have been denied by the player himself:
"In no moment did I consider leaving. There might have been calls or not, but in no moment did I consider leaving Chelsea." – Cesc Fabregas.
It seems that Antonio Conte is still looking to find the right solution in terms of formation at Chelsea. Since the beginning of the season we have adopted a 4-1-4-1 formation, which up to Liverpool had served us well. However, whether it was down to individual performance on the night, or the formation itself, Liverpool outclassed Chelsea in the first half a week ago and has forced Conte to re-think his approach. Could we see Chelsea approach tonight in a different formation or style? We now have the players to do so but is this the right game? Has there been enough time? I am not so sure.
As I sit and contemplate the game I hope to come away from the Emirates with three important points and most importantly of all a clean sheet. We have come under intense scrutiny of late and to keep a clean sheet would be a massive boost to Conte and his team moving forward. However, at this stage and after Liverpool, a win no matter how it’s achieved is the priority. This has the potential for goals and trying to predict a score line is almost impossible. It’s a massive game for both sides with it being against a direct opponent for a top four finish this year. These are the games you must not lose and a point would be a decent result for Chelsea.
However, this is a Chelsea team managed by Antonio Conte and we have seen his passion for the game and the demands he puts onto his players. Always in his technical area, screaming and shouting instructions or encouraging his team, Conte will only accept a draw as second best.
Can this Chelsea team deliver three important points? I hope so!