Arsenal face Chelsea in the Premier League at Emirates Stadium on Monday night.
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Arsenal may have been beaten by Manchester City last time out in the Premier League, but Theo Walcott's goalscoring return offered plenty of encouragement. The England international started his first game since returning from the adductor injury that had kept him out for two months, and his searing pace and direct running caused City no end of problems.
As our average position graphic above shows, Walcott (No 14) was the most advanced member of the Arsenal attack at Etihad Stadium. Nominally stationed as a right winger, the 23-year-old more often tucked inside and played right on the shoulder of the City defence who were forced to sit deep in an effort to negate his pace.
Still Walcott managed to score twice, firstly stepping inside to convert Mesut Ozil's pass from a central position at the edge of the box, and then collecting Aaron Ramsey's pass in the area before curling a delicious effort into the far corner.
The England international will have received a timely confidence boost ahead of Monday night's game against Chelsea - opponents he must relish facing. Walcott scored the first goal of his Arsenal career in the 2007 League Cup final against the Blues, and has since scored three Premier League goals against them. Should he repeat the trick on Monday night, he could go a long way towards sending Arsenal top for Christmas.
HEAD TO HEAD - WALCOTT v AZPILICUETA
Walcott is expected to come up against an unlikely opponent in the game against Chelsea - Cesar Azpilicueta. Jose Mourinho says Ashley Cole will not start the game against his former club, and he has earmarked the Spain international right back to start on the other side of the defence.
Azpilicueta has been in eye-catching form this season, and has won an impressive 56.4 per cent of his duels and 40.7 per cent of his aerial duels. However, as a naturally right-sided player he may find life difficult against the raw pace of Walcott, who can either go inside or outside his man.
Walcott also boasts a shooting accuracy rate of 68.8 per cent and has created 13 goalscoring chances for his team-mates this term - and he will fancy his chances of cashing in on any uncertainty from Azpilicueta. It should be a fascinating contest that could be decisive in a tight game.
ARSENAL v CHELSEA - MATCH FACTS
- Arsenal won nine and lost none of their first 13 Premier League home games against Chelsea but have won just two and lost four of the last eight
- Chelsea have won eight and lost just two of the last 11 meetings with Arsenal in all competitions
- Juan Mata has scored in each of his four starts against Arsenal in all competitions for Chelsea
- Chelsea have taken 11 points away from the Emirates Stadium, the joint-best haul of any team in the Premier League since the Gunners moved from Highbury (along with Aston Villa)
- Chelsea have had 11 different managers since Arsène Wenger was appointed and 12 in total with Mourinho's second spell. Jose Mourinho will be the fifth different manager Arsène Wenger has faced in the last six Chelsea v Arsenal fixtures
- rsenal have not gone three Premier League fixtures without a win since January 2013; the third of those games was against Chelsea
- The Gunners have conceded as many goals in their last two Premier League games (7) as they had in the previous 13
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