Pre-Match Report

Chelsea v Arsenal - Match Preview

By Rob Kelly

THE QUOTE

“I don’t deny that history is against us with Chelsea. The thing about top teams is that they make history and they change history.” - Arsene Wenger

THE SET UP

There was an almost palpable sense of determination in the air at London Colney on Friday as Arsene Wenger sat down to look ahead to his side’s showdown with Chelsea. Naturally much of the pre-match discussion surrounded the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Diego Costa, Jose Mourinho et al, but not once did the Arsenal manager’s quiet optimism waver. Not even a reminder of last season’s 6-0 defeat in west London on the day of his 1,000th match in charge could shake the look of steely resolve in his eyes.There may only be three points available on Sunday, but the truth is that a positive result could mean so much more. The Gunners have a shot at sporting redemption, an opportunity to not only make a statement but to alter mindsets - and they are resolved not to pass it up.

08:10

Wenger pre-Chelsea

That will, however, be easier said than done. Chelsea have started the season in ominous form, winning five of their six games and coming within five minutes of winning the other - at Manchester City - before one of their most-celebrated alumni, Frank Lampard, equalised in an intriguing twist of fate.Not only that, but they have the league’s most in-form striker in Diego Costa (eight goals in six games), its leading assist maker in Cesc Fabregas (six in six games) and the joint-second meanest defence in the division. It doesn’t make for pretty reading for those of an Arsenal persuasion, but Wenger insists the past will count for nothing once the game kicks off at Stamford Bridge this weekend. “If football was just a repeat of the past then you wouldn’t play at all because it would be too predictable,” he said. “We have an opportunity to put things right on Sunday, so let’s take it. This team has made history because they won a trophy last year against all the odds and we have an opportunity to do it again in a big game against Chelsea.”

ARSENAL

Wenger’s side could barely have had a more positive lead-up to this game. The manager had stressed the need for his team to deliver both a victory and a performance against Galatasaray on Wednesday night, and they responded in the most emphatic of manners.

The undoubted star of the show was Danny Welbeck, whose stunning hat-trick - the first of his senior career - served further notice that the Arsenal manager may just have landed another gem. But it is not just his finishing that has impressed Wenger since his arrival last month.“His link play with other players and the quality of his first touch is something that I like. He has good, quick feet,” the Frenchman said. “It was obvious for the first time in Switzerland [with England], but the quality of his finishing is good.

"He’s not used to this position and you can see that he’s improving every game, little things that are important and vital to be successful"

Wenger on Welbeck

“There’s a lot of room for improvement with him because he’s just 23. He’s not used to this position and you can see that he’s improving every game, little things that are important and vital to be successful.“I must say, though, that he can improve on the quality of his finishing when the ball is coming from the flanks. Sometimes you feel that when he is facing the goal his finishing is very good - but he must show the same calmness when the ball comes from the sides. Sometimes he rushes his finishing a little bit.”Arsenal will need Welbeck to be at his clinical best on Sunday, but it is not hard to imagine that his searing pace - coupled with that of the rapid Alexis Sanchez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain - may cause a few sleepless nights in west London.The Gunners are also likely to be strengthened by the return of Nacho Monreal after his recovery from a back injury - although whether he can win his place back from the in-form Kieran Gibbs is another question. And while the game will come slightly too early for both Theo Walcott and Serge Gnabry, it is clear that this is a squad that is only going to get stronger over the weeks ahead.

THE OPPOSITION

Any Arsenal side travelling to Stamford Bridge has always known it will be given a thorough examination of its credentials, but the Blues’ fine form so far this season makes it an even more sizeable task.Wojciech Szczesny believes that in their current guise they are “as good as you will get in Europe”, while most bookies have them as clear favourites to lift their first title since 2010. But while Wenger accepts they are a stronger force than in recent years, he refuses to be cowed by the prospect of facing them.“They are certainly a bit more mature and they have more killing edge than last season but they were still a strong side last year,” he said. “We are not going to focus too much on Chelsea, we want to focus on us and our desire. We want to show character and huge determination to do well on Sunday. That’s why I expect a big performance from my team.

Team News

Arsenal: Ramsey (hamstring), Arteta (calf), Gnabry (knee), Walcott (knee), Sanogo (hamstring), Debuchy (ankle), Giroud (tibia)

“Chelsea have always been a good team - no matter which year you go there, they have a good team. It’s not too much about them, it’s about what we will do, how much we are ready to put the work rate, effort and togetherness in to get the result. That’s what will make it.” Chelsea’s chief orchestrator this term has been Fabregas, whose career was forged in the red-and-white under the tutelage of Wenger. While the Arsenal manager concedes it will be a “strange” experience to line up against him in Chelsea blue, he insists the game is about much more than one personality.“I personally love Cesc as a player and a person because I got him here at a very young age,” he said. “You will always have very fond memories when you have educated a boy like that and have given him the chance. I think he is a great player but what we want is to beat Chelsea, not to beat Cesc Fabregas. The most important thing is that we have a good team performance on Sunday.”

SUMMING UP

If the stats were to be believed, Arsenal would have no chance on Sunday. The Gunners have not beaten a Mourinho-managed side in 11 attempts; they have only won twice at Stamford Bridge twice in 10 years and they are facing a league-leading side who have scored an average of more than three goals a game so far this term.And yet there are reasons to share in Wenger’s quiet optimism. The Gunners are, like Chelsea, unbeaten in the Premier League, they have their own electric striker banging in the goals and they are free of the expectation that comes with being tagged as pre-match favourites. They also have motivation - and lots of it. Make so mistake, last season’s defeat at Stamford Bridge (“a horrendous day,” according to Wenger) still rankles. No matter that they have only lost once in the league since then, no matter that nearly seven months have passed - Wenger and Arsenal want revenge, redemption, whatever you want to call it.Now they have their opportunity.“I don’t deny that the history is against us with Chelsea,” Wenger said. “The thing about top teams is that they make history and they change history. We’re the two unbeaten teams in the Premier League and Chelsea have one advantage on us because they have more wins.“They are the team to chase because they are top of the league at the moment. They will be one of the teams who will go for the Premier League title this season and we want to be one of them as well. That’s why the confrontation on Sunday will be so important.”

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