Arsenal v Chelsea

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News

Arsenal v Chelsea: The Brief

By Rob Kelly

With a seething sense of injustice still evident among the Arsenal squad following that controversial late penalty at West Brom on New Year’s Eve, Arsene Wenger should need little to motivate his players ahead Wednesday’s clash with Chelsea.

Throw in the fact that it is a London derby, offering the chance to make up precious ground on a top-four rival, in the first match of 2018, and it is clear that this game is bigger than most. And , as the manager himself says, his side are “under pressure to deliver” against opponents that are in fine form.

Indeed, the Blues have only lost once since the end of October, winning 10 of their 14 matches as they have hit top gear - although we should be encouraged by our recent record against them. In the corresponding fixture last season, we won 3-0 after a first-half blitz, while we have since beaten them twice at Wembley - in the Emirates FA Cup final and the Community Shield.

Last time out we were arguably the better side for long periods, but were held to a goalless draw at Stamford Bridge. This time, a draw would be satisfactory for neither side - and we must use Sunday’s frustration to blow the Blues away.

Read on for a comprehensive pre-match briefing. We’ve got classic goals against Chelsea, team news, an exclusive chat with the manager, match facts, graphics and a chance to have your say.

THREE OR FOUR AT THE BACK?

Wenger on how much the fitness issues dictates if it will be a back three or back four……

“That’s a good question because firstly I have to see who is available. Afterwards I have to make my decision. That’s not completely decided yet because I have to wait for the training session to see whether Laurent Koscielny will be available or not. Then I will opt for the tactics. During the training session, of course we have to work on what we want to do, so they have to have tests before the training session.”

 

Arsène Wenger on Calum Chambers

Arsène Wenger on Calum Chambers


TEAM NEWS

ARSENAL: Cazorla (ankle), Monreal (ankle), Ramsey (hamstring), Giroud (hamstring), Koscielny (Achilles), Kolasinac (foot), Ozil (knee - doubt)
CHELSEA: Luiz (knee), Musonda (groin)

THE OPPOSITION

Michael Cox:

“In a 3-4-3 system, Antonio Conte prefers Eden Hazard drifting inside from the left and Pedro running in behind from the right. But in the 3-5-2 Pedro is sacrificed, with Hazard taking up his favoured central position. The Belgian is even more unpredictable in this role – he can come short or sprint in behind, and is excellent at combining with Alvaro Morata on the break.”

 

 

THE LAST WORD

Wenger on the improvements he wants to see in 2018…

“To win all the games - that always has to be the target. You want to go in the season with a big ambition, get the team to push itself very hard. We’re in a battle where every point is massively important. That’s why we were so frustrated after the West Brom game. You need to have the ambition to win every game.”

Chelsea (h) - Matchday Show

Chelsea (h) - Matchday Show

 

Interview

‘Bergkamp had everything… Deco could do anything’

Petr Cech only lined up against Dennis Bergkamp on four occasions, but that gave him more than enough time to see how talented our legendary striker was.

The former Chelsea goalkeeper was well aware of Bergkamp before he moved to England in 2004, and says the striker was one the standout players he has been fortunate enough to share a pitch with during his glittering 18-year career.
 
“I always loved to watch Bergkamp play,” Cech told Arsenal Player. “It’s a bit unfair to choose one player because there are so many fantastic players and I was so lucky to play with so many unbelievable players for both teams, but when you watched Dennis Bergkamp play in his prime it was amazing to see what he could do.
 
“The vision, the thinking, the execution of the passing and changing the pace, the space and the technique with his goals - he had everything. Obviously the first time I played against him, I was aware that everything could happen because I watched him on TV and then played against him. You know you have to be aware.

“At Chelsea I played with so many fantastic players, but to choose one is very hard. If you have to choose Lampard, if you have to choose Drogba or if you have to choose any other player… I loved to watch Deco for example. When Deco came, it was absolutely amazing to watch him play, to watch him train with such ease and class.
 
“He could do anything you could imagine with a football. It was fantastic to see and the same as Santi too. If you look at Santi, you just think ‘Wow, this guy is on a completely different planet’.
 
“If he was playing five against one in this room, he would get through us with such ease that you wouldn’t even think it is possible. These kinds of players always stay in your memories because they’re amazing to watch.”

The Breakdown

The Breakdown: Arsenal v Chelsea preview

We’re back in Premier League action on Wednesday night when we host Chelsea at Emirates Stadium.

Ahead of the game, tactical expert Michael Cox and former Gunner Adrian Clarke examine our opponents in detail.

THE MANAGER

MC: Antonio Conte’s first season in English football was hugely impressive, taking Chelsea to the title with the second-highest number of points in the Premier League era. The turning point was midway through this fixture last season, when Conte decided to make a surprise substitution, removing Cesc Fabregas and introducing Marcos Alonso. It seemed a peculiar change at 3-0 down, but Conte wasn’t trying to turn around the game – he was experimenting with a new formation, 3-4-3. They promptly embarked upon an incredible 13-match winning run, taking them from eighth to nailed-on title favourites.

FORMATION

MC: Towards the end of last season, however, opponents started to become wiser to Chelsea’s 3-4-3 – including Arsenal, who defeated them in the FA Cup final with a 3-4-3 system of their own. This season, therefore, Conte has often used a 3-5-2 system to provide tactical variety, and an extra central midfielder.

AC: They’ve got a lot of options. Plan A appears to be Morata up top with Eden Hazard floating in behind. I must say that whenever I’ve seen them operate together like that, they’ve been brilliant. Even though there’s only two of them compared to the three we’ve seen in the other shape, they’ve got more than enough ability to cause problems. The other option of course is to have two players in behind, like Willian and Pedro. Sometimes we’ve seen Hazard as a false nine with Willan and Pedro floating around as well. I think if Morata’s fit then he’ll play.

STRENGTHS

MC: Centre forward Alvaro Morata is a newcomer this season but is a typical Chelsea striker – a tall No 9 who has replaced Diego Costa in terms of goals, if not aggression. He’s been particularly prolific with his head – and his most frequent assister has been, unusually, Chelsea’s right-sided defender Cesar Azpilicueta, who has stepped forward to provide excellent crosses for his compatriot. 

DANGERMAN

MC: In the 3-4-3 system, Conte prefers Eden Hazard drifting inside from the left and Pedro running in behind from the right. But in the 3-5-2 Pedro is sacrificed, with Hazard taking up his favoured central position. The Belgian is even more unpredictable in this role – he can come short or sprint in behind, and is excellent at combining with Morata on the break.

AREAS TO TARGET

MC: After the packed Christmas schedule, Conte might be forced to rotate – and he’s frequently raised concerns about his lack of depth. Italian Davide Zappacosta provides cover at wing-back and Antonio Rudiger at the back, but neither have established themselves as undroppable first-teamers. Danny Drinkwater has often been injured since his switch from Leicester, while Michy Batshuayi has rarely started up front.

AC: What I will say is that last time we played against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, the defenders were brilliant. They were absolutely outstanding in the way that they handled Alvaro Morata, who I rate highly. They really got into him, they were really physical, resilient and basically roughed him up. I’d like to see them do that again.

Interview

Team news: Ozil, Kolasinac, Koscielny, Ramsey

Arsene Wenger has revealed the latest team news ahead of Wednesday’s Premier League clash against Chelsea.

The boss provided updates on Mesut Ozil, Laurent Koscielny, Sead Kolasinac, Nacho Monreal and Aaron Ramsey.

This is what he said:

on team news…
At the moment our injury list is quite long, because we lost Kolasinac in the West Brom game and Koscielny. We had already Monreal, Giroud, Ramsey, Ozil out. Who will be available tomorrow? The two who have a little chance are Ozil, who might have a test this morning - but he hasn’t been out at all since Crystal Palace, so I don’t know. With Koscielny, yesterday the medical staff were pessimistic about him.

on Sead Kolasinac…
Sead has hurt his ankle, he is out - it could settle in a week, or two weeks. It is not long term.

on Laurent Koscielny…
Koscielny is the achilles again, it flared up. Yesterday the signs were not too encouraging. He is 30 per cent available, 70 per cent not.

on Monreal and Ramsey…
Nacho is still out, he should be a couple of weeks. Ramsey as well. He could target Chelsea in the League Cup.

Press conference

What’s the latest on Ozil, Alexis and Jack?

It is a question that has dominated many of our press conferences this season, and Tuesday’s was no different.

So what is the latest on the contract talks with Mesut Ozil, Alexis and Jack Wilshere? This is what Arsene Wenger had to say:

on the progress of contract extensions…
The progress is, in our jobs sometimes one day you think you’ve made progress and the next day you move back again, so as long as something is not signed you don’t like to talk too much about it.

on the plan if Alexis, Ozil and Wilshere leave in the summer…
Well, how we will cope with that… first of all we have not lost them yet and secondly we will respond to that by bringing in players of top quality.

on whether any offers for Alexis or Ozil have been received…
We have not been contacted by anybody, no.

on whether he is confident of keeping them…
We try, but you know I answered that question many times. I think at the moment it is not to talk too much but to focus on tomorrow’s game.

on Wilshere wishing to sign a new contract…
I just answered that question, I want him to stay. I say I answered that question because as long as things are not signed you can say you are positive, negative or super positive, but when things are not signed you shut up and announce things when they are concrete, it’s simple as that.

on whether it will be beneficial for us to sell Alexis rather than leave on free…
Honestly, my focus is on tomorrow’s game. After that, this club has lost many, many big players and has always responded well. Massive players have left this club and the club will always be in a strong position [afterwards]. You want to keep your best players, yes.

on not being scared of losing Ozil, Alexis and Wilshere…
No. Because I want them to stay. Why should I be scared?

Gallery

Pictures: First team train ahead of Chelsea

The lads trained at a wet and windy London Colney ahead of our Premier League clash against Chelsea on Wednesday night.

Members of the under-23s also featured, including Reiss Nelson, Joe Willock and Eddie Nketiah.

Our club photographer was there and sent back these pictures:

Press conference

‘We’re under pressure to deliver a big result’

Wednesday night’s clash against Chelsea will be the 60th time that Arsene Wenger has faced the Blues - and he believes the two teams could be closer than ever.

We are unbeaten in our last three games against our London rivals, but the Arsenal manager admits that his side are under pressure to win after their 1-1 draw at West Brom on New Year’s Eve.

This is what he told the media in his pre-match press conference:

on the significance of Wednesday’s game…
The gap is not big at the moment. We know that our home form will be absolutely vital and we just come home from West Brom frustrated because we lost two points. We know it puts us under even more pressure to deliver a big result tomorrow.

on if this is as close as it’s been between Arsenal and Chelsea since he joined…
Yes, it looks like it in the last two years. We’ve played Chelsea many times and the results were always tight, apart from at home last year, we beat them 3-0. We’ve played them many times and they were always big battles. Chelsea are coming back into good form. They’ve been consistent recently so it’s a big challenge for us tomorrow.

on how difficult it will be to face Chelsea three times in a month…
You worry about the next one and then you deal with the rest after. In football, there’s only one thing and that’s the next game. We just have to put the disappointment we had at West Brom behind us and then deal with the challenge against Chelsea.

on why Arsenal can’t play more consistently against Chelsea…
You’re a bit harsh with us because we made 75 points last year and you need some consistency to do that, and we won the FA Cup against a strong team. Just to get to the final of the FA Cup, you need to be consistent. I believe that the Premier League is very even and very difficult for everybody. The target in 2018 is to win every single game, and the next one is Chelsea.

News

Follow the Chelsea game LIVE on Arsenal.com

Chelsea (h) - Matchday Show

We kick off 2018 with a home Premier League match against Chelsea - and you can follow the game LIVE on Arsenal.com.

Tune in to our website for the following:

  • Matchday Show, with live build-up from 7.15pm (UK time) and audio commentary from 7.45pm (UK time)
  • Live text commentary - featuring minute-by-minute updates and insights from our fans on Twitter
  • A short goals clip and full match highlights will be available from midnight on Sunday

It's all free with Digital Membership - and remember, you can listen on the Arsenal App too!

Interview

‘We must respect how people want the game played’

Whether or not to introduce video assistant referees to Premier League football has been a big talking point this season.

Many other countries, including Italy and Germany, have added the system to their top flights already and Arsène Wenger has been impressed with how well the officials used the technology to inform their decisions.
 
VAR is set to be used in France and Spain from 2018/19 onwards and, after Sunday’s game against West Bromwich Albion, the boss is in favour of introducing the system in England, as long as it does not affect the flow of the game.
 
on how referees need to look after the game now…
Sometimes I say to the fourth official, when after five minutes the goalkeeper starts to waste time, ‘Look up there, there are people who pay a lot of money to watch football. You are responsible to make sure that football happens on the pitch’. For me, they have to serve the game like we have to serve the game, and to try to give positive emotions to people who love football in the stand. That’s what they have to do. They have not to be the star. We have to respect the game as people want it to be played. That’s our responsibility. It’s not [appropriate] any more, in 2018, that the guy calls a player, speaks half a minute, or a minute to him, to say, ‘Look, you have to behave properly’. That is gone. That is not the rhythm of a modern society. People want crisp, sharp action, and the referee has to make sure that that happens. This is the 1950s, where the guy talks to him… ’If you’re not nice, I might punish you’. Come on, let’s not waste time. What does it help for the game? Nothing. Nothing happens. People who sit in the stand don’t want to see that. They want to see, ‘Come on, let’s get on with it and play’. That’s our responsibility. We don’t live in the dark ages.

on whether video assistant referees should be introduced in the Premier League…
It’s inevitable because the referee can get help and become more efficient – and he can gain time, contrary to what people say. Of course, if we go the way where the referee walks down the side of the pitch and watches a screen, I say, ‘Leave it at home’. That means, ‘I just want to make every single decision. I want to be the boss’. [In that case] let’s forget it because that is not serious, and not the way we want to see the game going. If somebody upstairs quicker than he does tells him, ‘Go, let it go,’ that’s what we want. It’s not that he walks down the side of the pitch and watches a screen, and the people in the stand freeze up there until he has made a decision. That’s not what we want. If it’s [like] that, I personally am against it.

Press conference

Wenger on his January window plans and Luiz

With the January transfer window now open, it was to be expected that Arsene Wenger would be quizzed about it in his first press conference of 2018.

The Arsenal manager was asked what positions he is prioritising, and also cleared up some of the rumours already circulating.

This is what he said:

on whether there will be any potential incomings or outgoings…
‘When’ is very difficult to say, because we are out there and look to do some things, but when we will do is very difficult to say because it is not only on us.

on what positions he has in mind…
We are open in any position for the exceptional player who can give us a plus. Of course it depends a little bit on the injuries as well and on the other hand I must say it depends on who will manage to extend the contracts of the players who are at the end of their contracts in June. It will depend on that as well because we will have to take the consequences of these decisions and respond to it.

on the reports of interest in Luiz and Lemar…
No, I do not want to speak about any special name but these reports are wrong.

on whether reports on Luiz are wrong…
Yes.

Goals

Check out our best goals at home to Chelsea

We’ve scored some special goals at home to Chelsea during the Premier League era.

Remember Mesut Ozil’s volley during our 3-0 win last season? And what about Lee Dixon’s thunderbolt? Or Theo Walcott’s fine finish?

Watch five our our best goals against Wednesday’s opponents above and then vote for your favourite below:

Press conference

Wenger on referees, handballs and penalties

In the wake of that controversial late penalty at West Brom, it was no surprise that Arsene Wenger was asked about refereeing standards in his press conference on Tuesday.

The Arsenal manager discussed the way the profession has developed, and this is what he told the media:

on if he’s spoken to the refereeing governing body after West Brom penalty…
No. My job is to stand up for the results. Part of that is as well to stand up for things I’m not responsible for. You could argue as well that sometimes I get credit for things I’m not responsible for as well. Unfortunately that’s the case. It was very disappointing in the way it happened. I must say what is more frustrating for me is that it happened many times this season - at Stoke, at Watford, at Man City, at West Brom. That is a concerning coincidence for me. That’s why I was not happy at all with the movement that the referee made to show why he gave the penalty, because that didn’t correspond at all with what happened. On that front, it’s a bit worrying.

on whether he was given an explanation…
No, he saw what he wanted to see and we have to deal with that. We have to put that behind us and focus on our next game, not to dwell on it. Focus completely on our next game, I think we had a convincing result at Crystal Palace and we would have won this game as well, so let’s continue to focus on how we play and to win the games.

on whether there is widespread concern among managers about refereeing standards…
I said that many times, but I just think they are professional, which is fantastic because I stood behind that with all my power at the time to afford them to be professional. I support that, so you also expect the quality because they are in a division where they can be the best and of course there are only two countries where there are professional referees in Europe and that’s England and Italy. Of course you want them to have the time to improve and raise their level. What is maybe not confirmed, not only by my judgement but as well by the referees judgement.

on how many other PL managers agree with him about standard of refereeing…
I don’t know. I would say the referees [need to worry about it] first. Who assesses the referees who go to the World Cup? The referees. That’s the conclusion. I’m not good enough to judge referees, I just give facts. That’s facts.

on whether all ‘handballs’ in a box should count as penalties to clear up the rule…
I don’t think that would be the way because you have to put things into perspective. To score a goal in football, you need to sometimes make 25 good passes and that demands some quality, to be able to then create that goal chance. For me to just give a goal away because somebody kicks the ball at your hand would be ridiculous. The oldest rule in the game is the best. It has to be a deliberate handball and that’s it, basically. If you want to create a goal chance, even if it’s a fast game, you need to play football. Then suddenly, because somebody hits your hand on purpose - they just need to lift the ball to anybody’s arm in the box - it’s a goal. It’s not serious.

Interview

Wenger - How I would change Christmas schedule

Wednesday night’s match against Chelsea kicks off just 73 hours after the final whistle was blown in our 1-1 draw at West Bromwich Albion.

We’re currently at the busiest juncture of the season - we played nine times in December and will be in action at least seven times in January too. 

But while the packed schedule has been criticised by some Premier League managers, Arsène Wenger finds festive football “absolutely attractive and fantastic for England”. There is, however, one change the boss would make.

“I would not reduce the Christmas period because it’s something that I find absolutely attractive and fantastic for England,” Wenger told the matchday programme. “The Christmas schedule makes it special for the whole world. I would like to keep that. 

“I would just like the teams who play against each other to be on a fair level. We play Chelsea tonight - we played three days ago and you would want that Chelsea has played three days ago too. West Brom played against us two days ago played against West Ham last night, who had not played for a week. 

“It’s not fair. If we have to play every day, I have no problem with it as long as the opponent we play has played every day as well. The Premier League has to do something about that. If you want to be the best league in the world, you have to be fair. 

“At the moment the competition is not fair. I think we could organise the competition better in a more fair way, considering that you just respect that the recovery days are the same for the two teams that play against each other. You cannot have one team that has not played for five days and one team that has played two days ago, it doesn’t work. 

“I would say the rhythm of the game adapts itself to the level of the players. We have the squads, we have the scientific studies now on the recovery of the players. We know what is going on, but of course you need two teams to be at the same level.