Arsenal face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League on Saturday.
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When Arsenal are at their free-flowing best, Kieran Gibbs and Bacary Sagna are able to burst upfield and overload the opposition defence, acting as fresh attacking outlets on the overlap. With Theo Walcott out injured, there are no natural wingers in the Gunners' squad so the full backs become especially important in this regard.
However, this proved difficult at Tottenham on Sunday as the hosts dominated possession (with 59 per cent of the ball) and used the wide areas well to deliver 34 crosses into the box (Arsenal by comparison only put in five). As a result, Gibbs could not display the qualities that make him such a fine attacking full back and, as our heatmap above shows, he spent the majority of his time in his own half.
A former winger himself, Gibbs is blessed with pace, quick feet and can pick a pass and a cross. Despite being on the back foot against Tottenham, he still managed to play one key pass (yellow square on heatmap) to set up a chance for Lukas Podolski but mainly had to concentrate on the defensive side of his game.
Against a Chelsea side who play narrower than Tottenham did last weekend, Gibbs should be able to get forward more and could be important on the overlap outside Podolski. He will be expected to deliver another solid defensive display, but it is in attack where he could really test Jose Mourinho's side.
KEY BATTLE: SCHURRLE v GIBBS
With Willian and Ramires both suspended for Saturday's lunchtime kick-off at Stamford Bridge, it seems likely that Andre Schurrle will be utilised on the right flank for Chelsea.
Blessed with the pace and prodigious workrate that is so favoured by Mourinho, the Germany international is especially dangerous on the counter-attack - as demonstrated by his hat-trick against Fulham on March 1.
However, despite creating 20 chances for his team-mates from 22 games in the Premier League, Schurrle has yet to claim an assist and has won just 42.4 per cent of his duels. Gibbs is also quick enough to risk breaking forward on occasion against Schurrle, safe in the knowledge that he has already completed an impressive 92 recoveries this term.
The Chelsea man offers good defensive cover though, and has won 70.8 per cent of the 17 tackles he has made and has 11 clearances and eight interceptions to his name. Schurrle is a very different prospect to either Willian or Ramires, both of whom have been used on the right this season, but his battle with Gibbs could have a major bearing on this game.
CHELSEA v ARSENAL - MATCH FACTS
- Jose Mourinho has never lost against Arsene Wenger as an opposition manager (W5 D5 L0)
- This will be Arsene Wenger’s 1000th competitive match as coach of Arsenal - his record in so far is W572 D235 L192
- The last five Premier League wins Arsenal have enjoyed at Stamford Bridge have all seen the Gunners come from behind to win
- Arsenal have failed to score in the two games against Chelsea this season (0-0 in the Premier League and 0-2 in the Capital One Cup, both at the Emirates Stadium)
- Chelsea have recovered more points from losing positions than any other team in the Premier League this season (14)
- This is Chelsea’s lowest points haul after 30 games of a Premier League campaign with Jose Mourinho at the helm (66), but their fifth best in Premier League history
- Chelsea have the best home record in the top flight with 41 points and are the only team not to suffer a home defeat in the Premier League this season
- Arsenal have the best away record with 29 points on the road, which is level with Spurs, but they have a better goal difference of +6
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