After two consecutive satisfactory but uninspiring away draws, Arsenal return to The Emirates for a match against last seasons champions but this seasons major disappointment – Chelsea.
Now that Arsene Wenger’s perennial thorn in his side – Jose Mourinho – has departed, the Gunners can look to stamp this seasons form into a positive result. With Leicester City and Manchester City hot on the heels of the Premier League frontrunners – Arsenal require three points.
There is the small matter of a rather extensive winless run against the Blues that must be dispelled. Not since 2011 have the Gunners managed victory. Couple this with the fact that Arsenal have also failed to score for a little over five league games against their London rivals means that this game must signal an end to these sorry sequences if Arsenal are to keep the baying wolves of City and the Foxes from their door.
In terms of injury news, Arsene finally had some positive reports to dish out to the media during his press conference. Mesut Ozil, missing from the previous game – the 0-0 draw at the Brittania versus Stoke City – would be considered for the team, and so would Alexis Sanchez.
The Chilean has left his team bereft as he recovered from his hamstring injury, but Wenger confirmed that he can be considered for selection. Whether this means from the bench or straight into the action is up for discussion, but if the talismanic South American does slide into the eleven, this would mean either Theo Walcott or Joel Campbell makes way.
Theo Walcott would be most Gooners first choice to sit on the sidelines, due to his recent poor form but he does have previous against Chelsea and his pace will frighten the more pedestrian of the Blues backline, John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic.
The other side of the equation is Joel Campbell. A surprise package to say the least, Campbell has slowly reassured Gooners with improving displays that have resulted in him nearing an undroppable status. He has shown vision, a comforting tendency to track back and he can link up with his attacking cohorts. This leaves Wenger with a selection headache that seemed unthinkable only a month ago.
Another impending decision is when new signing Mohamed Elneny will make his debut. With Francis Coquelin now back in first team training, the Frenchman will be chomping at the bit to get involved, but it should come too soon for him, will this mean the Egyptian Elneny will take to the field? To make his first appearance in an Arsenal jersey in a match of this magnitude may not be the time for him, but it is up in the air. Aaron Ramsey and Mathieu Flamini look to be the favourites to continue in the centre.
Chelsea are looking to welcome back Eden Hazard into the side, especially in a form sense. No goals or assists this season is a stark contrast to his previous season, where his goals saw Chelsea to the Premiership crown. Guus Hiddink can also utilise Diego Costa, who visited hospital for a shin injury in their last match but is now miraculously match fit.
Another interesting facet to this game, aside from the growing hatred between the two sets of fans which now comes close to the North London Derby animosity, is Petr Cech facing his old side again. The Czech stopper has fitted in seamlessly into Wenger’s side and has proved what a difference a world class goalkeeper can make. He has been the solid foundation that Arsene’s plans this season has been built upon and will want nothing more than three points and a clean sheet against his former teammates.
So, to surmise, we have a derby atmosphere, two managerial veterans duking it out, two teams packed with talent but one underperforming whilst the other is vying for the title.
Come four o’clock tomorrow afternoon, Arsenal and Chelsea do battle again and fans will once again hope for the bragging rights.