Of Arsene Wenger’s five wins over Chelsea since 2004, three came in his first match against new managers-Avram Grant in 2007, Felipe Scolari in 2008 and Andre Villas-Boas in 2011. He also drew with Roberto Di Matteo in their first meeting. Since 2004, all matches not lost by Arsenal to Chelsea have been under new bosses. Can a meeting with Antonio Conte extend this in today’s London derby?
Wenger might have had a better chance had Chelsea not so impressively come back against Leicester City in the League Cup to win 4-2, but the way they had to rally after the disappointing defeat by Liverpool still illustrates how unconstructed a team the Blues are. There are still some elements that Conte is trying to put in place, but haven’t yet fully fused together. There are gaps to exploit.
On the other hand, Arsenal are not yet fully cohesive themselves in terms of performance, but the potential advantage as with those other wins against new managers they claimed is the consistency that has marked that last decade. Wenger hasn’t found his best team this season, but he has found a winning rhythm, and they have picked off wins against inferior opposition in the way that has secured so many successive top-four finishes.
The hope now for Arsenal is that this old trait can cause a new departure, another transformation.
Wenger, named as Arsenal manager 20 years ago this week, will hope to celebrate with victory in the London derby at home to Chelsea.
Chelsea travel to Arsenal looking to get their stuttering Premier League campaign back on track, after dropping points in their last two outings. The Blues began life under Conte with three successive victories but the problems that haunted last season’s title defence have risen again in recent weeks.
A disappointing draw at Swansea was followed up with a home defeat to Liverpool and the Italian boss will be desperate to return to winning ways as soon as possible.
The west Londoners are already five points behind early pace-setters Manchester City and will know they cannot fall much further off the pace if they are to challenge for the big prize again this time around.
A trip across the capital to the Emirates Stadium represents a difficult task on paper, but the club will be heartened by the fact they are undefeated in their last nine league games against Arsenal.
Furthermore, with four victories on the ground, Chelsea are the most successful away side at the venue since the Gunners moved home back in 2006.
For their part, Arsenal have hit their stride in the Premier League and have won their last three fixtures after going winless in their opening two matches.
The Gunners also looked in good form in midweek as they dispatched of Nottingham Forest 4-0 in the EFL Cup, with new boy Lucas Pérez getting off the mark with two goals.
Arsene Wenger’s side looked close to their best in the 4-1 thrashing of Hull last weekend and will have high hopes of reversing their recent fortunes against Chelsea.
Meanwhile, Manchester United will hope to re-energise their faltering campaign and make up ground on the early pacesetters with victory at home to champions Leicester City today after successive Premier League defeats,.
After losing to leaders Manchester City and Watford, either side of a Champions League defeat to Feyenoord, United already trail Pep Guardiola’s vibrant City by six points and sit in seventh place.
Manager Jose Mourinho has spoken about his new charges reacting badly to “negativity”, which some observers felt he increased with public criticism of defender Luke Shaw after the 3-1 defeat by Watford last weekend.
A 3-1 win over Northampton Town in the League Cup on Wednesday prevented a fourth straight defeat, but it was not an entirely convincing United performance against the third-tier outfit.
There will be particular interest in Mourinho’s team selection at home to Leicester and whether England and United captain Wayne Rooney, who has been in poor form, keeps his place.
City, having won their first five league games under Guardiola to top the table, visit Swansea City for the second time in four days, after Guardiola’s side won 2-1 in a League Cup tie on Wednesday.
Striker Sergio Aguero will be available after completing a three-match suspension, although City scored six goals without him in the two league matches he missed against United and Bournemouth.
Everton and Tottenham Hotspur, the two other unbeaten sides lying second and third respectively, both face long trips.
Everton go to the south coast to face Bournemouth, who are in the bottom four but held them 3-3 in one of the most dramatic games of last season, with four goals in the last 10 minutes.
Tottenham, missing injured England striker Harry Kane, travel to the north-east to face promoted Middlesbrough, who had started well before losing their last two games.
Liverpool’s victory at Stamford Bridge took them up to sixth and they will be fancied for a third successive league victory at home to Hull City.
The only two clubs without a win both have home games with mid-table opposition: Sunderland against Crystal Palace and Stoke City against West Bromwich Albion.