Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Chelsea

Emirates Stadium, London
Sunday, January 24
11:00 a.m. EST, 16:00 GMT
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Mark Clattenburg
    • Assistants: Jake Collin and Simon Beck
    • 4th Official: Jonathan Moss
  • Reverse Fixture: Chelsea 2 - 0 Arsenal
  • This Match, Last Year: Arsenal 0 - 0 Chelsea
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 72 Arsenal wins, 60 Chelsea wins, 54 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: W-L-W-W-D-D
  • Chelsea's League Form: W-D-D-W-D-D
It's that time of year again! Time to start looking at probabilities for the title contenders! Get excited!

According to Sports Club Stats, the favorites to win the Premier League right now are Manchester City, likely because they have the advantage of playing Arsenal and Leicester at the Etihad over the remainder of the schedule (they also get to play fourth place Spurs and fifth place Manchester United at the Etihad as well.) City's most difficult remaining fixtures are home games.

City's title odds are sitting at 35.8%, Arsenal's are at 29.5%, and Leicester's are at 21.3% (Leicester have to play both City and Arsenal away from the King Power, but their away record is best in the league.) There's a fancy pie chart to the left showing all of those percentages.

It's apparent from that information that home form could decide the title, so what better place for Arsenal to get a confidence-boosting win than at home against a rival? Chelsea have righted the ship a little bit since the sacking of Jose Mourinho, but they are still just four points clear of 18th place Newcastle United and relegation.

Arsenal haven't beaten Chelsea at home since December of 2010. It's time to change that.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Cazorla (knee,) Coquelin (knee,) Welbeck (knee,) Wilshere (ankle,) Rosicky (knee)
Doubts: Alexis (hamstring,) Ospina (groin)

Our Coq's back!
It's almost nothing but good news in this section, which is kind of scary, isn't it? The biggest part of that, although not the most immediately relevant, is the return of Francis Coquelin to full training. You'll recall Coquelin left the 2-1 loss at West Brom on November 21 and the original prognosis was "two months." Yesterday, January 21, Coquelin was back in full training "ahead of schedule," as Wenger put it, even though the West Brom game was exactly two months prior. I would personally call that exactly on schedule, though with Arsenal's track record of injuries, I suppose we should take anything we can get. He's lacking match fitness, so I highly doubt he will make an appearance.

Elsewhere, Tomas Rosicky will make an appearance in the Under-21 fixture tonight as the Arsenal boys take on Swansea; I don't believe Rosicky is quite old enough to be any of their dads... Meanwhile, Danny Welbeck (!) will be back in training next week as well. So, that pretty much just leaves Santi Cazorla (out since late November) and Jack Wilshere (out since the moon was last in Pisces) as the long-term injuries.

Alexis Sanchez, who has been out since that same game in November as Santi, faces a fitness test, but we've been saying that about him for weeks now. Arsene Wenger has been so careful with the Chilean's hamstring problem that you have to think he's got to be ready soon, especially for a fixture as big as this one. Mesut Ozil is expected to return after he was protected in carbonite last week.

If there's a question about who drops when Alexis returns to the starting XI, might I suggest Theo Walcott? He's been the most out of form lately.

Predicted XI: Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Flamini, Ramsey, Alexis, Campbell, Ozil, Giroud.

Chelsea Squad News

Out: Falcao (hip flexor)
Doubts: Costa (shin,) Hazard (hip)

Chelsea always seem to have someone who needs a face mask.
This time, it's Cesar Azpilicueta.
Eden Hazard has been out for the past three weeks with a hip injury suffered against Crystal Palace on January 3; he returned to full training on Wednesday, however, and is expected to be in line for a return to Chelsea's starting XI. That's obviously good news for Chelsea, even if Hazard has been anonymous at times this year. The Belgian international has scored four goals across all competitions since the start of this season and they have all been for Belgium and not Chelsea.

There is a question over the availability of Diego Costa as well, as the pantomime villain came out of last weekend's draw with Everton with a bruised tibia on 80 minutes. Costa has nine goals for Chelsea this season; five of those have come since Mourinho's sacking.

Radamel Falcao is the only player fully ruled out from Chelsea's squad; the Colombian has not played since October 31 with a hip flexor. With Falcao out and Costa possibly unavailable, Chelsea could be pretty light up top. Loic Remy has been battling a calf injury of late and is still a little lacking in match fitness. They have recalled Patrick Bamford from his disastrous loan at Crystal Palace, however... I guess Pedro could start, too.

Given the magnitude of the match, I'm going to guess that both Hazard and Costa start, though I wouldn't guarantee either of them lasting 90 minutes.

Predicted XI: Courtois, Ivanovic, Zouma, Terry, Azpilicueta, Fabregas, Matic, Oscar, Willian, Hazard, Costa.

Current Form

Stoke fans took the opportunity last weekend to remind
Aaron Ramsey that he is Aaron Ramsey.
Since getting hit for four at Southampton on Boxing Day, Arsenal have gone five unbeaten across all competitions. Two home wins with clean sheets came against Bournemouth and Newcastle before a 3-1 win over Sunderland in the FA Cup. But from there, Arsenal took to the road for difficult fixtures against Liverpool and Stoke and only managed two points out of a possible six, allowing a late equalizer in a bonkers 3-3 draw against Liverpool before battling for a 0-0 against Stoke at the Britannia. On paper, taking a point from Anfield and a point from Britannia isn't terrible; you'd have to go back to 2012/13 to find the last time Arsenal took more than two points from those two fixtures combined.

Arsenal's home form in the league is, of course, much stronger than their road form, as you might expect. The Gunners have won four straight league games at the Emirates and are unbeaten in nine, dating back to their opening day loss to West Ham. Arsenal have picked up 23 of a possible 30 points at the Emirates this season, dropping three to West Ham and two each to Liverpool and Spurs. Only Manchester City (28 points from a possible 36) technically have a better record in terms of total number of points at home, though no team have dropped fewer points at home than Arsenal's seven (and five of those came from the first two games.)

Chelsea have not lost since Jose Mourinho was sacked on December 17, but that doesn't mean they've been running the table, either. In six league games since Mourinho's final match in charge, a 2-1 loss at Leicester, the Blues have won twice and drawn four, in addition to their FA Cup win over League One's Scunthorpe United.

Chelsea's response to the sacking of Mourinho was a 3-1 win over Sunderland, which, to be fair, is something Arsenal has done twice in the last month and a half. They drew Watford at home on Boxing Day, 2-2, before getting a scoreless draw at Old Trafford two days later. Their 3-0 win at Crystal Palace just after New Year's looks like the most impressive result of the bunch, though Palace now haven't scored a league goal since December 19. Since beating Scunthorpe 2-0 in the Cup, Chelsea have played two high-scoring draws, 2-2 with West Brom and 3-3 with Everton, the latter draw coming controversially from a 98th minute John Terry equalizer where he had most certainly been offside.

Match Facts

Arsenal have not scored a goal in a very long time against
Chelsea, unless you count August's Community Shield.
Arsenal and Chelsea have already played twice so far this season, with Arsenal winning in the Community Shield and Chelsea winning the league fixture.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored the only goal of the season's curtain-raising match at Wembley, as Arsene Wenger finally snared a victory over Jose Mourinho. Plus, Arsenal got to win a really shiny giant plate in the process, which is always nice, regardless of what you may think of the competitiveness of the Community Shield.

Chelsea won the league fixture 2-0 at Stamford Bridge back in September under some Mike Dean-ish circumstances. Arsenal finished the match on nine men after Gabriel was sent off in the first for a kick-out at Diego Costa and Santi Cazorla picked up a second yellow 11 minutes from time. Kurt Zouma scored from a set piece on 53 minutes and a Calum Chambers own goal twisted the knife in injury time. Of course, Diego Costa should have been the one to be sent off for head-butting Laurent Koscielny in the first place, which would have changed the tenor of the entire match. The FA rescinded Gabriel's red card and slapped Costa with a three-match ban after the fact, but that doesn't rescue the three points, now does it?

In this fixture last year, Chelsea was nine points clear at the top of the table with six matches to play and two games in hand on second place Manchester City. They came to the Emirates for a draw and got a 0-0 result. Then, the Internet argued for days over whether or not that was boring. Way to go, Internet.

Arsenal have not scored a goal in league play against Chelsea since Theo Walcott pulled a goal back in the 53rd minute of a 2-1 loss at Stamford Bridge on January 20, 2013. Chelsea have kept the door shut for 487 minutes, plus injury time. Arsenal are also winless in their last eight league games against the Blues, their longest drought ever against Chelsea; I'd like to point out that pre-Abramovich, Arsenal went 19 straight without losing to Chelsea.

The Referee

The last time Clattenburg worked an Arsenal-Chelsea
match, all of these other people were involved.
The referee is County Durham-based Mark Clattenburg. Arsenal have seen Clatts only once so far this year, for the 2-1 loss at West Bromwich Albion in November. All things considered, Clattenburg did give Arsenal a late penalty in that match, from which Santi Cazorla failed to score.

The Gunners had a record of one win and one draw with Clattenburg in the middle last year, winning at Crystal Palace and drawing with Manchester City at the Emirates. Prior to the loss at West Brom, Arsenal were unbeaten in seven with Clattenburg as the referee, dating back to a 2-1 loss to Tottenham on March 3, 2013.

Chelsea have seen Clattenburg three times this year, winning one and losing two. The win came back in August, 3-2 over West Brom, in which John Terry was sent off. In late October, Clattenburg was in the middle of Chelsea's 3-1 loss to Liverpool at the Bridge, in which Ramires had scored in the fourth minute before the Reds scored three unanswered. Clattenburg also worked Leicester's 2-1 win over Chelsea at the King Power Stadium in December which was, as mentioned above, Jose Mourinho's final match in charge of the Blues.

The last time Clattenburg worked an Arsenal-Chelsea match, it was December 27, 2010; Alex Song scored just before halftime, then Cesc Fabregas and Theo Walcott scored two minutes apart to give Arsenal a 3-0 lead. Branislav Ivanovic pulled a goal back four minutes later, but Arsenal won 3-1. As I mentioned in the opening, that was the last time Arsenal beat Chelsea at the Emirates. Clattenburg's only other match between these two sides was a 2-1 Chelsea win at the Bridge in March of 2008, part of Arsenal's post-Eduardo injury collapse that season.

Around the League
  • Saturday (early): Norwich City v. Liverpool; Carrow Road, Norwich
  • Saturday: Crystal Palace v. Tottenham Hotspur; Selhurst Park, London
  • Saturday: Leicester City v. Stoke City; King Power Stadium, Leicester
  • Saturday: Manchester United v. Southampton; Old Trafford, Manchester
  • Saturday: Sunderland v. Bournemouth; Stadium of Light, Sunderland
  • Saturday: Watford v. Newcastle United; Vicarage Road, Watford
  • Saturday: West Bromwich Albion v. Aston Villa; The Hawthorns, West Bromwich
  • Saturday (late): West Ham United v. Manchester City; Boleyn Ground, London
  • Sunday (early): Everton v. Swansea City; Goodison Park, Liverpool
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and a mathematician. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat Σ 5 2 7 9 3 x^6.