Chelsea v Arsenal – Too Close

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The wondrous nature of the random fixture list has pitted the top 4 clubs in the same billing yet again. After last December’s tedium that was christened ‘Grand Slam Sunday’ by the marketing men at Sky, maybe they will use a little restraint this time round and hold back on the superlatives - because it was anything but a spectacle to warrant such a title.

However, with the title race edging towards a conclusion and three teams still genuinely contesting the Premier League, it should be at the very least, interesting. Looking back at previous encounters between the top 4 there is a distinct pattern of caution, with no team wanting to lose vital points and by taking into account the time of year - a positive result is crucial.

It seems almost impossible to separate Chelsea and Arsenal on this occasion. A draw looks the most likely outcome, by analysing the previous 5 league games between the London rivals.

This Season - Arsenal win the 1st leg.

Last time Arsenal played Chelsea back in December of 2007; Arsenal beat Chelsea by a solitary goal, their first victory against the Blues since February 2004. Ex-Chelsea central-defender William Gallas scored the winner just before half-time, after a rare mistake from Petr Cech allowed the Frenchman to get his head on a corner that should have been catching practice for the Czech international.

Chelsea fought back from this mishap in the second-half, but always missed the talismanic figure of Didier Drogba to hold the ball up. Instead, Chelsea were forced to play the ball up to lone-striker, Andriy Shevchenko, who failed to hold possession adequately enough. Unfortunately, the game will be remembered for an unsavoury tackle by Emmanuel Eboue on Chelsea captain John Terry. In light of recent tackles, Eboue was very lucky to be still on the pitch at the end of 90 minutes. Arsenal held on for a hard-fought victory, whilst Avram Grant pondered how he was going to start winning games against the Premier League’s elite teams.

2006-2007 - Nothing between them as United win title.

Jose Mourinho was just 6 minutes away from losing his proud unbeaten home record in December 2006 as Chelsea entertained Arsenal at Stamford Bridge in the first league meeting between them that season. He was also 6 minutes away from being 9 points behind the leaders, Manchester United, going into the hectic Christmas programme.

Although Chelsea dominated the game for large periods, Arsenal took the lead against the run of play with a goal in the 78th minute by Mathieu Flamini. Showing the never say die attitude that won them the previous two league titles, Chelsea came straight back at Arsenal and with time ticking away Michael Essien took control of the midfield and stormed forward to crash a wonderfully powerful, swerving shot into the back of the Arsenal net. Chelsea were unlucky not to pick up all 3 points as the woodwork was rattled twice in the closing stages of the game.

The return fixture at the beginning of May would hold much more significance, as Chelsea’s inability to beat Arsenal handed the Premier League title to Manchester United, days before the end of the season. Arsenal deservedly took the lead in the first-half after a distinctly flat Chelsea performance.

Clumsy Khalid Boulahrouz made Arsenal’s job a whole lot easier as he hacked away at Julio Baptista whilst the player was en route to goal, giving the referee no option but to send the player off and award a penalty kick to The Gunners. Gilberto Silva easily converted the penalty in the 43rd minute.

At half-time, the Premier League trophy was heading north as Chelsea needed to win to keep the title race alive, but the numerical advantage Arsenal had would be enough to make sure Chelsea’s challenge fell short. With a spirited second-half performance Chelsea took it to the wire when Arsenal’s nemesis of recent games, Michael Essien scored with a brave diving header to set-up a nervous last 20 minutes as they gave themselves a small opportunity to win the game. However, the damage had been done already and Manchester United won their first title since 2003.


2005-2006 - Chelsea complete double over Arsenal.

The second game of the season brought the two London clubs together in August 2005. A cautious game exploded into action early on as Chelsea and Arsenal both had chances to take the lead, however the game settled down eventually to produce an even first-half contest.

As the game went on, the play became scrappy with a draw looking very likely. Robin van Persie tried to orchestrate chances but Arsenal had a tendency to over play it in the final third. Didier Drogba, a half-time substitute for The Blues, punished Arsenal as he managed to shin the ball into the Arsenal net with only 14 minutes remaining. As Chelsea held on, Arsenal had much more possession in the final 10 minutes but were unable to break through a stubborn defence.

It is safe to say Arsenal weren’t having the best of seasons by the time they met again in December. After this result, The Gunners were 8th in the Premier League, a massive 20 points behind the leaders Chelsea. After dominating the early stages of this encounter, Chelsea couldn’t find a way through the Arsenal rearguard. It took 39 minutes before Arjen Robben successfully beat the offside trap to slot in from a tight angle. An entertaining match was wrapped up in the last 20 minutes as Joe Cole scored a second for The Blues.





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sibhi ganapathy:

 A good round up, but the star

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