The capital’s finest meet at the Emirates.
The two meanest defences in the Premier League meet at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday but focus is likely to be the front lines and ghosts of heroes past.
During his eight-year stay in England, Didier Drogba liked nothing more than scoring against Arsenal, terrorising Gunners defenders and bagging a phenomenal 13 goals against Arsenal Wenger’s men.
The Arsenal boss will be positively delighted to be welcoming a Drogba-less Chelsea to North London but the Frenchman lost a talisman of his own in very different circumstances this summer, with Robin van Persie breaking Arsenal hearts by departing for pastures new at Old Trafford.
The Dutchman tore apart Chelsea’s defence, and John Terry in particular, last season, bagging a hattrick in Arsenal’s 5-3 win at Stamford Bridge and the Blues skipper might be just as relieved as Wenger to see the back of Arsenal’s dangerman.
Terry, of course, has plenty else on his mind and the Chelsea skipper will yet again dominate pre-match discussion after the FA handed the 31-year-old a four match ban and £220,000 fine for racially abusing QPR’s Anton Ferdinand 11 months ago.
The centre-half is expected to appeal and, despite a lack of training this week, is expected to start. Terry will be reviled by the home support but he seems to feed off the hatred like no other player and it will not affect his performance on the pitch.
Individuals past and present aside, both Wenger and Blues boss Roberto Di Matteo will be hugely encouraged by their starts to the new season, suggesting both clubs have the capability to break Manchester’s duopoly at the top of the Premier League.
The rivals both have reason to be happy with their summer spending, with Arsenal new-boys Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski adapting seamlessly to the English game, while Eden Hazard and Oscar of Chelsea look capable of following the likes of Gianfranco Zola and Drogba by carving their names into the annals of Stamford Bridge history.
Arsenal have always been praised for their pretty football under Wenger, while Chelsea’s success in recent years has been based on a solid defensive base and quick counter attacking.
With the North Londoners looking far more solid at the back this season and Chelsea owner Roman Ambramovich keen to bring total-football to the Bridge, this year’s contest might represent something of a role reversal and the two sides will both face a new kind of challenge.
It promises to be an enthralling game at the Emirates nonetheless and, with Manchester City stuttering, it is a chance for London’s finest (sorry Spurs) to send out a message to their rivals.
Drogba and van Persie are gone but not forgotten. The new generation of stars at Stamford Bridge and the Emirates have all the talent to replace them. Now is the time to step up.
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