Guess who will not be playing tomorrow?
You know that sickening sight of him racing away in celebration after yet another cruel, cruel goal against an Arsenal side which had clearly bossed the match? You will not be seeing it tomorrow.
Fixtures against Chelsea used to be Arsenal’s favourite some while ago. Earlier in the past decade, Wenger’s men were often Chelsea’s biggest bullies. A visit to Stamford Bridge was often a good bet for three points.
Then came Didier Drogba!
But ahead of what has become a daunting trip to Stamford Bridge on Saturday, there is for once, a sneaky sense of optimism about a positive result against Chelsea.
And that is not only because of the Gunner’s reviving form which has seen them win seven of their last eight games in all competitions.
Memories of last year’s rare 3-1 victory over the blues at the Emirates (which sent out a resonant message about Arsenal’s capability in ‘big games’) the probable return of Thomas Vermaelen and the form of Robin van Persie are all uplifting factors for the Gunners ahead of tomorrow’s derby.
Then there is that small, unnoticeable, absence of Didier Drogba.
Yes, Chelsea will unleash Fernando Torres against Arsenal for the first time, but it is no secret that ever since he arrived in English football, Didier Drogba – whether in-form or not – has been the prime culprit for tormenting Arsenal in clashes against Chelsea and single-handedly deciding games in favour of the blues on days when Wenger’s men deserved more. Thus, his absence tomorrow will do more help than harm to Arsenal’s chances.
That said, here are a few interesting factors ahead of the trip to West London.
* Theo Walcott is the current Arsenal player who has scored the most against Chelsea – three goals.
* Drogba has scored 13 goals in 14 appearances against Arsenal in all competitions.
* The last time Van Persie played at Stamford Bridge, in Novermber 2008, the Dutchman netted two goals in a 2-1 comeback victory over Chelsea.
* Drobga missed that fixture in 2008 as he served suspension for coin-throwing in a Carling Cup match ahead of that clash. The Ivorian misses tomorrow’s match after being sent off against QPR last week for a reckless tackle.
* Arsenal’s record when playing against a Chelsea side which features Drogba is W1 D3 L10
* That solitary victory came last season when goals from Song, Fabregas and Walcott were enough for a memorable 3-1 victory at the Emirates Stadium in December 2010.
* Fernando Torres has scored three times against Arsenal since arriving in England (all for Liverpool).
* Arsenal have lost their last two visits to Stamford Bridge – both by a 2-0 scoreline.
* Three of Cheslea’s four goals in both games were scored by Drogba.
* Chelsea are not water-tight at the back under their new boss. The Blues have gone eight Premier League games without a clean sheet for the first time since September 2003 (when the run was nine). In fact Arsenal have kept more clean sheets (3) than Chelsea (1) in the league season.
* Arsenal are on a run of eight away league games without a win – their longest in the Premier League.
* Johan Djourou has never lost a league game against Chelsea as Arsenal an player.
* The Gunners’ win against Stoke last week was the first time they have collected back-to-back victories in the Premier League since February.
* Chelsea have lost just three of their last 19 games in all competitions against Arsenal
* Before Chelsea lifted their first Premier League trophy in May 2005, Arsenal had a record of only one defeat in 12 matches at Stamford Bridge.