Chelsea vs. Arsenal
English Premier League
Sunday, October 5th, 2014, 2:05 GMT / 9:05 EDT / 6:05 PDT
TV: NBC Sports Network
Arsene Wenger celebrated 1,000 games in charge at Arsenal by watching, on a sunny London afternoon, an absolute beating at the hands of Chelsea as Jose Mourinho lapped up adulation and plaudits from his adoring fans at Stamford Bridge as shot-after-shot rippled the back of Arsenal's net.
Nothing went right that day. The fullbacks were caught too far up the pitch thanks to Chelsea's effective press against a lethargic Arsenal midfield, unable to sprint back quick enough as the Blues countered at will. Andre Marriner sent off Kieran Gibbs instead of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain after Oxlade-Chamberlain deflected a shot away with his hand and, in the process, giving birth to a meme that is still going strong today. And, worse of all, Arsenal - yet again - went on the road versus a title-contending club and got trounced.
Since that day that many would love to eternally forget, a funny thing happened. Former Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas was, for all intents and purposes, pushed out of Barcelona - the boyhood club that couldn't speak enough praise of his game the last three years of his time while at the Emirates - and sold to Mourinho's Chelsea. It was Fabregas who said he'd only ever play for Barcelona or Arsenal, but it's been revealed in the past couple days that his loyalty was only as strong as his word - weak.
Easing the pain of watching Fabregas move to Chelsea and, especially, under the wing of Mourinho, Wenger countered the sting of seeing his one-time prodigy abandon his tutelage and coaching by purchasing Barcelona winger Alexis Sanchez. The Chilean has been pleasant to watch so far in this early season, but the overall squad inconsistency in attempting to accommodate him and other young players such as Jack Wilshere on the pitch at the same time has led to a vastly-different start to the league than Chelsea. And leading the charge for Roman Abramovich's play thing so far is none other than Cesc Fabregas.
The Catalan has settled quickly among his superstar teammates, assisting in six goals in as many matches. He's obviously familiar with Wenger's style of play, and he'll recognize many former teammates and foes before and during the match. It'll be up to Fabregas' friend Mathieu Flamini to be a constant thorn in his side all match long if Arsenal is to severely disrupt the service Diego Costa relies on. With Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey out, one wonders if Arsene Wenger feels Flamini is up to the task. He walked away from the mid-week Champions League victory versus Galatasaray with his customary yellow card, and given how last season's match at the Bridge went, it's easy to envision Chelsea doing all they can to draw Flamini into a yellow card, or worse.
Given how each club has started the season, as well as the league as a whole, a draw would be a very positive result for Arsenal. It's hard to see such a result coming from this match, though. Wenger has seen many key starters go down to injury over these past few weeks, while Chelsea's riding an impressive, title-worthy form. The Gunners looked fantastic on Wednesday, save for the events that led up to Wojciech Szczesny's red card, but the club's past history of bottling key away league matches is too much to think anything positive will come from today.
It's still early in the season, and there will be many more opportunities to make up league points. Perhaps it's better to absorb what we're probably about to witness and instead look forward knowing we don't have to travel back to Chelsea again in the league the rest of the season.
Prediction: Chelsea 4-2 Arsenal
Chelsea team to play Arsenal: Courtois, Ivanovic, Cahill, JT (c), Azpilicueta; Matic, Fabregas; Schurrle, Oscar, Hazard; Diego Costa. #CFC— Chelsea FC (@chelseafc) October 5, 2014
Chelsea substitutes this afternoon: Cech, Zouma, Filipe Luis, Mikel, Willian, Salah, Remy. #CFC— Chelsea FC (@chelseafc) October 5, 2014