Pitchside Europe

Arsenal v Chelsea: Where the match will be won and lost

Chelsea travel to the Emirates Stadium on Monday night in a top-of-the-table clash against Arsenal.

It's a match that sees a revitalised Gunners attempting to climb back to the summit of the Premier League, following a run of poor results that has seen them pick up just one point from a possible six.

With three losses each in the league thus far, a combined goal difference of +30 and separated by only two points, we could be in for an early Christmas treat.

Based on the probable starting line-ups and expected formations, our friends at Squawka.com run through the battles that will take place within each zone on the pitch, with the players who have achieved the greatest Squawka Performance Scores claiming that particular zone for their team.

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Arsenal Central Defence


Per Mertesacker & Thomas Vermaelen vs. Fernando Torres & Oscar

Chelsea have lacked a competent goalscorer for a number of years, having to rely on Fernando Torres to lead the line domestically, and on big European nights. The Spaniard has collected a lowly Performance Score of 58 this season and will face tough opponents in Per Mertesacker and Thomas Vermaelen, with the latter replacing Laurent Koscielny due to injury.

Torres’ partner in crime could well be the cunning and energetic Oscar. The Brazilian trickster has grown from strength to strength since his arrival in England, picking up a Performance Score of 279 so far this season.

Nevertheless, with Arsenal’s centre-back pairing achieving a combined total of 473, Chelsea may have to rely on other players to find the breakthrough.

Performance Score Totals: Arsenal 473 – 337 Chelsea.

Arsenal Left Full-Back


Kieran Gibbs vs. André Schürrle

José Mourinho has dabbled with the right attacking midfield position numerous times this season, so it’s difficult to say for certain who will spearhead their attacks from this particular zone. However, André Schürrle may be Chelsea’s best bet.

Only three Chelsea players have scored more (3) goals than Schürrle this season and, along with Oscar, the German international has created 17 opportunities for his team-mates to score, achieving a Performance Score of 182 in the process.

Kieran Gibbs may be chosen to track Chelsea’s right-sided attacker due to the 24-year-old winning 55% of attempted headers, 49% of tackles and completing an average of seven defensive actions per game – only two Arsenal players have averaged more.

Performance Score Totals: Arsenal 201 – 182 Chelsea.

Arsenal Right Full-Back


Bacary Sagna vs. Eden Hazard

Eden Hazard (57) has successfully ran past more opposition players than any other player in the league. Therefore, based on the Belgian’s impressive Performance Score of 574, Bacary Sagna will be facing Chelsea’s best and most consistent player.

Sagna will have to contend with a barrage of direct and decisive running down the left flank, utilising all of his experience to control the movement of his slippery opponent.

Performance Score Totals: Arsenal 290 – 574 Chelsea.

Central Midfield


Aaron Ramsey & Mathieu Flamini vs. Ramires & Frank Lampard

The central midfield zone will feature a fantastic battle between Aaron Ramsey – Arsenal’s best player with a Performance Score of 661 – and the reliable Mathieu Flamini, versus Ramires and Chelsea’s goalscoring legend, Frank Lampard.

Ramires has won more tackles than any other Chelsea player this season.

Lampard has won 69% of attempted headers this season and has yet to lose the knack of arriving late on the edge of the opposition’s 18-yard box to assist with scoring, while his midfield partner often stays central, supplying energetic running combined with numerous well-timed tackles (45 in total) – no other Chelsea player has won more.

Arsenal win this zone, whether Mikel Arteta (Performance Score of 189) plays in place of Flamini or not.

Performance Score Totals: Arsenal 859 – 610 Chelsea.

Chelsea Central Defence


John Terry & Gary Cahill vs. Olivier Giroud & Mesut Özil

More holes than a leaky sieve, more holes than a leaky boat, or more holes than a block of Swiss cheese. Whatever metaphor you decide to use to describe Chelsea’s erratic and frail defence, they’ve certainly not been good enough.

John Terry is Chelsea’s second best player this season having amassed a Performance Score of 511 and, alongside Gary Cahill (291), the pair will hope to nullify the threat posed by Olivier Giroud and Mesut Özil.

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The German midfielder and French striker are two of Arsenal’s most creative players, with a combined total of 11 goals between them, as well as crafting out 56 goalscoring chances for others.

A close call, but Arsenal just edge this one.

Performance Score Totals: Arsenal 812 – 802 Chelsea.

Chelsea Left Full-Back


César Azpilicueta vs. Theo Walcott

Photographed at a London venue where Arsenal were holding their Christmas party, some 24 hours after a 3-2 loss to Sunderland in the quarter-finals of the Capital One Cup. Not a good look for Ashley Cole; one that’s seen the player placed on the bench for the encounter against his former club.

In his place will be César Azpilicueta, who has played the full 90 minutes of Chelsea’s last five league fixtures. The Spanish full-back will be wary of advancing too far up field, due to the threat posed by Theo Walcott’s blistering pace on the counter-attack.

Performance Score Totals: Arsenal 178 – 83 Chelsea.

Chelsea Right Full-Back


Branislav Ivanović vs. Santi Cazorla

Branislav Ivanović has been ever-present in Mourinho’s first-team plans this season, playing every minute of every fixture. The strong and resilient full-back has contributed to Chelsea’s campaign with 81% pass accuracy, 67% headed duel success, 61% tackle success and one goal, attaining a Performance Score of 233 – the sixth highest total at the club.

In contrast, Santi Cazorla has only achieved a Performance Score of 113 from 11 appearances (three full games).

Performance Score Totals: Arsenal 113 – 233 Chelsea.

Conclusion


Chelsea could face an uphill struggle based on the likely starting line-ups, Performance Score totals and the fact that they've only kept four clean sheets in the league this season. Only Ivanović and Hazard have greater scores than their predicted opponents, resulting in a mass of red rectangles sprawled across the above diagram.

Mourinho will hope that the red swarm doesn’t turn into a reality come Monday night.