Sunday afternoon sees the return of Arsenal to Stamford Bridge, a fixture that was infamous last season for the 6-0 thrashing the hosts dealt the visitors. The game was essentially over by half-time, with goals from Samuel Eto’o, André Schürrle and Oscar complementing Eden Hazard’s penalty. Oscar added another after the break, before substitute Mohamed Salah administered the coup de grace to make Arsène Wenger’s 1000th game as Manager one to forget.
The game was also notable for Andre Marriner wrongly sending off Kieran Gibbs for blocking Hazard’s curling effort with his hand, despite Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s protestations that he was the culprit.
Despite being played earlier this year (last season this fixture was played on March 22nd), the stakes are high for this game; Arsenal will be anxious to avoid a similar outcome while Chelsea will be seeking to build on their impressive start of 5 wins from 6. Both teams have strengthened over the summer, but both have also lost key players (Frank Lampard, Bacary Sagna) to Manchester City over that time, so all eyes will be on both Managers and on the line-ups they send into battle.
To see how fans of both Clubs may be thinking about this game, we looked at the Beat Your Manager! Fantasy Football data from this fixture last season, to see what players were picked for the line-ups last year.
Beat Your Manager! Fantasy Football is a game similar to “Football Manager”, but applied to live football, where you manage your favourite Club and pick lineups, bench, formations and substitutions, all in real-time. When fans play the game, the Beat Your Manager team can measure the popularity of different players, by looking at how frequently they are selected for the starting lineup, substitutes bench or not selected at all.
The app ran for the 2013/4 EPL season and is currently inactive while the developers are creating the revised version – we’ll keep you posted on when it’s going to re-launch.
Formation: Chelsea fans fancy their chances with 4-3-3, while Arsenal like a flexible 4-2-3-1
29 per cent of Chelsea’s fans opted for an aggressive 4-3-3 formation, with a flexible 4-2-3-1 (24 per cent) and 4-4-2 (21 per cent) not far behind. 34 per cent of Arsenal fans opted for the double-pivot 4-2-3-1 formation to give extra strength in midfield for this game, 4-4-2 (28 per cent) and 4-3-3 (24 per cent) the next-most popular formations.
Goalkeepers: No surprises as Petr Cech and Wojciech Szczesny line up between the posts
Fans of both Clubs did not go for any surprises in goal, with both team’s regular number 1 selected for duty. Szczęsny was the goalkeeping choice of every Arsenal fan playing the game, while Cech had an impressive 97 per cent rating with Blues fans. Both real-life Managers agreed with fans, going for the identical options between the posts.
Defenders: Fans and Managers on the same page
Arsenal had the two most-popular defenders, with Per Mertesacker (97 per cent) topping the poll and Sagna (93 per cent) just ahead of Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic, on 92 per cent.
Chelsea took up the next three defender slots, with John Terry and Gary Cahill on an identical 87 per cent rating with Blues fans, while César Azpilicueta, on 85 per cent rating ranks just ahead of Arsenal’s Laurent Koscielny (83 per cent), with Gibbs (55 per cent) much further behind.
All of the defenders chosen had relatively high ratings (apart from Arsenal’s Gibbs) so it’s clear that both sets of fans knew their best back four. As with the goalkeepers, José Mourinho and Wenger selected identical lineups in defence to the fans.
Mourinho has no injury concerns in defence, but with Sagna now at Manchester City and Nacho Monreal and Mathieu Debuchy sidelined for this game, the pressure is on Wenger to pick a solid back four.
Midfielders: Arsenal Fans and Wenger both singing from same hymn sheet
Chelsea’s most popular player, Lampard (now at Man City) and Mikel Arteta (Arsenal) shared top billing in the popularity stakes in midfield, selected for the lineup by every Chelsea and Arsenal fan (respectively) playing the Beat Your Manager game. Chelsea’s Oscar was the next most-popular, polling 90 per cent approval for the lineup, with Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla (83 per cent) and Tomáš Rosický (79 per cent) grouped just behind on 79 per cent.
Nemanja Matić was Chelsea’s third-ranked midfielder, on 71 per cent while Oxlade-Chamberlain just squeezed into the Arsenal fans lineup, on 66 per cent.
Mourinho left Lampard on the bench for this game and instead fielded David Luiz (34 per cent fan rating; now at PSG) in a defensive midfield position, but otherwise went with the fans. Wenger and Arsenal fans again were on the same wavelength, picking all same four players
Forwards: Which set of strikers will be celebrating at the weekend?
Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud was the most popular forward (and jointly Arsenal’s most-popular player with Szczęsny and Arteta), winning the votes of every Gunner playing the Beat Your Manager! game.
Chelsea’s Hazard was the 2nd-most popular forward, rating 90 per cent with the Blues.
Lukas Podolski (76 per cent) and Fernando Torres (66 per cent) were pretty closely rated by their respective fans, with Schürrle taking up the 3rd forward spot for Chelsea, with a below-average 47 per cent fan rating.
As with the rest of the squad, Wenger again agreed with the fans, fielding the same two forwards. Mourinho started Eto’o in place of Torres and the Cameroonian had an eventful 10 minutes of play, scoring a goal after 5 minutes, before limping off with a hamstring injury 5 minutes later and being substituted for the Spaniard.
Last season this fixture was all about Arsenal’s sloppy defending, poor refereeing, Chelsea’s rampant attacking midfield and clinical finishing from strikers. It’s unlikely that Wenger will allow his side to be so dominated again, but Chelsea’s relentless form this season is giving many Managers pause for thought.