Football News

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta lauds defensive solidity before Chelsea showdown

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 20:00, 22 April 2024

Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta has reserved special praise for his defence ahead of their Premier League clash against Chelsea.

Heading into this latest London derby, the Gunners ran out 2-0 winners over Wolves, a much-needed success following back-to-back defeats against Bayern Munich and Aston Villa, which saw them eliminated from the Champions League and denting their Premier League title hopes.

The result also saw Arsenal record their 15th clean sheet of the 2023/24 season, five more than the next best Everton and Newcastle; furthermore, they’ve kept a shutout in their last six Premier League away games. Only Chelsea in December 2008 and Manchester United in February 2009 (both seven) have enjoyed such long runs in the competition’s history.

“That’s a very difficult thing to do as a team and especially in this league,” Arteta told Arsenal Media.

“Big credit to the boys because that gives us a huge platform to win football matches. Now we have another big one, a big London derby against a great team that are in good form, in front of our people. Let’s do it.”

Chelsea, languishing in ninth place following another difficult campaign, will sternly examine Arteta’s backline. Mauricio Pochettino’s side have registered at least two goals in their last six Premier League fixtures (19 goals), with Cole Palmer responsible for 13 (ten goals and three assists).

Arguably this season’s best acquisition, Palmer is doubtful, though he’s scored twice in two previous outings, albeit both were unsuccessful, most notably in this season’s curtain raiser, which saw Arsenal triumph over Manchester City on penalties.

His manager has never won a Premier League away game against Arsenal, drawing four and losing three of Pochettino’s seven league visits to the Emirates Stadium with Southampton and Tottenham.

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This will also be Arsenal’s third-from-last meeting with a fellow ‘big six’ club this season. They’re unbeaten in their seven previous showdowns, having accumulated 13 points out of 21 available.

However, only two clean sheets were kept, while an average of one goal was conceded per game. The most recent shutout came at Manchester City, where Arsenal’s defensive performance was universally applauded.

However, not everyone was impressed, with former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho — who first met a young Arteta in 1996 while serving as Barcelona’s assistant manager — not understanding the fuss.

“I am happy because I like the kid,” he told The Telegraph. “And I am happy everything goes for him. But the way they [Arsenal] played to get that point – and the way the media spoke about a magic strategy.

“In my time, it was not a magic strategy. And I won at Manchester City a few times. But it was not an amazing strategy. It was a defensive game. Park the bus. Park the double bus. It was a different perspective.”

Mourinho will undoubtedly be keeping an eye on events at the Emirates Stadium, with the Gunners having lost just one of their last eight Premier League games against Chelsea (five wins and two draws), while their current four-game unbeaten run is their longest against the Blues in the league since a 19-game streak between 1995 and 2005.