Back to the bridge now for the fourth instalment of the Chelsea-Arsenal derby this season. The occasion this time, the first leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final.

Bristol City played well in the other semi-final, but failed to upset Manchester City at the Etihad. If there was going to be a surprise at Stamford Bridge, it would be one of the teams actually winning the game – every time Chelsea and Arsenal have met this season, once in the Community Shield (1 – 1), twice in the league (0 – 0 & 2 – 2), it’s ended up a draw.

Another weird Chelsea-Arsenal 2017/18 fact – it’s been a pretty good fixture for full backs. Four of the six goals in their games so far this season were scored by full backs: Victor Moses, Sead Kolasinac, Marcos Alonso and Hector Bellerin. […]

The great thing about rotation, when it’s done properly, it gives players with a point to prove their long-awaited chance… to prove their point. All five goals were scored by Chelsea players that have spent more time on the bench this season than on the pitch – and they showed today they’re more than just backups.

And maybe it was the quality of the opposition, but Chelsea also showed vastly improved finishing compared with their previous games. They had a 42% conversion rate today versus 13% against Southampton, 0% v Everton and 25% v Brighton & Hove Albion. It helped to avoid shooting straight at the keeper maybe.

The most important stat though: Manchester United drew with Southampton after Romelu Lukaku was stretchered off injured, so Chelsea ended 2017 second in the league! Yeah it’s just halfway through and City are too far ahead, but it’s not bad for a transitional season. At least so far. Well done to Antonio Conte, the players and the board.

And Happy New Year everyone! […]

Back to West London now, after two road trips to West Ham and Huddersfield. Chelsea’s opponents today: Southampton FC, fresh off a 4 – 1 home defeat to Leicester City. The game before though, Southampton managed a creditable 1 – 1 draw v Arsenal, who were in seventh place. They would not be pushovers today, by any means.

Chelsea (and Antonio Conte) were in game two of a “small ball” experiment. Even though Alvaro Morata was unavailable v Huddersfield, Michy Batshuayi was left on the bench. Today, both Michy and Alvaro were ready to play, but Conte started the same small, mobile attacking three as the previous game: Willian on the left, Pedro on the right, Eden Hazard in the center.

Mauricio Pellegrino rotated in Wesley Hoedt and Manolo Gabbiadini for Virgil van Dijk and Charlie Austin. Gary Cahill replaced Antonio Rudiger, who’d played well against Huddersfield, but maybe could have done more to prevent their late goal. N’golo Kante and Tiemoue Bakayoko were the two midfielders in Chelsea’s 3-4-3 today, so Cesc Fabregas was on the bench second game in a row. […]

Freezing weather, pouring rain, unbelievably enthusiastic home crowd, good times! It was a quick return to action in the Premier League. Chelsea played Huddersfield Town in their second away game in four days.

Chelsea had lost their last game against West Ham United. They started too slowly, the opposition scored and for the first time in the league since October, they couldn’t find their way back into the game. West Ham had ended an unbeaten run in which Chelsea had banked 19 of 21 available points.

Fortunately for Chelsea though, the teams around them weren’t able to take advantage. Manchester United lost their derby, Liverpool drew theirs, and Arsenal were held by Southampton.

Despite recent losses to Everton, Arsenal and Manchester City, Huddersfield were enjoying a pretty good start to their Premier League season. The two-nil win v Brighton in their last game had lifted them to twelfth place in the league, level on points with Southampton. […]

Last chance Tuesday in UEFA Champions League Group C. Last chance for Atletico de Madrid to avoid joining Arsenal in Europe’s second tier. Last chance for AS Roma to claim top spot in one of this season’s toughest CL groups. Last chance for Chelsea to duck a January clash with Barcelona or PSG in the first knockout stage.

All three clubs needed a win to secure their objective, but Roma were the most likely to get that result in their home game v FK Qarabag.

Yes, Chelsea had beaten Atletico the last time these two teams met. But after a difficult run of seven low-scoring draws in nine games, including two shock draws with Qarabag, Atletico had rediscovered their touch in front of goal. They’d now scored twelve goals and conceded only one in four consecutive wins against Roma, Levante, Elche and Real Sociedad.

Chelsea had experienced troubles too, but they were back in form now with five wins from six games since the start of November, fourteen goals scored and only two conceded. This was going to be a quality game between two great football clubs. […]

The ones that get away… they always come back to haunt you don’t they? First Kevin de Bruyne with Manchester City, now Mohamed Salah with Liverpool. Maybe it’s Romelu Lukaku at OT next.

And as well as Alvaro Morata, Chelsea’s record signing has played this season, as many goals as he has scored, de Bruyne has played better and more consistently for City, and Salah has scored far more goals for Liverpool even though he’s not even a striker.

Chelsea signed them for relatively little but never really gave them a chance, even when there were signs of the player they might become. Hopefully the club have learned their lesson now. […]

Chelsea faced Manchester United for the first time in the 2017-18 season. The visitors were trying to keep pace with runaway leaders Manchester City. The hosts needed to recover some dignity after being taken apart in Rome Tuesday night.

There had been stories during the week about Conte reading his players the riot act, training ground bust-ups – influential center back David Luiz was not even on the bench for this game. Was Conte losing the dressing room? Would player power claim yet another brilliant manager’s job at Stamford Bridge? Or would Antonio be able to provoke a positive reaction against one of the biggest teams in the league? […]

Roma lined up in a 4-3-3 with Stephan El Sharaawy, Edin Dzeko and Diego Perotti up top.

Chelsea reverted to their familiar 3-4-3 with Rudiger, Luiz and Cahill in center back, and Cesar Azpilicueta shifted out to right back. Cesc Fabregas and Tiemoue Bakayoko started in midfield.

It was a slightly less compact, defensive setup than expected from Chelsea – they were away from home and top of the group – Roma needed a win much more than they did.

Either way, Antonio Conte would soon find out whether or not it was right tactical setup for this game. […]

Six games played. Five wins and one draw, still unbeaten. Twenty-one goals scored but only two conceded, one each in two separate games. Four clean sheets overall. Sixteen goals scored in their last three games against Liverpool, Watford and Crystal Palace, zero conceded. Manchester City were the undisputed goal kings of the EPL.

More importantly from their perspective, they were no longer conceding silly, morale-sapping goals and unnecessarily dropping points, like they were last season. And like Arsene Wenger, Pep Guardiola was enjoying the benefits of duplicating Chelsea’s stabilizing defensive tactic under Antonio Conte, defending and initiating play through three center backs, one of whom was a converted full back. […]

Chelsea were away to Stoke City in their sixth Premier League game of the season. It wasn’t exactly the proverbial cold Monday night at Stoke, but given the context of Chelsea’s feckless, disappointing goalless draw against Arsenal, this could easily have been a very tricky fixture for them.

Stoke have been a tough, physical side in defence for many years. But in a sign of changing times in the premier league, they – and many other mid-table EPL teams – now also have pretty good quality up front. They’re still the Stoke of Charlie Adam and Ryan Shawcross, but now they also have players like Saido Berahino, Maxim Choupo-Moting, Mame Biram Diouf, ex-Bayern Munich winger Xherdan Shaqiri, and Alvaro Morata’s former Real Madrid teammate Jese Rodriguez. […]