Arsenal face Chelsea in a huge London derby this weekend, with both teams trailing behind the leaders Manchester City and desperate not to lose more ground. Kevin Hatchard brings us his best bets...
"Arsenal are yet to deliver a convincing performance at the Emirates this season, and their recent record against Chelsea is appalling."
Arsenal v Chelsea
Saturday September 24, 17:30
Live on BT Sport
In an era of trigger-happy chairmen and owners who thirst for instant success, Arsene Wenger's 20-year reign at Arsenal stands out as a delightful anomaly. The man who revolutionised both Arsenal in particular and to an extent English football in general still stands at his post, even though the Premier League title has eluded him since 2004.
Wenger's tenure will always be a subject of fierce debate. Could he have won more league titles, despite the supposed financial restrictions that emerged from the stadium move? Why did the Gunners consistently fail against elite European teams in the Champions League? Has Wenger been too stubborn, too wedded to his footballing philosophy, too careful with the club's resources?
Whatever your view, Wenger's survival for two decades in one of English football's most high-profile posts is testament to his fanatical dedication to the sport he loves, and few managers can have worked harder. As Wenger himself admits, the job is all-consuming. Coming for a pint, Arsene? No, I thought not.
So what of the current Arsenal side? The all-too familiar frailties were in evidence in a 4-3 home defeat to Liverpool, and it was followed by a goalless draw at the champions Leicester City. A trio of wins has got the Gunners moving, and they sit five points adrift of the flawless leaders Manchester City.
If Arsenal are to get a positive result, they must defy recent history. Opta tell us the north Londoners haven't beaten Chelsea in the last nine Premier League meetings between the sides, and they haven't even scored against them for six games. They haven't beaten the Blues at home since 2010, and their frustration has been shown by the fact they've picked up four red cards in their last five league meetings with the men from Stamford Bridge.
Aaron Ramsey is definitely out, while Olivier Giroud continues to struggle with a toe injury. Francis Coquelin is battling Granit Xhaka for a place in central midfield alongside Santi Cazorla.
Antonio Conte is a clever enough guy to have known what he was getting into when he chose to move to the Premier League, and he's certainly experienced the chaotic nature of English football in the past week or so. Chelsea were outplayed in a pulsating 2-1 home defeat by Liverpool, but they then found a way to turn a 2-0 deficit at Leicester City into a 4-2 win in the EFL Cup. Drama, tension and mayhem, just how we like it on our quirky little island.
After a draw at Swansea and defeat to Liverpool, Conte's Chelsea find themselves five points off the title pace. After last season's diabolical campaign, a top-four finish is presumably the primary target in Conte's debut year, but the Italian will demand more. He has proved himself a winner both as a player and a coach, and Opta tell us he hasn't gone three games without a win as a manager since March 2012.
Diego Costa will return to the starting XI after sitting out some of the cup match in midweek, and he has five Premier League goals in five outings this term. Cesc Fabregas is pushing for a start after his quickfire extra-time double downed Leicester, while skipper John Terry faces a late fitness test on an ankle injury.
Arsenal have been far from impressive at the Emirates so far, losing to Liverpool and scraping a win against Southampton. Comfortable away wins over Watford, Hull City and Nottingham Forest have merely reinforced Arsenal's reputation as flat-track bullies, and I agree with veteran manager Harry Redknapp's assessment that Chelsea are mentally stronger than Arsenal.
Arsenal's record against Chelsea in recent seasons is atrocious, and the visitors' price of 3.211/5 seems a massive over-reaction to their defeat to Liverpool. If we back Chelsea Draw No Bet at 2.35/4, we win if Chelsea win, and our stake is returned if the match is drawn.
Over/Under 2.5 Goals
There haven't been many goals in recent meetings between these two sides, mainly because Arsenal don't seem to be able to score against Chelsea. Seven of the last eight battles between the sides have seen an Under 2.5 Goals bet pay out, and that outcome is trading at 2.166/5. The argument against an unders bet is fuelled by the sides' results this season - four of Arsenal's five Premier League games have featured three goals or more, as have all five of Chelsea's league outings.
Given his form, Diego Costa has to be worth a look at 2.6813/8 to score in 90 minutes, with Eden Hazard another tempting option at 3.259/4. Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez has scored three Premier League goals in his last three appearances, and also grabbed a late equaliser at PSG in the Champions League - he's trading at 2.982/1.
Obviously referees are impartial, but there is a strange statistical quirk when we look at the record of Michael Oliver. Opta tell us Arsenal are winless in the last eight games Oliver has overseen, while Chelsea are unbeaten in the 13 games where he's had the whistle.
Back Chelsea Draw No Bet at 2.35/4
Back Diego Costa to score at 2.6813/8
Kevin Hatchard's Premier League P/L (1 pt per bet)
Points Staked: 7
Points Returned: 5.69
P/L: -1.31 points
Win a copy of 'Turf Wars' - a history of London football!
Arsenal v Chelsea is always a fiery affair but it is just one of many London derbies, with the capital home to no fewer than 13 league teams. Football journalist Steve Tongue has explored the history of London football in his new book, Turf Wars, and we have a copy to give away to a lucky B.B reader, thanks to our friends at @PitchPublishing. For the chance to win, simply e-mail Writers@Betfair.com and tell us when and where Chelsea played the first ever all-foreign XI in English football. Competition closes midnight Friday, standard T&Cs apply.