LONDON: Arsenal's players are being warned not to let their recent fractious history with Chelsea impact on -tomorrow's (Saturday's) London derby following four red cards - and not a single win - in their last five Premier League meetings.
For all their problems last season, Chelsea retained their impeccable record against Arsenal with two wins in matches that were largely decided by Arsene Wenger's team having a player dismissed in the first half.
There was a particular sense of injustice over Gabriel's red card at Stamford Bridge following Diego Costa's provocation but his indiscipline was still costly, as has also been the case with Per Mertesacker, Santi Cazorla and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, whose handball two years ago resulted in the mistaken dismissal of Kieran Gibbs.
Wenger has also struggled to keep his cool on the sidelines against Chelsea, although the -departure of Jose Mourinho should have a calming influence on the -Arsenal manager tomorrow. Even so, it is being drilled into the Arsenal players that they cannot react to any provocation and that they must retain their focus and discipline. "It'd be nice to keep 11 men on the pitch against Chelsea this time round," said Oxlade-Chamberlain. "It's always a big clash with a lot of emotions and maybe some mind games. It's a massive game and we just need to keep our discipline and stay in the game. It's going to be a big occasion but we can't get too caught up in it.
"The crowd will be massive and I'm sure the atmosphere will be great. It always is for the big games and we've got to use that to our -advantage."
Oxlade-Chamberlain is expected to drop down to the bench tomorrow despite his goal in the Capital One Cup win against Nottingham Forest, with Wenger likely to change all 11 players and revert to the team that beat Hull City 4-1 in the Premier League last week. -Olivier Giroud will have a late fitness test but Aaron Ramsey is again likely to miss out.
Wenger reaches the landmark of 20 years as Arsenal manager on Oct 1 and the club will wait until nearer the anniversary before marking the achievement. The attitude of Wenger is that he wants as little fuss as possible and certainly not around a game but the club are likely to make some sort of presentation internally at the back end of next week.
Wenger is putting off any decision about his own -future until later in the season and retains the support of the club's two largest shareholders, Stan Kroenke and Alisher Usmanov. They both remain adamant about the long-term nature of their investment -despite Aliko Dangote's latest claim yesterday that he is lining up a huge offer.
Dangote, who is reputed to be worth pounds 8.3?billion and is Africa's richest man, has suggested that he is looking at a timescale of "three to four years" to realise his ambition at Arsenal once he overcomes difficulties in his other business ventures. "The issue is that we have more challenging headwinds. I need to get those out the way first and start having tailwinds. Then I'll focus on this," Dangote told Bloomberg.