Arsene Wenger has called on his defence to keep their discipline when challenged by Chelsea as it is vital to keep 11 men on the field. Arsenal welcome their London rivals to the Emirates Stadium looking to beat them in the Premier League for the first time since October 2011.
Andre Villas-Boas was the Blues boss at the time and since then Wenger has come up against Roberto Di Matteo, Rafael Benitez, Jose Mourinho and Guus Hiddink. Last season, Arsenal ended the 2-0 defeat to Mourinho’s side at Stamford Bridge with nine men after both Gabriel and Santi Cazorla were sent off.
Hiddink was in charge by the time the pair met again at Arsenal – where Per Mertesacker saw red in a 1-0 loss. Costa was involved in a spat which saw Gabriel dismissed and was then hauled down by Mertesacker in the second meeting – scoring the only goal of the game at the Emirates shortly afterwards. Wenger knows his defence, with Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi likely to start against Antonio Conte’s men, need to stick to their game and not be tempted into a battle with Costa.
Asked how his defence can face up against the Spain international, he replied: “By being completely cold-blooded and just focus on the game and not respond. Just try to negate his qualities and his game.
“You need to be committed but by respecting the rules of the game and responding. Last year we were a bit unlucky at Chelsea to be down to 10 men because we got a red card and it was rescinded after. “In the other game, we deserved the red card because we were caught on a quality run by him.”
Wenger admits he has also discussed discipline with his players following their recent run of cards against Chelsea. “We talk about that because in the last two games, we’ve played against Chelsea with 10 men,” he said. “Of course for the result it will be important the way we play football, but as well the way we behave, because discipline and results are strongly linked and the results we’ve had in the last two games are that we couldn’t play 11 against 11.”