Bogeyman can inflict more pain on Arsenal

Chelsea striker Drogba has now shaken off malaria and aims to improve staggering record of 13 goals in 11 starts against the Gunners tomorrow

There was not much that Jose Mourinho failed to achieve in his time at Chelsea, although for some reason he found beating Arsenal as tough as anything. Oddly, his variety of successors as manager have succeeded in that aim on a regular basis, so much so that the north London club would have to regard Chelsea these days as something of a bogey team: four defeats in a row and seven in the last eight meetings is the discouraging statistic for Arsène Wenger's squad to take into tomorrow night's important encounter at the Emirates.

The story of those games has mostly been as familiar as the outcome: Arsenal play their pretty passing football, only to be brushed aside sooner or later by their opponents' physical power, summed up in the awesome figure of Didier Drogba.

When the Ivorian set his team on the way to their habitual win over Wenger's side at Stamford Bridge in October, it was his 13th goal in 11 starts against them. Arsenal, who remain particularly fallible in defence without the injured Thomas Vermaelen, can only hope that Drogba's recent bout of malaria has cost him a little sharpness although, according to Carlo Ancelotti, a fortnight without a match has enabled several Chelsea players, Drogba included, to return to something much closer to full match fitness.

"I have a feeling during training that the team is ready to come back to its best form again to win games," he said. "Drogba was one of the players who have used this time to improve his condition. He needed to work continuously day by day and he did this. He worked hard, in focus, with concentration, and I think that malaria is now a memory for him."

Ancelotti acknowledges that physical strength has been an advantage in the recent meetings, although he detects changes in Arsenal that are making them more competitive: "This year they have a different opportunity to score – [Marouane] Chamakh is a different player to what they had last season. Chamakh is able to play with the head, they can use more crosses. And because they improved their experience. One year more is good. It could be a different game."

Wenger would like to think so, even if his team's poor performance away to Manchester United in the previous match against championship rivals offered little encouragement. The manager was even forced to try making a positive out of his captain Cesc Fabregas's suggestion that they were "scared" of losing the game and consequently sat back too much instead of playing their football. "They had a bit more belief than us," Wenger conceded. "It's good that the players are conscious of that because when you are conscious about something, you can do something about it. That's why I believe it's a fair assessment. I'm not unhappy he has said that. The most important thing for the top-level teams and the top-level players is to have an honest and fair assessment of what happened with your performance. With that, you can correct it."

It is a reasonable assumption that emphasis on taking the game to the opposition will have featured in training sessions and team talks at London Colney this past week. Playing at home should make it easier to put into practice; and it is worth noting that Arsenal have already had to play away this season to Chelsea, United, Manchester City and Liverpool.

Not that Wenger accepts his team are mentally or physically frail: "The Arsenal mentality is fantastic and very strong. This team is hungry and the players want success. It is more about belief, and belief comes by focusing on playing together and the way we want to play rather than thinking: 'can we beat Chelsea or not?' We can beat Chelsea but the best way is to focus on what we want to achieve."

Like Chelsea, Arsenal must play their next game 48 hours after this one, in their case at Wigan, followed by Birmingham away, Manchester City at home and then two cup ties. Of that run, a Carling Cup match would normally be insignificant, but a semi-final against Ipswich has taken on new importance for a club who are regularly reminded that they have not won anything for five years.

Ancelotti said of Wenger: "He is doing a very good job. I like to watch Arsenal play." When asked, however, if he would still be in a job if Chelsea went through as barren a period, he could not resist a smile and one of the understatements of the club's highly successful 2010: "I think it would be more difficult to stay here."

footballHe started just four months ago
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Arts and Entertainment
(L-R) Amanda Peet as Tina Morris, Melanie Lynskey as Michelle Pierson, Abby Ryder Fortson as Sophie Pierson, Mark Duplass as Brett Pierson and Steve Zissis as Alex Pappas in Togetherness
TV First US networks like HBO shook up drama - now it's comedy's turn
Pool with a view: the mMarina Bay Sands in Singapore
travel From Haiti and Alaska to Namibia and Iceland
The will of Helen Beatrix Heelis, better known as Beatrix Potter, was among those to be archived
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Nigel Farage: 'I don't know anybody in politics as poor as we are'
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect