Arsene Wenger will attempt to make it 13th time lucky this weekend when his Arsenal side welcome Chelsea to the Emirates. This has long been a fixture laced with intrigue and hostility. Not only do Wenger and his Chelsea counterpart Jose Mourinho famously dislike one another and physically clashed on the touchline last October, but former Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas has also stirred up controversy with a pointed remark about Arsenal's lack of silverware in the league since the 2003/4 season.
Arsenal currently occupy second spot behind Mourinho's side, but a 10-point gap between the two means that only bragging rights are at stake for the victor. Mourinho famously called Wenger a "specialist in failure" last season, referring to Arsenal's continued trophy-less endeavours. It is surprising that former Arsenal captain Fabregas, however, should wade into the long-running spat. Perhaps he is resentful of the fact Arsenal overlooked him when he returned to the #Premier League from Barcelona, or perhaps he feels his time at Arsenal was misspent as he left without a trophy or a title to his name. In reality, the Spaniard has been pivotal to Chelsea's success this term and looks set to win his first Premier League title in his first season back in the UK.
After eight fruitless seasons in the Premier League, it seems Fabregas is now only too ready to criticise his former club whilst on the verge of winning the title with another. "We want to give satisfaction to the supporters. It's been five years for them (Chelsea) without winning the title; for me it's been 27 years so I'd love to win it as soon as possible."
On the up in North London
Although Wenger has yet to get the better of Mourinho in 12 attempts, the North London club are the form side in the league currently. But this is typical Arsenal, off to a stuttering start then hitting their stride in the second half of the season. But given City's implosion and a United squad still rebuilding following Alex Ferguson's departure, this time around it seems luck favours the Gunners. Given their recent run of results and the form of players like Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez, confidence is running high. Add the fact that they are through to the FA Cup final to defend the trophy they won last season, and things are looking rosy in North London.
Although this weekend's result will have no bearing on the outcome of title race, it would signal huge intent from Arsenal about their future credentials. Chelsea need just three more points from their remaining fixtures to claim their first league title since the 2009/10 season, and could be crowned champions as early as next Wednesday following their match against Leicester. Though a league win for Arsenal is still mathematically possible, Wenger and co. will be satisfied just to win this game rather than looking to any fixtures following. Wenger said this week that he is ready for the "test" he faces when coming up against his old foe, and said "we have not always lost in 12 attempts. We have come close to beating them a few times and they have always had very strong teams."
But there is far more at stake here than three points. For Wenger, it is a chance to finally get the better of the Portuguese protagonist. For Fabregas, it is the chance to claim the Premier League title that eluded him for eight seasons at Arsenal and to vindicate his move to Chelsea rather than a return to the Emirates. And for Mourinho, it is yet another step towards a beating the points haul he managed when winning his first Premier League title, and yet another reason to crow over his great rival Arsene Wenger.