Chelsea’s Last 10 managers and their maiden game against Arsenal
It’s been quite a ride, Chelsea and Abramovich; the ups and downs, the heartbreaks and the heart-warming moments, the Andriy Shevchenko and the Didier Drogba, and a lot of mails that say ‘you’re fired’ (we assume). The Russian’s ownership of the club has torn through 10 managers (yes, including Avram Grant), and Maurizio Sarri is the 11th at the helm. And this weekend, Sarri and his Sarri-ball, still at its infancy stage at Stamford Bridge, welcome Arsenal to SW6, his third game of the season (if you include the Community Shield).
So, because we here have nothing better to do, we take a look at the past 10 managers of the Blues and their first (league) games against the Gunners:
Note: This is the first game of Chelsea’s managers against Arsenal, not the first game of their managerial tenures at the Bridge, hence Jose Mourinho circa 2013 and Guus Hiddink circa 2016 won’t be included.
Claudio Ranieri- Arsenal 1-1 Chelsea (January 2001)
Claudio Ranieri was appointed as Chelsea manager on the 18th of September 2000, 12 days after Chelsea’s first meeting with Arsenal that season, when the Blues conceded twice in the final 14 minutes to throw away a two-goal lead. Hence, the Tinkerman’s first game for the Blues against Arsenal was in January of the following year, when Robert Pires gave the Gunners the perfect start at Highbury, with a goal inside three minutes. But Chelsea roared back to leave with a point, thanks to an equaliser from John Terry just past the hour mark. One-all it finished, and Chelsea finished the season in sixth place, earning a then-commendable UEFA Cup spot.
Jose Mourinho- Arsenal 2-2 Chelsea (December 2004)
Ranieri didn’t last long under Emperor Roman, just one season and the Italian was binned. In came a young Jose Mourinho, fresh from running the length of the Old Trafford sidelines, as well as winning the Champions League with Porto. His first game against the Gunners also came at Highbury, in December of 2004, when the league leaders visited the champions. Arsenal wasted little time in flying out of the blocks, Thierry Henry with an immaculate control and finish, past a standing Petr Cech, to give the Gunners an early lead. Chelsea didn’t take long to respond, though, John Terry again, his header from Arjen Robben’s corner restoring parity, but Arsenal would go into the break ahead, Henry with a quick free-kick that caught Cech and Chelsea out. Again, the Blues would hit back, early in the second half, through Eidur Gudjohnsen. Chances and attempts weren’t non-existent afterwards, Robben struck the side-netting after a mazy run, while Henry skied a shot over, eight yards from a gaping goal, but it would finish level, Chelsea steamrollering their way to the league title with 95 points, 12 ahead of the Gunners in second place.
Avram Grant- Arsenal 1-0 Chelsea (December 2007)
Mourinho too would be gone, by September of 2007, with Avram Grant quite inexplicably put in charge until the end of the season. Grant’s first game against the Gunners would come at the Emirates three months later, a game which was decided by a header from former Chelsea defender and then-Arsenal skipper William Gallas on the stroke of halftime, thanks in no small part to an error from Petr Cech. Arsenal spent most of the embers of the second period passing up chances to kill off the game, but held out for the win which kept them as pacesetters in the league then. Chelsea would eventually finish above them, but both had to settle for a spot below champions Manchester United.
Luis Felipe Scolari- Chelsea 1-2 Arsenal (December 2008)
Just about a year later, Chelsea’s newest manager, World Cup winner Luis Felipe Scolari, was to come face-to-face with Arsenal for the first time. Up until a month earlier, Chelsea had a record of been unbeaten at home in the league for four years, a run that spanned 86 games, and was ended by Liverpool. Chelsea made the breakthrough against the Gunners, Johan Djourou unfortunate enough to score an own goal, but a double from Robin van Persie ensured an Arsenal turnaround and Arsene Wenger’s side left with all three points. For Scolari, that was his only meeting with the Gunners as Chelsea boss, the Brazilian got his p45 in February of the following year.
Guus Hiddink- Arsenal 1-4 Chelsea (May 2009)
Dutchman Hiddink was Scolari’s replacement at the Bridge, juggling his responsibilities with the Russian national team alongside his temporary role at Chelsea. Hiddink had met, and beaten, Arsenal in the FA Cup semi-final less than a month before their league meeting at the Emirates. In what was Arsenal’s last chance to have a shot at third place that season, Chelsea entered the break with a two-goal lead, a header from Alex and a pile-driver from Nicolas Anelka giving them a margin for error. Two became three in the second half, Kolo Toure turning Florent Malouda’s cross into his own net, while Malouda himself would add a fourth, either side of Nicklas Bendtner grabbing a goal back for the Gunners.
Carlo Ancelotti- Arsenal 0-3 Chelsea (November 2009)
It was the last day of November in 2009, and the first game against Arsenal as Chelsea boss for Carlo Ancelotti, who took his league leaders to the Emirates. In what had become archetypal of this fixture at that time, despite Arsenal having dominated proceedings and getting the lion’s share of possession, it was Chelsea who’d take the lead, Didier Drogba turning home Ashley Cole’s cross. Chelsea doubled that advantage soon after, another Cole cross, this time it was Thomas Vermaelen who diverted the ball into his own goal, before Drogba added the gloss on the scoreline with a superb free-kick after halftime, as the eventual champions of that season strolled to a comfortable victory.
Andre Villas-Boas- Chelsea 3-5 Arsenal (October 2011)
Ancelotti also headed for the door marked ‘Do One’ soon enough, and like in 2004, an Italian was replaced by a young Portuguese coming off the back of European success. Andre Villas-Boas was the new man at the Bridge then, and less than three months into the new league season, the 33-year-old gaffer was playing host to Arsenal in the league. The Gunners had started to pick themselves up at that point after a rotten start, winning two league games in a row, after achieving that same number of wins in their previous seven games, the most notable of those an 8-2 thrashing at Old Trafford. Chelsea, meanwhile, hit a reef of their own, coming into this game off the back a defeat to West London rivals Queens Park Rangers, but got on the front foot early on here, and took a deserved lead through the head of Frank Lampard. Arsenal responded soon after through Robin van Persie, but Chelsea would go into the break in front, John Terry bundling home a Lampard corner. Arsenal responded again, in the second half, via Andre Santos, before Theo Walcott put the Gunners in front, then Juan Mata dragged the scoreline to 3-3 with 10 minutes left. Chelsea sensed a win, but an over-hit pass from Florent Malouda and a slip by Terry let in Van Persie, who rounded Petr Cech and rolled the ball into an unguarded net. Van Persie would complete his hatrick in stoppage time, for a 5-3 win, that marked the beginning of the end at Chelsea for AVB, who would be sacked in March.
Roberto Di Matteo- Arsenal 0-0 Chelsea (April 2012)
AVB’s assistant at the start of the season, Di Matteo took temporary charge after the Portuguese was binned, and the Italian’s highlights included that stunning second leg comeback in last 16 of the UEFA Champions League against Napoli, that famous 2-2 draw in the semi-final second leg against Barcelona, and of course the triumph in the Champions League final against Bayern Munich in their opponents’ own stadium. But his first game as Chelsea boss against Arsenal is one that lives in the memory of few. In fact, the only thing Spotkick can recall from this game was that Robin van Persie was booked for a foul on Michael Essien. That’s enough about that.
Rafael Benitez- Chelsea 2-1 Arsenal (January 2013)
Di Matteo would be given the Chelsea job on a permanent basis after his triumph in Munich, and if that was a ploy for the manager to be sacked, it worked out perfectly, as the former Chelsea midfielder was gone by November. In came, much to ire of Blues fans, Rafa Benitez, until the end of the season. Less than two months in, on a pouring afternoon at Stamford Bridge, Benitez faced Arsenal. Goals from Juan Mata and Frank Lampard- from the spot- gave the Blues a 2-0 halftime lead, and despite Theo Walcott pulling one back for the Gunners after the interval, Chelsea held out for the win, on their way to finishing the season in third, one place and two points above Arsenal.
Antonio Conte- Arsenal 3-0 Chelsea (September 2016)
Two months into the new Premier League season, and it had begun to look uncomfortable for Antonio Conte at Chelsea, a draw at Swansea was followed up by a defeat at home to Liverpool. Next up, a trip to the Emirates. Conte’s first game against the Gunners had just about the worst first half you could think of, Gary Cahill’s error letting in Alexis Sanchez, who dinked one Thibaut Courtois and gave Arsenal the lead; then Walcott added a quick-fire second minutes after. Mesut Ozil added a third, just before halftime. In the second half, Conte reverted to a back-three, and Chelsea didn’t concede in the league again until late November, and went on a run of 13 straight wins, on their way to the title; so in hindsight, that first-half hammering was a good thing.