Monday 18 December 2017

Arsene Wenger tells defenders to be 'completely cold-blooded' in dealings with Diego Costa

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger

Mark Mann-Bryans

Arsene Wenger has called on his defence to be "completely cold-blooded" and to keep their discipline when challenged by Chelsea and Diego Costa on Saturday.

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.

And 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 Last year we were a bit unlucky at Chelsea to be down to 10 men because we got a red card and it was rescinded after.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 tomorrow 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."

Having lost on the opening weekend to Liverpool before a goalless draw at champions Leicester, Arsenal have won their next three Premier League games and also battled to a 1-1 Champions League draw at Paris St Germain.

And Wenger wants to use Conte's Chelsea as a measuring stick to see how good his side are at present.

"It is an important game for us because we feel we are on the way up and Chelsea is a good test and a good opportunity for us to continue our progress," he added.

"I would like to think that we have improved and that's what we have to show. Last year we finished second in the league and the first team was Leicester.

"We have narrowed the distance between us and all the other teams but it's a new start. It's a new opportunity for everybody and we have to show that we can continue our progress."

The Gunners will be without Aaron Ramsey for the game after Wenger confirmed the Wales midfielder is still missing with a hamstring problem which is likely to keep him out of the next round of international fixtures.

Olivier Giroud faces a late fitness test as he looks to overcome a toe injury to be involved, while Wenger is expected to make wholesale changes having named a completely different starting XI for Tuesday's EFL Cup win at Nottingham Forest.

Press Association

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