Nemanja Matic has warned that Arsenal will face a very different Chelsea when they visit Stamford Bridge for Saturday’s clash of Premier League title rivals.
Arsenal swept aside a lacklustre Chelsea 3-0 when the two teams met at Emirates Stadium in September — a defeat and performance that prompted Antonio Conte’s decision to shift his team to a 3-4-3 system.
Chelsea responded by embarking on a record-equalling run of 13 consecutive victories that took them clear at the top of the Premier League and, despite Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Liverpool at Anfield, Conte’s men go into the Arsenal match with a nine-point lead over second-placed Tottenham.
“You can lose a game but the most important thing is how you react and in that game against Arsenal, we didn’t react on the pitch well,” Matic told the Evening Standard after the Liverpool draw. “I’m sure it will be a different story on Saturday. We lost the last game 3-0 and when you lose a match like that playing for this kind of club, it’s very hard to accept.
“It’s unusual for us to lose without a fight. For example, we lost against Tottenham [2-0 on Jan. 4] but you could feel on the pitch that Spurs were not that much better than us.
“I’m sure they deserved more when we beat them 2-1 at Stamford Bridge [on Nov. 26] — they played better there than in the last game they won against us. But at that moment against Arsenal, we had a bad day and they played well.”
Asked if the Chelsea players are viewing Saturday’s match as an opportunity to put things right against Arsenal, Matic replied: “Of course. We want to see where we are and where they are [as a team]. We will try to win because we are at home. They also have qualities and will try to find opportunities.
“But I’m sure that we are ready, mentally and physically, and I’m sure the supporters will enjoy this game.
“I hoped [the Arsenal defeat in September] was going to be a wake-up call for us and it was. After that match we won 13 games in a row. Sometimes you have to lose a game to wake up and I’m sure we will not allow any more defeats like that one. You can lose a game but not in that way.”
Liam is ESPN FC’s Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.