What has gone wrong for Antonio Conte and Chelsea against Arsenal of late?
LONDON -- Chelsea rightly go into their two-legged Carabao Cup semifinal tie with Arsenal as favourites, but Antonio Conte's record against the Gunners gives reason for pause. The Italian has beaten Arsene Wenger just once in six matches in all competitions over the last two seasons, losing two trophies in the process.
Misfortune, indiscipline and underperformance have all played significant roles in the run. ESPN FC takes a look back at what has gone wrong for Conte's men in the five games they have failed to win against Arsenal, and what they may need to improve if they want to beat their London rivals at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
Arsenal 3-0 Chelsea, Sept. 2016
It proved to be the defeat that set Chelsea on the path to winning last season's Premier League title, but at the time it felt like a grim sign for Conte's survival prospects. Arsenal ripped through the Blues' unconvincing 4-3-3 system, scoring twice in 14 minutes and three times in the first half. Gary Cahill gifted Alexis Sanchez the opening goal, N'Golo Kante was lost in an unfamiliar holding position that required him to impersonate Claude Makelele, and Branislav Ivanovic and Cesc Fabregas were made to look slow and obsolete. Conte made the fateful switch to a 3-4-3 at half-time. Marcos Alonso came in, Fabregas shifted to the role of impact substitute and Ivanovic never started another Premier League game.
Arsenal 2-1 Chelsea, May 2017
Confirmed as dominant Premier League champions, Chelsea approached the FA Cup final as clear favourites, but it was Arsenal who started like the team with more to prove at Wembley. The Gunners' superior intensity and desire was obvious before Sanchez scored a controversial opener in the fourth minute. The real Chelsea only arrived in the second half, undermined by Victor Moses' correct dismissal for diving in the penalty area but led by a Diego Costa all too aware that this was his final match in a blue shirt. The Spain international levelled the score 14 minutes from the end, but Aaron Ramsey immediately capitalised on a concentration lapse in Chelsea's defence to win the game -- and deny Conte a famous double.
Chelsea 1-1 Arsenal (Arsenal win 4-1 on penalties), Aug. 2017
Perhaps with the FA Cup final loss fresh in his mind, Conte picked a strong team to face an Arsenal side without Sanchez or Mesut Ozil in the Community Shield. After absorbing early pressure, Chelsea took control, edging in front a minute after half-time when Moses pounced on Gary Cahill's flick to fire past Petr Cech. In the end, it was indiscipline that cost Chelsea victory; Pedro was shown a straight red card for planting his studs onto the heel of Mohamed Elneny and from the resulting free kick, Sead Kolasinac was allowed the freedom of Wembley by the Blues defence to head in the equaliser from six yards out in the 82nd minute. Thibaut Courtois and Alvaro Morata both missed penalties in the new "ABBA" shootout format to complete the Gunners' comeback.
Chelsea 0-0 Arsenal, Sept. 2017
In recent years, it became a familiar sight to witness Chelsea cementing their superiority over Arsenal by physically dominating them all over the pitch. When the Gunners came to Stamford Bridge, however, the dynamic was reversed. Wenger's men imposed themselves from the outset, pressing the Blues into mistakes and pushing them back, with Kolasinac in particular winning his individual battle against Moses emphatically. Arsenal missed the game's best chance when Alexandre Lacazette blasted over after Ramsey had struck the post, but still claimed a first point at Stamford Bridge in six years. Chelsea's miserable afternoon was complete when David Luiz was sent off in the 87th minute for a reckless tackle on Kolasinac.
Arsenal 2-2 Chelsea, Jan. 2018
It was one of the best Premier League matches of the season so far, and one that highlighted the weaknesses of both teams. Chelsea sat back in a 3-5-2 formation, content to let Arsenal have more possession and pick their moments to attack as directly as possible. As a strategy it was solid, but in practice it was undermined by Tiemoue Bakayoko's failure to keep track of Ozil, who repeatedly drifted into pockets of space and created many of the Gunners' most dangerous moments. Courtois had to come to the rescue on several occasions but Arsenal's defence were more generous, gifting Morata one totally free run at Cech's goal in each half. If the Spain international had been in a clinical mood Chelsea would have been victorious despite their defensive flaws, but Conte will have to ensure his team does a better job of stifling Arsenal's key threats if he wants to reach the Carabao Cup final.
Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.