Arsene Wenger is a fan of Diego Costa and has warned his defence they must be “cold-blooded” to deal with the Chelsea striker – who he says could do without the added theatrics which accompany his game.
Costa has proved a thorn in the side of Arsenal’s defence in recent times, including scoring the winner in the meeting between the two teams at the Emirates Stadium last season.
The London clubs renew their rivalry this evening with Arsenal looking for a first Premier League win over the Blues since October 2011.
Costa will lead the line for Chelsea having been involved in two flashpoints when the clubs met last year – firstly Gabriel was sent off at Stamford Bridge after tangling with the Spain forward before Per Mertesacker saw red for hauling him down in the game at the Emirates.
Constantly niggling and riling his opponents as become part of Costa’s game, with the 27-year-old lucky to escape to red cards already this season.
And, while Wenger admits he is an admirer of Costa, he feels he can be just as good if he removes the fiery aspect of his character.
“I like him as a player. I like the qualities of the player but all the rest around is not needed,” the Arsenal boss said.
“He is a fighter and you respect that.
“The rest is down to the referees to get the game and the rules respected.
“He’s a very strong player.
“He looks since the start of the season to have cleaned up his act, that he behaves more focused on the game. And that makes him more dangerous.”
Wenger, who said Costa was on his radar but he was caught out when the striker opted to leave Atletico Madrid for Stamford Bridge in 2014, has told his defence to remove the emotion from coming up against him this weekend.
Asked how his defence can face up against Costa, Wenger 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 Last year we were a bit unlucky at Chelsea to be down to 10 men because we got a red card and it was rescinded after.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.”
John Terry will remain sidelined for the game after failing to recover in time from an ankle injury.
The captain and central defender’s absence due to an ankle injury proved significant last Friday against Liverpool when they suffered their first defeat of the season.
There had been reports that Terry, who suffered the injury in the draw at Swansea on September 11, but Blues boss Antonio Conte said: “John hasn’t recovered from his injury.
“He’s working, working, but he hasn’t recovered for the game against Arsenal. I don’t know (when he will be back). In this case it’s important what the player feels, the pain he feels.
“It’s normal (that Terry wants to play). In the team and the squad we have three central defenders.
“It’s normal to make a choice. It’s normal when you are in a team like Chelsea to have this problem, but I don’t see any problem in this situation.
“This is a big game between two big rivals. It’s important to play a good game. Above all after our defeat against Liverpool. But we know that we’ll face a team, a good team, a big rival.
“I’m sure that Arsenal will fight until the end to win the title because they’re a very good team, (with) young players, great technique, good players with good physical potential and organisation.
“When there are these types of games, they’re very tough. It’s not necessary to push any player. These big games give great emotion and great expectation. For this reason the players are already motivated.
“(Chelsea) can improve a lot. It’s normal that, when you start work with a new team, and you bring a new idea or method of football, you need a bit of time.
“But I’m confident about this. We trust in the work. I know that we can improve a lot.”
At Leicester on Tuesday Cesc Fabregas produced a fine performance and scored two goals in a 4-2 EFL Cup victory to press his claims for a regular position in Conte’s starting XI.
The manager, however, refused to say he would be retained against his former team, and also revealed he expects Kurt Zouma to return to training next week as he recovers from injuring his anterior cruciate ligaments.
“For Cesc, it’s a special game for him,” he said. “But the most important thing is that, now, he’s a Chelsea player and playing very well for Chelsea.
“I’m seeing him very focused, very concentrated, during the training sessions. He played a good game in the cup. It can be the possibility that he can start but I have another day to make a decision.
“For Zouma, I hope to see him in the training sessions next week. He’s in good shape and I hope to see him next week in training, to start counting on him.
“Possibly (he will return after the international break). Possibly. Probably. We will wait one week more.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved