The build-up for Arsenal’s visit to Premier League leaders Chelsea has been dominated by two players – former Gunner Cesc Fabregas facing his old club and the fitness of Diego Costa. But it’s a game that will be decided as much by the performances of John Terry and Per Mertesacker, the respective rocks in each defence.
Terry is a long-standing lynchpin at Stamford Bridge. The 33-year-old has spent almost his entire career with Chelsea – a brief loan at Nottingham Forest aside – and across his 600 games, has rarely been anything less than a fan’s favourite. Last season was one of Terry’s best, Chelsea conceding only 27 league goals, with the captain picking up 340 EuroFantasyLeague.com points, making him one of Europe’s 10 best defenders.
Mertesacker hasn’t always enjoyed hero status among the Gunners’ faithful. He was more of a figure of fun when he first arrived in 2011, a distinct lack of pace and discomfort on the ball leading to some shaky performances. But the Germany international has grown into the club to the point he is arguably Arsene Wenger’s first choice centre-back, as well as the subject of a memorable – if foul-mouthed – song from the Emirates Stadium stands.
Last season’s trip to Stamford Bridge was a harrowing one for Arsenal, going down to 10 men and losing 6-0. That in part explains why Mertesacker claimed only 245 EFL points despite keeping as many clean sheets – 16 – as Terry. Which side keeps a clean sheet on Sunday will determine where the points go as the Premier League table takes shape and with defences built around the commanding Terry and Mertesacker, the chances of either side routing the other are slim indeed.