The Christmas presents haven't yet all been unwrapped, at least in regards to the football calendar where the action comes thick and fast across the new year.
Mikel Arteta’s second game of his managerial career couldn’t have provided a more tantalising prospect. The Spaniard has returned to Arsenal as head coach, the club he played for during the twilight years of his career and the former Gunners captain is now preparing to spar with a familiar face in the opposition dugout at the Emirates this weekend.
Like Arteta, Frank Lampard has reunited with his old team, now fully immersed in Premier League management in his inaugural season as Chelsea boss, the club at which he remains their all-time top-scorer having helped them win 13 major honours.
Away from the drama in the dugout, this London Derby has always been one to keep an eye on, as two of the most recognisable teams of the English top tier go head-to-head, a collective eight Premier League titles between them.
Whether Arteta and Lampard are indeed heir apparents to their mentors, Messrs. Guardiola and Mourinho, it is ultimately irrelevant when Red meets Blue for 90minutes in N7, but it will certainly be a marker in their hopefully blossoming post-playing careers.
More importantly, for the impassioned Gooner or Pensioner or neutral football fan can this fixture possibly hold a candle to these classic clashes?
Chelsea 2-3 Arsenal - October 1999
This was the day Nwankou Kanu wrote his name into Arsenal folklore with a fifteen-minute hat-trick at Stamford Bridge, Arsene Wenger’s visitors coming from behind to stun Chelsea. With insane ability and close control, the rangy frontman blazed in the final quarter of an hour, scoring one goal with a neat flick and another from a crazy angle.
A match that provided the drama and excitement without their respective blessed magicians, Gianfranco Zola and Dennis Bergkamp.
September 2000 - Chelsea 2-2 Arsenal
Less than a year later, it was yet another occasion when Chelsea let a comfortable lead slip from their grasp. The Blues were in front at the interval through Jimmy Floud Hasselbaink after Oleh Luzhny’s slip, and then were two for the better thanks to a perfect Zola connection that left Arsenal duo Martin Keown and David Seaman helpless. It couldn’t happen again, could it? Wrong.
Less than fifteen minutes from time it was down to the sublime Thierry Henry to pull the Gunners back into the game. Ten minutes later it was Sylvinho who grabbed the headlines, picking up on a loose ball to swish and curl past Carlo Cudicini and allowing the points to be shared in another thrilling encounter between the two capital clubs.
October 2011 - Chelsea 3-5 Arsenal
This time it was another Arsenal hat-trick hero following in the footsteps of Kanu, in the form of Dutch maestro Robin van Persie, just six days after the 12th anniversary of the Nigerian’s feat.
Chelsea skipper John Terry was both hero and villain of the piece, scoring in the first half to give Andre Villas-Boas’s side the lead, but allowing van Persie’s second after a dramatic slip and give Arsenal a crucial lead in the 85th minute, something the striker sealed in extra-time. That season RVP claimed the first of his two back-to-back Golden Boots, achieving the feat again (and the title) at Manchester United the following season. It is performances like this, a stand-out in an attacking game full of verve, that means he is still celebrated by certain contingencies of the north London outfit.
March 2014 - Chelsea 6-0 Arsenal, Wenger's 1000th game
Oh dear. What an accomplishment, reaching your 1000th game at the helm of the same club across an 18-year-period. What a disaster, seeing said momentous occasion involve a complete capitulation - nay, demolition, by one of your fiercest rivals. A 6-0 slaughter at the hands of Chelsea, who would go 2-0 up after just 15 minutes. Then there’s the debacle of referee Andre Marriner sending off the wrong Arsenal player, dismissing Kieran Gibbs instead of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain after a handball in the box (the penalty duly converted by Eden Hazard). “Every defeat is a scar in your heart” said the Frenchman, apoplectically in the aftermath. This one hurt. A lot.
August 2018 - Chelsea 3-2 Arsenal
In just the second game of the 2018/19 season that saw managerial bows in the English top tier for Maurizio Sarri at Chelsea and Unai Emery taking over from long-time predecessor Arsene Wenger at Arsenal (both, of course, no longer there 16 months later), the two London clubs produced another thriller with Sarri and the Blues the ultimate victor. They did it the hard way though, again letting a two-goal lead slide before the break. It meant Arsenal scored two goals against Chelsea, which was as many as on their previous six Premier League visits to Stamford Bridge. Marcos Alonso allowed Chelsea the bragging rights however, tucking in from a pitch-perfect Hazard pass, meaning it was Emery seething, and Sarri smoking.