London’s two most successful clubs, Arsenal and Chelsea, recommence their bitter rivalry tonight at Stamford Bridge.
Meetings between the pair have produced some classic encounters over the years, and both clubs have produced some of the best teams and players in Premier League history.
So ahead of tonight’s clash, we’ve decided to look at five players who’ve crossed the divide between the London rivals in the Premier League era.
Here’s five of the best…
Talented yet temperamental, defender William Gallas was a player not scared of crossing people.
Signed by Chelsea in 2011 prior to the Roman Abramovich-era, Gallas’ importance remained following the Russian’s billionaire takeover of the club two years later. The Frenchman played a key role as the Blues earned back-to-back titles in Jose Mourinho’s first spell in charge, showing his versatility across the backline.
From there, it all turned sour at Stamford Bridge. After refusing to sign a new deal at the club, Gallas was transferred to Arsenal as part of a swap deal amongst accusations he’d threatened ‘to score own goals’ should he remain at the club, a claim he very much denied.
Arriving at Arsenal, Gallas bizarrely inherited the retiring Dennis Bergkamp’s number 10 shirt, and later was awarded the captaincy.
In actions of a true leader, Gallas memorably sat and huffed on the pitch in a game against Birmingham after the Midlands side were awarded a penalty. Heroic stuff.
Gallas’ four-year spell at Arsenal failed to deliver a trophy, and again a contract dispute saw him leave. He then joined Arsenal’s bitter rivals and his third London club, Tottenham.
You can’t put a price on loyalty.
One of the greatest goalkeepers in Premier League history, Petr Cech signed for Chelsea in 2004 as the first Jose Mourinho-era began.
His first season was an unprecedented success, conceding just 15 league goals all season as Chelsea ended a 50-year wait for a league title. His 24 clean sheets that season also remain a record.
Over 11 years at Stamford Bridge Cech won 13 major honours, including being part of the Chelsea side which became the first London club to lift the Champions League in 2012.
A severe head injury suffered against Reading in 2006 hampered his progress, but the Czech international returned in his now trademark head guard.
Cech left Chelsea for Arsenal in 2015 after finding first-team are losing his place to Thibaut Courtois, where he became the only goalkeeper to win the Premier League’s Golden Glove with two different teams.
A fifth FA Cup of his career came in 2017, although his last game as a professional would ironically come in Arsenal’s 4-1 Europa League final defeat at the hands of Chelsea in Baku, and the fact he has since returned to Stamford Bridge as Technical Director has not gone down well with sections of the Gunners support.
Cech retired as a goalkeeping legend of the modern era though, his 202 clean sheets the most in Premier League history.
Plucked from Barcelona’s fabled La Masia academy as a teenager with an outrageous mullet, Fabregas moved to Arsenal in the hope of an easier route to first-team football.
The Spaniard did not have to wait long, making his debut in the League Cup aged just 16 in 2003. Club legend Patrick Vieira’s departure to Juventus in 2005 handed Fabregas his real opportunity, with Arenal boss Arsene Wenger trusting the youngster to fill the Frenchman’s void.
Fabregas would mature into one of the Premier League’s finest midfielders, becoming club captain and being named PFA Young Player of the Year in 2008. Arsenal’s move to the Emirates Stadium hampered their ability to remain competitive however, and having won just an FA Cup in eight years at the club Fabregas returned home to Barcelona.
Three years in Spain followed before Fabregas returned to the Premier League with Arsenal’s London rivals, Chelsea.
Fabregas played a key role as Chelsea won a Premier League and League Cup double in his first season at Stamford Bridge, before again winning the title in 2017. An FA Cup success followed in 2018, before a lack of first-team opportunities saw him depart for Monaco.
He left English football having recorded the second-highest number of assists in Premier League history, his 111 second only to Manchester United’s Ryan Giggs.
Famously nicknamed ‘Le Sulk’, Anelka was a supremely gifted footballer who enjoyed a somewhat nomadic career.
Representing some of Arsene Wenger’s finest business as Arsenal manager, Anelka arrived in North London aged 17 for just £500,000, before leaving for Real Madrid two-years later for £23 million.
Handed an opportunity following an injury to Ian Wright, Anelka played a key role as Arsenal won a league and FA Cup double in 1998, scoring in the final of the latter.
The following season saw him crowned PFA Young Player of the Year, after scoring 17 Premier League goals for the club. Despite his on-pitch form, Anelka was unhappy with how the media portrayed him and demanded to leave in order to move to the Bernabeu.
Anelka never settled, moving to Paris Saint-Germain, Liverpool, Manchester City, Fenerbache and Bolton before Chelsea spent £15m to take him to Stamford Bridge in 2008.
A four-and-a-half year spell in West London proved largely successful, although the Frenchman did miss the decisive penalty in the club’s Champions League final shoot-out defeat to Manchester United in 2008.
He left Chelsea in 2012 to move to China, having won one Premier League, two FA Cups and finished as the Premier League’s top goal scorer in 2008/09.
The player on this list whose move certainly caused the most controversy, Ashley Cole was an Arsenal academy graduate who won two league titles and three FA Cups for Arsene Wenger’s side, including being part of the ‘Invinceables’ side which went the entire 2003/04 campaign unbeaten.
After a stellar career in North London, Cole was left ‘trembling with anger’ at Arsenal’s proposed new contract and wanted out. In came recently rich London rivals Chelsea, who paid Cole his desired salary and took him to Stamford Bridge for £5m plus William Gallas in 2006.
As you can imagine, Arsenal fans were not happy with the departure of one of their own, waving £20 notes in Cole’s direction and ‘affectionately’ nicknamed him ‘Cashley’.
Despite the anger amongst the Arsenal fanbase, Cole’s decision was justified. Whilst Arsenal struggled to compete for major honours after moving to the Emirates stadium, Cole began adding to an already impressive collection in West London.
The England international, widely regarded as the best left-back of his generation, won a further league title and four FA Cups, as well as League Cup, Champions League and Europa League success in a glittering career.
Supremely successful on both sides of the divide, Cole certainly remains more popular on the blue side.