Post-Match Report

Arsenal 0-0 Chelsea - Match report

Aaron Ramsey

Chelsea -

Emirates Stadium
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  Chelsea
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Chelsea

By Chris Harris at Emirates Stadium

SUMMARY

No goals, but no shortage of incident or entertainment.

Arsenal's feint title hopes were all but ended after they were kept at bay by Chelsea, but the home side did enough to suggest they can push the champions-elect close next season.

There were four penalty appeals turned down in the first half, from the persuasive - Oscar's clattering by David Ospina - to the not-so-convincing - the tumble that earned Cesc Fabregas a yellow card on his return to Emirates Stadium.

The impressive Hector Bellerin saved a certain goal with a clearing header from Oscar's effort, Alexis and Mesut Ozil went close at the other end and Santi Cazorla's effort hit Gary Cahill's outstretched arm inside the box.

The tempo dropped a touch after the break but Arsenal, for all their endeavour, couldn't find a way through. Per Mertesacker had their best chance but scuffed his shot wide.

So just a point for Arsenal, but Manchester United's heavy defeat at Everton means the Gunners are still well-placed for a top-two finish. They sit third, two points clear of United and behind Manchester City on goal difference, having played a game less.

SETTING THE SCENE

That this game was even mooted as a staging post in the title race says everything about Arsenal's form since the turn of the year.

No team can match the Gunners for points in 2015 but their slow start to the campaign - and Chelsea's recent doggedness despite a dip in form - meant there were still 10 between the sides when they walked out at Emirates Stadium.

At the front of the Arsenal line was Mertesacker, rated 50:50 as recently as Thursday but passed fit after the medical team went to work on his ankle.

There were still four changes. Wenger opted for his most adventurous right back - Bellerin - and his most reserved left back - Nacho Monreal - while Ospina and Olivier Giroud came in for Wojciech Szczesny and Danny Welbeck.

The title race may be a foregone conclusion but this was a chance for Arsenal to lay down one of those mythical 'markers' ahead of next season.

The home fans are never short of pantomime villains when Chelsea come to town and on this occasion former Arsenal captain Fabregas was the focal point, back in north London in a blue shirt after 303 appearances in red.

But club rivalries were put to one side before kick-off as the Emirates crowd stood to remember the 56 fans who perished in the Bradford fire, 30 years ago.

FIRST HALF

Some games take a while to get going. Not this one.

Arsenal started as if they owed Chelsea one; Chelsea started with the authority of champions-elect. The tempo was high, passes were crisp, tackles were over-zealous. Players and fans alike were pumped up.

Chelsea, with a fluid front three of Oscar, Eden Hazard and Willian keeping the Arsenal defence guessing, popped the ball about with Fabregas to the fore. Alexis was in the thick of it for the home side, whipping in a free-kick that was just too close to Thibaut Courtois and seeing a shot deflected wide.

Branislav Ivanovic paid special attention to Alexis, introducing himself with three beefy - and illegal - tackles. Oscar went down in the box under a far lighter challenge from Bellerin but was then clattered by Ospina after beating the goalkeeper to Fabregas' ball over the top. Bellerin raced back to save a certain goal with a clearing header while Oscar screamed for a penalty.

That wasn't given and Fabregas was also refused one halfway through the half, taking a tumble as his right leg fished for a touch from Santi Cazorla that never came. Fabregas went in the book to the derision of the home fans.

Arsenal struggled for openings, crossing to Giroud more in hope than expectation at times. But 11 minutes before the break they sprang into life, Alexis picking out Bellerin's excellent run into the box. The Spaniard was at full stretch to cut the ball back and Cazorla's shot struck Cahill's raised arm. Again, no penalty was given.

That was encouraging but Arsenal were reminded of Chelsea's counter-attacking threat moments later when Willian's progress was unchecked, he released Ramires with a clever pass and the Brazilian's flick was kept out by Ospina.

Alexis shot wide and Ozil tested Courtois before a breathless first half was brought to a close.

SECOND HALF

Arsenal's fans cleared their throats for the second half with a jeer as Didier Drogba was brought on. There was a sense of foreboding too - Drogba had scored eight times in 11 Premier League appearances against the Gunners.

The home side showed first, Monreal miscuing a cross when well-placed after running onto Alexis' pass.

Chelsea, more conservative now, got men behind the ball and broke sporadically, Hazard skying his shot after one foray into Arsenal territory. Then Ramsey had the ball taken off his toes as he shaped to shoot after good work from Alexis and Ozil.

Chelsea were probably happy with a goalless draw, so Arsenal had to take the initiative.

They plugged away to create opportunities, Monreal curving in a cross that Alexis met under a challenge at the near post. Mertesacker had a much clearer chance after Courtois' poor punch fell to him on the edge of the area, but he scuffed his shot wide.

Cazorla was next to try his luck, hooking wide from the edge of the box after Laurent Koscielny's marauding run down the left.

Wenger played an attacking card, bringing on Welbeck for Francis Coquelin. A dart down the right from the substitute ended with a deflected shot that Courtois fumbled behind.

Theo Walcott got a late run-out too, but try as they might, Arsenal could not break down a resilient Chelsea rearguard.

Referee: Michael Oliver
Attendance: 60066