Arsenal and Chelsea played out a dull 0-0 draw at the Emirates in a battle of attrition which the visitors would celebrate through their cautious display. Robert di Matteo guided his team through what could’ve been terrible preparation for their European excursion on Tuesday night whilst Wenger would see this as another two points dropped at home in the battle for third.
The scoreline was the first 0-0 stalemate between these two sides for 39 years.
Chelsea were set in the precarious position of pushing for the Champions League or a top four finish to guarantee their place at Europe’s top table next season. After their 1-0 home win over Barcelona on Wednesday night, they made eight changes with only Gary Cahill, John Terry and Petr Cech starting for the short trip across London to the Emirates Stadium where they knew a loss would almost deny them access of the top four come the end of the season.
Alternatively, Arsenal were still reeling from the home defeat on Monday night against relegation battlers, Wigan which gives Chelsea renewed optimism that they can go to North London and get a win at the Emirates for the first time since 2009. Wenger suffered a blow through the absence of Mikel Arteta, who will miss the remainder of the season whilst Yossi Benayoun remains ineligible against his parent club.
Wenger and his men needed to solidify that top four position and a win, which would secure a league double over their London rivals after the 5-3 win at the Bridge, would push them over the line for the season. Chelsea obviously had one eye on their Tuesday trip to Barcelona whilst picking their line-up but by putting all their eggs into one basket, they needed to rely on both in-form Newcastle and Tottenham dropping points for Roberto di Matteo to enter the Champions League through their league standings.
The match was delicately poised because if Chelsea were to win the Champions League, the fourth placed side wouldn’t be granted a place at the Champions League next season which made this game must win for the home side.
The first chance of note came from Arsenal, from a delicately floated in Theo Walcott free kick onto the back post. Robin van Persie struck the post as he stuck his left boot out at the ball and from only a few yards out you’d have expected the net to ripple from the prolific Dutch forward, judging on this season’s form.
Chelsea were without a win since 2009 at the Emirates and without a London derby win all season with only one opportunity to do so after this contest, at home to QPR next season.
Given the match’s importance there was an open feel to the contest, although with little opportunities to test the goalkeepers – the game often broke out into an end to end contest.
Wojiech Szczesny was fortunate to have the covering Laurent Koscielny as Kalou and Torres broke free and were thwarted by the French defender after Arsenal’s goalkeeper rushed out, forcing unnecessary pressure on the Arsenal backline.
The best chance of the match fell to Laurent Koscielny and from another Arsenal free kick. Koscielny found himself unmarked and the powerful header cracked against the woodwork in one of only a handful of chances for both sides in the first half.
With that paint chipped off the woodwork, the match livened up with John Terry failing to hit the target from a corner and a clear cut effort from Van Persie being thwarted by the Blues’ goalie, Petr Cech.
Whilst Arsenal enjoyed the best of the first half, Chelsea were looking the most likely to find the net in the second. The home side’s passing had become sloppier, countered with how threatening Chelsea looked both on the attack and on the counter should Arsenal venture forward.
As the match wore on and substitutions were made, however, Arsenal got a stranglehold on a rather uninspiring second half. Ultimately, Chelsea were too strong in defence for Arsenal to cope with or penetrate and as the match reached a conclusion their front three of Gervinho, Andre Santos and Robin van Persie were fresh but still not able to break the Chelsea code.
Arsenal had a big shout for a penalty approaching the final ten minutes when a shove on Robin van Persie from Gary Cahill had the home fanbase crying for a spot kick but to no avail from Mike Dean.
The Dutch forward found himself in behind the Chelsea defence, albeit offside, but on his right foot Van Persie was given the benefit of the doubt and he fired his effort well wide of the mark.
Van Persie had a few bites of the cherry but failed to produce a chance on goal before at the other end Laurent Koscielny had to be on hand to thwart a threatening attack led by Daniel Sturridge thanks to a superb sliding challenge.
The Dutch talisman almost had Andre Santos threaded through the Chelsea but to no avail whilst Daniel Sturridge’s desperate effort from the halfway line couldn’t beat Wojiech Szczesny who had strayed from his penalty area.
Despite a timid attempt to get that winning goal, Arsenal didn’t threaten enough to warrant the three points. Chelsea’s desire to get that winning goal was disproven as a total of three Chelsea players found their way into the box for a corner in stoppage time, signifying they were willing to settle for the point and lose ground on fourth place.
Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Gibbs, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Song, Rosicky (Diaby 64), Ramsey, Walcott (Gervinho 60), Oxlade-Chamberlain (Andre Santos 69), Van Persie
Subs Not Used: Fabianski, Djourou, Coquelin, Chamakh
Booked: Rosicky, Van Persie, Diaby
Chelsea: Cech, Bosingwa, Bertrand (Cole 77), Cahill, Terry, Essien, Romeu (Mikel 66), Malouda, Kalou (Mata 74), Sturridge, Torres
Subs Not Used: Turnbull, Ferreira, Meireles, Lampard
Booked: Malouda, Cahill, Bosingwa, Cole
Referee: Mike Dean