Chelsea 0-0 Arsenal: Entertaining draw at Stamford Bridge as Arsenal gain point at home of champions
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It was a joy to get back to onfield matters on Sunday lunchtime as Arsenal and Chelsea served up an entertaining if goalless draw at a sunny Stamford Bridge.
It was a relief too - and not just because the fall-out from the Cologne hordes visiting London on Thursday continue to rumble on – but because a single tube stop from the busy Fulham Broadway District Line, used by thousands of exuberant football fans on matchdays, an act of terrorism took place.
It’s been said before - and unfortunately it will surely be said again - that the best way to deal with such attacks on our way of life, is to carry on with our way of life.
And for 42, 000 people – and millions more across our nation and the entire planet – that meant a hearty helping of Chelsea versus Arsenal, in one of the Premier League’s most attractive fixtures.
Alexis Sanchez was on the bench again for Arsenal as Alexandre Lacazette started up front, supplemented by Danny Welback behind on the left with Alex Iwobi on the right.
Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka were Wenger’s preferred defensive shield with Mohamed Elneny on the bench, seemingly discarded as a starting midfielder after being misused in defence by Wenger.
With the Gunners having a quite frankly appalling record away to the top six since January 2015 - played 13, drew five, losing eight – Arsenal looked determined to make amends with a determined performance in West London.
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In an opening half in which Hector Bellerin – who suffered more than most the last time he played here in February – twice made his mark on his man Marcos Alonso in a far less physical way than the 26-year-old former Fiorentina player did on Arsenal’s wideman last season.
First Arsenal’s pacy Spanish wideman beat Alonso to square for Danny Welbeck to head narrowly wide on 16 minutes. Then moments later he repeated the trick, this time feeding Lacazette who angled the ball straight at Thibaut Coutois.
Antonio Conte’s men for their part were sporadically dangerous. Cesar Azpilicueta – nicknamed ‘Dave’ – floated in a cross that £70 million man Alvaro Morata headed wide.
Pedro then raced through the middle, only for the experienced Petr Cech to win his game of poker by refusing to make the first move, thereby prompting the onrushing former Barcelona man to fire at straight at him.
Just after the half hour mark Granit Xhaka let fly from 25 yards but his powerful low shot flew just wide.
Welshman Ramsey then bundled his way through the heart of the Chelsea defence in a driving run, which if not described as elegant was certainly effective,
Unfortunately his shot hit the post, rebounding away to safety.
As referee Michael Oliver blew for half-time a raft of statistics poured fourth at the break insisting the visitors had been the far greater threat during the first 45 minutes, But without any goals to show for their dominance the only figure that counted was the score. And it remained goalless.
Conte’s men started the brighter after the interval.
But the game grew increasingly fractious after David Luiz was booked for catching Laurent Koscielny in the face while attempting an overhead kick.
Of course both sides, while continuing to press for an opener, paradoxically looked far tighter at the back, denying the crucial moments of extra space and time both sides enjoyed more of in the first half.
Shodran Mustafi in particular was masterful, in his positional awareness, his physicality and his determination. With a performance like that it made you wonder why Wenger was prepared to let him leave at the end of August.
As the game neared the end frustration took its toll on Luiz who was sent off for clattering into Sead Kolasinac in front of the dugou with seconds remaining.
And as referee Oliver blew for the end of an entertaining and passionate London derby, the best you could say was that Arsenal showed character at the home of champions – even if on their first half showing they should have picked up all three points instead of just the one.
Courtois, Alonso, Fabregas, Kante, Morata, Pedro (Bakayoko), Moses, Willian (Hazard), Cahill (c), Azpilicueta, Luiz (sent off)
Cech, Koscielny (c), Ramsey, Lacazette (Sanchez), Iwobi (Elneny), Monreal, Mustafi, Welbeck (Giroud), Bellerin, Xhaka, Kolasinac
Referee: Michael Oliver