Arsenal 0 – 0 Chelsea
Man of the Match – Per Mertesacker (Arsenal)
It was an all too familiar story as a Chelsea side came to the Emirates, played a thoroughly professional game, denied Arsenal any chances, countered well themselves and emerged with a point from the Emirates. Mourinho stretched his unbeaten run against Arsene Wenger to 10 games now.
With Laurent Koscielny injured, after his gash against Manchester City last weekend, there was a return for skipper Thomas Vermaelen to the starting line up. Jack Wilshere’s suspension meant a start for Tomas Rosicky. There was a start for Mikel Arteta and Theo Walcott as well.
Elsewhere, for Chelsea, Cesar Azpilicueta started at left back in place of the benched Ashley Cole. I suspect his decision to party during the week with the Arsenal players may not have gone down well with Mourinho.
With rumors that the match could be called off due to a heavy rainfall leading up to kick off, it was Arsenal who started the better side in the opening few minutes. The first real chance from either side came when Bacary Sagna was released into space and his right wing cross was just about cleared by Gary Cahill, with Olivier Giroud looking destined to poke it past Cech.
Chelsea had the best attempt of the game on 32nd match, when Eden Hazard spotted the run of Frank Lampard, after the England midfielder had escaped the attention of Mikel Arteta. His volley struck the underside of the bar and came popping out, with Ramires and Fernando Torres too close to react.
Fernando Torres, playing the lone man up front, had two quick chances, one of which was saved by Szczesny and the other one required some close attention from Per Mertesacker who was a towering figure throughout the game.
Arsenal had a penalty shout minutes later when Mesut Ozil broke through Chelsea’s midfield. The German should have probably taken a shot when he was offered a hint of space, but instead passed to Walcott, who was caught in a tangle of legs with Wilian. He probably went down too theatrically for Mike Dean to award a penalty. This incensed Arsenal, as it happened moments after Jon Obi Mikel’s crunching tackle of Mikel Arteta.
Chelsea looked solid at the back, and Arsenal had to contend with attacking from set pieces. Chelsea had a great chance to score through a break after clearing a corner, when they had 4 players against Arsenal’s 3, but Wilian shot straight at Szczesny.
The game got scrappier in the second half, with both sides battling hard to keep the ball. The windy conditions did little to help the players. Chelsea looked threatening on every counter with Ramires and Hazard getting chances. Hazard had a great chance at the far post, but scuffed his chance with Mertesacker for close attention.
Ramires went unpunished for his challenge on Arteta, with the Spaniard lucky to have two legs by the end of the game. Theo Walcott and Tomas Rosicky got yellow cards for comparatively mild trips. Szczesny had a good night, making several stops in difficult conditions, and had to be alert to save a low Lampard shot.
The boiling point of the game came when Branislav Ivanovic struck Mesut Ozil on the face with a high boot. Mike Dean, being the cunt that he is, did not produce a yellow card yet again. There were more haphazard moments, when Aaron Ramsey sportingly put the ball out despite Arsenal looking in a great position to counter, with Ramires rolling in a heap.
The best two Arsenal chances of the match came at the end, and both fell to striker Olivier Giroud. He missed both. The first one was when he was set up beautifully by Aaron Ramsey on his left foot, but shot completely wide. In the 90th minute, Arsenal worked a fine move, and Giroud’s shot nudged off Terry over the post in front of the goal.
Another chance came Arsenal’s way as Bacary Sagna’s header was cleared off the line by Cesar Azpilicueta, before substitute David Luiz, on for Fernando Torres, struck his free kick against the wall.
Right then, the positives. Thomas Vermaelen had a good game I thought, and given the chance ready to fight for his place in the first team, which is always positive to see. It gives the manager some options during a busy period. Per Mertesacker was brilliant again, and was my man of the match for a strong performance. Bacary Sagna kept Eden Hazard under wraps all night.
Arteta too had a decent game in midfield, but questions remain if he can do it consistently in a 38 game season. Same goes with Rosicky, who provided much energy in midfield.
However, up front Arsenal were pretty toothless, with Aaron Ramsey failing to impose himself. Mesut Ozil had an average night, and was consistently bullied out by the combination of Ivanovic and Cahill. Olivier Giroud had another forgettable night and you have to wonder the long term consequences of those missed opportunities.
Despite the return of Lukas Podolski, and the availability of the World’s Best Striker, Niklas Bendtner on the bench, Arsenal look woefully short up front. Luis Suarez is recently showing Arsenal just what they missed during the summer, with the Uruguyan looking in scintillating form.
The result leaves Arsenal in second, level on points with Suarez’ Liverpool, who seem to be scoring goals for fun. The festive period remains busy, with a trip down London to Upton Park to face West Ham up next. After that it’s a trip to the freezing North East to face Newcastle, before we play Cardiff on New Year’s.
These games won’t be easy at all, especially the West Ham and Newcastle games, but must wins to maintain the pressure at the top of the table, before we go into the crunch months of February and March.
Jai Arsenal 🙂
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