Chelsea have drawn 0-0 away at Arsenal in a game that once again tested their character and strength in depth, meaning two more wins will confirm them as champions.
The game’s first opening came when Arsenal won a free-kick on the left hand side after Branislav Ivanovic fouled Alexis Sanchez, which went straight into the arms of Thibaut Courtois. As expected, Chelsea started the game sitting back in their defensive half inviting the home side to attack in order to catch them on the counter. Their first attempt to do so resulted in Oscar being denied what appeared at first a clear penalty, when he was tripped by Hector Bellerin. But, closer inspection suggests that it would have been a soft penalty had it been given by referee Michael Oliver.
There was another penalty claim just over five minutes later – this one far more obvious – when a superb pass from Arsenal’s former captain Cesc Fabregas put Oscar in again. The Brazil international was clattered by the oncoming keeper David Ospina, who made no attempt to play the ball which was eventually cleared off the line to consternation of Jose Mourinho. Referee Oliver made it a hat trick of penalties and a brace of bad decisions when Fabregas was tripped by Santi Corzorla in the 22nd minute, the referee then compounding his error by incorrectly booking the Spaniard for diving.
Arsenal had their own appeal for a penalty after the half hour mark when Gary Cahill appeared to block an Olivier Giroud shot with his arm, but the referee waved it away before the half’s best chance fell to Ramires who ran on to a pass from Willian, the toe poke on goal being too weak however.
The first half was generally fast paced with both sides willing to get forward in order to create chances. The most productive approach play came from Chelsea as the home side, though having the bulk of possession, created little early on in the way of clear chances on goal, the best coming from Mesut Ozil just before the break after a series of neat passes resulted in a shot that was easily caught by Courtois.
The second half got under way with the substitution of Oscar for Didier Drogba, which gave Chelsea more options up front. The boos from the home supporters perhaps a recognition of the Ivorian’s famous goal scoring record against Arsenal. The restart did not offer the same thrilling speed as the first in its initial moments, but Chelsea did begin to take more attack without first inviting pressure from the oppsition. A cross fro Ramires was headed down by just beyond the feet of the on running Fabregas, and Eden Hazard’s shot seconds later from the edge of the box went well over the cross bar.
Arsenal’s first second half opening was scuppered by John Terry who got ahead of Sanchez to a cross from the left, and good approach play from Chelsea led to a Drogba shot which was far too weak to trouble Ospina. Ozil ventured into the area on 67 minutes but dithered on the ball and gave Terry the chance to tackle, and Per Mertesacker missed a great chance from the edge of the box as the game fell back into the pattern of the first half. Arsenal almost broke the deadlock on 75 minutes when Cazorla found himself with the ball in space inside the box, the pressure proving too much as he shot well wide.
Chelsea were happy to play the game with the professional stoicism they are famous for, giving Arsenal almost no space to create chances as the game approached its conclusion. Danny Welbeck, brought on in the last ten minutes, found himself in the six yard box with the ball late on but couldn’t take a shot on goal that would have won the game.
When the final whistle went it meant that Chelsea remained 10 points clear of their London rivals and needed just four points to regain the Premier League title.
Arsenal: Ospina, Bellerin, Koscielny, Mertesacker (c), Monreal (YC), Coquelin (YC) (Welbeck, 76′), Cazorla (YC), Ramsey (YC), Ozil, Sanchez, Giroud (Walcott, 84′)
Unused substitutes: Szczesny, Gibbs, Debuchy, Wilshere, Flamini
Manager: Arsene Wenger
Chelsea: Courtois, Ivanovic (YC), Cahill, Terry (c), Azpilicueta, Matic, Fabregas (YC) (Zouma, 90′), Ramires; Oscar (Drogba, 45′), Willian (YC) (Cuadrado, 93′), Hazard
Unused Substitutes: Cech, Felipe Luis, Zouma, Loftus-Cheek, Mikel,
Manager: José Mourinho
Referee: Michael Oliver
Attendance: 60, 066