Arsenal secured a creditable point at Stamford Bridge as they played out a 0-0 draw against Chelsea.
The Gunners, disciplined in defence throughout the game, showed flashes of their usual attacking verve and might have won the game had Shkodran Mustafi’s second half header not been ruled out for offside.
David Luiz received his marching orders for a bad challenge on Kolasinac but there wasn’t enough time left on the clock for Arsene Wenger’s men to capitalise as they did in recent FA Cup and Community Shield showdowns.
Chelsea were certainly the faster out of the blocks, two or three times stealing the ball in midfield and springing quick breaks against the exposed Arsenal defence.
A clash of knees between Lacazette and Moses left both players sprawled on the turf and deadened the initial pace of the game. That seemed to suit Arsenal who were content to knock the ball around at the back without pushing forward.
On 15 minutes we stepped things up courtesy of Bellerin’s marauding runs down the right. Twice the Spaniard picked out Arsenal strikers, first Welbeck flashed a header wide and not long after Lacazette tested Courtois down low. A Kolasinac effort from outside the box further forced the Belgian into action.
To dampen the confidence a simple ball over the top by Fabregas freed Pedro one-on-one with Cech. Koscielny managed to get back and slow the Spaniard who could only shoot straight at the keeper. A let off for the Gunners for sure.
That scare aside, Arsenal, to their credit, were disciplined in their defending. We tried to win the ball high up the pitch by closing down Kante and the Chelsea defenders, headers were attacked, second balls were won and for the final 15 minutes of the half Fabregas and Willian were nullified. The work rate of Iwobi, Lacazette and Welbeck was particularly notable.
As Chelsea grew frustrated Arsenal started to swagger and we really should have head into the break with the lead. Aaron Ramsey, mixing tight control with bumbling legs, somehow made his way straight through the Chelsea defence before poking a shot that bounced back off the post. Lacazette was on hand for the rebound but instead of tapping home he volleyed over from three yards. He won’t want to watch the replay.
Arsenal continued to look bright in the final third although clear cut chances were few and far between. Welbeck nearly found Ramsey, Kolasinac nearly had a chance to get a shot off.
At the other end Willian had a shot blocked by Cech and Koscielny took a boot to the face as Luiz attempted an overhead kick. The Frenchman required treatment but was fine to continue. His presence was needed given the physical battle playing out between Mustafi and Morata.
By the 65 minute mark, Arsene Wenger decided it was time for Alexis. Lacazette made way meaning the Chile international. In response, Conte sent on Hazard for Willian. A further change was enforced on the Gunners when Welbeck appeared to tweak his groin. Olivier Giroud took the central striker role as Alexis went left.
Mustafi thought he’d broken the deadlock on 75 minutes as he headed home a Xhaka free-kick. The German ran off to celebrate in front of the visiting fans before he spotted the linesman’s offside flag.
The game was tight, tetchy and frantic. Hazard, always full of energy, weaved to the edge of the box and stung Cech’s palms. Fabregas fired wide, Moses had a shot blocked. Arsenal stood firm.
A physical game finally reached boiling point with three minutes to go. On the touchline Luiz flew over the ball and connected with Kolasinac’s ankle leaving the Bosnian in a crumpled heap. Referee Michael Oliver went straight to his pocket to flash a red card. Meanwhile, Arsenal’s left-back required treatment. Amazingly, he was able to carry on and subsequently picked up a booking.
Monreal’s late shot was heading in but a block at close quarters meant both sides settled for a point.
Starting XI Cech, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal, Bellerin, Xhaka, Ramsey, Kolasinac, Iwobi, Welbeck, Lacazette.
Subs: Ospina, Mertesacker, Alexis, Elneny, Maitland-Niles, Walcott, Giroud