Ospina, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla, Ramsey, Ozil, Alexis, Giroud
Subs: Szczesny, Debuchy, Gibbs, Wilshere, Walcott, Flamini, Welbeck
Arsenal failed to make it 9 wins in a row after a 0-0 draw against Chelsea at the Emirates this afternoon.
There were three changes from the team that beat Reading at Wembley last weekend with Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal returning to the full-back positions, and David Ospina back in goal.
With Diego Costa or Loic Remy – and with Drogba on the bench – Chelsea fielded a striker-less formation with a clutch of midfielders looking to crowd out the Gunners. As you would excpdctg the game began in cagey fashion although Chelsea tried to cheat their way into the lead when Oscar tried to win a statue named after himself by tumbling the ground theatrically under a Hector Bellerin challenge.
That was followed by a nasty studs down the Achilles challenge on Alexis from Ivanovic, but referee Michael Oliver somehow kept his cards in his pocket when a yellow was more than merited. In the 16th minute the first chance of the game fell to the vistors when a Fabregas pass put Oscar clean through. The Brazilian clipped the ball past David Ospina and towards goal but it was headed around the post by the very aware Bellerin.
On the sideline Jose Mourinho went ballistic when Oscar was taken out in the incident by Ospina, with Chelsea wanting a penalty that you’ve often seen given, but then Mourinho is an absolute cockwomble so he can stick it up his evil hole.
There was more penalty area action involving Chelsea’s pack of diving swans when Fabregas went down under a challenge from Santi Cazorla. The referee blew his whistle immediately and produced a yellow card for the former Arsenal captain on his return. I laughed.
At the other end the Gunners were finding it hard to create any clear openings. Giroud volleyed over from an Ozil pass, while John Terry had to hack away a dangerous Monreal cross. That was followed by a 34th minute shout for an Arsenal penalty when Gary Cahill clearly handled the ball making a block, but the referee waved away the appeals.
There was another big chance for the visitors when good combination play put Ramires clean through with just the keeper to beat, but his prodded effort was well read by Ospina who got down well to save. Good play from Ramsey and Cazorla set up a chance for Alexis but he dragged his 40th minute shot wide.
There were shots on goal from Bellerin and Ozil late in the half as Arsenal probed for a goal but Chelsea’s strength and organisation at the back made it very difficult to fashion anything too dangerous.
The was a half-time change from Chelsea as Didier Drogba replaced Oscar, and it had some effect as they started the half quite brightly with Arsenal a little sluggish. Like the first period though, clear cut chances were few and far between.
It was exactly the kind of game Mourinho would want, Chelsea were comfortable and under no pressure to do anything while the onus was on Arsenal to try and win the game.
In the 64th minute a Monreal cross for Alexis forced Terry to defend well, while Drogba’s first real involvement was a tame effort that was easy for Ospina. Per Mertesacker had Arsenal’s best moment of the half when a half-cleared free kick fell to him but his first time effort was dragged wide.
There was a big chance for Santi Cazorla in the 76th minute when Koscielny intercepted the ball, fed the Spaniard on the edge of the box but his shot was dragged wide. That was followed by the first Arsenal change with Danny Welbeck replacing Francis Coquelin. There was a second in the 84th minute when Theo Walcott came on for Olivier Giroud.
Arsenal probed, Chelsea were hard to break down and content to just kill the game. In injury time a low Monreal cross skidded across the Chelsea box, Ozil missed it at the near post and no Arsenal player could get the final touch.
There was some late yellow cards for Ramsey, Monreal and Cazorla to stop counter-attacks, which I enjoyed. Certainly more than the shit football Chelsea played, and while the result was vaguely disappointing, there was a maturity to Arsenal’s performance overall that was positive.