Arsenal v Chelsea
Kick off: Sunday April 26, 2015 – 16.00 PM BST
We played out a scoreless draw at the Emirates this past Sunday afternoon, with Chelsea happy to leave North London with a point.
The visitors were suffering an injury crisis up front, with Diego Costa and Loic Remy both sidelined. Didier Drogba recovered from injury to make the bench, but Chelsea lined up without a recognised striker – Oscar being deployed as a false 9.
There was controversy almost right from the off, and Chelsea went crazy when Oscar went down in the box during a tussle with Hector Bellerin. The Spaniard barely touched the makeshift forward though, and he was lucky not to have been booked for diving.
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Jose Mourinho was clearly set up not to lose, and Chelsea were playing on the counterattack. We had to be careful about committing men forward, but it was tricky when the champions elect were putting so many men behind the ball.
Branislav Ivanovic should have been booked early on, with Alexis Sanchez clearly in pain after a nasty challenge from the Serbian. The lack of a card suggested that referee Michael Oliver was planning on letting the game go as much as possible, something which became more evident as the game went on.
We were arguably lucky to still have ten men on the pitch shortly later, with David Ospina taking out Oscar after a ball over the top from Cesc Fabregas.
The Brazilian chipped the ball over Ospina, with the two colliding in the box. Bellerin was there to clear the ball off the line, with the referee pointing for a corner rather than a penalty.
There was definitely a case to say it was more of a coming together, but those are the kind of fouls you see penalties given for all the time.
There may have been questions over that decision, but there were certainly none over the next call.
Fabregas had been booed all afternoon, and made things far worse for himself with his actions in the box.
The former Arsenal man worked his way into the area, where fellow Spaniard Santi Cazorla put a challenge in. Fabregas threw himself to the ground, and it was one of the most obvious dives you are ever going to see.
He was booked for simulation – a decision which was met by raucous cheers from the Arsenal faithful.
We had a penalty shout of our own just after the half hour mark, with Bellerin cutting the ball back for Cazorla after some superb buildup play.
His shot was blocked by the hand of Gary Cahill, and while his arm did appear to be raised and in an unnatural position, it was struck from close range and was a difficult one to give.
Ramires had arguably Chelsea’s best chance of the game late on in the first half, but fluffed his lines and passed the ball straight to Ospina.
We were dominant in possession during the first period, and looked capable of making something happen. We were playing at an extremely high tempo however, and our pressing game didn’t look like it could be sustained for 90 minutes.
Our best chance of the half fell to Alexis Sanchez, but he could only drag his shot wide.
It was an exciting first half, but the same thing can’t be said for the second 45. Chelsea enjoyed much more of the ball, and were happy to just pass around the back and play for the draw.
We were clearly pushing for the goal, but were reluctant to throw too many bodies forward for fear of being hit on the counterattack.
The second half saw a handful of half chances, but very few opportunities for either team to test the opposition goalkeeper.
A set-piece gave us an excellent chance, with the ball knocked down to Per Mertesacker in the area. It was a case of right place, wrong player unfortunately, and the giant German dragged it horribly wide.
Cazorla had a decent chance to get a shot on target, with the diminutive playmaker being found at the edge of the box. His shot was arguably worse than Mertesacker’s however, and almost went out for a throw in.
Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott were thrown on late in the game, with Arsene Wenger’s decision to remove Francis Coquelin showing his intent. Neither were able to impact the game though, and Chelsea retreated further into their shell as the game came to a close.
The best chance of the game came in the twilight of the match, with Alexis Sanchez and Nacho Monreal linking up to put the Spaniard racing through to the byline. He cut the ball back superbly, but it somehow went through the legs of both Mesut Özil and Danny Welbeck just a few yards out. Both men should have done better, and it was clear we weren’t going to get a better chance than that.
We picked up a handful of yellow cards in the final minutes, with Aaron Ramsey going into the book along with Cazorla and Monreal. The trio were all guilty of tactical fouls as they sought to prevent the counterattack, which was actually somewhat refreshing to see.
In the past we were reluctant to do that kind of dirty work, and in today’s game that is a naive attitude. It’s fantastic to see that we are wising up to things of that nature, and shows a significant and important change in the side.
It was a decent performance overall, but Chelsea were set up well to leave with a point. They celebrated like they had already won the league at the end of the game, which unfortunately, they practically have.
Our display was certainly positive however, as in seasons gone by this is a game we may have gone on to lose. Hopefully this is a good omen for the 2015/16 campaign.