In a game of few chances, defences were very much on top in London as Premier League leaders Chelsea took a step closer to their fifth top-tier title – and first since 2010 – with a goalless draw. Nick Wright looks at the five main talking points from Sunday’s clash.
Referee Michael Oliver waved away no fewer than four penalty appeals in an end-to-end first half. The first, when Oscar went down under pressure from Hector Bellerin, looked marginal, but the second was far more clear-cut as David Ospina clattered into the Brazilian – who was later withdrawn with suspected concussion.
The Sky Sports punditry team all agreed that Chelsea should have had a penalty, and Graeme Souness felt Ospina was lucky to stay on the pitch. “I think it’s a penalty and he could easily have gone for that,” he said.
The next incident involved Cesc Fabregas, who went down theatrically after slight contact with Santi Cazorla. The Spaniard was booed by Arsenal fans for much of the contest and the Emirates faithful roared their approval as he was booked for simulation.
Arsenal’s penalty appeal followed shortly afterwards when Cazorla’s shot struck Gary Cahill on the arm from close-range but, once again, the referee was unmoved.
“The ball travels a yard,” said Jamie Carragher. “You can’t go to ground with your hands at your side. It’s all too close, you can’t give a penalty.”
Chelsea get the job done
“The plan is to win the game. Our situation is very good but we want to try and win the game.”
Despite Jose Mourinho’s comments before kick-off, John Terry’s wild celebrations at the final whistle proved they were more than happy to grind out a draw. The draw kept Chelsea 10 points clear at the top of the table, and it is surely only a matter of time before they lift the title.
“It was a big step to where we want to go,” Terry told Sky Sports. “The main thing coming here today was not to let Arsenal gain points and we’ve done that today with a very, very good performance.”
The home fans chanted “boring, boring Chelsea” at the final whistle, but the Blues did ask questions of Arsenal in the first half despite playing without a recognised striker. Indeed, they could have taken all three points had they been awarded a penalty for Ospina’s collision with Oscar.
But nevertheless, this was another exhibition of superb defending from Mourinho’s men, who have now kept 16 clean sheets in the Premier League this season – more than any other side.
“You can’t fail to be impressed by their organisation and resilience,” said former Arsenal striker Alan Smith in the commentary box. “It has been another following to the letter of their manager’s orders.”
Mourinho was effusive in his praise of Chelsea captain Terry, who was at his commanding best to keep in-form Arsenal at bay.
“For me this was the best performance that I have ever seen from John Terry from a defensive point of view,” said Mourinho.
“This performance with a goal would be something from the moon, but even without a goal scored, his defensive performance was absolutely amazing.”
The 34-year-old completed a game-high 13 clearances and won all six of his individual duels to ensure it was a quiet afternoon for Olivier Giroud, who had scored 10 goals in his previous 12 appearances.
“He’s like a magnet to the ball,” said Sky Sports pundit Graeme Souness. “He sees the danger early and he deals with it. He very rarely has to go on his background to clear things and that tells you something. He anticipates danger early and he deals with it early.”
Such an impressive performance put more weight behind the argument that Terry should have been included on the six-man shortlist for the PFA Player of the Year award. Eden Hazard has been the star of Chelsea’s season, but Terry deserves recognition for his outstanding contribution.
Wenger’s winless run continues
The statistics make grim reading for Arsenal fans. Wenger’s winless run against Mourinho now stretches to 13 games, and Arsenal have now gone eight hours and two minutes without scoring against the Blues, with their last goal coming in a 2-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge way back in 2013.
And despite having 57 per cent of the possession at the Emirates Stadium, Arsenal struggled to carve out clear chances. Their best opportunity came in stoppage time when Mesut Ozil failed to connect with Nacho Monreal’s cut-back in the six-yard box, but otherwise there was little to write home about.
“Performance-wise it was a good one but it wasn’t enough to get the vital three points we needed to compete for first place,” said Per Mertesacker, while Wenger went one better and said it is “impossible” for Chelsea to slip up now.
As for the winless run against his old foe Mourinho, Wenger said: “It’s not about me, it’s about my team and my club.” But Wenger would have dearly loved to finally break the hoodoo here.
Arsenal remain unbeaten in nine Premier League games, but Sky Sports pundit Thierry Henry believes Wenger needs to sign four players this summer to take his squad to the next level.
“I think they need to buy four players, they need that spine,” he said. “They need a goalkeeper, they still need a centre-back, they still need a holding midfielder and I’m afraid they still need a top quality striker in order to win this league again.”
The draw keeps Chelsea 10 points clear at the top, but means they can’t mathematically clinch the title against Leicester City on Wednesday.
If they claim three points there, however, they could lift the trophy by beating Crystal Palace in Sunday’s clash at Stamford Bridge, and Mourinho insists his side are fully focused on finishing the job.
“We are in the countdown, but the team is very confident,” he said. “The team is working and playing extremely well. We know it is in our hands. We have a difference of 10 points to second place with 15 points to be played, so we are confident.”
Even Wenger conceded that they will be worthy winners. “They are not champions yet but they will be, and you get what you deserve,” he said. “They started the season strong and they made the difference in the first half of the season compared to us.”