Chelsea's draw at Arsenal leaves mixed emotions

Posted by Phil Lythell

Chelsea drew 0-0 against Arsenal at a windswept and soggy Emirates Stadium to earn a valuable point, but also left with thoughts of what might have been.

No doubt Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho will be pleased with his team's endeavours, though having seen them play the game at their own tempo and create the better attacking opportunities, he could be forgiven for being a tad disappointed not to take all the spoils.

- Report: Arsenal 0-0 Chelsea

It would stretch the imagination to claim that the Blues were dominant in that they didn't create a wealth of clear-cut chances. However, they always looked like the more dangerous side and favourites to break the deadlock. With a little more finesse with the final ball, Chelsea could have scythed open the Arsenal defence several times. The decision-making and movement were good, but too often the pass was not delivered into the ideal place for the receiving player. Willian had a busy and effective game yet was culpable of that particular transgression on a few occasions. In the players' defence, the appalling weather had its say all evening as any ball played in the air was subjected to the buffeting of the squally conditions and wrong-footed those moving towards goal.

The most pleasing factor of the night was the solidity that Chelsea showed throughout the team. The standard was set by the midfield that was set up with three players and included the vital defensive shield supplied by John Obi Mikel. It congested the field and denied Arsenal space to operate, forcing the hosts to spread the ball wide, where Willian and Eden Hazard diligently assisted their full-backs.

Much of the buildup was spent praising the merits of Mesut Ozil, and, clearly, Mourinho had the German in mind when selecting his lineup. The efficiency of the system meant that Ozil was reduced to being a bystander unable to pull the strings, with Arsenal's threat nullified as a result. Equally, Aaron Ramsey, who has enjoyed a golden campaign, was practically anonymous as a creative source or in front of goal.

The setup also allowed Frank Lampard greater license to roam around the midfield and snap into challenges without having to worry about leaving any space behind him for the Gunners to exploit. He revelled in the freedom to get forward and join the attack with the veteran desperately unlucky to see his exquisitely controlled volley from Hazard's chipped pass thump off the crossbar. This was one of Lampard's best performances of the season, along with the one against West Ham, and it is no coincidence that Chelsea started both those games with a three-man midfield.

Just as impressive as the midfield was the back four. Despite the added complication provided by the elements, John Terry was commanding in the aerial battle, while Gary Cahill showed exceptional timing in several moments to snuff out any developing sorties from the home side. At right-back, Branislav Ivanovic was solid and did not fall prone to the occasional lapse of concentration, of which he has been guilty in recent weeks. Similarly, on the other side, Cesar Azpilicueta had the measure of his opponent, whether it was Theo Walcott or Tomas Rosicky, and has ensured that Ashley Cole might have to rely on squad rotation rather than form during the hectic Christmas schedule in order to reclaim his place in the side.

That Mourinho opted for pragmatism for this fixture was understandable despite his recent comments that he was looking to instill a more expansive approach in their play. This was a match that Chelsea simply could not afford to lose if they were to stay right in the middle of the title race, even if a victory would have made a significant statement to their rivals. Clean sheets have been as rare as a Fernando Torres goal of late, so to see organisation married to application was refreshing to witness.

With this tough fixture now out of the way, the Blues must now build on that with a win over Swansea on Boxing Day. The team is likely to be more ambitious in that game, though, hopefully, will keep the cohesion that served them so well in North London.

Follow Phil Lythell on Twitter @PhilLythell


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