Chelsea remain two wins away from the Premier League trophy after a steely 0-0 draw at 2nd placed Arsenal.
The biggest pre-match talking point was Jose Mourinho’s decision to play without a recognised striker. With Diego Costa and Loic Remy both sidelined by injuries and Didier Drogba struggling with an ankle problem, Oscar played as the man furthest forward, with the veteran Ivorian having to settle for a place on the bench. There were two changes from the side that defeated Manchester United, with Ramires sitting in midfield instead of Kurt Zouma and Willian also coming in. Ramires’ inclusion meant former Arsenal favourite Cesc Fabregas playing in a more advanced role behind Oscar.
The result made it 13 games against Arsene Wenger without defeated for Mourinho, despite Arsenal’s best efforts to make good on all the possession they enjoyed. However, there were few real chances for the home side. One of the best opportunities fell to Per Mertesacker in the second half when a Thibaut Courtois clearance could only find the German who finished with all the skill one would expect from a 6 foot 6 inch centre back.
There were chances for the more attack minded members of the Arsenal line-up however, as Mesut Ozil could only force a routine stop from Courtois, and Danny Welbeck scuffed one wide in stoppage time. However, for all the possession those were the only real openings for the home side.
Despite a goalless scoreline, there could – and should – have been chances for both teams to score from the spot in what was in truth a poor day for Michael Oliver in the middle.
Chelsea had three good appeals all waved away, two involving Oscar and one with ironically Cesc Fabregas. Our Brazillian playmaker was tripped by young Spanish right-back Hector Bellerin and not long after what can only be described as a stonewall penalty was denied, also involving Oscar.
After being played through from a delightful lofted ball from Fabregas, Oscar had chipped the ball over the onrushing stopper David Ospina, who proceeded to wipe him out leaving him needing medical attention. At half time Oscar was substituted, probably still feeling the effects of that challenge, with Didier Drogba replacing him.
Fabregas’s penalty appeal was much less clear though, as a seemingly theatrical fall during contact with Santi Cazorla saw him booked for diving, much to delight of the home faithful.
Ramires had a very good chance stopped after swift attacking move saw him played through with only the keeper to beat and the midfielder failed to get a clean connection and stubbed into the Ospina’s hands.
Cries of “boring, boring Chelsea” rang out during and after the second half from the home fans but while the Blues held onto the ball, Arsenal were not very forthcoming in their efforts to regain it at any point resulting a defensive rearguard that was rarely troubled in the second period. However, when called upon John Terry in particular was as impenetrable as ever in a fine display from the captain, but Gary Cahill too was impressive.
The final whistle blew and celebrations were sparked in the away end and on the pitch as Chelsea knew that while the title was officially no closer, the task was now seemingly easier – a win agaist relegation-threatened Leicester on Wednesday, followed by another three points at home to mid-table Crystal Palace meant after a long decade of waiting, the Premier League title will be returning back to Stamford Bridge. Who needs history when you’re constantly writing it?