Barclays Premier League
Arsenal 0-0 Chelsea



Van Persie's run without a goal extended to nearly 12 hours after seeing his shot blocked by Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech

By Adam Higgins
Chief Football Editor from the Emirates Stadium 

Chelsea's excellent week continued as they secured a hard-earned point after a goalless draw with Arsenal in a frictious London derby.

Another defensively resilient performance from the Blues kept a foraging Arsenal side at bay- whose Champions League hopes were dashed for the second time at home in a number of days. Robin Van Persie inevitably was the chief threat for the visitors clipping the post and denied by Petr Cech in the first half. In a match which took a while to simmer to the boil, Sturridge looked the liveliest for a Blues team who have now won just two of their last six Premier League games with three left in the race for fourth with Newcastle & Tottenham.

Arsenal made four changes to the team which succumbed to a shock 2-1 home defeat by Wigan on Monday night. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain replaced Yossi Benayoun with the Israeli captain ineligible to face his parent club under the terms of his loan from Stamford Bridge. Aaron Ramsey, who came on for the injured Arteta after nine minutes in the Wigan loss, started in the Spaniard's place with the former Everton man out for the remainder of the season with an ankle problem. Koscielny was back after a two-match suspension while Kieran Gibbs started instead of Brazilian international Andre Santos at left-back. Diaby & Coquelin were named on the bench after their own injury concerns over the past couple of months.

Roberto Di Matteo, who has lost just one of his thirteen matches in charge of Chelsea so far, made nine outfield changes from the crucial Champions League semi-final victory over the mighty Barcelona on Wednesday. As well as Petr Cech, only John Terry and Gary Cahill kept their places in the side with Frank Lampard, Juan Mata, Ashley Cole & Raul Merieles making up a strong-looking Blues bench- this with the second leg of the European tie in mind. Didier Drogba missed out with an ankle injury while Branislav Ivanovic served the second game of his three-match domestic ban.

It was a confident passing start from Arsenal similarly to how Barcelona started against the Blues on Wednesday night and managed to assert control. Chelsea's Spanish U21 international Oriol Romeu- making his first appearance under Di Matteo- dropped deep early on to help his team get the ball back and screened the two central defenders. Rosicky warmed the gloves of Cech after five minutes as the sun and indeed the stars were out- on the pitch- at the Emirates.


Roberto Di Matteo is the tenth Chelsea manager that Arsene Wenger has faced in his 16 years as Arsenal manager.

Mike Dean- who has awarded more Premier League penalties this season than any other referee with 12- wasn't convinced with Kalou's fall after escaping Kieran Gibbs but the ball got stuck between his feet and the Ivorian fell over too easily. Chelsea were making it difficult for Arsenal and looked threatening when they attacked. Arsenal would have been glad to hear the team news that Didier Drogba- scorer of the winning goal versus Barcelona in midweek- was missing for Chelsea having been their chief tormentor in recent years with eight Premiership goals against the Gunners.

Van Persie, who is favourite to claim the prestigious PFA player of the year award in tomorrow night's ceremony and keen to sort his future out his future with Arsenal at the end of the season, almost added to his 27 Premier League goals this season when he got on the end of a delicious Walcott free-kick but shaved the foot of the Chelsea post with Vermaelen also there at the back stick. Indeed, Chelsea were proving to be a tough nut to crack knowing that they would overtake Newcastle and Spurs into fourth place- but they both play later in the day. Although, the Blues looked to have bigger fish to fry with one eye clearly on the semi-final second leg of the Champions League with Barcelona on Tuesday night.

An even match with not a lot to choose between them with congestion right the way through the middle. Torres' blocked shot ricocheted to Gary Cahill- who came of age in midweek with a solid display- but he blasted over in the left hand side of the box for Chelsea. There were a few near misses for both sides with the match not hitting the heavy heights expected. Arsenal fans were becoming restless in particular with Aaron Ramsey who was constantly giving the ball away and caught in possession in the middle of the park.

A good spell towards the end of the first period for Arsenal as the game improved with Koscielny heading against the crossbar after being picked out by Van Persie's delivery. Skipper John Terry- who scored in Chelsea's extraordinary 5-3 defeat to the Gunners at Stamford Bridge in December- came close from a Malouda corner but didn't make a clean contact with the header as he stole a march on his marker although it was too high. Van Persie fired one goalwards which forced Cech to block the effort after the Dutchman and Song were once again linking to good effect and working on the same wavelength. It was end-to-end and beginning to come out of its shell.

Chelsea were on the front foot from the restart with a splendid challenge from Vermaelen the only thing stopping Sturridge being one-on-one with Wojech Szczesny- who was making his 50th Premier League appearance in goal for the Gunners. Arsenal were poorer than usual on the ball with a lot of passes going astray lacking in accuracy and sharpness. Theo Walcott pulled his hamstring meaning he limped off in some distress just after the hour mark to be replaced by Gervinho. It is an injury which has since ended his season and has endangered his chances of England selection for Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine in the summer.  


Only Manchester City & Manchester United have conceded fewer away Premier League goals than Chelsea's 18 this season- although the Blues have only won two of their last six league games.

Arsenal were still getting sights of the Chelsea goal with Van Persie trying a spectacular volley you would associate with him. The striker, who netted a hat-trick in the reverse fixture earlier in the season, not connecting how he would have liked and he smashed it into the fans behind the goal. At the other end, Sturridge returning to the starting line-up tested the concentration of Szczesny coming in from the right hand side after running onto Essien's pass. Diaby had a shot charged down by the impressive Ryan Bertrand, starting instead of former Gunner Ashley Cole who did come onto replace the youngster to make his 350th career league appearance against his old club.

The luxury of making wholesale changes to the team for Di Matteo- who won 3-2 at the Emirates last season when in charge of West Brom- was that he had plenty of attacking changes on offer to him from the substitutes bench with Juan Mata on for Kalou on 74 minutes. There was a penalty claim for Arsenal after a coming together between Van Persie and Cahill inside the box although referee Mike Dean saw it as six of one and half a dozen of another as he peered through the crowd of players.

Cole spent seven years at Arsenal and he gave the home supporters reason to boo him even louder when he petulantly kicked the back of Alex Song which earned him a well-deserved caution from Mr Dean. There was still time for Van Persie to squirm horribly into the side netting despite running onto Ramsey's through-ball from an offside position with Bosingwa unable to cut the pass out having misjudged its flight.

There was a riprawing end to the 150th league meeting between these two great London rivals which carried on right until the last seconds with Chelsea looking to nick a winner in the dying embers of the match. Laurent Koscielny flew through the air admirably with a miraculously timed intervention to prevent Sturridge from pulling the trigger as both teams went for broke.

The goalless draw was a result that not many predicted considering the glut of goals that have been seen in previous meetings between the sides- it caps off the perfect week in which the Blues have booked an FA Cup final and beaten the best putting one foot in the Champions League final. This match- despite not being a classic- could have significant repercussions for both sides' hopes of finishing in the top four European places in the Premier League. It means also that Chelsea are still yet to win a London derby this season in the Premier League but will have another go next Sunday when they will be visited by Queens Park Rangers next Sunday. Their only other away league match is at Anfield against Liverpool next month.

Adam Higgins
The Football Site- Chief Football Editor

"It was a forgettable first period in truth but the second half was end to end and more enjoyable from a neutral point of view. Not the classic goalfest we come to expect when these two giant heavyweights meet but at this stage of the season it's what should have been expected. Arsenal's passing rhythm never materialised and they weren't at their best while Chelsea showed some more stubborn defending with Terry & Cahill impressive once more and threatened themselves when going forward. The perfect preparation for Chelsea for the second leg of the European semi-final at the Nou Camp on Tuesday night."



Saturday 21st April 2012

Barclays Premier League

Emirates Stadium


Arsenal 0-0 Chelsea                              KO 12:45pm          (HT 0-0)


Arsenal:  13 Szczesny- 8/10, 3 Sagna- 7.5/10, 6 Koscielny- 8/10, 5 Vermaelen- 8/10, 28 Gibbs- 7/10, 7 Rosicky- 7/10 (Diaby 64- 3/10), 16 Ramsey- 5.5/10, 17 Song- 7.5/10, 14 Walcott- 6.5/10 (Gervinho 61- 3.5/10), 10 Van Persie (C)- 7/10, 15 Oxlade-Chamberlain- 6/10 (Santos 69- 3.5/10).

Subs not used:  21 Fabianski, 20 Djourou, 39 Coquelin, 29 Chamakh

Booked:      Rosicky (29), Van Persie (50), Diaby (76)


Chelsea:  1 Cech- 8/10, 17 Bosingwa- 6.5/10, 26 Terry (C)- 8/10, 24 Cahill- 8/10, 34 Bertrand- 8.5/10 (A Cole 77- 2.5/10), 5 Essien- 7.5/10, 6 Romeu- 6/10 (Mikel 66- 5/10), 15 Malouda- 6.5/10, 23 Sturridge- 7.5/10, 9 Torres- 6.5/10, 21 Kalou- 6.5/10 (Mata 74- 4/10).

Subs not used:  22 Turnbull, 19 Ferreira, 8 Lampard, 16 Merieles 

Booked:      Malouda (49), Cahill (54), Bosingwa (72), A Cole (81)


My Man of the Match:     Ryan Bertrand (Chelsea)- Rating 8.5/10

My Poorest Performer of the Match:     Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal)- Rating 5.5/10 



Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral)- 9/10
Attendance: 60,111



Match Facts

Possession: Arsenal- 49%              Chelsea- 51%

Shots: Arsenal- 13               Chelsea- 13

Shots on target: Arsenal- 8               Chelsea- 7

Shots off target: Arsenal- 5                Chelsea- 6

Corners: Arsenal- 7                  Chelsea- 7

Fouls: Arsenal- 11                 Chelsea- 11

Offside: Arsenal- 6                 Chelsea- 4

Assists: Arsenal- None                Chelsea- None



Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger

"I thought Chelsea locked the game completely which is why we didn't see a classic match with great football like me normally see in matches between us and Chelsea. Both sides had to win so it a draw would be no good for us and the game reflected this as both sides were more cautious than normal. We lacked a bit of fluency and they tried to catch us out on the break. We never really took the handbrake off today- we feared the exposure of their counter attacks. It was very tough game both physically and mentally so we showed a lot of character to take a positive result. We had some chances but they didn't have any of note at all- certainly they didn't make the goalkeeper work. We gave the ball away sluggishly a lot. I think that was a nervous thing rather than an end of season thing. Their midfield was very defensive and they made us work. It was a physically demanding game and this is a very tiring league to play in. We are still in the driving seat I think ahead of the other teams- we didn't lose the game which was the most important thing."

Click here for the full post-match interview with Gunners boss Arsene Wenger



Chelsea interim manager Roberto Di Matteo

"I would agree with Arsene (Wenger) and say we locked the game which put us in a good position as far as counter attacking went. Unfortunately we didn't have the quality in the final pass to get a goal- but against Arsenal it is always a tough game. Considering it was our third game in six days it was a terrific effort from the players. We had plenty of attempts today- it would be fair to say that Arsenal play a similar game to Barcelona in terms of keeping possession. We contained them whilst looking dangerous when going forward as well. We had players injured and suspended today so we needed to make changes and I felt the players out there were the right ones to get a result. We have a fantastic squad so we can rotate like we did. I felt it was necessary for us to freshen it up. The demand for players in terms of the schedule is incredible so it is nice to use the squad when we need to do. There is a lot of quality- the schedule though is crazy. Playing this amount of games comes with success and I am very pleased with the way the players are performing game-by-game. It has been a great response from the whole group- the determination, desire & motivation is certainly there."

Click here for the full post-match interview with Blues interim boss Roberto Di Matteo


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