Arsenal recovered from the humiliation of their FA Cup third-round exit at Championship side Nottingham Forest to earn a battling draw in the Carabao Cup semi-final first leg at Chelsea.
The Gunners, with manager Arsene Wenger watching from the Stamford Bridge press box as he serves a technical area suspension, showed the resilience that was missing at the City Ground to frustrate Chelsea.
Arsenal were also the beneficiaries of careless Chelsea finishing, with Cesc Fabregas and Andreas Christensen culprits with poor headed efforts, while keeper David Ospina saved well from Victor Moses and Alvaro Morata.
Alexandre Lacazette blazed Arsenal’s best chance over the bar in the first half but there was no doubt they were happier with the result to set up the second leg at Emirates Stadium.
Referee Martin Atkinson consulted the video assistant referee (VAR) system on two penalty claims, when Moses tangled with Ainsley Maitland-Niles in the first half and for Danny Welbeck’s last-minute challenge on Fabregas, but he was satisfied enough with the evidence relayed to him not to award a spot-kick.
The two sides will meet in the second leg at Emirates Stadium on Wednesday, 24 January.
Chelsea wasteful as Arsenal hold firm
Chelsea had the opportunities to build an advantage for the second leg – but found Arsenal in resilient mood and wasted the chances that presented themselves.
Arsenal needed a show of strength after Sunday’s embarrassing FA Cup exit to Nottingham Forest and showed steel, with Shkodran Mustafi and Calum Chambers excellent in defence.
Fabregas wasted a clear headed chance in the first half, while Christensen was also profligate – which led to frustration for manager Antonio Conte and an animated discussion with the match officials after the final whistle.
Full-time in this low-key game was greeted with virtual silence by Chelsea’s fans.
Chelsea’s quality is such that they have certainly not missed their chance but their carelessness means they have made life more difficult for themselves when they travel to Arsenal in a fortnight.
Wilshere’s new injury worry
Jack Wilshere’s recent rejuvenation and return to fitness was rewarded with the captain’s armband for this match.
The England midfielder has started seven of Arsenal’s last nine games and his elevation to the captaincy was warmly greeted by Gunners fans, who always reserve special affection for the 26-year-old, on social media.
Sadly, after a performance which illustrated Wilshere’s growing confidence and authority, it ended with the familiar sight of him limping off through injury midway through the second half.
Wilshere was relishing his responsibility, pointing team-mates into position and directing operations from midfield, when a freak incident appeared to cause his latest problem.
He stretched to block an attempted long pass from Chelsea’s Danny Drinkwater which struck him on the foot, seeming to twist his ankle.
Wilshere tried to continue after treatment but it was to no avail and he was soon removed from the action to have an ice pack applied.
Wenger will hope the problem is not serious as recent weeks have proved Wilshere is still capable of influence in his side – and perhaps even with England once more if he can put together a sequences of games.
Wenger living every moment – from the press box
Arsene Wenger’s technical area ban meant he had to decamp to the Stamford Bridge press box to observe the action from among the ranks of the media.
Flanked by a security man and former keeper Jens Lehmann, now a member of Arsenal’s backroom team, it provided an intriguing close-quarters insight into the range of emotions managers run throughout such a big game.
Wenger remained relatively calm, even when Lacazette wasted a presentable first-half chance, only rising from his seat once during the game when Welbeck was penalised for a foul on Moses, but it was also easy to detect the strains and stresses.
He banged the table in front of him when Granit Xhaka committed a foul against Eden Hazard, shifted constantly in his seat, throwing back his head in frustration when opportunities came and went, such as Lacazette getting carelessly caught offside and when a promising free-kick position was wasted.
As he left his seat at the final whistle, though, Wenger will have been a satisfied man. Arsenal are right in this tie.
The “VAR” revolution continues
After making its debut in Monday’s FA Cup third-round tie between Brighton and Crystal Palace, the video assistant referee was once again used at Stamford Bridge – and it provided moments of frustration, confusion and tension.
Referee Atkinson consulted it to adjudicate a first-half incident before a set-piece when Chelsea’s Cesar Azpilicueta clashed with Calum Chambers, eventually lecturing the pair, and again when Ainsley Maitland-Niles tumbled under a challenge from Victor Moses.
It resulted in a brief delay, with Arsenal’s fans chanting “VAR”, before Atkinson stuck with his original decision – but there was an anxious moment for Arsenal in the closing minutes when Welbeck made a tackle which needed to be perfectly timed in the area on Fabregas.
It was then when another sight that will be become increasingly familiar was witnessed, with Chelsea manager Conte effectively appealing to fourth official Jon Moss for VAR by making the shape of a television screen.
A long delay, some would argue too long, ensued before Atkinson delivered what was clearly the correct decision – no penalty.
It is a system that seemed to frustrate and excite fans in equal measure but both managers seemed satisfied with the outcome.
Man of the match – Calum Chambers
A rare blank for Chelsea – the stats
- Chelsea have now failed to score in just three home games in all competitions under Antonio Conte – all of them have been this season and two have been against Arsenal.
- Indeed, Arsenal are only the second team to keep two clean sheets away at Chelsea in the same season, after Manchester United in 1998-99.
- The Blues have had consecutive goalless draws in all competitions for the first time since November 2012.
- All four meetings between these sides in all competitions this season have ended level – the last time two Premier League teams drew four games against each other in the same season was Blackburn v Sunderland in 2002-03.
- Chelsea have progressed on each of the three occasions they have drawn the first leg of a League Cup semi-final – against Manchester United in 2005, Wycombe in 2007 and Liverpool in 2015.
- Meanwhile, Arsenal have progressed just once from the three previous occasions they have drawn the first leg – going through against Tottenham in 2007, but failing against Aston Villa in 1996 and Tottenham in 2008.
Third-placed Chelsea return to Premier League action this weekend when they host Leicester on Saturday (15:00 GMT). Arsenal, who are sixth, travel to Bournemouth on Sunday (13:30 GMT).
- 6DrinkwaterSubstituted forWillianat 68′minutes
- 7KantéBooked at 79mins
- 10E HazardSubstituted forBakayokoat 84′minutes
- 9MorataSubstituted forBatshuayiat 87′minutes
- 30David Luiz
- 29XhakaBooked at 51mins
- 10WilshereSubstituted forEl Nenyat 57′minutesBooked at 86mins
- 9LacazetteSubstituted forSánchezat 66′minutes
- 35El Neny
- Martin Atkinson
- Shots on Target
Match ends, Chelsea 0, Arsenal 0.
Second Half ends, Chelsea 0, Arsenal 0.
Foul by Andreas Christensen (Chelsea).
Alexis Sánchez (Arsenal) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Willian (Chelsea) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Ainsley Maitland-Niles (Arsenal).
Attempt missed. Michy Batshuayi (Chelsea) header from the left side of the six yard box is high and wide to the left. Assisted by Tiemoué Bakayoko following a corner.
Attempt missed. Tiemoué Bakayoko (Chelsea) header from the centre of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Cesc Fàbregas with a cross following a corner.
Corner, Chelsea. Conceded by Granit Xhaka.
Substitution, Chelsea. Michy Batshuayi replaces Álvaro Morata.
Mohamed Elneny (Arsenal) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Álvaro Morata (Chelsea) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Mohamed Elneny (Arsenal).
Attempt saved. Granit Xhaka (Arsenal) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Alex Iwobi.
Attempt blocked. Mohamed Elneny (Arsenal) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Alexis Sánchez.
Substitution, Chelsea. Tiemoué Bakayoko replaces Eden Hazard.
Foul by Willian (Chelsea).
Alexis Sánchez (Arsenal) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
N’Golo Kanté (Chelsea) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by N’Golo Kanté (Chelsea).
Danny Welbeck (Arsenal) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Álvaro Morata (Chelsea) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Granit Xhaka (Arsenal).
Willian (Chelsea) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Granit Xhaka (Arsenal).
Attempt blocked. Danny Welbeck (Arsenal) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Alex Iwobi.
Attempt saved. Marcos Alonso (Chelsea) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom left corner.
Attempt blocked. Eden Hazard (Chelsea) right footed shot from a difficult angle on the left is blocked. Assisted by Álvaro Morata.
Attempt saved. Willian (Chelsea) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Cesc Fàbregas.
Offside, Chelsea. Thibaut Courtois tries a through ball, but Álvaro Morata is caught offside.
Attempt saved. Alex Iwobi (Arsenal) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom left corner.
Offside, Chelsea. Victor Moses tries a through ball, but Marcos Alonso is caught offside.
Delay over. They are ready to continue.
Delay in match Calum Chambers (Arsenal) because of an injury.
Substitution, Chelsea. Willian replaces Daniel Drinkwater.
Attempt missed. Andreas Christensen (Chelsea) header from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Cesc Fàbregas with a cross following a corner.
Corner, Chelsea. Conceded by Shkodran Mustafi.
Attempt blocked. Victor Moses (Chelsea) right footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked.
Substitution, Arsenal. Alexis Sánchez replaces Alexandre Lacazette.
César Azpilicueta (Chelsea) wins a free kick on the right wing.