Chelsea vs Arsenal: Five things we learned as Gunners and 10-man Blues both draw blanks

Chelsea 0 Arsenal 0: David Luiz was shown a red card late for a hefty challenge on Sead Kolasinac on a day where chances were at a premium and the visitors go away the happier side

Sunday 17 September 2017 15:45
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David Luiz was dismissed late on for a lunge on Sead Kolasinac
David Luiz was dismissed late on for a lunge on Sead Kolasinac

David Luiz saw red as Chelsea and Arsenal couldn't be separated at Stamford Bridge.

Alexandre Lacazette wasted the best chance of the game in the first half before Luiz was shown a straight red card late on for a hefty challenge on Sead Kolasinac.

Both Eden Hazard and Alexis Sanchez were introduced from the bench late on but failed to find a way through on a good day for both defences.

Here are five things we learned at Stamford Bridge:

1. Wenger's gamble

Wenger spoke in the week of how he wanted a reaction from his team after their last visit to a top four rival - Liverpool a fortnight ago - ended in a comprehensive drubbing.

The whole feel of the team that day was off and the Frenchman, clearly conscious of how flat his side were that day, opted for a dose of dynamism with his team selection at the Bridge.

Wenger sprang something of a surprise with his starting line-up

Iwobi was the surprise name, starting in place of the injured Ozil while Sanchez had to be content with warming the bench with the energetic Welbeck and Lacazette preferred in a new look front three.

It was a gamble given the fact Arsenal have never won a game since Sanchez arrived when neither he nor Ozil has started, but in a game where they were always likely to spend long periods without the ball the added energy certainly helped as the Gunners pressed their hosts high and kept them honest on the counter throughout.

2. Xhaka can

Xhaka was impressive in the centre of the park for Arsenal

The Swiss midfielder is oft a target for criticism, much of it deserved, but today he merits a great deal of praise after an excellent display in the middle of the park. Arsenal fans would be forgiven if they watched the early stages here through their fingers after seeing him paired with Ramsey again, but, unlike against Liverpool, the pair held their own against Kante and Fabregas.

That he made Kante look human is perhaps the biggest compliment you could pay Xhaka but his overall calmness under pressure, both in and out of possession, spread through the rest of the team as the Gunners enjoyed a measure of control, something that is rarely the case away from the Emirates.

3. Morata is no Costa, but not to worry

Morata led the line well for Chelsea

The spectre of Costa inevitably hung over this game given the significance of his contributions to this fixture in recent times, but Morata is a more than able replacement on the evidence of his fledgling Chelsea career.

He is no Costa, but then no one is, and while he was bought to replace him he offers many things his fellow countryman cannot. Starved of high quality service for the most part he still led the line well here, more than once getting the better of Mustafi on the turn and giving the Gunners backline a hard time throughout.

His searing pace, something Costa never possessed, gives this side a new dimension and his much-talked aerial presence was a useful outlet all day. He didn't get on the scoresheet but that shouldn't diminish an excellent performance.

4. Saving the best till last?

Hazard started on the bench as he continued his return to fitness

Both Eden Hazard and Alexis Sanchez were left out of their side's respective starting XIs for today's game, and the decision to do so arguably blunted the two team's attacks as they struggled in vain to find a breakthrough. Their introduction, coming within minutes of one another, brought a renewed sense of purpose to each side, with the closing 15 minutes making for an entertaining spectacle. Which raises the interesting question of why weren't they played from the start?

For Hazard, his exclusion made some sense given the player is returning from a lengthy injury spell. As Chelsea's star man, Conte wouldn't have wanted to risk endangering him but in crunch fixtures like these it's sometimes a gamble worth making. The 26-year-old came close with a powerful shot on goal in the final 10 minutes but who knows how much more of a threat he would have been had he started from the off.

For Sanchez, his demotion to the bench will have raised more than a few eyebrows. It's in these big-profile games where Sanchez is in his element and feels most at home such is the quality on offer. The decision to leave him out makes little sense and it's one that Wenger will likely regret in a game in which a surprisingly assertive Arsenal lacked that special edge which the Chilean would have most likely provided, especially in the side's most promising spell.s

5. Almost perfect

Mustafi saw a late header ruled out for offside

Wenger's conservative tactics from the outset were clearly predicated on keeping things tight, but his gameplan was nearly capped with the perfect ending with Mustafi heading home only to be called back from his celebrations by the linesman's flag.

Conte has taken a lot of credit for his tactical nous - and all of it deserving - but it was Wenger who got the better of the Italian today. The moral victory wasn't rewarded with all three points but it was a positive display nonetheless.

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