Arsenal defied all expectations to pick up a point from Stamford Bridge, and were unfortunate not to take all three.
Antonio Conte’s side dominated the opening few minutes of the match, with Cesc Fabregas controlling possession and Pedro constantly challenging the opposition defence with his runs behind.
The first significant chance for Chelsea came when Pedro latched onto a lovely dinked pass from his compatriot. Pedro got the ball trapped under his feet as he advanced towards Petr Cech – who received a superb ovation – and weakly chipped it into the hands of the former Chelsea man.
Arsenal took charge of the rest of the first half. Hector Bellerin completely humiliated Marcos Alonso on numerous occasions, while Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka dominated the middle third. Alex Iwobi helped out in central midfield, as he proved once again that he belongs in the centre.
Bellerin’s delivery was consistent, and a near post effort from Alexandre Lacazette demanded a sharp, low save from Thibaut Courtois. Lacazette could – and should – have done better.
Gary Cahill looked every inch like a man who had played only a few minutes of Premier League football this season, with the club captain caught out on a couple of occasions. The choice to play him ahead of Antonio Rudiger was inevitable, but one that drew plenty of criticism from Chelsea fans.
Chelsea’s midfield and defence was parted again by a Ramsey run. The Welshman held off challenges and found his way into the box. His scooped shot pinged off the inside of the far post, then Lacazette had the moment he was signed for: a poacher’s chance.
The Frenchman was in the right place, but could not shift his body weight quickly enough to hand Arsenal a deserved lead. The ball disappeared into the crowd.
A Danny Welbeck header was yet another good chance for the Gunners. The England international leapt high above the Chelsea defence to flick it towards the far post, but it was far wide. The king of nearly men nearly opened the scoring.
The shift in the pattern of the match was at half-time. Pedro was replaced by Tiemoue Bakayoko and Chelsea took charge.
Possession in Arsenal’s half was the norm in the second period, though Chelsea struggled to create anything. Alvaro Morata and Willian could not hold the ball for any time throughout the match, despite the clear difficulties Shkodran Mustafi was having.
Alexis Sanchez and Eden Hazard were introduced within minutes of each other.
Sanchez struggled to get into the game, but Hazard immediately provided a spark to Chelsea’s attack. Dropping between the lines and driving at the Arsenal defence, the Belgian opened space for a shot and looked to be the Blues’ only chance of scoring in the last 20 minutes.
A bicycle kick from David Luiz would have been the focus of debate (as he only received a yellow), had he not gone on to get a straight red for a high, lunging slide tackle on Sead Kolasinac. The Brazilian will miss the EFL Cup tie in midweek, the trip to Stoke and the all-important clash with Manchester City.
Chelsea will desperately miss their ball-playing defender at the Bet365 Stadium and against Pep Guardiola’s side.
A good result for Arsenal, and a marginally acceptable one for Chelsea. Arsene Wenger will be the happier manager, now Chelsea must find a way to bounce back as they look to keep pace with the Manchester clubs.
One of the better nil-nils this season, yet both teams’ weaknesses were clear. Quality was lacking for large parts of this match, but – in typical Premier League fashion – the tension and pace of a London derby saved us from true tedium.