A fixture billed as a pre-Christmas cracker was more ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’ than ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ as Arsenal’s hopes of regaining top spot in the Premier League fizzled out in a turgid 0-0 draw with Chelsea.
Nine days after losing 6-3 at Manchester City and having seen their title rivals steal a march on them at the weekend, Arsenal found themselves stifled by a defensive Chelsea side and hardly managed a shot on target.
The home fans chanted “Boring, Boring Chelsea” on a rain-lashed night in north London but the visitors actually had the better of what few chances there were and will take greater satisfaction from a spirit-dampening encounter.
Both sides moved up a place in the table, Arsenal to second with 36 points, behind leaders Liverpool on goal difference, while Chelsea returned to the top four with 34 points, above Everton also on goal difference.
It could have been even better for Chelsea had Frank Lampard’s first-half volley hit the back of the net rather than the underside of the crossbar.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, who has never lost to Arsene Wenger in 10 meetings after Monday’s draw, appeared quite content to maintain his hold over the Frenchman.
“We controlled the game very well. There was one big chance for us and lots of half chances and for them one big chance and no half chances,” Mourinho told reporters.
“It was a tactical match. A match that Arsenal wants to win but doesn’t want to lose and Chelsea wants to win but doesn’t want to lose,” Mourinho told Sky Sports. “The goalkeeper (Petr Cech) was not in the game, we controlled the game defensively. We let Mikel Arteta play the ball from side to side, we were completely under control.”
Fans who braved a howling gale and driving rain might have wished they had stayed at home to wrap up the Christmas presents. Many home fans booed at the final whistle and their frustrations were shared by Wenger, who felt his side should have been awarded a first-half penalty when Theo Walcott was caught on the ankle by Brazilian midfielder Willian.
“I think it was a penalty, honestly,” he said.