LONDON: No hurry. No rush. No panic. Step by step. Chelsea, under Jose Mourinho, are content to take an entirely professional approach towards the club’s first Premier League in five years.
A goalless draw away to Arsenal was probably less than they deserved. Chelsea ‘bossed’ the game, restricted Arsenal to a handful of half-chances and even created the more danger on the occasional break.
For long periods of the game they were satisfied just to roll the ball around between them, keeping possession against an Arsenal side who lacked even the energy to press and chase. Chelsea have five matches remaining and need to win only two.
Even before kickoff the prizes and awards had started rolling in. Six Chelsea players were in the Team of the Year, announced hours before the game by the players’ union, the Professional Footballers’ Association.
There could be no argument with the selection of skipper John Terry, defensive partners Gary Cahill and Branko Ivanovic, midfield anchor Nemanja Matic, winger Eden Hazard and 19-goal club leading scorer Diego Costa.
Arsenal, by contrast, contributed ‘only’ Chile forward Alexis Sanchez despite yet another Champions League qualification and return to the FA Cup Final.
Injuries to Costa, Didier Drogba and Loic Remy saw Chelsea without a ‘real’ centre-forward in north London and firmed up suspicion that they would pack midfield – where Arsenal were particularly strong – with a draw a very acceptable result along the road to the league title.
For all that, Chelsea claimed a penalty in vain after only 15 minutes when Arsenal keeper David Ospina flattened the onrunning Oscar in a Schmacher/Battiston sort of incident. Arsenal were doubly fortunate in that Hector Bellerin, chased back just in time to head the ball virtually off the line for a corner.
Cesc Fabregas, back at his old club for the first time since his Premier return to Chelsea last summer, also claimed a penalty for a trip minutes later. Referee Michael Oliver booked him for diving, a decision greeted with delight by Arsenal’s fans.
Chelsea’s counter-attacking strategy created more openings than Arsenal were managing. Ramires should have scored after being set free in the centre but his shot was too relaxed and Ospina was able, this time, to make an orthodox diving save.
Chelsea, thus encouraged, brought on Drogba for Oscar at the start of a second half. Arsenal raised their game but Chelsea remained in command. The Gunners could not even capitalise on half-chances. Mesut Ozil lost control after cutting into the penalty box then captain Per Mertesacker pulled a shot wastefully wide after a corner.
** Manchester United missed the chance to overtake neighbours Manchester City when sloppy defending cost them a 3-0 defeat at Everton.
United lost despite enjoying 66pc of possession. This was the first home-and-away beating for Louis Van Gaal as United manager. Everton old boys Marouane Fellaini and Wayne Rooney were both below par and were substituted.
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