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West Bromwich Albion
West Ham United
23 December 2013
• Emirates Stadium, London
Referee: M. Dean
• Attendance: 60039
That's all we have time for from a rather wet Emirates, where Arsenal could only manage a 0-0 stalemate with Jose Mourinho's Chelsea. Not a bad result for either side, but the expectation of goals and entertainment certainly wasn't met. I've been Simon Harrison, and I'll see you again next time.
That result makes this Premier League season one of the tightest to date, with the top five all in with a realistic chance of lifting the title at the end of the season. A draw sees Arsenal go joint-top with Liverpool, and Chelsea move into fourth place on goal difference, leap-frogging Everton.
Lampard struck the underside of the bar for the visitors in the first half, before two chances in quick succession for Giroud couldn't find their way into the back of the net. Wenger will be the more disappointed of the two managers, with muted boos at the final whistle displaying the minority opinion of the Gunners' support.
FULL TIME! A forgettable evening's football comes to a close with Chelsea earning a hard-fought and valuable point at the Emirates. Arsenal pressed in the second half, but couldn't find the wit or guile to surpass the resilient Blues.
90' + 2'
Chelsea pick up a long-range free-kick, but the Brazilian fires his ambitious effort into the wall! That effort sums up this game, plenty of ambition and endeavour, but no means to penetrate.
90' + 1'
OFF THE LINE! Sagna heads a corner delivery towards goal, but the diminutive Spaniard is present on the back post to hoof the ball clear of danger! Close for the hosts.
Three minutes of stoppage time have been awarded, and Arsenal continue to push forward in search of that elusive first goal.
Chelsea are hammering the ball out of their own half, keeping plenty of players behind the ball and hoping to take home a hard-fought point. A solitary point would do no harm to Chelsea's title aims, whilst harming Arsenal's in the process.
David Luiz is taking to the field for the remaining few minutes, with Schurrle or Oscar presumably being pushed into the striker's position. The Brazilian looks to be taking up his place alongside the Chelsea midfield three, as Mourinho hopes to keep things tight.
GIROUD! ANOTHER BIG CHANCE! Gibbs and Rosicky combine well down the left hand side with a one-two, before the left-back cuts the ball back in search of the Frenchman. He gets contact on the cross, but it is deflected into the air, looping over the crossbar from six yards out!
Both Torres and Giroud are continuing to be rather anonymous due to a lack of service, with Arsenal seeing plenty of possession without penetrating. Wenger seems determined not to use his substitutes, despite having the creative maestro of Santi Cazorla awaiting his orders on the bench,
The wind continues to howl around the Emirates, carrying the restless jeers and complaints of the crowd around ferociously. Arsenal are continuing to be the side who are seeing more of the ball and trying to press, but Chelsea appear happy to ride this game out.
Ten minutes left to play, and it's hard to discern which was this game is going to go. Wenger is keeping his faith with the men that he has on the field, but Giroud is the only man to have had a notable chance in the second 45 minutes. This could be an ideal time to throw Podolski back into first team action.
GIROUD! THAT WAS THE CHANCE! The former Montpellier man fires into the side netting, after a cleverly clipped through ball from Ozil! A tight angle, but that was the first time that things have really opened up for the hosts tonight.
Good intervention from Cahill! The Chelsea defender stays strong despite pressure from Giroud, and clears the ball into touch from deep inside his own area. Mourinho is beginning to ring the changes, in order to keep his disciplined side fresh and able to give Torres support in numbers.
We're running out of time at the Emirates, with Chelsea appearing to be happy to take a point home to Stamford Bridge. There is a sense that unless a favourable opportunity to counter arises, the visitors will be more than happy to continue to sit back and frustrate.
The home crowd are enraged, as Ramsey opts to kick the ball into touch, in order to allow Ramires to receive some treatment. Frustrations are spilling over both on and off the field, as the players contest every decision with the referee, who is probably getting rather sick of their behaviour.
Jose Mourinho is the first manager to look to his bench in order to change this game, and the Portuguese boss can probably feel as though his side have the measure of Arsenal here tonight. They've weathered the occasional storm and countered quickly and in numbers.
TERRY! The defender meets Lampard's back post free-kick delivery, after the visitors pick up a set piece due to a bit of exaggeration from Ivanovic. He can only turn it the wrong side of the post, with Szczesny having his angles covered.
Yellow Card Tomas Rosicky
Important two defensive headers from Terry! The centre-half is in the right place at the right time to turn two dangerous crosses away from goal, despite Torres looking to climb at the back post to turn them home. Finally, the game is bursting into some life!
OZIL! Now the Germany international is denied by a block! Cech is being given an easy day at the office by his defenders, who are blocking everything that Arsenal throw at them. Frustrations boil over, as Ozil and Ivanovic trade expletives and a bit of unneeded contact.
Yellow Card Theo Walcott
LAMPARD! Ivanovic fires a long ball up to Torres, who cushioned the ball and lays it back to his captain, who takes a touch. His hammer-strike is enough to test Szczesny, who sprawls down to his right to claim.
Chelsea continue to look the more likely to score, but this game is continuing to be contested heavily in the midfield third. Frustrations are leading to more direct passes in search of Giroud and Torres.
Yellow Card Ramires
Arteta is felled by a nasty challenge from Ramires, as the Brazilian rakes down the ankle of his opponent with his studs showing. The home crowd calls for the Chelsea midfield to be sent off, but Mike Dean has some leniency, possibly due to the conditions.
A long ball in search of Lampard just evades the captain, after Willian looks to lift a delivery onto the head of the advancing midfield from deep on the right hand side. Chelsea's midfield trio has really given Ramires and Lampard plenty of license to get forward.
We're approaching the last half an hour, and Arsenal look no closer to finding the game's breakthrough goal. The likes of Ramsey and Ozil have been very ineffectual, and Cech remains an untroubled figure in between the Chelsea sticks.
Arsenal continue to fail to penetrate the resilient Chelsea lines, as their attacks are pushed ever wider with worrying frequency. With the likes of Ozil forced out towards the touchline, the hosts don't look like doing any damage, unless a player takes a couple of defenders out of the game with a moment of inspiration.
HAZARD! Chelsea break dangerously, as Ivanovic finds Willian with an excellent transitory pass. The Brazilian bursts down the right flank under no pressure, before finding Hazard at the back post unmarked. The Belgian forces his way into the area, before being muscled off the ball by Arteta.
The tempo continues to be rather slow, with the fear of conceding appearing to outweigh any desire to find the breakthrough goal. A defeat would do much more damage to either side's title aspirations than not finding the winning goal, which is perhaps leading to this very cagey evening of football.
ROSICKY! Excellent play from the veteran midfielder! He exchanges passes brilliantly with Giroud, before bursting to the edge of the penalty area and seeing his eventual strike blocked! That's more of the creativity we want to see!
The atmosphere remains rather flat, as the rain continues to pummel down in London. Chelsea's centre-halves split, allowing for them to build from the back, and Arsenal are in absolutely no rush to close them down. It seems that both Wenger and Mourinho would take a point.
Just to remind you all of the significance of this game, Chelsea could go joint-top with a win here tonight, with Arsenal able to regain top spot with the same result. Arsene Wenger is late returning to his bench, whilst struggling to do up his zip, as always.
We're back underway in the second half, and let us hope for some goals! Chelsea have frustrated Arsenal well in the first 45 minutes, but will inevitably want to try to steal the three points which would put them right back in the title race heading into 2014. Arsenal have looked low on ideas, despite keeping the ball well in the opening stages.
Not quite the game that we expected from two teams boasting plenty of midfield and offensive quality, but there's still 45 minutes left to play. Willian has looked reasonably bright whenever he's been on the ball, with Hazard yet to really get involved. Giroud and Ozil have been too anonymous for Arsenal to have any staying power in the final third.
Vermaelen has looked a potential weak link for the home side, who settled into the game well, before petering out after the 20-minute mark. Chelsea have been well disciplined and sat smartly in their shape, committing men forward as quickly as possible once they have won possession.
Frank Lampard hitting the underside of the crossbar with a cushioned instep volley, is the closest that we've gone thus far. Szczesny has been forced into two comfortable stops to deny Torres and Willian, with Cech having very little to do in the opposite goal. The hosts appear unable to deal with the rather slick turf, misplacing plenty of passes.
HALF TIME! It ends goalless after a rather cagey first 45 minutes, where Mourinho's Chelsea have dealt with everything that Arsenal have thrown at them. Arsenal will feel aggrieved that they haven't been awarded a penalty following a trip on Walcott.
45' + 1'
OZIL! Cahill gets in front of a firm half volley from the Germany international, as Chelsea continue to frustrate the hosts in this first half. Mourinho's side look to have the measure of their opposition.
WILLIAN! Great header from Ivanovic! Chelsea continue to weather the storm of a few Arsenal corners in quick succession, before breaking upfield with pace. The Brazilian is found in space on the left, before cutting inside and firing a comfortable strike into the waiting hands of Szczesny.
A good defensive header from Mikel prevents Mertesacker from meeting an Arsenal corner delivery, before Ozil is penalised for being offside. The former Real Madrid man looking to head the ball away from the flapping grasp of Cech, but was slightly beyond the visitors' last defender.
Five minutes until the break, and this game is in desperate need of a goal to force it into action. Arsenal continue to patiently probe, with Chelsea prepared to sit in shape and look to pick off their opponents on the counter. We're yet to see much of Hazard, however, whose involvement could prove key.
Chelsea are perhaps lucky to have eleven men still on the field, as Mikel's challenge on Arteta doesn't get any better after further viewing. Walcott could have easily picked up a penalty for the Gunners too, so it's no surprise to hear the home support chanting about the referee's decision-making.
Arteta is forced to pick himself up gingerly after being caught by a strong challenge from Mikel, after Arsenal fans claimed for a trip on Walcott by Azpilicueta inside the Chelsea penalty area. Things aren't quite going in favour of the hosts at the moment, who are second-best in this game despite seeing plenty of the ball.
Chelsea are beginning to look more confident by the minute, as Arsenal's possession continues to come to nothing. Lampard's strike has been the best chance of the game thus far, and the visitors' pressing is doing just enough to knock Wenger's men out of their stride.
TORRES! Szczesny is finally forced into a save, comfortably diving to his right to catch a strike which Torres hit on the turn. Moments later, the Spaniard is fed in behind the Arsenal defence, but an excellent sliding tackle from Mertesacker blocks his second effort.
LAMPARD! The England international cracks a brilliant effort off the underside of the bar, with Szczesny stood helpless, after a rather hopeful lofted ball towards the back post. That could be the warning shot that this game needs to kick-start it!
Just over ten minutes until half time, and this London derby is yet to burst into life. Neither goalkeeper has been tested, and the majority of long balls have been ineffectual due to their tendency to skid out of play courtesy of the recent weather.
Header away by Mertesacker! Willian does well to dance around a few Arsenal players, but is continually forced wide, until he eventually releases the ball to Azpilicueta, whose cross isn't good enough to find Torres. Chelsea are being forced to go long on occasion, given that Willian and Hazard are finding it difficult to find themselves in positions where they can either isolate their full-back or have a man to aim for in the box.
RAMIRES! The Brazilian finds himself on the edge of the 18-yard box, but can only divert a looping cross over Szczesny's crossbar! That attempt had to be absolutely perfect, given the distance from goal and the power he would have to generate, but it sadly wasn't.
Arsenal continue to see more of the ball, and are prepared to pass around patiently while they wait for a gap to appear. Chelsea continue to frustrate them, however, with only Torres staying upfront consistently. Mourinho seems to be more than aware of Wenger's key men.
Good intervention from Cahill! Sagna escapes from Mikel down Arsenal's right flank, before whipping in a dangerous cross which threatens to flash across the edge of the six-yard box. The former Bolton centre-half hooks the ball away to safety.
Ozil lofts a free-kick delivery over a two man wall of Ramires and Lampard, looking to find an unmarked Giroud at the back post. The ball bounces off the slick turf, and skids out for a goal kick before the Frenchman can stretch a foot towards it.
Eden Hazard is able to get in behind Arsenal's defence, after a strong flick-on from Torres, but the intended pass is too close to Szczesny, who races out and hoofs clear. The atmosphere is somewhat flat, as both outfits continue to cancel each other out entirely.
Twenty minutes into this top of the table clash, and both sides are continuing to play cagily, aware of the damage that the opposition are capable of doing, should they been gifted a yard too much space. Chelsea's central midfield trio are doing a good job of limiting Ozil's involvement.
We're still yet to see any shots, or anything whatsoever in terms of either Cech or Szczesny being tested. Vermaelen makes an important interception to hook away a clever Ramires pass, before Gibbs is able to nod the loose ball back to his goalkeeper. Torres complains that the Belgian dragged him to the floor in the process.
Good defensive header from Terry! The central defender heads away at the near post, after Rosicky beat his man well and swung in a pacey cross. The Czech midfielder has looked bright thus far, always using his intelligence to try and get beyond his marker and deliver.
This game certainly looks to be both sides sizing each other up, probing for any weaknesses in their personnel or system. Arsenal fire the ball up to Walcott, who controls with his back to goal at the edge of the Chelsea area, but a combination of Terry and Azpilicueta manage to scramble the ball away.
A well-organised but creatively lacking start to this game, with plenty of unforced errors being made, and neither goalkeeper being tested. The wet surface may be a contributing factor, giving passes extra zip, but we're yet to see glimpses of the offensive quality which both teams possess.
The game continues to be contested mainly in the midfield third, with Chelsea working hard to impose themselves on proceedings with some tenacity. Arsenal continue to have the better of possession, as the visitors are yet to give much of the ball to their dangerous wide men, Hazard and Willian.
Ramsey is down injured, after being tackled from behind by a stray leg from Azpilicueta. The Chelsea left-back apologises, and the Wales midfielder looks able to carry on without any lasting damage. Sagna is then dumped onto the turf by a strong challenge from Lampard.
Torres races through on goal after dragging back Mertesacker, but the Spain international is penalised for a slight tug of the shirt of the towering German defender. Mike Dean comes to Arsenal's rescue, as Torres looked certain to confront Szczesny and give the visitors an early lead.
Arsenal have had the better of the opening ten minutes, making only a few errors after misplacing passes. The midfield trio behind Giroud are free-flowing as always, with Rosicky not afraid to cut inside from his touchline and allow Gibbs space to overlap.
A cagey start to proceedings, with neither side wanting to approach this game in a gung-ho fashion and concede an early goal. Giroud has seen a few incisive balls reach his feet, but Torres is yet to have a real impact on the game, other than being dispossessed strongly by Mertesacker.
LAMPARD! The England international sees an early strike blocked, after Hazard did well to rob Ramsey and allow Azipilicueta to overlap down the left hand side. The Spaniard cut the ball back to his captain, but Lampard could only fire into a ruck of red and white shirts.
It's been a midfield battle thus far, with neither side prepared to press high and force the opposition defence into making mistakes. No chances have been carved out, with long balls finding their way through to Cech and Szczesny safely.
The hosts see plenty of the ball in the opening two minutes, with Szczesny seeing some early touches as they stroke the ball around the defensive line. Arteta and Ramsey are certainly the two midfielders tasked with marshalling the middle third, with Rosicky out on the left hand side.
We are underway at the Emirates, in a game of utmost importance at the top of the Premier League. Both teams could find themselves scrapping at the summit of the league table with three points here tonight, with Arsenal in particular needing a victory to settle themselves after three matches without a win.
The two teams are about to take to the sodden pitch, after heavy rain in London over the course of the day. There shouldn't be an issue with the playing surface, but studs are presumably a must! The wind is howling and the rain continues to hammer down, which may affect the intricacies of the game, but it's nothing that hasn't been experienced by these teams before.
Ten minutes until kick-off, and we should have an excellent game on our hands tonight. Both sides will want to give their fans something to cheer about as Christmas approaches, with top spot the target for both clubs playing on the Emirates' turf this evening. Both outfits possess exciting offensive options, Chelsea in particular, and there should be some goals in this match for the neutral to enjoy.
If Arsenal lose tonight, the Gunners could spend Christmas in fourth place, despite leading the way in the league throughout the majority of the current campaign. Should tonight's visitors pick up the three points, Mourinho will have top spot in his sights throughout the festive period. This season has been one of fine margins, and promises to boast a similarly close title race.
Plenty of pressure will be placed on Giroud to lead the line for the hosts tonight, as the Frenchman has been misfiring of late. The return of Podolski to the substitutes bench will surely force the former Montpellier man to fight for his place in the starting line-up, despite the Germany international often being deployed behind the striker. Both sides have a wealth of options on their respective benches who can have an impact on tonight's action.
Both sides have had forgettable last outings, after Chelsea crashed out of the League Cup after extra-time against Sunderland, and Arsenal suffered at the free-scoring hands of Manchester City at the Etihad. With no wins in three games in all competitions, the Gunners will be keen to get back on track and head into the New Year on top of the Premier League pile. If Chelsea are to pick upt three points, Mourinho's men will be right in the title race mix.
Wenger chooses to pick Tomas Rosicky ahead of Cazorla, with the Czech midfielder needing to put in a solid shift against the energetic Ramires. Walcott keeps his place in the side after his brace against Man City last time out. Chelsea are either deploying Ramires on the right hand side of midfield, or in a midfield trio with Lampard and Mikel.
Chelsea substitutes: Cole, David Luiz, Mata, Oscar, Schurrle, Schwarzer, Eto'o.
Chelsea starting line-up: Cech; Azpilicueta, Terry, Cahill, Ivanovic; Mikel, Lampard; Ramires, Willian, Hazard; Torres.
Arsenal substitutes: Podolski, Monreal, Cazorla, Flamini, Fabianski, Bendtner, Jenkinson.
Arsenal starting line-up: Szczesny; Gibbs, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Sagna; Arteta, Ramsey; Rosicky, Ozil, Walcott; Giroud.
TEAM NEWS: Jack Wilshere misses out for Arsenal, following his suspension for a gesture at Manchester City's fans, with Laurent Koscielny failing to return to the first team squad after suffering a gash on his knee. Michael Essien is suspended for the visitors, who opt to play Willian as opposed to Juan Mata, despite the Spaniard enjoying successful performances against the Gunners in the past.
I'm Simon Harrison, and I will be keeping you up to date with all of tonight's action, as Arsene Wenger attempts to defeat a Jose Mourinho side for the first time. The Portuguese coach has managed five wins and four draws against his adversary, with the Frenchman still awaiting a triumph with his Arsenal side. Two points separates these two outfits in the Premier League table, so let us keep our fingers crossed for a Christmas cracker.
Hello and welcome to tonight's sole Premier League fixture, as Chelsea travel to the Emirates for what is most probably their sternest test of the season thus far. Arsene Wenger's men have been momentarily deposed from top of the pile by Liverpool, but can regain first place with a win this evening. Both sides are determined to forget their last matches, after disappointing defeats.
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