Chelsea’s Carabao Cup semi-final with Arsenal will go to the wire after both sides played out a bore draw.
Antonio Conte’s men, wasteful in front of goal in the 2-2 League draw with the Gunners last week, blew two good chances in the second half here.
The goal drought of Arsenal’s £44million striker Alexandre Lacazette was extended to eight games now with the Frenchman wasting a first-half opportunity.
Chelsea’s best chances came during the second half when Andreas Christensen headed over the bar from point blank range and Victor Moses had a goal bound shot blocked by Shkodran Mustafi.
Hazard couldn’t make a major impression on proceedings (Image: AFP)
Wilshere went off injured (Image: Shaun Brooks/Action Plus via Getty Images)
Wenger watched the match from the stands as he continues to serve out his three-match ban for his verbal attack on Mike Riley last month.
The Frenchman was hit with another blow midway through the second half when Jack Wilshere was forced off with injury.
The England midfielder – who had started seven of the previous nine games – appeared to injure his knee as he blocked an attempted cross from Danny Drinkwater.
Wilshere tried to continue before coming off to be replaced by Mohamed Elneny. Despite vowing to punish forward Alex Iwobi for partying the night before the Gunners’ shock FA Cup defeat at Nottingham Forest, Wenger played the Nigerian from the start.
Frustration for the Blues (Image: AFP)
Alexis Sanchez was also brought on as a second-half substitute despite – with six months left on his contract – being in negotiations with Manchester City over a move to the Etihad.
Chelsea paraded their new £15million signing Ross Barkley at half time. The former Everton player briefly saluted fans to applause before disappearing down the tunnel.
Referee Martin Atkinson consulted his Video Assistant Referee twice during the first half. First when Cesar Azpilicueta clashed with Calum Chambers, then when Victor Moses appeared to foul Ainsley Maitland-Niles in the box. He decided against against awarding a penalty.
There was another anxious moment in the closing moments when Danny Welbeck slid in on Cesc Fabregas in the box. A long delay ensued as Atkinson again consulted the VAR but no spot kick was given.
1. Wenger made the right call on Sanchez
Sanchez came off the bench (Image: AFP)
His quality is beyond doubt, but Wenger made the right decision not starting him here.
He wants to leave. He is simply no longer focused on what Arsenal are trying to achieve. He is busier trying to decide whether to take the a big payday at Manchester City now or wait until the summer when his bank manager will be even happier.
Wenger is burying his head in the sand when he talks about Sanchez still giving his all in an Arsenal shirt. His head is elsewhere.
At Crystal Palace last month Wenger claimed the performance of Sanchez was a response to questions about the Chilean’s commitment. No it was not. Pen to paper will always trump a couple of goals.
He is off. Everybody knows it.
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MATCH IN PICTURES: CHELSEA V ARSENAL IN THE CARABAO CUP
2. Wenger needs cup triumph again
He’s up there somewhere (Image: AFP)
These days he cuts a grumpy, King Canute-type figure in his press conferences. Annoyed that he is no longer able to convince his critics that he has the answers.
Here, sitting in the press box for the second game in his three-match touchline ban, he had to take it on the chin as the Chelsea fans around him gave him both barrels.
“Arsene Wenger, we want you to stay!” they mocked. He has managed fought back by salvaging his season with a cup in three of the past four seasons. He needs this Carabao Cup now more than ever.
3. It’s only Antonio vs Jose
The Blues’ boss on the sidelines (Image: AFP)
As cards on the table go, his warning to Jose Mourinho that their feud is personal is some statement. Here, this was actually chance for Conte’s *team* to do the talking.
After Chelsea’s shambolic FA Cup display at Norwich last Saturday they had a lot to say.
Although he’d become wound up by Arsene Wenger’s suggestion that Eden Hazard made the most of his penalty claim last week, Conte says he has no real axe to grind with Wenger. He showed respect in the build-up to this match and we’ve seen nothing so far to match the naked contempt he has for Mourinho.
There is time though.
4. Iwobi’s surprising start
A surprise starter (Image: IAN KINGTON/AFP/Getty Images)
So, er, what kind punishment was that? Starting the Arsenal forward after claiming he’d be hammered – pardon the pun – for going out on the razz the night before the club’s shock FA Cup defeat to Nottingham Forest.
It was a punishment that epitomised the inertia and lack of leadership at the Emirates. So he performed well on the night? So what?
5. Morata’s struggles continue
It’s just not happening for the Spaniard (Image: REUTERS)
All eyes were on the Spanish striker to see whether his Midas touch in front of goal had returned.
Last week against Arsenal he missed three gilt-edged opportunities, the last of which would have remarkably pinched all three points in second-half injury time.
Was that just a bad day? Or has he really lost his mojo in front of goal.
This was a chance for us to find out. He really is struggling.