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Pumped up Arsenal make their point in west London

SPOT THE BALL: Action from yesterday's London derby
Photo credit: Sylvester George

AHEAD OF their meeting at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, Antonio Conte was adamant that Arsenal are title contenders. He also knew that the Gunners had not won at the home of their cross capital rivals for five years. Following an entertaining 0-0 that statistic still remains, but the manner in which Arsenal held their own and actually could have won added weight to Conte's pre-match assertion. The Italian saw his side reduced to ten men following the late dismissal of David Luiz for a high tackle on Sead Kolasinac.

"I don't like to comment about the referee," said Conte. "We have great respect for officials, but it is strange to finish a third game in a row against Arsenal with 10 men."
The point leaves Chelsea third in the table, three points behind Manchester City and Manchester United.

Conte continued, "It was a good, open game with both teams trying to win. Every game against Arsenal is always very tough. We knew very well what type of game we would face. Both teams are great teams - it's a good draw."

There is genuine warmth between Conte and Arsene Wenger, and having seen his side produce a robust, steely and creative performance, Wenger left smiling at the final whistle. With Arsenal having been thrashed at Anfield, Wenger was pleased with his side who were without the injured Mesut Özil and Alexis Sanchez who started on th bench.

"Everyone wanted to see how we responded to our last away league game and we did that in a positive way. We could have won but overall it was an intense, disciplined and battling game.

"We are not in a transfer period and on the day we played Liverpool that affected us. We are all human beings. If you play 55 games a season you can have a bad performance.

"We had a bad record recently here and they are strong at home. But we showed solidarity and that was very good. We didn't hide when we had the ball and this is a good basis to build on for future games," said Wenger.

As an away performance, this was much better Arsenal's trip to Anfield, and at Stamford Bridge, the Gunners not only turned up, but arguably were worthy of more than a point. Aaron Ramsey danced his way through to see his first half shot beat Thibaut Courtois, but come back off his upright where Alexandre Lacazette, couldn't tap in for the follow up.

Shkodran Mustafi thought his second half header had given the game it's opening goal from a free kick, but he looked back in horror - as did the thousands in the away end at Stamford Bridge to see that the linesman had his flag raised. Late on in the game, David Luiz was shown a straight red card for his challenge of Sead Kolasinac, the Bosnian was caught, but managed to recover to see out the game.

Wenger made nine changes from the side which saw off FC Koln in the Europa League. Özil was out with a late injury, and Alex Iwobi stepped in. Sanchez was amongst the subs where Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott also started.

Making a return to his former club Petr Cech was busy early on, he intervened after Granit Xhaka slipped up and when Hector Bellerin's poor pass to Xhaka set up Pedro. The Spaniard was face to face with Cech, but the Gunners' keeper spread himself to block his effort.

Composed and looking confident, Arsenal began to venture forward. Bellerin raced away to cross and found the advanced Welbeck. The England marksman got his head to the ball, but headed off target when he should have at least given Thibaut Courtois something to think about.

A minute later and Ramsey fed Bellerin, whose cross found Lacazette with little time. The France striker struck low, Courtois got down to deny the effort holding onto the ball at the second attempt.

On 20 minutes, Kolasinac struck a venomous effort which tested Courtois, the Belgian, pushing the ball away, unable to hold on.

Midway through the first half, Pedro latched onto Cesc Fabregas's long ball to beat the offside trap but Cech was the equal of the shot. Pressing and asking questions of the Chelsea defence, Xhaka fired just wide from 25 yards, and then five minutes before the break, that moment which should have seen Arsenal take the lead. Ramsey carved his was through the back-peddling Blues rearguard, and struck to hit the post, with Courtois beaten. From three yards out, however Lacazette struck over with the follow up as the open goal went begging.

With half time rapidly approaching, Monreal struck with a powerful back pass under pressure from Alvaro Morata but Cech recovered to spare the blushes of the Spainiard.

Arsenal continued to attack after the break, Welbeck tried to find Ramsey when a shot was possibly his best option. Welbeck then put in Kolasinac, but the Bosnian ran out of room before he could shoot. The display had the travelling fans in good voice and soon their pleas for Alexis to be introduced were heard. Lacazette made way for the Chile striker.

After 79 minutes, Chelsea introduced their own danger man, Eden Hazard who saw an early run and shot which Cech held on to.

Ten minutes before time, Iwobi made way for Mohammed Elneny as the Gunners sought to protect what they had. With time king out, Luiz was shown a straight red card for what Arsene Wenger called " excessive force."

The one man advantage came too late to help the Gunners as a point a piece was a fair reflection of a game which Arsenal could not have afforded to have lost.

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