Well if it was slightly in question before this match, it certainly isn’t now. Chelsea’s quest for the Premier League title has almost reached its climax. After a dogged, stubborn and defensively brilliant performance at the Emirates on Sunday, they held Arsenal, their closest challengers, to a 0-0 draw.
The reaction of the Blues at full-time told the entire story. The players jumped around like they had won the match. But, they knew that, in essence, they had all but won the league. With a 10-point lead going into the last 5 games of the season, Chelsea now need just 2 victories to make it mathematically certain. They can no longer seal it in April, but 3 points each against Leicester on Wednesday night and Crystal Palace next Sunday will follow a celebration of the first league triumph in 5 years.
Despite the match ending goalless, there were several controversies and talking points to come out of the Emirates. We pick out the major ones:
1) John Terry puts in one of his best ever performances
Jose Mourinho lauded his side’s defensive discipline after the game, but singled out John Terry in his praise. The 34 year-old, who has been at the club since the age of 14, was made club captain by Mourinho in 2004. The Portuguese said that in all his time managing the Englishman, yesterday was his best defensive performance.
Terry’s reading of the game was on a completely different level, as he thwarted every attempt by Arsenal to pass their way into the box. His positioning too, was as good as ever, as he headed away cross after cross that came into the penalty area. The centre-half wears his heart on his sleeve and his celebrations at full-time reflected his pride and happiness at both his, and Chelsea’s performance yesterday. He has been named in the PFA Team of the Year, for the first time since since 2006, and is just weeks away from lifting the 4th Premier League trophy of his career.
2) Should Chelsea and Arsenal both have had penalties?
In the first-half, both sides had penalty shouts waved away by referee Michael Oliver. The home side felt they should have been awarded a spot kick when Santi Cazorla’s shot struck Gary Cahill on the hand. But as the defender was extremely close to the ball, it wasn’t awarded. Chelsea had an early claim when Oscar was tripped by Hector Bellerin, but the contact was both minimal and accidental. Then came a moment which the Arsenal fans really enjoyed as Cesc Fabregas was booked for diving in the box. Replays show slight contact, but the Spaniard did go down very easily.
The most legitimate claim for a spot kick came when Oscar was put through by Fabregas. He lobbed the ball over the onrushing Ospina before the goalkeeper took him out. Bellerin cleared the ball off the line, and following that, Oliver should have stopped the game and given a penalty.
3) Mourinho gets it right once again
Chelsea, just like in all their games this season, came with a plan and executed it to perfection. They were disciplined and compact, and the defence and midfield held their positions perfectly throughout. They came to the Emirates to avoid defeat, and even though they could have got much more out of the game had either of Diego Costa or Loic Remy been fit, Mourinho will have no complaints. Even though the Portuguese still refuses to say the title race is all over, Chelsea are almost there.