Arch-rivals Chelsea and Arsenal played out a goalless draw in the first leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final at Stamford Bridge, making it an anti-climatic 90 minutes with all the hype surrounding the clash of the London big guns.
Arsene Wenger had stated of his desire to see a more compact Gunners side and sent out his side in a 3-5-2 formation, with Shkodran Mustafi playing alongside Rob Holding and Calum Chambers in a back-three in front of David Ospina.
The rumour mills went into overdrive with Alexis Sanchez on the bench as Alex Iwobi was preferred in his place and Arsenal had to make do without the injured trio of Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil and Laurent Koscielny as well.
Alexandre Lacazette lead the line, but his goal drought continue as he lacked composure in the final third, as did Chelsea’s record signing— Alvaro Morata.
The Spaniard was playing at the tip of 3-5-2, with Eden Hazard just behind him and while Chelsea had the better of Arsenal possession-wise, they were unable to breach Ospinia’s goal.
Jack Wilshere, captaining Arsenal on the night, sent in a delightful lofted through-ball for Lacazette but the £56 million-signing sent his effort high and wide, much to the concentration of Arsene Wenger.
Blues winger Victor Moses cut in from the right flank and let fly, but Ospina was equal to the task. The Nigerian was giving Ainsley Maitland-Niles a tough time on the flank and kept testing Opspina’s reflexes throughout, but to no avail.
Arsenal continued to enjoy the better chances, however, with Iwobi coming close to scoring after recovering possession at the edge of the Chelsea penalty area but Thibaut Courtois made a smart stop to deny the wideman.
The final chance of the half came Chelsea’s way, with Cesar Azpilicueta floating in an inviting cross for compatriot Cesc Fabregas, but the midfielder’s tame header was straight at Ospinia and the South American gathered with ease.
Neither side had been particularly impressive in the first-half and Chelsea were the dominant side in the opening exchanges of the second, with Andreas Christensen and Marcos Alonso coming within whiskers of scoring.
Morata had a powerful effort from distance parried to safety by Ospina as Chelsea surged forward to break the deadlock and with Wilshere coming off with an injury just before the hour-mark, it looked like they would seize the game by the scruff of the neck.
Wenger hooked Lacazette shortly after, brining on Alexis Sanchez in the hope Arsenal could nick an away goal but neither manager would have his way as the game petered out for a goalless draw.
In the first leg of the first semi-final, Manchester City edged League One side Bristol City 2-1 on Tuesday night.
Chelsea will now visit the Emirates Stadium to take on Arsenal for the return leg on January 24.
The Blues have a Premier League encounter with Leicester City at Stamford Bridge on Saturday to focus on, while Arsenal make a trip to the Vitality Stadium to take on AFC Bournemouth on Sunday.