Arsenal's hopes of a top-four finish remain in the balance after they were held to a goalless home draw by an under-strength Chelsea.

The Blues made eight changes to the team which beat Barcelona on Wednesday, but comfortably contained the Gunners.

In a poor first half, Robin van Persie hit a post and Laurent Koscielny headed against the bar after making two fine clearances to thwart Chelsea.

Van Persie missed two chances late on and Koscielny denied Daniel Sturridge.

Analysis

No goals, leg-weary and disjointed. For Chelsea, Tuesday's Champions League semi-final second leg was probably the bigger priority but their understudies proved capable. Their main aim was containment, and they achieved that, but Barcelona will be a lot more threatening that the Arsenal of today.

For two clubs who have played out so many classic encounters over the years, this once deserves to be forgotten as quickly as possible.

But it could have significant ramifications for both in their respective bids to finish in the Champions League places.

Arsenal stay third with three matches remaining, but Tottenham and Newcastle are six points adrift with two games in hand.

Those two are a point ahead of Chelsea with one game in hand, meaning the Blues' place in next season's Champions League may rest on them winning the competition this time around.

They take a 1-0 lead into the second leg of their semi-final against Barcelona on Tuesday, a game which seems to be taking greater importance by the day.

Three days on from that first-leg victory over Barcelona, and with the trip to Spain a high priority, it was hardly surprising Blues boss Roberto di Matteo made so many alterations to his starting line-up.

Chelsea locked game - Wenger

Petr Cech, John Terry and Gary Cahill were the only men to keep their places, but Chelsea's side still featured plenty of quality and they were perfectly comfortable in the early stages.

They passed and moved with pace and intelligence as the home crowd grew frustrated with their team's lethargic opening.

It was Arsenal who created the first clear-cut chance - Van Persie meeting Theo Walcott's free-kick at the back post but only managing to direct his free-kick against the woodwork.

However, that failed to spark the hosts into life and it required a last-ditch interception from Koscielny to prevent Fernando Torres meeting Florent Malouda's low centre.

Two minutes later, Malouda fed Salomon Kalou over the top and he eluded on-rushing goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, only for Koscielny to arrive with impeccable timing once more.

Di Matteo defends Chelsea rotation

Arsenal's usual fluency was absent but they finally found some rhythm shortly before half-time when Koscielny headed a free-kick against the bar and Van Persie saw a drive parried by Cech.

The start of the second half was as underwhelming and uneventful as the first, although Arsenal's hopes were dented by the loss of Walcott and Tomas Rosicky to injury.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's withdrawal meant Arsenal had made all three substitutions with 20 minutes still to play, while Chelsea introduced John Mikel Obi, Juan Mata and Ashley Cole.

The arrival of former Gunner Cole raised the volume inside Emirates Stadium, but the pattern of play did not alter as Chelsea contained Arsenal while occasionally looking to strike on the counter-attack.

Van Persie skewed wide after being released on the right by Alex Song, and was then foiled by Cech after one turn too many.

Arsenal could find no way through and it took a fine challenge by Koscielny to deny Sturridge at the end.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger:

"They locked the game completely. They had to win as well but tried to lock the game, catch us on the break. We lacked a bit of fluency, played with the handbrake on, feared not to be exposed on counters and were not complete spontaneous.

"It was a very tough game physically but we showed great character and were a bit unlucky with our chances. We knew would have few chances but they had none, zero.

"I felt it was more a nervous thing today than 'end of season'. Chelsea are very strong physically in the middle of park and had a very defensive-minded midfield. They killed the game and we were not quick enough to open them up, but still had chances."

Chelsea manager Roberto di Matteo:

"We put ourselves in good position with breaks, we just missed some quality in the final pass to get a goal. Arsenal play a similar game to Barcelona with possession and rotation. We contained them well but going forward we looked dangerous.

"We had a few players out because of injuries and illness today and I selected the best team to get a result. It was out third game in less than six games, it's impossible to use the same 11 players but we have a great squad and today they showed their quality and worth.

"The demand is incredible; it's crazy that we have to play in such a short period of time this amount of games. It's dangerous for the players because the risk of injury increases.

"There are four games left and three home games - we've got a tough schedule but we can do it [finish in the top four]."

Lineup, Bookings (7) & Substitutions (6)

Arsenal

  • 13 Szczesny
  • 03 Sagna
  • 05 Vermaelen
  • 06 Koscielny
  • 28 Gibbs
  • 07 Rosicky Booked (Diaby - 64' Booked )
  • 14 Walcott (Gervinho - 60' )
  • 15 Oxlade-Chamberlain (Santos - 69' )
  • 16 Ramsey
  • 17 Song
  • 10 Van Persie Booked

Substitutes

  • 21 Fabianski
  • 11 Santos
  • 20 Djourou
  • 02 Diaby
  • 39 Coquelin
  • 27 Gervinho
  • 29 Chamakh

Chelsea

  • 01 Cech
  • 17 Bosingwa Booked
  • 24 Cahill Booked
  • 26 Terry
  • 34 Bertrand (Cole - 77' Booked )
  • 05 Essien
  • 06 Romeu (Mikel - 66' )
  • 15 Malouda Booked
  • 09 Torres
  • 21 Kalou (Mata - 74' )
  • 23 Sturridge

Substitutes

  • 22 Turnbull
  • 03 Cole
  • 19 Ferreira
  • 08 Lampard
  • 12 Mikel
  • 16 Meireles
  • 10 Mata
Ref: Dean
Att: 60,111

Match Stats

Shots

13 13

On target

8 7

Corners

7 7

Fouls

11 11

Live Text Commentary

90:00 +4:54 Full time

Full Time The referee blows his whistle to end the game.

90:00 +4:34

Jose Bosingwa takes a shot. Vassiriki Diaby gets a block in.

90:00 +4:25

Corner from the right by-line taken by Juan Mata, Aaron Ramsey makes a clearance.

90:00 +3:29

Yao Gervinho takes a shot. Blocked by Mikel.

90:00 +1:05

Fernando Torres is caught offside. Free kick taken by Laurent Koscielny.

90:00 +0:28

The offside flag is raised against Robin van Persie. Petr Cech takes the free kick.

90:00 +0:07

Inswinging corner taken left-footed by Robin van Persie, clearance by Michael Essien.

88:47

Effort from a long way out by Daniel Sturridge goes wide of the left-hand upright.

87:24

Inswinging corner taken by Juan Mata from the right by-line, Wojciech Szczesny makes a save.

85:57

Outswinging corner taken by Clarindo Andre Santos, Robin van Persie takes a shot. Petr Cech makes a comfortable save.

85:41

Robin van Persie takes a shot. Save made by Petr Cech.

83:02

The referee blows for offside against Fernando Torres. Free kick taken by Kieran Gibbs.

82:21

Effort on goal by Robin van Persie from deep inside the penalty area misses to the right of the target.

80:50

Free kick taken by Bacary Sagna.

80:50 Booking

Booking Booking for Ashley Cole for unsporting behaviour.

80:46

Alex Song fouled by Ashley Cole, the ref awards a free kick.

76:54

Mikel gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Laurent Koscielny. Robin van Persie crosses the ball in from the free kick, Mikel manages to make a clearance.

75:56

Juan Mata takes the free kick.

75:56 Substitution

Substitution Ashley Cole is brought on as a substitute for Ryan Bertrand.

75:56 Booking

Booking Booking for Vassiriki Diaby for unsporting behaviour.

75:45

Michael Essien fouled by Vassiriki Diaby, the ref awards a free kick.

75:16

Juan Mata is caught offside. Wojciech Szczesny restarts play with the free kick.

74:52

Michael Essien takes a shot. Laurent Koscielny gets a block in.

74:15

Foul by Bacary Sagna on Fernando Torres, free kick awarded. Direct free kick taken by Florent Malouda.

73:06 Substitution

Substitution Juan Mata joins the action as a substitute, replacing Salomon Kalou.

72:55

A cross is delivered by Vassiriki Diaby, save by Petr Cech.

71:48

Indirect free kick taken by Clarindo Andre Santos.

71:48 Booking

Booking Jose Bosingwa is shown a yellow card for unsporting behaviour.

71:40

Free kick awarded for a foul by Jose Bosingwa on Clarindo Andre Santos.

70:28

Vassiriki Diaby takes a shot. Michael Essien gets a block in.

69:44

Salomon Kalou gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Bacary Sagna. Wojciech Szczesny takes the free kick.

68:40

Indirect free kick taken by John Terry.

68:40 Substitution

Substitution (Arsenal) makes a substitution, with Clarindo Andre Santos coming on for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

68:40

Yao Gervinho is flagged offside by the assistant referee.

68:05

Daniel Sturridge takes a shot. Save by Wojciech Szczesny.

66:53

Effort on goal by Robin van Persie from just inside the area clears the bar.

66:32

Daniel Sturridge takes a shot. Save by Wojciech Szczesny.

66:01

Foul by Vassiriki Diaby on Florent Malouda, free kick awarded. Free kick taken by Florent Malouda.

65:33 Substitution

Substitution Mikel replaces Oriol Romeu.

63:44 Substitution

Substitution Vassiriki Diaby comes on in place of Tomas Rosicky.

62:29

Gary Cahill gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Robin van Persie. Strike on goal comes in from Robin van Persie from the free kick.

62:01

Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Ryan Bertrand by Yao Gervinho. Free kick taken by Petr Cech.

59:45 Substitution

Substitution Yao Gervinho joins the action as a substitute, replacing Theo Walcott.

58:54

The ball is crossed by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

58:22

Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain from the left by-line.

57:42

Robin van Persie takes a shot. Save by Petr Cech.

55:05

The referee blows for offside against Robin van Persie. Petr Cech takes the free kick.

53:47

Direct free kick taken by Kieran Gibbs.

53:47 Booking

Booking Booking for Gary Cahill.

53:34

Gary Cahill concedes a free kick for a foul on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

50:31

Outswinging corner taken left-footed by Florent Malouda, Laurent Koscielny makes a clearance.

49:29

Indirect free kick taken by Ryan Bertrand.

49:29 Booking

Booking Robin van Persie receives a yellow card for unsporting behaviour.

49:16

Unfair challenge on Michael Essien by Robin van Persie results in a free kick.

48:35

The free kick is delivered left-footed by Robin van Persie from right channel, Oriol Romeu makes a clearance.

48:35 Booking

Booking Florent Malouda goes into the book for unsporting behaviour.

48:16

Florent Malouda challenges Robin van Persie unfairly and gives away a free kick.

47:24

Florent Malouda fouled by Alex Song, the ref awards a free kick. Florent Malouda takes the indirect free kick.

46:30

The ball is delivered by Fernando Torres, Thomas Vermaelen manages to make a clearance.

45:01

The second half begins.

45:00 +2:15 Half time

Half Time The match has reached half-time.

45:00 +1:51

The offside flag is raised against Theo Walcott. Petr Cech takes the indirect free kick.

45:00 +1:15

Free kick awarded for a foul by Daniel Sturridge on Theo Walcott. The free kick is swung in right-footed by Theo Walcott, clearance made by John Terry.

45:00 +1:02

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain takes a shot. Gary Cahill gets a block in.

45:00 +0:14

Free kick awarded for a foul by Robin van Persie on Gary Cahill. Indirect free kick taken by Oriol Romeu.

43:56

Foul by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on Florent Malouda, free kick awarded. Petr Cech restarts play with the free kick.

43:26

Inswinging corner taken left-footed by Robin van Persie from the right by-line, Petr Cech makes a save.

43:11

The ball is sent over by Alex Song, Robin van Persie takes a shot. Petr Cech makes a save.

42:03

Outswinging corner taken left-footed by Florent Malouda, Headed effort on goal by John Terry from inside the penalty box misses to the right of the goal.

40:26

Florent Malouda gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Robin van Persie produces a cross, Laurent Koscielny takes a shot.

39:44

Jose Bosingwa delivers the ball, Wojciech Szczesny makes a save.

38:50

Inswinging corner taken left-footed by Robin van Persie, Salomon Kalou manages to make a clearance.

35:50

Corner from the left by-line taken by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, clearance made by Jose Bosingwa.

34:58

John Terry challenges Theo Walcott unfairly and gives away a free kick. Free kick crossed left-footed by Robin van Persie, clearance made by John Terry.

29:30 Booking

Booking Tomas Rosicky shown a yellow card.

29:14

Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Michael Essien by Tomas Rosicky. Indirect free kick taken by Petr Cech.

26:18

Outswinging corner taken from the left by-line by Florent Malouda, Header by John Terry from deep inside the penalty area misses to the left of the goal.

25:47

Long distance effort from Florent Malouda misses to the left of the goal.

24:56

Shot from deep inside the area by Gary Cahill clears the bar.

24:35

Fernando Torres takes a shot. Blocked by Alex Song.

23:47

Inswinging corner taken by Florent Malouda, Gary Cahill takes a shot.

22:53

Outswinging corner taken left-footed by Florent Malouda played to the near post, Fernando Torres takes a shot. Robin van Persie gets a block in.

20:57

Thomas Vermaelen gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on John Terry. Free kick taken by Petr Cech.

18:15

The assistant referee flags for offside against Robin van Persie. Petr Cech takes the free kick.

16:50

Jose Bosingwa takes a shot. Save made by Wojciech Szczesny.

16:25

Fernando Torres crosses the ball, save by Wojciech Szczesny.

15:51

Corner taken by Robin van Persie, save by Petr Cech.

12:10

Michael Essien challenges Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain unfairly and gives away a free kick. The ball is delivered by Theo Walcott, Robin van Persie produces a left-footed shot from close range and bounces off the post.

9:58

Fernando Torres is caught offside. Indirect free kick taken by Wojciech Szczesny.

8:28

Robin van Persie is ruled offside. Indirect free kick taken by Petr Cech.

4:54

Tomas Rosicky takes a shot. Petr Cech makes a comfortable save.

2:50

Alex Song gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Fernando Torres. Jose Bosingwa takes the direct free kick.

0:00

The ref blows the whistle to begin the match.

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