Robbie Savage: Jose Mourinho's tactics keep Chelsea in title race

In his regular BBC Sport column, Robbie Savage looks at Chelsea's 0-0 draw against Arsenal and assesses how both teams are shaping up in the title race.

I was at the Emirates Stadium on Monday night for BBC Radio 5 live and, beforehand, I thought the stormy conditions would suit Arsenal.

It had been pouring with rain all day but the pitch was immaculate and great for crisp passing. As a player, you cannot ask for anything more than that and I thought it would be perfect to zip the ball about on.

That did not happen, and the Gunners ended up playing poorly.

Arsene Wenger's side looked tired and short of ideas but credit has to go to Blues boss Jose Mourinho for getting his tactics spot on. Chelsea crowded the midfield, had a solid defence and looked dangerous on the counter-attack.

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho

Mourinho came for a point, and he left with one. In terms of examining how he got it, it was a brilliant game to watch, but for the neutral it did not offer much in the way of entertainment.

Mourinho gets it right, again

Chelsea lined up with what could have been Mourinho's trademark 4-3-3 but it immediately became clear it was a 4-5-1.

Fernando Torres was often completely isolated up front for the Blues and in the first half-hour there was sometimes a 40-yard gap between him and his midfielders whenever the ball was played up to him.

But the Chelsea defence was squeezing up and staying close to their midfield because they knew Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud was not fast enough to hurt a high defensive line.

Players' average position in Arsenal v Chelsea
Players' average position in Arsenal v Chelsea
Players' average position in Arsenal v Chelsea

That meant Arsenal's creative players like Aaron Ramsey or Mesut Ozil had no space to play in between the lines, and they did not use Theo Walcott's pace effectively.

Walcott got frustrated out wide and constantly came inside, meaning the middle of the pitch was even more crowded. That just played into Mourinho's hands.

The Gunners fans were singing "boring, boring Chelsea" at them but, playing on the counter-attack, the away team hit the bar and actually looked more likely to nick it.

It reminded me of when Chelsea went to Old Trafford and drew 0-0 with Manchester United earlier in the season and, this time, Mourinho got the job done again.

What surprised me was that Arsene Wenger did not make any changes to try to change the way the game was going.

In a match where Chelsea keeper Petr Cech did not have a save to make until the 85th minute, we found out on 5 live that it was the first time Wenger had not made a substitution this season - he had previously made at least two in every game.

I don't know why he did not make a change but what makes that harder to explain is that his players were looking tired despite having a nine day break since their last game.

It was a laboured performance from the home side. Tactically, Wenger is a fantastic manager in his own right but he has now failed to get the better of Mourinho in 10 meetings as managers, and he has lost five of those.

Jose Mourinho v Arsene Wenger 2004 to 2013

Competition Mourinho wins Draws Wenger wins Goals for Mourinho Goals for Wenger

Premier League

2

5

0

7

4

League Cup

2

0

0

4

1

Community Shield

1

0

0

2

1

Total

5

5

0

13

6

Chelsea yet to find first gear

Chelsea have not really clicked this season but they are in the top four and two points off the top of the table.

They are not where they are by playing fantastic football but you have to say they are very well placed because that group of players will undoubtedly have a spell this season where they click as a group.

And at the Emirates Stadium on Monday, when I compared the teams and looked at both benches, I would have to say they looked more like potential champions than Arsenal did.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger

This Chelsea side is not as strong as the one that Mourinho had during his first spell at Stamford Bridge, when he won the league twice in three seasons between 2004 and 2007.

The bottom line is that the spine of the 2013 Chelsea team is not as good as the 2004 side. Didier Drogba has gone and the players that remain - from Frank Lampard in midfield to John Terry in defence to Petr Cech in goal - are aging.

I have talked before about how bizarre it was for Mourinho to loan out Romelu Lukaku this season and, clearly, signing a new striker in January would increase Chelsea's title chances massively.

But I think Arsenal need one too.

The telling thing for me was when Olivier Giroud was put clean through for Arsenal's best chance of the match. From Alan Shearer to Robin van Persie, clubs who win titles have top strikers who only need one chance to score. Giroud missed the target.

Liverpool on top but can they stay there?

Only two points separate the top five and it is brilliant to have a title race as exciting as this one is shaping up to be.

Liverpool are top of the table at Christmas but that has not done them much good the last three times that has happened - they finished second in 1990-91, came fourth in 1996-97 and were runners-up in 2008-09.

Liverpool's Luis Suarez celebrates a goal with team-mate Jordan Henderson

With Luis Suarez playing so well it is hard to rule Brendan Rodgers's side out but I still think it is between Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea.

Arsenal have had a terrific season but they did not look like title contenders on Monday. They have a couple of away games - at West Ham and Newcastle - after Christmas and they need to win those to get their momentum back.

Mourinho will keep Chelsea in with a shout but I am going to stick with City as my pick because of the strength of their entire squad.

They need to get their away form on track to match their results at home but they are the only team in the division that I see as being capable of winning 10 games in a row and pulling clear of the chasing pack.