Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Wenger Restores Order after So Much Chaos; Manager Puts Calamitous Defeat at the City Ground Behind Him as His Side Stand Firm in Defence to Tilt League Cup Clash with Blues in Their Favour. by James Olley

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Wenger Restores Order after So Much Chaos; Manager Puts Calamitous Defeat at the City Ground Behind Him as His Side Stand Firm in Defence to Tilt League Cup Clash with Blues in Their Favour. by James Olley

Article excerpt

Byline: James Olley

CHELSEA 0 ARSENAL 0 Semi-final first leg (second leg, January 24) ONCE the uncomfortable novelty wore off and the baiting from a few nearby onlookers subsided, Arsene Wenger will have taken comfort from a relatively serene night in the Stamford Bridge press box.

Entertainment may have been in short supply but this was pretty close to the performance Wenger needed to right the ship again after capsizing in calamitous fashion at Nottingham Forest. Chelsea were the better team here but Arsenal left the happier. The Blues wasted several presentable chances to secure a first-leg lead in this Carabao Cup semi-final and so the two clubs will reconvene in just under a fortnight's time with the tie tilted in Wenger's favour and the possibility of domestic silverware still intact.

It threatened to be very different. Alexis Sanchez's omission by choice seemingly compounded Mesut Ozil's absence through injury and the Gunners created little, as much as Jack Wilshere tried to inject creativity from central midfield.

Wenger opted to serve the second match of his three-game touchline ban by sitting with journalists, around 15 rows back from the dugout and a flight of stairs away from the dressing room.

The 68-year-old has blamed various media for propagating negativity towards his team and the prospect of squirming awkwardly for 90 minutes as his team underperformed would have been an abhorrent possibility.

It did not come to pass. Arsenal defended with much greater diligence and focus than at Forest although that isn't saying much, such was their insipidness at the City Ground and although Chelsea turned the screw in the second period, Arsenal were never under siege despite missing Laurent Koscielny at the back and losing Wilshere to an ankle sprain before the hour mark.

The Chelsea fans who initially revelled in Wenger's proximity by chanting "We want you to stay" in his direction at one point earning an especially chilling stare from his accompanying bodyguard lost interest as the game meandered to a goalless conclusion.

That would suit Wenger just fine and after the somewhat chaotic 2-2 draw these sides contested a week earlier, perhaps something approaching a stalemate was inevitable.

"We have played Chelsea so many times that the two teams know each other very well and that's why when the two teams decide to block the game, they can do it," said Wenger. Antonio Conte effectively called time six minutes from the end, withdrawing Eden Hazard for Tiemoue Bakayoko, after watching his side struggle to identify the best method of attack.

There are flaws in Conte's preferred 3-5-2 system, especially when Alvaro Morata is misfiring as badly as this.

Wide men do not cross with conviction given Hazard's diminutive frame and Morata's present profligacy, while concentrated attacks through the middle misfired as Cesc Fabregas struggled for creative dynamism with little coming off for Chelsea in the final third. …

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