Three things we learned about Chelsea from their draw with Arsenal

Antonio Conte’s Chelsea battled to a goalless draw against Arsenal at Stamford Bridge on Sunday as Arsene Wenger was able to partially banish the demons of the Gunners 4-0 hammering at the hands of Liverpool earlier in the season. For Conte though, it was a tough pill to swallow as the previously fragile Arsenal discovered a defensive solidity that they have been bereft of in recent weeks.

For Chelsea themselves, the performance was rather sub-par. They did not ever really get going offensively as they were pressed on the ball, thus allowing them little time to pick their heads up and make the right pass. The Italian clearly needs to go back to the drawing board when it comes to games against Arenal, with Wenger claiming two wins in their last three games, with the victories coming in the FA Cup Final and in the Community Shield.

From the draw, what three things did we learn about the defending champions?

Ill-discipline will cost them

Incredibly, Chelsea have had three players sent off in three games against Arsenal. Victor Moses, Pedro and David Luiz have all seen red in their recent encounters for reasons that are likely to enrage Conte. Pedro and Luiz in particular were given their marching orders for foolish lunges on their opponents which saw the Blues reduced in numbers.

Against Burnley too, Chelsea saw Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabregas sent off as they crashed to an opening day defeat. In both the FA Cup and the Community Shield the red cards were telling, while going down to nine men did go some way to masking the fact that the Blues were poor in their first game of the season.

Against Arsenal at the weekend, Luiz’s red card came very late and Arsenal were unable to capitalise. However, further down the line, other teams will punish Chelsea if they go down to 1o men. Indeed, the likes of Tottenham, both Manchester clubs and many sides in the Champions League will hurt Chelsea with a numerical advantage.

Their indiscipline right now is something that needs to be checked, and if it continues this season, it could see their title and European aspirations dashed.

Cesc Fabregas is not the answer in defensive-midfield

Former Arsenal man Cesc Fabregas is undoubtedly a fine player. His first touch, dribbling and vision are outstanding, while his passing range is of the highest order. For Arsenal, he was a lynchpin in midfield as the London side kept the ball, moving it quickly and probing their opposition for possible weaknesses. He was in his element playing for Wenger’s side, which saw Barcelona purchase him as he made the step up to the Catalan side.

Returning to London with Chelsea, in his first season, he formed a superb partnership with Nemanja Matic under Jose Mourinho to launch the Blues to the title. In his second season though, teams seemed to realise that he is in no way a defensive orientated player. The Spaniard was bypassed all too often in the middle leaving Matic with far too much to do on his own, culminating in Mourinho’s sacking and Chelsea’s awful campaign.

Against Arsenal yesterday, he was pressured on the ball and given little time, and sitting next to N’Golo Kante, he was hardly a behemoth in defence. He was then pushed forward into a more advanced position with Tiemoue Bakayoko partnering Kante, and the midfield was far better balanced for the switch. Bakayoko and Kante broke up a number of Arsenal’s attacks and the former went on a superb run that culminated in a chance for the home side.

Fabregas looked better in a more advanced position as he was able to shun most of his defensive duties, allowing him to focus upon creating. Conte seems to be trialling the same experiment that led to Mourinho’s demise, and on yesterday’s showing, along with his obvious preference to attack, hopefully, Fabregas’ days in centre-defensive-midfield are done.

David Luiz has some issues to work out

Last season, David Luiz proved many of his doubters wrong as he partnered Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta in a back-three that provided the base to Chelsea’s title victory. Of the three, he provided that ball-playing ability and his mischievous antics lead to more than one chance for his teammates.

In conjunction with this is the fact that he is a fan favourite. His bushy curls were welcomed back following his move from Paris Saint-Germain and his persona both on and off the pitch make him a big footballing personality. While Luiz has obviously matured a lot on the pitch with his ability, his decision making is still at times questionable.

He has a tendency to hold onto the ball for too long, try to play an overelaborate pass, or, in the case of their draw with Arsenal, make a rash challenge.

Following a short tussle with Alexis Sanchez, Luiz seemed to become more irate as the Chilean came back in for another shoulder challenge. Luiz reciprocated with a charge of his own but the ball ran on too far allowing Sead Kolasinac to get closer to the ball. This led to Luiz lunging in with his foot high and his studs showing, meaning the red card that was brandished was the correct call.

While he was sent off with moments to go, his red card could have cost Chelsea a point in the game. As previously mentioned, the cards must be curbed, and with it, Conte must find a way to maintain that mature streak that Luiz displayed last season.