Drinkwater 5/10 as Chelsea again held scoreless in draw vs. Arsenal
Chelsea stuttered to a disappointing 0-0 draw in the first leg of their Carabao Cup semifinal with Arsenal on Wednesday at a raucous Stamford Bridge where they failed to take their chances against below-strength opposition.
Andreas Christensen and Cesc Fabregas both should have done better with headers and Victor Moses also had opportunities to score but was denied several times by Gunners keeper David Ospina. It was another frustrating off-night for Blues striker Alvaro Morata who fluffed his lines in front of goal once again.
The fact that Chelsea keeper Thibaut Courtois had a very quiet evening owed much to the sterling work of the back three in front of him. Christensen, Cesar Azpilicueta and Antonio Rudiger are a robust, cohesive unit and with time on their side look a good bet to flourish as a unit in seasons to come.
Once again careless finishing let Chelsea down. The Blues should comfortably have won the game by at least a three-goal margin, the fact they failed to score makes the task of progressing to the final that much harder with the return leg at the Emirates to come.
Manager rating out of 10
5 -- Given the rambling nature of Chelsea's recent performances, there has to be serious questions asked of Conte in respect of how his ongoing feud with Jose Mourinho, which has escalated in the past week or so, is affecting his judgment and focus when it comes to managing his players. Against Arsenal, clinical precision gave way to carelessness on too many occasions and the Blues boss appeared to be out of ideas to address the problem.
Player ratings (1-10, 10 = best, players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Thibaut Courtois, 6 -- Unlike last week when these sides met in the Premier League and he had to be at his world-class best, Courtois was largely a spectator for the majority of this contest. On the rare occasions Arsenal threatened, the Belgium international was always well positioned to deal with the situations.
DF Cesar Azpilicueta, 8 -- Captain for the night, Azpilicueta led by example from start to finish. Bossing defensive plays, he always had the measure of Arsenal striker Alexandre Lacazette while forward runs with the ball brought with them some neatly timed crosses into the box.
DF Andreas Christensen, 7 -- A day after signing a long-term contract with Chelsea, Christensen might have had further cause for celebration by scoring his first goals for the Blues but headers either side of the break were snatched and it wasn't to be for the 21-year-old. Consolation for the Denmark international came in the form of another composed defensive performance.
DF Antonio Rudiger, 7 -- Given a decent workout by Alex Iwobi on the left side, Rudiger's pace enabled him to restrict the Nigerian's effectiveness. The Germany international also helped neutralise the threat posed by Jack Wilshere in midfield.
MF Victor Moses, 7 -- Saw plenty of the ball on the right flank and frequently got the better of Ainsley Maitland-Niles, which meant he was not only able to deliver some decent passes into the box but also make attempts on goal. Might have scored when Ospina fumbled his shot midway through the first half but the Arsenal keeper managed to recover the ball and moments later Ospina saved another goal-bound shot from the Nigeria international.
MF N'Golo Kante, 7 -- Provided a solid shield for Chelsea's backline and with the Blues playing five across the middle was also able to make some imposing runs forward with the ball. Might have scored but saw a fierce well-targeted shot unfortunately strike teammate Christensen, which took the pace off the ball. The only blemish on Kante's performance was a booking for a uncharacteristically rash tackle from behind on Danny Welbeck.
MF Cesc Fabregas, 7 -- The creative hub of much of Chelsea's attacking play, against his former club Fabregas cut an intensely motivated figure. Passing and positional play was exemplary, but better finishing might have brought with it a couple of goals.
MF Danny Drinkwater, 5 -- Never really got into the game in the first half and was largely bypassed in midfield with Kante and Fabregas Chelsea's favoured conduits for moving the ball from box to box. Withdrawn midway through the second period in favour of the more attack-minded Willian.
MF Marcos Alonso, 7 -- Had an engaging tussle with Hector Bellerin for command of the left flank. Arguably came off best, though being capably assisted by the excellent Fabregas was a big help. Chelsea's latest free-kick specialist had a chance to add to his set-piece tally but wasn't able to get the better of the Arsenal wall.
FW Eden Hazard, 7 -- Despite a question mark over his fitness following a recent calf problem, Hazard posed Arsenal's defence plenty of problems in the first half, both going forward and when linking up with Fabregas and Morata. Looked increasingly fazed in the second period and was replaced by Tiemoue Bakayoko inside the final 10 minutes, a decision that wasn't too well received by Blues supporters.
FW Alvaro Morata, 6 -- Another nearly game for Chelsea's misfiring striker in which he nearly scored several times and nearly managed to link up perfectly with teammates to create a much-needed goal for his side. General work rate couldn't be faulted, but unfortunately for the 24-year-old that's not the reason he is on the pitch.
FW Willian, 6 -- Replaced the ineffective Drinkwater for the final phase of the game and certainly gave Chelsea added impetus. Tested Ospina with a decent shot but frustratingly, just like his teammates, he was unable to beat the Arsenal keeper.
MF Tiemoue Bakayoko, NR -- Replaced Hazard late on but failed to make an impression on the game.
FW Michy Batshuayi, NR -- Replaced Morata for the final minutes of the game. Did have a chance to score the winner and be the hero of the night for Chelsea but missed the target to ironic cheers.
Mark Worrall is one of ESPN FC's Chelsea bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter: @gate17marco