Gunners, Blues settle for point apiece
Roberto Di Matteo made sweeping changes to the side which had battled to a 1-0 home win over Barcelona in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League semi-final on Wednesday night.
However, the gameplan remained very much the same, with the Gunners, who twice hit the woodwork in the first half, denied time and space as they failed to bounce back from the disappointment of Monday's shock 2-1 defeat by Wigan Athletic.
Chelsea can head to Spain knowing more of the same will be good enough to progress against the odds, while Arsenal, who lost winger Theo Walcott to a potentially season-ending hamstring injury, still have some work to do themselves if they are to secure third place ahead of Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United.
"It was a strange game," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger told Sky Sports. "They decided to lock the game up and catch us on the break. We were not quick enough and sharp enough in our passing today to open them up. Therefore the game was a bit difficult.
"We still had the chances to win the game, they had zero. I cannot remember them having one clear-cut chance. I expected the game to be open because they had to win and we had to win. But it wasn't so it shows you how unpredictable football is."
However, Di Matteo was delighted with the result. "It was a brilliant team performance, you come to the Emirates and it's difficult to play against Arsenal," said the Italian.
"If we'd had a bit more quality with our final pass, that let us down, but apart from that it was a fantastic performance. I'm happy with our commitment, we made a lot of changes today, everyone showed they're all Chelsea players.
"This was our third game in less than six days, the way they've responded to this, personally I think it's crazy, but we showed there's great quality in this team and our spirit is high. This keeps our momentum going and our confidence high. We believe we're getting better and better and can achieve any results that we want."
Chelsea, with recalled Fernando Torres leading the line, felt they had an early penalty shout when Salomon Kalou got ahead of Bacary Sagna down the left. However, despite the players coming together before the Chelsea forward, making his 250th appearance, went down, referee Mike Dean waved play on.
Woodwork struck twice
In the 13th minute, Michael Essien bundled over Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to concede a free-kick 20 yards out on the left of centre. Walcott whipped the ball over to the far post, where Robin van Persie arrived late to stab the ball against the outside of the woodwork.
Arsenal, whose 5-3 win at Stamford Bridge in October was the beginning of the end for former Blues manager Andre Villas-Boas, continued to press Chelsea back, but lacked a telling pass in the final third.
The visitors, meanwhile, looked dangerous on the swift counter attack, with Florent Malouda making headway down the left and his cross into the six-yard box was hacked clear by Laurent Koscielny.
The tempo of the match dropped significantly, with Arsenal players showing a distinct lack of movement on and off the ball as the visitors easily turned over possession.
Just like Barcelona had in midweek, Arsenal hit the woodwork again five minutes before the break. This time, Van Persie was the architect, his floated free-kick into the Chelsea box picking out Koscielny, whose header looped over Petr Cech, but came back off the crossbar.
Arsenal maintained the pressure, with Cech standing up well at the near post to deflect Van Persie's shot clear after another ball swept through the Chelsea box from the right by Alex Song.
Di Matteo switched Torres out to the flank for the second half, with Daniel Sturridge down the middle. Arsenal remained too casual with their choice of final pass when in promising positions, while the visitors always looked dangerous on the break.
Thomas Vermaelen made a fine saving tackle to deny Sturridge on the edge of the area. As the hour mark approached, Walcott pulled up with what appeared to be a hamstring problem.
The England winger, though, was able to continue, only to then break down as he tried to get away down the right and was replaced by Gervinho.
No end product
Arsenal upped the tempo again, but Van Persie cracked a 25-yard free-kick high into the Clock End. Wenger made another change on 63 minutes, as the hard-working Tomas Rosicky was replaced by Abou Diaby, back from a series of injury problems.
Chelsea then replaced midfielder Oriol Romeu with John Obi Mikel. Arsenal's final substitution came with 21 minutes left as Brazil wing-back Andre Santos replaced Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Juan Mata came on for Kalou as the match showed little signs of sparking into life as the last 15 minutes approached, before former Gunner Ashley Cole replaced Ryan Bertrand to the expected hostile reception from the home fans.
Van Persie went down in a heap under pressure from Gary Cahill, but the referee waved away the half-hearted penalty appeals. The Dutchman then blazed wide after John Terry slipped to let him into the right side of the Chelsea box.
Arsenal had enough of the ball in the closing stages, but as for the majority of the match, failed to make the most of it. For Chelsea, this was another hard-working effort, with plenty more of the same needed in the Camp Nou on Tuesday.