The notion of a tense contest, low on goals first appeared when the team-sheets confirmed the game would start without Eden Hazard, Alexis Sanchez and Olivier Giroud.
With Diego Costa still absent, it meant four players who scored 72 Premier League goals last season had been omitted, although none were technically injured.
By the end, Sanchez, Hazard and Giroud were on all – Costa was still missing, naturally – and the game had become a shapeless mess and a story of missed chances.
Cheslea defender David Luiz gave Arsenal some late impetus when he was sent off but chances were at a premium
The Arsenal players surround referee Oliver as he shows Luiz a red card for the reckless challenge on Saed Kolasinac
Chelsea boss Antonio Conte was unhappy with referee Michael Oliver’s decision to show his player a straight red card
David Luiz, it seemed, could take no more and went flying over the ball into a challenge on Saed Kolasinac.
Referee Michael Oliver sent him off with a straight red card for violent play, which seemed harsh, when a second yellow for Luiz would have been impossible to dispute.
If the red card stands, Chelsea will miss the keystone of their defensive unit for the next three games.
The flashpoint triggered a frantic closing sequence with everyone challenging every decision made. But it did not produce the goal to separate the London rivals.
Chelsea started strongly against London rivals Arsenal, with Cesc Fabregas forcing Petr Cech into early action
The former Gunner knows how close he was to breaking the deadlock as he reacts to his missed opportunity
Victor Moses receives treatment for an injury picked up in a coming together with Arsenal striker Alexandre Lacazette
Chelsea defender Luiz wears his effort on his face as he gets up above Lacazette and N’Golo Kante to win a header
Arsenal escaped with a rare point from Stamford Bridge. Arsene Wenger’s team were much more solid without Sanchez and Mesut Ozil but sacrificed their flair and could not find a goal, although they certainly had the chances.
Chelsea opened with the sort of confidence and control you might expect from a team with the pre-match form statistics so heavily stacked in their favour.
They had won the previous five against Arsenal at the Bridge and, in the Premier League, Wenger’s side have struggled badly away from home against top-six rivals.
It was nearly three years since the last such victory, at Manchester City.
Nacho Monreal’s challenge on Spanish compatriot Pedro saw the former Barcelona man needing treatment
The Chelsea medical staff had to a grimacing help Pedro off the pitch following the challenge from Monreal
Danny Welbeck went close with a header when he met Hector Bellerin’s cross only to see his effort go just wide
At Chelsea, Ozil was ruled out with a slight knee injury and Sanchez, short of match fitness, started on the bench, where he seemed to be enjoying himself.
When Alex Lacazette sliced their best chance of the game wide from close range, at the end of the first-half, after a shot against the post from Aaron Ramsey, the Chilean burst out laughing and slapped back-up goalkeeper David Ospina on the back.
Ospina did not share the joke. Nor did Wenger. Having suffered early in the game, Arsenal were on top and Chelsea were holding out for the sanctuary of half-time after opening well and losing their way.
Petr Cech foiled them early on, saving low from Pedro and commanding his penalty area.
Pedro recovered and created a scare for the Arsenal defence when he got in behind but Laurent Koscielny cleared up
Former captain John Terry was back at Stamford Bridge to watch his old team-mates in the London derby clash
Arsenal were showing some fight and discipline in the first half, here Willian is crowded out by Monreal and Granit Xhaka
Alvaro Morata was arguably Chelsea’s best player in the opening period, here he makes his feelings known to the linesman
German defender Shkodran Mustafi checks the Arsenal back line as they prepare to deal with a Chelsea free kick
When Pedro was released by Cesc Fabregas, midway through the first-half, the Arsenal goalkeeper stood firm, held his nerve and made a vital block.
Otherwise, Arsenal were very dangerous with Hector Bellerin too quick for Marcos Alonso.
Danny Welbeck headed one chance wide from a Bellerin cross, after a slick move down the right, and Lacazette turned another on target only to be foiled by Thibaut Courtois.
The Chelsea ‘keeper beat away a skidding drive from Saed Kolasinac and Granit Xhaka flashed a 30-yarder narrowly wide before Ramsey drove through and hit the post.
At least it amused Sanchez, who came on for Lacazette in the second half.
Lacazette wasted the best chance of the first half when he fired over after Aaron Ramsey’s effort came back off the post
The Chelsea fans taunt the Arsenal striker after the Frenchman missed the target with the goal at his mercy
Ramsey holds his head in hands after seeing his effort hit the post and going close to giving his side the lead
Tiemoue Bakayoko came off the substitutes bench at half time to give Chelsea a bit more steel in midfield
Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi keeps a close eye on Kante as the Chelsea midfielder gets a foot on the ball in their Stamford Bridge clash
Cech was stirred from his role as a spectator before the interval to cope with a crisp Nacho Monreal back-pass which he controlled coolly on his chest, despite pressure from Morata.
Pedro, who required treatment for a knee injury in the first-half, did not return for the second.
He was replaced by Tiemoue Bakayoko, which gave Conte more muscle in the centre of the pitch, where his team had started to become overwhelmed.
Willian forced Cech back into action and Chelsea played with more menace.
Arsene Wenger issues instructions from the touchline as his side look for a way to break the deadlock at the Bridge
Luiz reacts after his late dismissal for a reckless lunge that saw him become the fifth Chelsea player sent off in eight games
David Luiz re-opened the debate on flying boots when he kicked Laurent Koscielny in the face while attempting an overhead kick.
Referee Michael Oliver showed Luiz a yellow card.
The managers started to play their own cards. On went Sanchez, on went Hazard; on went Giroud when Welbeck was hurt with what appeared to be a groin muscle injury.
Shkodran Mustafi thought he was found the breakthrough but had strayed a yard offside as he met the free-kick from the Arsenal right.
Cech saved from Hazard but, by this stage, the contest had lost all shape and rhythm and was destined to be a draw.