Neil Humphreys: EPL title won't stay in London
Chelsea, Arsenal have too many flaws to challenge for summit
A month's worth of English Premier League football is a ridiculously short length of time to make a judgment about the title race.
But the trophy probably isn't staying in London this season.
If last night's dire, mostly dull 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge was any indication, then the road to Manchester is paved with silver.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger will speak of an important point gained, which it certainly was considering their wretched record at Stamford Bridge and that horror show against Liverpool.
His Chelsea counterpart, Antonio Conte, will no doubt criticise the officiating for David Luiz's late red card, but no sulky outburst or snappy soundbite can detract from what was a dreadful encounter.
As the second half descended into a boring trudge, with the bad fouls and silly bookings piling up, any notion of a half-decent contest vanished.
Neither attack should unduly terrify either half of Manchester, after such a dispiriting spectacle that compared so poorly with Manchester City's intoxicating display against Watford a day earlier.
The Blues, in particular, must be disappointed not to continue their fine winning run against the Gunners.
Conventional wisdom dictated a tough afternoon from kick-off for Arsenal.
In their last five league visits to Stamford Bridge, they had scored twice and conceded 15. Naturally, they'd lost all five. A sixth defeat seemed inevitable once the team sheets were announced.
With Mesut Oezil injured and Alexis Sanchez deemed not match-fit, the Gunners' midfield suggested all the substance and durability of a wet paper bag.
The camera continued to find Sanchez sitting on the bench, but the director had perhaps focused on the wrong narrative and the wrong footballer.
An attacking superstar was sorely missed in the first half, but he sat in the opposite dugout.
Chelsea's initial dominance came to nothing without Eden Hazard. The hosts' lack of cutting edge allowed Arsenal to grow in confidence and make the most of another missing midfielder.
Nemanja Matic was conspicuous by his absence last night. He's left a chasm that Cesc Fabregas cannot hope to fill.
Conte speaks highly of Tiemoue Bakayoko's progress, but the 23-year-old Frenchman may need to be fast-tracked further.
Danny Drinkwater, signed on deadline day from Leicester, can make his debut only next month.
Fabregas' touch of class was evident in the 21st minute, when his elegant, floated pass sent Pedro Rodriguez scampering towards goal.
Pedro spurned the opportunity and Fabregas struggled to hold Arsenal's central midifeld as momentum shifted to the Gunners.
Thibaut Courtois denied Sead Kolasinac, Aaron Ramsey struck the post and Alexandre Lacazette missed the rebound from four metres.
The jury is still out on the Frenchman. He has a marginally better beard than Olivier Giroud. Other than that, the differences between the two Arsenal strikers are hard to pick out.
Not surprisingly, Bakayoko came on at half-time, replacing Pedro. Fabregas desperately needed the muscular support.
As the game turned scrappy, both managers peered down their sleeves, looking for aces. Wenger raised the game with Sanchez's introduction in the 67th minute.
Conte saw Wenger's substitution and raised Hazard from the bench two minutes later. The Chelsea faithful almost raised the roof when the Belgian came on for the woeful Willian.
They threatened to blow it off moments later, when Hazard skipped past a couple of back-pedalling Gunners, cut inside with customary panache and flashed a strike straight at Petr Cech.
But that was it. The only "highlight" of the second half was Luiz's ridiculous, studs-up foul on Kolasinac, which earned a straight red card.
Both sides will hope that the boredom at the Bridge was just a blip, a one-off that will swiftly be improved upon as their mavericks reach full fitness.
Hazard and Sanchez must return to their mesmerising best as soon as possible.
Without them, neither Chelsea nor Arsenal boast much of a title threat.