Match Ratings v Chelsea

Author: . Published: at 4:18pm

Written by George Lewis

Lukasz Fabianski: Another assured display between the sticks from Fabianski, seeming at ease when collecting crosses and dealing with bouncing shots. Though he might not have known too much about it, his save from Morata was a testament to his ability as he made himself big and blocked the ball with his face. His distribution can be slightly improved, but his authority from the back is helping to form a much sturdier defence. 8/10

Pablo Zabaleta: The Argentinian was given the thankless, and seemingly impossible, task of marking Eden Hazard, but the veteran had arguably his best game since joining the club. Even though the Belgian was clearly a notch above everyone else on the pitch, Zabeleta was key to the team’s success in letting Hazard have the ball in areas that wouldn’t hurt us, forcing the attacks to be concentrated on the opposite flank. Not content with merely sitting back, he led from the front in the early stages of the game before taking stock and conserving energy as the game wore on; though his legs may be going, his footballing brain is still very much intact. 8/10

Fabian Balbuena: Another excellent display from the centre-half, who is growing in stature with each game. He quelled the threat of Giroud exquisitely, making several clearances and interceptions as he marshalled the defence superbly. There’s unquestionably a collective vulnerability from set-pieces, a facet of the game that he, Pellegrini, Fabianski and Diop all need to address quickly, but there’s no reason it can’t be sorted given the Paraguayan’s fantastic positional awareness and solid heading ability, skills that can be maximised with a little more work on the training ground. 8/10

Issa Diop: The Frenchman’s performance alongside Balbuena cements this partnership as the first-choice, and he again proved to be a calming presence in the heart of the defence. He seems assured on the ball, snappy in the tackle and quick over a few yards, but he, like the rest of the defence, seem susceptible to set-pieces and wide crosses. Though this is more of a fault with tactics rather than any individual player, it still needs rectifying no matter the case; aside from this minor quibble, the 21-year-old looks to be a shrewd acquisition. 8/10

Arthur Masuaku: The outlier in a solid defensive display, the Frenchman’s solid first half performance was undermined by an uncomfortable second 45 minutes; if he wasn’t leaving Willian in acres of space, then he was trying stepovers in dangerous areas instead of clearing the ball. Trying this once is nigh-on unforgivable, but it was repeated twice thereafter, leading to a needless last-gasp free-kick that was thankfully cleared. Though he didn’t really get the opportunity to go forward, there’s still a palpable sense of nervousness whenever Masuaku is tasked with defending, with his lack of awareness and discipline almost undoing the great work from the rest of the defence. 4/10

Declan Rice: Yet again, the youngster shielded the heart of the defence terrifically, retaining possession efficiently in the face of Chelsea’s relentless pressing. The first half saw him release the wingers on numerous occasions, a skill that was largely absent in the second period due to the visitors’ monopolisation of possession. Even so, he battled admirably and has cemented himself in the defensive midfield role. 8/10

Mark Noble: The captain produced his best display of the season as he grafted tirelessly, chasing shadows for the majority of the game but showing some real poise when on the ball. Like Rice, the first half saw the skipper spray the ball out wide with ease, before being starved of the ball in the second period. Like his counterpart, he shielded the defence impeccably and roughed up the Chelsea midfield whenever he was able to, proving how valuable he is in games such as these. 8/10

Pedro Obiang: Probably the quietest player on the pitch, as he rarely got the ball or made a tackle, but his main job was to maintain the shape of the team, and he managed this effectively as he was never caught out of position. Unspectacular but dependable, the Spaniard is better judged in a game where he is allowed to be more involved. 6/10

Andriy Yarmolenko: Following up his match-winning display from Everton was always going to be difficult, but the Ukrainian was lively throughout, involved in nearly everything good from an attacking standpoint. Unfortunately, he failed to replicate the same ruthlessness from the previous week, but he was far more disciplined in tracking back to negate the threat of Marcus Alonso, a welcome sight indeed. As for his spurned headed opportunity towards the end of the game – at least his movement was good… 7/10

Felipe Anderson: By far his best performance at the London Stadium, with his trickery causing Cesar Azpilicueta, one of the best defenders in the league, all sorts of the problems. His work to set Antonio away was sublime, and it was surprising to see him taken off as early as he was. I’ve long been calling for the Brazilian to be more direct with his running, and we saw glimpses of a more balanced game plan here. He also tracked back diligently, and he can hopefully take this into next week’s game against Manchester United. 7/10

Michail Antonio: Though he should have done better with the first of his two opportunities, Antonio deputised well for the injured Arnautovic. Though he clearly lacks poise and guile, he makes up for that with the endeavour and brawn, regularly bullying Luiz off the ball in aerial challenges. It’s a shame we didn’t utilise the ball over the top a little bit more, as he was regularly offering good runs when the ball was on the left-hand side. He also conserved his energy well, pressing only when necessary and leaving himself fresh for the few attacks we mustered. He’s often been the scapegoat this season, but after he went off we undoubtedly lost some of the attacking verve we possessed, proof of his combative and effective performance. 7/10

SUBS:

Lucas Perez: Though he was given a largely thankless task in playing the lone role, the Spaniard looked toothless when coming on and struggled to get involved. It’s not his natural game to brutalise the centre backs and hold up play, and one can’t but wonder if we’d have been better served keeping Antonio on for a little longer. 5/10

Robert Snodgrass: There were audible groans when the Scotsman replaced Anderson, removing any pace we had in the team, but Snodgrass performed well when coming on and would have registered an assist if it weren’t for Yarmolenko’s profligacy in front of goal. The cross he produced was simply outstanding, but his defensive display was just as good as he grafted hard to repel the wave of attacks coming down the right-hand side. Though the Ukrainian is clearly the first-choice right-winger, Snodgrass is a good player to have in the squad, and one thinks he’ll start against Macclesfield in midweek. 7/10

Carlos Sanchez: N/A

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