Arsenal have finally got back to winning ways, in a game which I described as a potential turning point in our season earlier this week. We now approach a run of 4 or 5 very winnable games. If we can put some results together and combine that with some key additions in January, we might have the kind of confidence needed to actually turn our season around. It’s been a long time coming, but finally Arsenal seem to have taken a step in the right direction. They trusted the youth and it paid off!
Leno – 8/10: Little he could do regarding Chelsea’s goal and generally speaking had little else to do for most of the game. That was until a rash Pablo Mari challenge called Leno in action to save a poor Jorginho penalty. But take nothing away from Leno; Jorginho was waiting for the German to commit one way or another, but Leno stood firm and got down well to keep the spot kick out and prevent what would have been an extremely nervous final few minutes.
Bellerin – 7/10: I have been very critical of Bellerin recently, and to be honest if it were up to me I would still have Ainsley Maitland-Niles in this role instead. But Hector was fantastic in this one. He defended pretty much perfectly and was a decent attacking threat throughout. He looked after the ball very well in the final third, which is normally an area where he can be a bit sloppy.
Holding – 8/10: With Gabriel out I was rather worried for our backline. But I think Holding may have won every header he went up for. He defended expertly, especially from corners where Chelsea have been so dangerous this season.
Pablo Mari – 6/10: It was also a solid performance from Mari until a fairly clumsy late challenge on Mason Mount. However, in fairness this was more or less the only foot he put wrong.
Tierney – 8/10: You have to wonder, how long is it until we see this lad made captain. Regardless of how soft the penalty decision seemed, Tierney showed great play and gamesmanship to get in a position to win one. From then on he was a nightmare for Chelsea going forward and very resolute defensively.
Elneny – 7/10: He sat in and did what was asked of him. Shuffling along in front of the back 4 allowing Bellerin and Tierney to cause havoc. He won his fair share of duels in the midfield too.
Xhaka – 9/10: If we could see this Xhaka every week, no Arsenal fan would be saying he isn’t good enough. Don’t get me wrong, I still feel like moving forward he should be no more than a squad rotation player, but credit where it’s due he came back fighting in this one. He did a similar job to Elneny, but his involvement in all 3 Arsenal goals means I can’t not give him this rating. The only reason it isn’t a 10 is because I did notice him pull out of a challenge against Pulisic as he ran through and helped create Chelsea’s goal.
Smith Rowe – 7/10: His energy, confidence, pressing and creativity were all fantastic and exactly what needed adding to the team. Not everything came off for him, but it was certainly a good enough performance to suggest sticking with him for a run of games.
Bukayo Saka – 9/10: Between him and Xhaka for man of the match for me. He is the gift that keeps on giving and I think is proving to be England’s best u20 right now. If Pepe can’t find some consistency in that RW role, it has to be given to Saka. He always plays the right pass, tries to beat his man. He makes things happen from nothing and always tries to pull something off. That couldn’t be better represented than his goal in this one. Was it a cross or shot? Frankly it doesn’t matter; when you are positive and try and beat your man, you get rewarded. Between him and Martinelli, we have two of the best young talents in the Premier League. We just need to keep hold of them and start building around them. (Imagine what a guy like Aouar could make them capable of)
Lacazette – 8/10: We needed an experienced guy in our attack to help guide our youngster and he was exactly that. ESR, Saka and Martinelli all have an abundance of energy, and against Chelsea Lacazette really helped bring it all together. His hold up play was brilliant, his pressing was brilliant and he was very composed in giving us the lead. What more could you ask of your false 9.
Martinelli – 8/10: Last week I wrote about how creating chances doesn’t just mean signing a creative midfielder. And how the best teams in the leagues create a great many of their chances by winning the ball back high up the pitch; something which Arsenal had been quite poor at. I think it’s clear with this combination of players and Martinelli among them, we are much better at this now. The Chelsea back 4 and Mendy looked nervous all game long. I think we can all also agree that if that overhead kick went in we would all have lost our minds.
Joe Willock – 6/10: Showed some nice touches. At this stage in the game he mainly had to work in his own half, which he did very well.
Nicolas Pepe – 6/10: The same as Willock really. Didn’t put the fear of God into Chelsea on the attack, but I’m sure that’s not what he was asked to do.
Arteta – 9/10: A return to 4 at the back. Clearly, he had the players up for the game from minute 1. He wanted us to press up high rather than sit deep and hopefully win a point. It was a very brave decision to go gung-ho for a win in a tough game like this and with our current form, but it really paid off. I also think that, considering the various injuries, suspensions and illnesses he had to deal with, the lineup was verging on perfect. The only change I would have made would be to start AMN and potentially find room for Pepe as well. However, the displays of Bellerin and ESR proved these not to be costly omissions.
Photo: Fanny Schertzer