Pedro and N’Golo Kante put in inspired shifts at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea strolled to a 2-0 win over Fulham and grab all three points in the London derby.
Maurizio Sarri pulled off a bit of a surprise by preferring Pedro over Willian to start for Chelsea against Fulham. Eden Hazard also returned to start. The game started off in a very open manner and Fulham soon had to pay for it. N’Golo Kante led a break and delivered a simple ball to Pedro, who did the rest in a brilliant yet calm demeanour to open the scoring for the home side.
Chelsea could have had a couple more in the first half, with Pedro and Olivier Giroud coming close on other occasions. In the second half though, it was Fulham who piled on the pressure on Kepa Arrizabalaga’s goal. Chelsea were still getting good look-ins though.
Alvaro Morata spurned another great opportunity, failing to slot the ball into an almost open net. But, Chelsea finally put some daylight between themselves and Fulham as Eden Hazard laid the ball off perfectly for Ruben Loftus-Cheek to convert.
With three points secured, we take a look at how the individuals fared for Chelsea.
Kepa Arrizabalaga – 7
A lot was said about the most expensive keeper in the world after the defeat against Tottenham. But, Kepa answered most of them on Sunday, making four saves and commanding his area well. Although, he does display a shade of the same struggles David De Gea faced when he first arrived in the Premier League as regard aerial dominance and set-pieces. All in good time.
Cesar Azpilicueta – 7
His best performance in a long while. Wearing the captain’s armband, Azpilicueta was brilliant defensively with his tackles and interceptions. Was also better going forward. Sarri will be really happy Azpilicueta is finally finding his consistency at right-back again.
Antonio Rudiger – 7.5
The best defender on the pitch on Sunday. Rudiger swept away most of the danger and was the only one not to be bullied too much by Aleksandar Mitrovic. Seems to have established a prominent partnership at the back alongside David Luiz.
David Luiz – 7.5
If Rudiger was the best defender, David Luiz wasn’t far behind either. In fact, Rudiger only marginally edged his central defensive partner. Luiz was as commanding as Rudiger and together fought well to mitigate the threat posed by Aleksandar Mitrovic & co. However, he was a bit overpowered physically during duels with the Serbian, which was bound to happen.
Marcos Alonso – 6
Disappointing. His forward forays as usual, were the highlights of his performance. But, unlike other matches, his crosses lacked the usual sting and were wayward most of the time. Was rightly brought off by Sarri. Needs to do better.
N’Golo Kante – 8
Claudio Ranieri’s hopes were dashed by his own Frankenstein on Sunday. N’Golo Kante showed his impressive and newfound versatility, setting up the opener for Chelsea. Apart from the assist, the Frenchman was all over the field and never let the Fulham midfield settle down properly.
Bittersweet for Ranieri as he would be happy to see how much Kante has developed.
Jorginho – 6.5
Not as dominant and accurate in passing the ball around, Jorginho still boasted the most number of accurate passes (79) in the game. Seems to have been shaken after a couple of games of being completely shut down by the opposition. Still the most important player for Chelsea in Sarri’s system.
Mateo Kovacic – 7
Was preferred over Ross Barkley, who was left out of the matchday squad by Maurizio Sarri. Despite his indifferent displays of late, Kovacic showed he is still the best option for Sarri for the third slot in midfield. Continuously venturing forward at every given opportunity, Kovacic almost got an assist with his long ball for Pedro, only for the Spaniard to fail to connect.
Pedro – 9
The best player on the pitch on Sunday, vindicating Maurizio Sarri’s decision of favouring him over Willian on the right wing. Pedro showed the same vigour he had shown once in Chelsea’s 4-0 win over Manchester United during Antonio Conte’s reign. He came close early and soon got his reward for his runs, thanks to N’Golo Kante’s recovery of the ball in midfield.
Pedro calmly slotted in Chelsea’s opener and could have had another in the first half. Also set up Giroud inside the box, who should have converted the chance. Continued to dominate the Fulham defenders in the second half and was unlucky not to add to his goal.
Olivier Giroud – 7
While Giroud did not score, he did all he could. Got into the right positions and on another day, could have had two goals in the first half itself. Did well to support other attackers. But, the obvious lack of confidence in the striking department is very much visible.
Eden Hazard – 6.5
Starting despite being doubtful till Sunday morning, Eden Hazard did not do much apart from the assist. Yes, he did trouble the Fulham defence a couple of times. But, he looked to be struggling to put in his usual quality on the field and while the assist was an unselfish act, Hazard did not look fit and Sarri has to be wary of not overusing what seems to be the only lethal weapon in Chelsea’s arsenal.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek – 7
Came on for Kovacic and did grab the goal that put some distance between Chelsea and Fulham. Loftus-Cheek can be chalked as an advanced playmaker of sorts. He does ply his trade in central midfield but is always seen in advanced positions like a number 10. Took the goal well, which could boost his chances of getting minutes in the future.
Alvaro Morata – 5
Loftus-Cheek ma have scored the second. But, before his goal, Alvaro Morata had the goal to his mercy pouncing on a loose ball from Eden Hazard’s weak effort. As has become the Spaniard’s trademark of sorts, recently, he blasted it well over, with the camera turning towards his manager, who just bowed his head in shame.
Morata seems on course to be doing a Torres at Chelsea.
Davide Zappacosta – N/A
With Marcos Alonso and Cesar Azpilicueta taking turns to put in average displays, Davide Zappacosta is in with a good shout to take his place in the starting eleven. On Sunday, the Italian came on near the end of the game, with Sarri looking to add a fresh pair of legs at the back. Did not commit any mistakes during his time on the pitch and could emerge as an option for the manager.