Christian Pulisic and Mason Mount were the only positives for Chelsea while Bukayo Saka was in fine touch as Arsenal beat the Blues 3-1 on Saturday.
The first quarter of the game saw the proceedings being played out largely in the middle of the park, with chances coming few and far between. In fact, it was Arsenal who conjured up the best opening in the early exchanges before finally going ahead just past the half-hour mark.
Alexandre Lacazette converted from the spot after Kieran Tierney had been brought down inside the Chelsea box by Reece James. Arsenal kept pushing forward and just before half-time, they went two ahead of Chelsea when Granit Xhaka curled in a free-kick past the outstretched hands of Edouard Mendy.
The game was then put beyond Chelsea early into the second period when Bukayo Saka brilliantly chipped Mendy from the edge of the box, although the Blues were given some late hope when Tammy Abraham finished off Callum Hudson-Odoi’s cut-back from point-blank range.
Chelsea were then handed an opportunity to pull another goal back when Pablo Mari conceded a late penalty, but Bernd Leno managed to deny Jorginho from the spot. Arsenal, therefore, grabbed a much-needed win to ease some pressure off Mikel Arteta. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over both sets of players.
Bernd Leno: 7/10
Did not have a great deal to do, with Chelsea hardly threatening in front of goal. Did make a couple of saves, with the more notable one being the stop to deny Jorginho from the spot. Could not have done anything to deny Tammy Abraham from point-blank range.
Hector Bellerin: 8/10
Back into the starting lineup, Bellerin was top class in his display, showing a lot of attacking verve while being solid at the back. Created a couple of chances and could have grabbed an assist on another day.
Rob Holding: 8/10
Given the task of marshalling the Arsenal backline, Holding did so with aplomb for the majority of the game. The young Englishman hardly gave an inch to the opponents and was particularly imposing in the air. Only needs to improve his output on the ball.
🔎 | FOCUS
Rob Holding vs Chelsea:
⏱️ 90' played
👌 41 touches
🥅 1 shot/1 on target
⚔️ 4/8 duels won
⛔️ 3 blocked shots (most)
🚀 5 clearances
❌ 1 tackle
🚷 0 times dribbled past
📈 7.2 SofaScore rating
— SofaScore (@SofaScoreINT) December 26, 2020
Pablo Mari: 6/10
Pablo Mari was a surprise name in the starting lineup, with Gabriel Magalhaes and David Luiz missing out due to COVID-19 fears. The Spaniard did well for the most part, keeping a check on Tammy Abraham superbly. However, a late injury contributed towards a poor end to the game as he conceded the late penalty which was saved by Leno.
Kieran Tierney: 8/10
Reprising the traditional left-back role, Tierney was in his elements in the first half, charging forward with purpose. The Scotsman, in fact, won the penalty that was converted by Alexandre Lacazette and never stopped posing a threat. Solid enough at the back.
Granit Xhaka: 8/10
Back in the side after the end of his three-match ban, Xhaka was much-improved compared to some of his recent displays. The Swiss international got on top of his Chelsea counterparts, showing some unseen mobility to snuff out any danger. The cherry on top was his superb free-kick that sent Arsenal two clear of Chelsea ahead of half-time.
Mohamed Elneny: 7/10
The holding midfielder for Arsenal, Elneny did well to neutralise the threat of Timo Werner and to a great extent, Mason Mount. However, he also released some pressure by giving the ball away cheaply at times. Could have grabbed a goal, though, with his effort hitting the woodwork.
Bukayo Saka: 9/10
Saw him off his line !👀😉 pic.twitter.com/wxxyNkSfe9
— Bukayo Saka (@BukayoSaka87) December 26, 2020
The clear standout across the two teams, Saka was on the money right from the word go, despite playing in the unfavoured right-wing slot. Constantly had Ben Chilwell back-pedalling while also putting a shift in off the ball. The big moment, though, was one of the goals of the season when his lob went past Edouard Mendy and into the Chelsea goal.
Emile Smith Rowe: 7/10
A surprise selection, Smith Rowe did not see a lot of the ball in the offensive phase, but did create some openings with his efforts on the ball. Put in the hard yards off the ball, though, regularly helping out the Arsenal midfielders and making a couple of critical tackles.
Gabriel Martinelli: 8/10
Having proven his fitness, Martinelli was retained in the side and the Brazilian vindicated Arteta’s decision to do so. Never shied away from taking on Reece James and opened up space for his teammates with his movement. Super effort.
Alexandre Lacazette: 7/10
Leading the line for Arsenal, Lacazette did not see a lot of the ball, but looked to bring his teammates into the game with his top-class movement. The Frenchman was on hand to convert from the spot when Tierney won the penalty in the first half. Worked incredibly hard off the ball.
Alexandre Lacazette👏👏👏Hitting the sweet spot from the spot 🎯
— Merlo™ (@ivanmerlo21) December 26, 2020
Joe Willock: 6/10
On for Smith Rowe, Willock continued from where his fellow academy graduate had left off and worked hard to keep Chelsea at bay.
Nicolas Pepe: 6/10
On for Martinelli, Pepe was hardly given the opportunity to express himself, but lost the ball cheaply.
Shkodran Mustafi: N/A
A late introduction, Mustafi helped see the game out.
Edouard Mendy: 6/10
With Arsenal dominating the proceedings, Mendy was brought into action a number of times. The Senegalese was equal to several efforts, but could not have done anything to save stop any of the goals scored by the hosts. Gave another chance with a sloppy pass out from the back.
Reece James: 4/10
Back into the starting lineup after proving his fitness, James was clearly off pace and struggled throughout, which was most evident when he conceded the penalty converted by Lacazette. Crosses did not carry the usual threat either.
Kurt Zouma: 5/10
A rare underwhelming display by Zouma, who was disturbed by the movement of Lacazette. Reliable enough with the ball at his feet, but needed to do better off it.
Thiago Silva: 5/10
The Chelsea skipper for the day, Silva struggled to organise the backline as well as he usually does. Lacazette’s movement caught him off guard as well, while Bukayo Saka was given enough space to chip in his effort.
Ben Chilwell: 5/10
Another player who proved his fitness but was lacking sharpness, Chilwell struggled to cope with the movement and verve of Saka. Could not deal with the double threat of Saka and Bellerin. Needs to be given time to be fully fit.
Mateo Kovacic: 5/10
Back into the starting lineup, Kovacic was completely overpowered by his Arsenal counterparts and just could not manage to influence the proceedings. Taken off at half-time for Jorginho.
— Simon Johnson (@SJohnsonSport) December 26, 2020
N’Golo Kante: 5/10
Stationed at the base of the Chelsea midfield, Kante was completely overrun in the middle of the park, which is a tough sight. The Frenchman just could not manage to come to grips with Arsenal’s tactics and was a passenger on the night.
Mason Mount: 6/10
A rare positive for Chelsea, Mount was typically energetic and was quite lively in his display. Won the penalty that Jorginho failed to convert as well.
Christian Pulisic: 6/10
Pulisic, like Mount, was full of intent and never stopped trying, even though Arsenal had built up what looked like an insurmountable lead at the hour mark. Needed to be brought into the game more often.
Tammy Abraham: 6/10
A frustrating evening for Abraham, who was left isolated for large parts of the game on Saturday. The English international, though, was at hand to find the back of the net.
Timo Werner: 5/10
Is Lampard running out of patience with Werner? 🧐 pic.twitter.com/y4VlizkTGJ
— Goal (@goal) December 27, 2020
Werner’s woes seem to have no end for now and on Saturday, his outing lasted just 45 minutes. Just did not manage to get himself into the game and was given a scathing review by Lampard in the aftermath of the match. Might be at risk of losing his spot in the side.
Callum Hudson-Odoi: 6/10
Introduced at half-time, Hudson-Odoi blew hot and cold but did carry a threat when he was at the hotter end of the spectrum. Grabbed the assist for Abraham’s goal.
A strange substitution when Chelsea needed to push forward with better attacking men. Jorginho did not really manage to seize control from Arsenal and then made things worse with his missed penalty late on, taking away any hopes of a late comeback.
Kai Havertz: 5/10
On for Kante, Havertz hardly saw the ball during his time on the pitch.