Emile Smith Rowe delivered the goods, as Arsenal shocked Chelsea with a 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night.
Chelsea, as expected, were the more dominant of the two sides on the night, but it was Arsenal who ended up grabbing the lead pretty much out of nowhere, courtesy Jorginho. An atrocious backpass left Kepa Arrizabalaga scrambling before he cleared the ball away, only for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to set Emile Smith Rowe for a close range goal.
Thereafter, Arsenal were happy to sit back and absorb the pressure while only looking for counter-attacking opportunities. However, Chelsea were wasteful in front of goal, spurning several chances, including their best opening of the night prior to the goal by Smith Rowe, when Kai Havertz had snatched ball off Pablo Mari, only to shoot over the bar with his effort.
In the end, Arsenal managed to hold on to their slender advantage to complete a crucial 1-0 win that keeps them in the hunt for European qualification while Chelsea’s top four hopes have received a minor setback. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over both the sets of players following a frantic affair at Stamford Bridge.
Kepa Arrizabalaga: 6/10
Sold short by Jorginho for the Arsenal goal, Kepa at least got his hand to the bizarre backpass, but could not have done anything to deny Emile Smith Rowe. Made a couple of other saves while being precise with the ball at his feet. Harsh that he did not earn a clean sheet.
Cesar Azpilicueta: 6/10
The Chelsea skipper spent more time in the Arsenal half than his own, with Chelsea thoroughly dominant in possession. Never really troubled defensively and completed 92 percent of his passes as well. Not really to be blamed for the shortcomings higher up the pitch.
Thiago Silva: 6/10
Back in the starting lineup after being rested on the weekend, Silva marshaled Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang smartly, winning 5 of the 6 duels he contested. Made 4 clearances as well and was never really in trouble defensively. Completed 92 percent of his attempted passes and the loss really was not down to him.
Kurt Zouma: 6/10
Handed a start in place of Antonio Rudiger, Zouma’s nervousness on the ball was palpable as it usually is. Did complete 93 percent of his attempted passes, but there were some sloppy moments. Came close to scoring on the other end, but only managed to strike the crossbar, adding to his frustrations.
Reece James: 6/10
The brightest prospect for Chelsea on a night to forget, James tried extremely hard to make things happen and even delivered as many as 3 key passes, while misplacing just 4 passes all game. Solid on the rare occasions when he was tested defensively as well. In the end, his offensive output did not matter, as the conversion of the Chelsea forwards was poor.
Billy Gilmour: 6/10
Unfortunate for Gilmour, who was not really to be blamed before being taken off and it was just the demands of the game that meant he had to be sacrificed for Callum Hudson-Odoi. In the first half, though, the Scot was efficient with his passing while hardly being tested defensively. Will hope for a couple of more chances before the season ends.
Kepa was in the correct position, providing a passing option for Zouma who failed to see his forward options in Gilmour/Chilwell. He instead played a bad ball into Jorginho who was under pressure which resulted in him playing a hurried back pass leading to the goal. pic.twitter.com/GO6siBEUAS
— ً (@caltecked) May 12, 2021
A game to forget for Jorginho, whose error practically gifted Arsenal their goal, as his ridiculous backpass nearly went into goal before Kepa cleared it off the line. Saw the ball more often than anyone else, but his distribution was off this time around to some extent. Needs to up his game in the FA Cup final this weekend.
Ben Chilwell: 5/10
Back in the side in place of Marcos Alonso, Chilwell’s final ball was atrocious for the most part, with the English international failing to complete even one cross. Chastised by Thomas Tuchel as a result, while his 79 percent passing rate was sub-par as well. Not tested a whole lot defensively, meaning his offensive output really needed to be much better.
Mason Mount: 6/10
Mount was typically the most creative player for Chelsea and looked to find space in between the Arsenal centre-backs, but to no avail for the most part. Did play a game-high 4 key passes while having a couple of shots superbly saved by Bernd Leno. In the end, though, he could not make a lasting impact in the game.
Christian Pulisic: 5/10
As is usually the case with Pulisic, he could not be found wanting for a lack of effort and was one of the brighter players for Chelsea. However, his end product left a lot to be desired while he hardly got into scoring positions. Did put the ball into the back of the net, but was pulled back for a correct offside call.
Kai Havertz: 5/10
Havertz really should have been the one to break the deadlock, having won the ball smartly before he inexplicably missed the target from just outside the box. Did not have a single shot on target in the game, in fact, and was even left isolated at times due to Arsenal’s outlook in the game. Has to do better.
— namasté (@tobii_lobaaa) May 12, 2021
Callum Hudson-Odoi: 5/10
Introduced at half-time in place of Gilmour, Hudson-Odoi looked to push forward with intent and did produce a couple of key passes. However, his end product could have been better apart from a couple of dangerous moments.
Olivier Giroud: 5/10
On for Havertz, Giroud came close to scoring late on, only to smash the woodwork with his effort. Not the best of impacts on a rare appearance for Chelsea.
Hakim Ziyech: N/A
On for Azpilicueta, Ziyech could not really make much of an impact late on and was wasteful on the odd occasion as well.
Bernd Leno: 7/10
There have been some poor displays from Leno lately and there was one nervy moment from him on Wednesday as well when he nearly made a meal of saving a Zouma header. For the most part, though, the German international, who is facing an uncertain future at Arsenal, was solid and made a couple of big saves as well to earn a clean sheet.
Rob Holding: 7/10
Rob Holding is unbeaten in the 7 games he’s played against Chelsea. 😂😂😂
— LTArsenal™ (@ltarsenal) May 12, 2021
Another assured display by Holding, who was particularly solid in the air and won 6 duels in all. Made a big clearance off the line while making a total of 6 clearances in the game. Distribution was poor, though, which heaped some pressure on Arsenal.
Pablo Mari: 7/10
Apart from one error in the first half, when he cheaply gave the ball away to Havertz, Mari hardly put a step wrong and completed 3 clearances in addition to 2 tackles while also making a big block. Ensured Arsenal did not slip up during build-up play, completing 91 percent of his attempted passes.
Gabriel Magalhaes: 7/10
Stationed on the left side of the three-man central defensive unit, it was a poorly-weighted pass by Gabriel that enabled Havertz to snatch the ball off of Mari. The Brazilian, though, was solid otherwise, making a staggering 10 clearances. His output on the ball was a tad bit disappointing, though, as he could only complete 73 percent of his attempted passes.
Bukayo Saka: 6/10
Another new position for Saka, this time as a right wing-back. However, the talented Englishman struggled to make an impact as well as he would have liked. Not too comfortable with his positioning and sloppy on the ball as well, this was one of those rare days when Saka was sub-par.
Mohamed Elneny: 7/10
Elneny is starting to become a fixture in the Arsenal midfield unit and against Chelsea, he forged a solid partnership with Thomas Partey in the middle of the park. Remained disciplined for the most part and ensured Chelsea did not get an inch to work with at times.
Thomas Partey: 7/10
Thomas Partey tonight.
Most tackles: 5
Most interceptions: 3
Most duels: 12
Most ball recoveries 9
Best performance in a long time. pic.twitter.com/nzPcAOufTY
— Charles Watts (@charles_watts) May 12, 2021
Reinstated in the middle of the park, Partey was colossal in the first half, hardly putting a step wrong, which, in turn, frustrated Chelsea considerably. Continued to work hard post the interval, winning 8 duels while completing 5 tackles, 3 interceptions and 2 tackles. One of the better displays by the Ghanaian in recent times.
Kieran Tierney: 7/10
Another player recalled to the starting lineup, Tierney was top-notch in his display, completing 5 clearances while winning 3 duels as well. There were some wasteful moments on the ball, but the Scot also posed the greatest threat for Arsenal in the final third with some adventurous runs.
Emile Smith Rowe: 7/10
A second goal in as many games for Smith Rowe, although this time around, he was mostly gifted with the opportunity. Nearly scuffed his effort wide too, but it was job done in the end. As was the case with every Arsenal player, Smith Rowe worked hard off the ball while completing all but three of his attempted passes. Solid effort.
Martin Odegaard: 6/10
Back in the starting lineup, Odegaard worked his socks off defensively and spent more time in his half than the Chelsea half. The counter-attacking style that Arsenal used does not really suit his strengths, but he made sure he at least completed most of his attempted passes.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang: 6/10
The Player to Watch in our preview, it was a difficult game for Aubameyang, who did not get many opportunities to express himself, although he did grab the assist for Smith Rowe’s goal. Having said that, he did put in the hard yards defensively, though there were some sloppy moments on the ball.
Hector Bellerin: 7/10
A bright cameo by Bellerin, who looked at home in the right wing-back slot and was largely solid at the back. Had to be taken off with an injury, though, which will be a concern for Arsenal.
Alexandre Lacazette: N/A
On for Aubameyang, Lacazette barely had time on the pitch to make an impact.
Calum Chambers: N/A
A late introduction in place of Bellerin, Chambers helped see the game out.