Arsenal travelled to Stamford Bridge on Sunday in an attempt to resuscitate their hopes of a top-four finish in the Premier League but, after a poor start, and a couple of dubious decisions the Gunners couldn’t quite muster enough to undo the Blues.
Here's how we rated the Gunners' players...
Wojciech Szczesny – 7.5
The Arsenal goalkeeper couldn’t really be faulted for the early concession of two goals. Frank Lampard sent him the wrong way for the penalty, which, depending on the angle of the replays he was either unlucky to concede to Ramires or, as some might argue, was lucky to remain on the pitch.
He kept his team in the game with two great stops, one in each half – he looked in command of his area and did well under the circumstances.
Thomas Vermaelen – 8
The captain was the Gunners’ best player. He worked hard, kept his concentration, organized his mates at the back and presented a real driving force going forward.
The Belgian made a crucial block on the line from Demba Ba late in the game, when Arsenal were really putting pressure on the Blues and nearly found themselves vulnerable from a counter-attack. He had one of his most impressive games of the season so far.
Per Mertesacker – 7
The German giant had a pretty quiet game – he was out of position once or twice and didn’t display enough aerial dominance in either box. However, he didn’t make any glaring mistakes and the fact that Chelsea were under most of the pressure in the second half meant Mertesacker didn’t have too much to deal with at the back.
He had a great opportunity to equalize but his shot was straight at the Chelsea keeper – he might have done better with it but, ultimately, he was probably a little unlucky as well.
Bacary Sagna – 7
The right-back had an unusually subdued game. He coped well in defence and looked alert to the danger from left hand side of the Blues’ attack. However, he didn’t get enough crosses into the box as he usually does – Ashley Cole kept him and Theo Walcott from linking up on the right flank and not many chances were created from that side of the pitch.
Kieran Gibbs – 8
The Gunners’ left-back had one of his best games so far this season. He kept his concentration in defence, held his position well and made a couple of crucial interceptions.
Going forward, Arsenal’s attacking play from the left hand side looked dangerous in the second half and that was for the most part down to a number of bursting runs, intelligent passes and determination to get forward from Gibbs.
His driving runs were both intelligent and productive and he looked dangerous whether he cut inside, pulled it back, or pushed to the by-line. He had a very good game.
Abou Diaby – 7.5
It’s very difficult to judge the Frenchman and not feel harsh on him because of how long he’s spent out the game and how desperate he is to play well. You cannot fault his desire or commitment but, unfortunately, he looks like a player that’s spent the best part of four months injured, as he did against Manchester City.
I feel like his manager is asking far too much from him far too soon. He lacked consistency in the game – one minute he was strong and committed nicking the ball off the Blues in important areas, but the next minute his first touch let him down and he was hesitant in possession. However, his willingness to get stuck in and his work-rate means he gets better than average rating.
Francis Coquelin – 8
The youngster was one of the best players in a red shirt for the best part of an hour. Amongst a number of sub-par performances around him, he shone in quite a modest manner. He was very strong and tactically aware – he did his best to stand in for the injured Mikel Arteta and did remarkably well. He was focused and committed and he made some decent interceptions to keep his team in the game.
He also rode a couple of rough challenges without complaining and his passing accuracy was better than a number of his senior colleagues.
Jack Wilshere – 7.5
The Gunner’s number 10 looked tired, especially as the second half wore on. There’s never a question over his determination and commitment but I thought he showed some inexperience, giving away a few cheap fouls and possession with them.
I felt he lost focus and intensity in the last half an hour – his passing and his ability to take-on abandoned him which, to me, is a telling sign he needs a rest.
Santi Cazorla – 7
I’m being generous with a 7 as he was almost completely anonymous in the first half – his manager played him out of position and he was Arsenal’s most ineffectual player as a consequence. Arsene Wenger really needs to add depth to his squad as his best players’ form is suffering at the moment.
He looked a bit livelier in the second half but, by then, it was a big ask for him to really affect the play on the wing. He did try to chase back and help his mates out at the back but that’s not a job he should be tasked with and he looked thoroughly fed up on the final whistle. His quality went completely to waste.
Theo Walcott – 7
Chelsea’s offside trap completely nullified the threat of his pace in the first half. He took his goal well with a good finish and earned his team a free kick in the second half.
However, he put in a number of very poor corners – not only did Arsenal fail to capitalize on any of their set-pieces but they also brought unnecessary pressure on themselves. They really need to sort out their organization both attacking and defending set pieces and the Englishman should not be assigned to delivering them, in my opinion.
The right flank was much less fruitful than the left of attack from Arsenal – Ashley Cole did a number on his former teammate several times (illegally in some cases) but Walcott didn’t cause him any real problems.
Olivier Giroud – 6
I’ve been tough on the Frenchman in previous posts and I’m afraid I’m going to be again – he was wasteful with two or three good chances, completely lacking killer instinct. His positioning is good, he does make intelligent runs and the fact that he’s getting opportunities in front of goal means he’s working hard, at least.
However, I’m still not convinced he has the quality to play up front as a lone striker in a top-four team. I also fear that, unless Wenger brings in a quality alternative, Arsenal will find themselves out of the top four come May, as they are now.
He was also outsmarted by Chelsea’ well-worked high defensive line but really he should have got himself on the score-sheet and he’ll be disappointed with his poor finishing.
Aaron Ramsey – 6
Arsenal’s lack of depth in their squad was highlighted by their substitutions. Ramsey did well when he came on against City but, against the Blues, he was hesitant in possession, a little clumsy and slow and didn’t add any impetus, drive or impact to Arsenal’s play.
Andrei Arshavin – 5.5
I actually thought he might be just what the Gunners needed when he came on – a bit of flare, quality and unpredictability. However, he was clearly lacking both fitness and confidence and he never got in to the game. Again, his substitution for Abou Diaby with quarter of an hour left on the clock highlights how desperately lacking in options Arsenal are this season. Both substitutes were completely ineffectual and I’m not remotely surprised.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald