22 March 2014

In Shambles at Stamford: Player Ratings

Wow. The sooner we put this one behind us, the better. Talk about a shambolic performance. I don't think I can find any silver-lining in this one. Set aside the optimistic symbolism going in, all the lofty rhetoric of milestones and legacies and so on, for this match will go down in the annals for all the wrong reasons. To Arsène's critics, it exposes him and us for what we are and have been for far too long—him as a penurious dilettante with no tactical nous, the squad as a paper-tiger, just as thin and lacking bite. To Arsène's supporters, it reinforces the myopia that we've again fallen short in a noble, valiant effort against nefarious forces that threaten to sully the very game itself. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, but there's little time to sort that before we re-enter the fray against Swansea on Tuesday. Hopefully, by then, most of the overturned furniture (figurative in the squad's case, perhaps literal in fans' cases) will have been righted. For now, a bit of a rude reckoning awaits below the fold (stats and ratings courtesy of whoscored.com).

A quick reminder that whoscored.com starts players at 6.00 and moves them up or down on performance.

Starters
  • Olivier Giroud—6.54: Yes, you're reading that right. The much-maligned Frenchman emerges with the highest rating among the starters. How? Well, it's hard to say other than to suggest that he largely avoided the mess that unfolded at the defensive end, one that otherwise embroiled everyone else. He did manage four shots, two on target, but he was dispossessed a half-dozen times and did little to quiet the critics. 
  • Tomáš Rosický—6.02: Four key passes (1st in the team) went wasted for Tomáš, and this about encapsulates his evening. A busy buzzing about, a desperate effort to make something, anything happen, but all too often, left alone and unsupported by dispirited teammates. He added five tackles (1st) but otherwise was powerless to stem the tide or inspire much going forward. He picked up his fifth yellow card but won't serve a ban (five before 31 December is a ban; 10 before the 2nd Sunday in April is the next deadline). His lazy pass towards Arteta led to Chelsea's fifth.
  • Mikel Arteta—5.96: Another sand-bag in the slow sinking of Arteta's form as he again looked slow, aging, and otherwise overwhelmed. Lacking physicality, he relies more on positioning and timing, but he just doesn't seem able to keep up with the pace set by top sides, especially those capable of pressing high and hitting on counters. Enter Chelsea. Arteta did claim three tackles but no interceptions, each an indictment of his struggles due to how much time Chelsea had with the ball in our third. 
  • Bacary Sagna—5.94: Due to Gibbs's sending-off and some substituting, Sagna ended up as a center-back in the second half, but that's about as much as there is to say. It's a position that might suit his abilities if not our needs, as he's lost considerable pace and struggles on the wing, especially against the likes of Hazard and other fleet, dribblers. As such, he may have been shielded a bit in when he moved to the center.
  • Lukas Podolski—5.67: Tricky to rate him as he came off after only 24 minutes, shortly after Gibbs was sent off. Only sixteen touches, but did manage to be called offsides, so...yeah.
  • Santi Cazorla—5.66: Rough day playing through the middle, where I just don't like seeing him play. He's too little, lacks physicality, and gets lost in the forest of other players. He did pull off five successful dribbles, which is impressive, but was guilty of an error that led to Chelsea's second goal. He did fizz one shot just wide on the hour but was otherwise not much of a threat.
  • Laurent Koscielny—5.65: He looked uncharacteristically slow and uncertain even from the opening whistle and didn't register many tackles, interceptions, or clearances—two, zero, and two, respectively—and came off at halftime, presumably to rest him a bit before Tuesday's match with Swansea.
  • Per Mertesacker—5.51: Sadly, for as much as I've come to respect Per over the last eight months, I find myself falling back on my harsher, earlier assessment: too slow. Especially against clubs that can send waves of faster attackers who can also pass. Again, sadly, this essentially summarizes each of the clubs we're trying to contend with. Yes, he won three offsides, but he kept Eto'o onside for the first goal, Torres on the fourth, and looked helpless for long stretches.
  • Wojciech Szczesny—5.32: Usually, I leap to the keeper's defense in matches like this. However, he turned in a howlingly bad performance. On each goal except the penalty, he had a decent chance at making a save. On that penalty, he again went with that little shoulder-shimmy as if the shooter is watching and will get faked. Didn't happen. I'd rather he settle down, focus on the shooter's plant-foot, and guess from there. As it was, he dove out of the way. By the time he flubbed the fifth, even Owen sounded like he knew what he was talking about when he commented that a keeper in Szcz's form should've made that save.
  • Kieran Gibbs—5.06: Red-carded for looking too much like Oxlade-Chamberlain means he only played about 15 minutes. Not much else to say other than to ponder how the FA may handle the situation. Will he or Ox serve a match-ban, or will they call the whole thing off?
  • Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain—4.76: See how different-looking they are? A whole three-tenths of a point a part. All hilarity aside, this was easily his worst performance in a long time. Sloppy, overly aggressive, and irresponsible defensively, it might have been better had he been sent off, as he failed to prove himself in any positive sense after that.
Substitutions
Perhaps only to tweak his critics, Arsène made not but but two substitutions. Whether our improvements after that were down to this or to Chelsea's flagging intensity is an open question.
  • Thomas Vermaelen (24' for Podolski)—6.54: A better-than-average shift on the left as he claimed four interceptions, six clearances, along with four accurate long-balls (all 1st in the team). If nothing else, it was valuable to see him get some extended playing time and to do well with it. He was perhaps alone in escaping the mire that the rest of the back-four sunk into.
  • Mathieu Flamini (45' for Oxlade-Chamberlain)—6.31: Did we concede half as many goals after he came in? Sure. Is this thanks to his influence? Perhaps. Hard to tell. He came, he saw, he didn't get a yellow-card. At this point, under these conditions, that counts as a quality performance in my book.
  • Carl Jenkinson (45' for Koscielny)—6.00: Strangely, he didn't seem to have much to do, but he did remain calm and composed. Congrats, Carl.
After that one, all we can do is pick up the pieces—again, whether they're literal or figurative—and try to put it all back together. Yeesh.  With hope, a visit from a fading Swansea side will offer a restorative effect as we look to at least solidify a top-four finish and find some kind of momentum going forward. Whatever it takes to get the stink off.