Arsenal Player Ratings: 18 year old MOTM, New Sagna is emerging, Wall of Tor-Xhaka the Difference

I only managed to watch the whole game this morning and after knowing the result already it was a pleasant surprise to see how relatively well we played. I think a draw is a fair result given the number of shots on goal by both teams, the Blades strong start AND finish, and our lack of finishing touch when it mattered. We are all obviously craving for a few wins in a row but Arteta is building something special and it will take time before we can beat such solid, no-nonsense teams like Sheffield United without needing dollops of luck.

Arsenal are playing much, much better football in all areas of the pitch and once Arteta can get us to the next level, which may not take too long, we will have our Arsenal back.

Player Ratings:

Leno: 6 – SU are a physical team and pretty good at set-pieces. Leno tried to make up for the lack of aerial power in our defence and it almost cost us when he was nowhere near the ball from a corner (free-kick?) and it was only Xhaka’s instinct to move towards the goal-line that saved us from a sure (earlier) equaliser. The costly Chelsea mistake flashed before my eyes. His distribution was often hasty and we lost possession unnecessarily a few times.

Saka: 9 – incredible performance all over the pitch. MOTM. Sign that boy up for years to come, Arteta. Physically present throughout the game, positionally strong in defence and attack, great creative support in attack, many interceptions and balls won, and he has that ability to skin a defender with the ball comfortably stuck to his foot and then deliver a beautifully measured cross or pass, which is so rare in football. Love this lad – I will go and buy his shirt.

Luiz: 7 – solid and energetic. Positioned well and worked effectively with his full back, Saka. Only criticism is his aerial strength/timing at times.

Mustafi: 6 – at times he looks world class and other times he looks an amateur. Partly at fault for the SU goal as he should have been were Ainsley was – who should have been on the RB position. I still feel he could be more effective in midfield as Lucas Torreira’s replacement. He had a few good quick forward passes and some fine interceptions, but his positional awareness and anticipation of danger, especially in the air, is below par. He made me miss Big Sok yesterday.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles: 7 – half a point deduction for his part in the SU goal (see Mustafi) and another half point deduction for a few misplaced crosses, but he added calm to our defence and made some good interceptions. AMN also worked well with Pepe. He is slowly becoming our automatic choice on the RB position… our new Sagna!

Xhaka: 8 – many will have Torreira as their MOTM and score Granit lower, but if you watch the game again you will see they both were equally good. Both had key interceptions and worked hard to dominate the midfield. Both moved the ball forward well, aided the attack continuously and protected the defence with intelligence as well as hard work. They both need each other to be at their best and Mikel knows it, thank God.

Torreira: 8 – see Xhaka.

Ozil: 6.5 – stayed too central in the first half, making it hard for fellow players to reach him with the ball. In the second half Mesut got much more involved in the passing triangles on both flanks and that made a difference. Seemed to suffer most from Auba’s absence. Final passes were overhit a few times which is not like Mesut at all. Still class of course.

Martinelli: 7.5 – worked so hard and got the (‘Auba’) goal we were hoping for. He is such a natural forward with great positioning and anticipation of where the ball will be in the next two seconds. Plenty of room for improvement of his in-field positional play, but what a gem of an attacker we have got. The Saka-Martinelli combo is one to watch: these boys are top class.

Laca: 7.5 – made the key pre-assist for the goal and could have one or two more of these. Tireless central forward play with his back to the goal, which created space for others to strut their stuff. Pepe and Ozil need to appreciate this more and learn to combine better with him.

Pepe: 6.5 – man of moments and he is slowly getting better but we need more intensity and a better final ball. Pepe also needs to realise ala Martinelli that Laca is working his socks off to leave space behind him to profit from. It will come but I must say that Nelson seems to be a better fit for Arteta-ball at the moment.

By TotalArsenal.


34 thoughts on “Arsenal Player Ratings: 18 year old MOTM, New Sagna is emerging, Wall of Tor-Xhaka the Difference

  • Thanks for the comment in the previous post, 84….

    TA, my 8 positives for this match:
    1. Our shape was good, and like the previous game, we deserved to win but we did not score a second goal to kill the game.
    2. Martinelli is brilliant. Why not drop Laca and make Martinelli our CF? Yesterday Laca was sitting too deep and the only bright spots in the attacking trio were just Ozil and Martinelli. Meant a hell lot to those who think that Laca is a good CF, but at least he tried.
    3. Mustafi. He was good for most of the game, no doubt, and had good clearances. However, when they pressured so much on his side his brain crashes kept coming to kill us. We were unlucky to concede, but nothing much we would have done to prevent that for now. Unless we get a robot for a defender.
    4. Torreira. The cool head in a midfield full of opposition oggs that can break your leg in an instant. Did well to create chances out of our own half. MoTM.
    5. Xhaka. So far his best game, but we were a little out of our comfort zone in the dying minutes. Long balls are his forte, and his crosses were good.
    6. Ozil. Most creative player on the pitch. Good chances but Laca and Co. were too busy dealing with walls of defender to convert the chances.
    7. Pepe. Good on the feet, but still loses too much possession for my liking. Did well for a while, but to get better he needs the team around him. Not just AMN.
    8. Luiz. Good in the air and marshalling the defense, and did well to make passes up front.

  • Xhaka did well considering he was deployed to the left of luiz most of the game (not his strongest position). It was frustrating at the game however he clearly had instruction to help Saka and Martinelli on the left. Ozil was missing for most of the game but this was a knock on effect of Xhaka not playing further up the field. Mustafi needs to be sold and we need a CB who keeps a cool head and owns the position. Lacathreat showed again just how low his confidence is (or does he want out) either way I really hope he hits the back of the net soon to really see his confidence restored.

    Arteta has changed so much on the field and given a few signings and more work I actually think he will get us back to CL football.

    PS Eddie should be given game time he looked energetic and wanting to run circles around the defenders… Could be a cheap solution to Lacathreat issue (Look at Tammy at Chelsea for an example).

  • Ian, that is an excellent observation re Xhaka’s left-leaning positioning and impact this had on Ozil’s game. Xhaka and Ozil have a good understanding of each other and others find it harder to pass quickly and accurately to him, as I also noticed especially in the first half.

  • Frankly, I’m pretty happy with the way things are going under Mikel’s stewardship. Lots of very positive signs and good performances, even if we’re not yet getting the results we deserve

  • TA, nothing to add to your ratings as they are, largely, similar to what my eyes and head told me. However, you had Saka as MoTM here but chose Torreira under your Eight Observations/Positives. I guess it has to be between one of Saka, Torreira and Xhaka.

    Like most on here (and I have made the point in previous threads), I can see (and feel) the difference with the attitude, commitment and tactical astuteness of the team under Arteta. If we can improve on our composure in passing and take our chances, we would grow in confidence to go on a run of wins. Tuesday at Stamford Bridge will be a test of how far we’ve come.

  • Okay, my bad, TA. Just realized you only RE-posted jk’s “8 Positives” here.

    Meanwhile, United are under a siege at Anfield but, crucially, it remains 1-0 and United look like they can come forward to hurt them, if they get the opening. Someone’s got to be able to defeat Liverpool in this league soon, right?

  • Glad, you’re back, TA. Correct rates, I’ll respond them tomorrow.
    Eris, that is a good article. So true and so sad.

  • Been back in Nigeria for about a week now. It’s nice and warm, a bit dry too as we are in the “Harmattan season”.

    TA, there was a leg out and contact on Pepe after he had moved the ball. Penalty, any day! Even Owen and Tim Sherwood agreed. 😉

  • Like the ratings TA.
    We’re also on the same page as to where the mindset inside the team stands.
    More of when– rather than if– Arsenal will start its’ climb back up the ladder, toward the top end of the table.

    It will come. Possibly with some intermediate help before the end of the month.
    Whether it’s a late, low-cost signing (Kurzawa). Or a loan from up north (Stones). We’ve kept Eddie in the team instead of re-loaning him to Bristol. Possibly a midfielder (Ceballos reportedly unhappy per Ornstein).

    But something must give this month. We’re just not deep enough to stand pat.


  • TA, this time I have to agree with Eris.

    We had given away softer penalties and this is a penalty. Maybe the split second of delay before Pepe went down was the decision maker?

    Anyway we are making progress on tactics, but mentally we are still pulling the handbrakes. I say ditch the handbrakes and go full throttle lads.

  • Now I’m back to work and can properly comment. 🙂

    Starting with a disclaimer: I believe that if we compare Arsenal and Sheffield (starting XI, but probably subs too) player-to-player we would “win every duels”. We are the stronger team individually, infrastructurally, managerially and we had home crowd support on Saturday.
    So the main reason of my despair, that this – supposed/expected large margin didn’t materialize on the pitch. Yes, we were clearly the better team, but mostly by ball possession (61% vs. 39%). The corner stat (4 vs 5) was almost equal and the shots (5 off 4 on target vs. 4 off 3 on) were also balanced. So what I’m saying is that we play extremely predictable. That’s why we don’t win games – besides the awful level of refereeing.

    Coming back to TA’s ratings, I agree with the main message and most descriptions, but I don’t feel that the level of scores are justified. Especially in the front department, as we could only break their defense with a deflected cross. While I don’t think the draw was fair (contradicting the anti-Arsenal assholes providing the NBSCN commentaries), we didn’t play that good either. However the 8s for Xhaka and Torreira are acceptable, as our midfield did click.

    I’m aware that statistics can be misleading, but according to WhoScored Saka was our weakest defender against Sheffield (6.4). Which is mean, but his performance was stunning taking into consideration that he is 18, who is not a genuine left (wing)back. I would give 1 point from his 9 to Mustafi, who is statistically not simply the best defender of the pitch, but probably one of the best in the PL when it comes to interceptions and clearances. His weaknesses are tackles (which he too often ill-times, leading to dangerous free kicks or penalties) and reckless passes, but he was fine on Saturday.
    I agree with Ozil’s 6.5, but with his growing pressing and discipline he started to lose his unpredictability. He can still execute the difficult passes, leading the pitch with his trademark 4 key passes, but he stopped doing the unexpected. In fat, the only player that can hide if he is going to pass, dribble or shoot is Pepe. So he is my MotM with 8 – joining ‘The Hard Tackle’ and ‘Pain in the Arsenal’, who also gave him the highest ratings.
    Martinelli is indeed a gem, and the biggest positive surprise of the season. Yet, he shines brighter against weaker opponents, and he made too many errors and bad decisions on Saturday for a 7.5 rating. However I’m absolutely optimistic that with Tierney, Saka and Martinelli, we have a deadly left wing in the making. We are just not there yet.
    Lacazette is treated unfairly these weeks and against Sheffield he was rated 4 to 5.5 from many as he struggled, didn’t score, and couldn’t ‘impose himself on the opposition defenders’. I think he is great at occupying the central defenders, and his hold-up play improved a lot, which could be further exploited by Ozil and Pepe. But his deadly first touch started to diminish, and he shouldn’t have taken the promising free kick; that was Pepe’s angle and distance. 6.5 for me. This formation doesn’t really suit his style, so I’m worried that he will be moving to Spain – not merely for silverware, but more goal contribution, success and popularity.

  • Cheers Eris, to me it looked like a man walking into a defender and the commentator said the same… the eye of the beholder, hey?! 🙂

  • Cheers JW, yes we are likely to get somebody on loan and Ceballos does not seem to get Arteta’s support as yet. I trust him as it takes a midfielder to know whether somebody else has what it takes to be a good midfielder..

  • Cheers Pb for getting your priorities right! 😀

    Thanks also for your views and you will not be surprised that I don’t agree with all of it. Pepe MOTM…. well it is the eye of the beholder again but that would be a great injustice imo. When we see and eat a loaf a bread we can judge it; we can also analyse it on the basis of the list of ingredients, method of baking it etc. I stick with what I see and taste! I am all for using stats in football but they need to be a side-show. Saka was phenomenal, and not just for his age, and no set of stats will convince me other ways. When we use the scalpel we have to guard for cutting too much away in the process, my friend! 🙂

  • Your view re Mustafi is another good example of this. A defender cannot only be judged by some key defensive actions. We know Mustafi is all action and gets stuck in so his stats will reflect this. Yet his reading of the game, as in understanding where the danger is or will be next, is below par and it is costing us time and again. It is kamikaze defending all game long. Great for stats not for results.

  • Re Martinelli, when an 18 year old with a handful of PL games to his name has to replace a scoring machine and then manages to anticipate a cross and score, he should at least get a 7.5 imho.

  • Reading your comment again, I now think you meant that Ozil is MOTM….? If so, I don’t agree either but have more sympathy for that choice! 🙂

  • The Guardian on Saka:
    1) Saka’s swap could fill a gap for Arsenal
    Arsenal’s injury problems at left‑back have led them to explore signing Layvin Kurzawa from Paris Saint-Germain. But what if the solution lies closer to home? Bukayo Saka is 18 and earlier this season was being rightly lauded for his rich promise as a flying winger. But he has filled in at full‑back four times in the past month, most recently against Sheffield United on Saturday, and looks the part. Saka is tenacious, diligent, has speed and energy to burn and a knack of picking out teammates with his deliveries. “I think he could,” Mikel Arteta said when asked if Saka could carve out a long-term future in the role. “He is someone that’s never played there before but he’s really trying to do it as well as possible. You can see that he’s got many strengths to play in that position.” Club and manager might have hit upon something far more exciting than they expected. Nick Ames

  • Quick comment here…mostly just to say that it’s always good to read your post-match stuff, TA…

    I guess I’m more of an in-the-moment kind of guy (with the live-blogs) or else I drift into big picture discussions (like, “Gooners, lower your expectations when you’ve got–post Wenger, at least–owners/managers who are thinking $$$–or other forms of personal gain–first…”)

    From what I saw (really just the first half plus a few glances at the 2nd, I found myself enthused by what Arteta is getting out of the squad… Saka really did impress me and Martinelli too and it kind of reminded me of that game in Frankfurt (vs Eintract to open the EL group matches, maybe) except that both teams were far more organized to prevent goals, and, of course, in the PL, esp. with old-school refs (who will make a big deal about an early call or card then allow all kinds of hacking…) the defenders are in with a better chance, esp. against the younger, slighter kids.

    I have to say that I’d put Pepe in that group (of kids) as he seems still quite confused that his moves (including going to ground) don’t work as well in England as they did in France. To me, it seems very positive that he’s trying stuff with his off (right) foot… A couple of goals/assists with it and it will only open things for his favored (and deadly) left… At some point, what with his (outlandish) price tag, he’s got to start getting us points–like he did in that ManU match, right?–unfortunately, the only one we’ve won since MA took over…

    In truth, the older generation is my real worry. If Lacazette is gonna work very hard as a false 9, somebody has to fill the space and Ozil simply did not…even when Xhaka (and Luiz and Mustafi and LT11…) were allowed to carry the ball forward to the center line and beyond and get a ball into someone, usually a well-guarded Lacazette). The game has changed, and #10 creative types (CAMs, as they’re sometimes called…) need to be thinking about making runs (toward the opposing goal) off the shoulder of the last defender squeezing play forward. That isn’t Ozil’s forte (and Ramsey, along with the big salary he would’ve gotten, of course, is gone…and, unfortunately, I don’t see Mesut taking his game deeper in Santi-esque fashion)… If I was in fantasy mode, I’d tell Mikel to put Saka there, but I see little harm in teaching the latter about throw-ins and other crafts of the left-back role. Just keep him on the pitch please…

    Back to the big picture, I’m not optimistic about winning them but I believe we should look for our most significant “signs” of improvement in the two cup competitions–where, if you draw, you might have a chance kicking pens… That doesn’t mean we can play less than our best (11 or 14 players) in the PL matches, just that I can’t see us legitimately pushing for top 4 or even 5 or 6…and then some of the “lesser” clubs (like SHU…)–with only the league to focus upon–will be keen to finish ahead of us. So, I think we likely have to accept a very low point total (and final spot in the table…and blame Emery for them…) but use the process to find a core group of players for the next couple of seasons, which could look a LOT better but for the (complete) lack of Euro football. The idea of Arsenal as a “big” club, you know, competing on multiple fronts?… Y’all got your wish when you insisted that Wenger was at the heart of all our troubles… 😦

    Or not… (I.e., WTF do I know and blaming folks is a fool’s game…or at least not very nice…)

    Results change expectations (i.e., mine are today lower, perhaps, than if we’d hung on for the 1-nil, for example…), so let’s see what we can do at Stamford Bridge (where the Chavs haven’t always been at their best). For that one, all signs point to me trying to run a live-blog…and I want to thank those who took over on Saturday after the discussions between me and my echo. Well done…

    Like they say in Mexico… Man(y)ana… 😀

  • Cheers 17HT, the older generation is not yet a concern for me but they will have to step it up indeed. I guess it is all a matter of time, training and getting in the groove etc. The good news is that with Saka, Nelson, Martinelli and hopefully Eddie we have four youngsters who look very good and who are putting pressure on the older guys.

    Are you still in Mexico then?

  • I’m inspired to reply with my approach on how to rate players, but then there would be a comment coming with ‘New Post’ and the preview of the Chelsea game. So maybe next time. 🙂

  • Saka is not the best player on the pitch for the whole game. Apparently all our players have moments of misplaced passes, and at first Saka had issues with his passes and positioning. That had me minus-ing points for that. He got better like the team did as the game went on, and that is why i had Tor as my MoTM.

  • Well you were wrong, Pb! Now new post yet! 😀

    Cheers for the Clark link, v much appreciated.

    84, Lucas also made bad passes – it is part of the game. 😉

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