Arsenal Player Ratings: Saka, Tierney and Xhaka Superb But One Player Represents Arsenal’s Soul

Arsenal 3 – 1 Chelsea

Arsenal verrast vriend en vijand met Chelsea als slachtoffer

Well that was a refreshing game and a great result for the boys. I felt strongly that Arsenal would have a good game, but to see us actually taking the bull by its horns and converting our chances was just bliss. We will do a bit of analysis of the game in the next few days but, for now, here are my player ratings:

Leno: 8 – Close contender for MOTM with that superb penalty safe at a crucial moment in the game. We did much less of the playing out from the back torture and that seems to suit Leno well. Really enjoyed the protection of the tall, no-nonsense CBs in front of him.

Bellerin: 7.5 – some good interceptions and clearances and a constant support for the attack. His final ball in an attacking move remains below par, and had this been better we would have had one or two more goals (just ask Martinelli! 🙂 ). Captained the team well.

Mari: 8 – solid in the air and good positioning – seemed to work well with his fellow team mates and offered presence on the pitch. Extra half point for his discipline to stay on the pitch after being awarded a yellow card early on.

Holding: 8 – played with that real determination not to concede a goal and to give it to the Chavskis. Offered real presence on the pitch and this was one of his best games. Just let him be a classic CB and Rob will be okay.

Tierney: 8.5 – awesome performance from start to finish. We have not had such a good FB on the left since Ashley Cole strutted his stuff for us. Just such a determination about him and nothing of his energy is wasted; Kieran is Mr Efficiency in all that he does, almost menacingly robotic – The Terminator.

Elneny: 7.5 – Elneny was in his element. He is the nr.2 central midfielder. Don’t ask him to make play, just ask him to be tidy and let others shine. Such a player is of course key in midfield and today Mohammed had an understated good game.

Xhaka: 8.5 – Extra point for the goal. Quietly directed the game and helped us to maintain shape throughout.

Saka: 8.5 – Brilliant game with an extra point for his bullseye dart. This boy is so good.

Martinelli: 8.5 MOTM – he had no goal or assist but he could have had with better service, especially from Bellerin. But his performance was special in as much as he gave Arsenal its soul back. I believe we would not have won this game without him. Like Tierney, the Brazilian just does not give up and is very determined and efficient in his efforts. A joy to watch, our heartbeat.

ESR: 7.5 – really helped with connecting the lines of midfield and attack, and defence and midfield. Industrious and at times too keen perhaps, but he added energy to our game as long as he was on the pitch. Just don’t forget to breathe, Emile.

Laca: 8 – with an extra point for converting the pen – there was a lot of weight on Alex’s shoulder at that moment. Industrious and really enjoyed the free attacking role surrounded by the eager puppies. Should have added the fourth goal when gifted a golden chance.

The Subs:

Willock: 6 – struggled to settle in and take over adequately from ESR.

Pepe: 5 – struggled to settle in and help the team to see out the game.

Mustafi: not long enough on the pitch to make a judgement.

By TotalArsenal.

55 thoughts on “Arsenal Player Ratings: Saka, Tierney and Xhaka Superb But One Player Represents Arsenal’s Soul

  • Thoroughly enjoyed the comments from the previous post and what a change in atmosphere and how we needed that an absolute tonic.

    Sometimes fate takes a hand and maybe the three Brazillians dropping out and forcing Arteta to make changes he might not have made was the change in luck we needed even if he maybe doesn’t see it that way, but it worked for him and I hope he has the courage to stick with this starting XI and squad.

    Let’s hope that he brings Nelson and Balogun back into things as well.
    The Kids are alright…

  • Pepe seemed lost when he entered the run of play. Proper positioning however by Ozil and Willian!!

  • Wow where did that come from. Offcourse the youngsters to an extent. Fair play to Xhaka he scored a goal that we always thought he was bought for.
    I didn’t watch the match as it was late in India but boy my son and myself were chuffed when we say the score in the morning. Boy isn’t that a super Christmas gift

  • We could have scored more, and so could they have. Generous to give a point for scoring a penalty even if under pressure, T. I think pens should count for one-half of other goals in statistic keeping. I’d at least like the stat measured….. but, Alex worked so hard as usual, I don’t mind the rating.

    ….. a couple big differences today… the energy of Smith Rowe and Martinelli, obviously, but also, playing one striker, with creative players around to support him. We have a weak midfield, to begin with, playing 2 strikers puts us at a larger disadvantage. I love false 9s, but We don’t have one. Needs a player like Firmino. So for now, please … 1 striker at a time. Aubameyang could never do the job that Martinelli does on the left. ….. and here’s where I disagree with many. I think PEA actually tries, works hard, tracks back a lot… but he’s wasted like that, and it throws off his overall scoring game. He’s still our star scorer, and I bet he would have loved to play striker in today’s lineup. I don’t believe the new contract has made him immediately lazy, as some people suggest. Physically, you can see he’s in very good shape for his age, and definitely hasn’t lost his pace.

    I’ve seen Xhaka hit 1 or 2 excellent free kicks for us, and I always wonder why he doesn’t take more attempts.
    … Holding does a lot of little things that nobody gives him credit for…. I love what you said about him.. let him be a classic CB. That’s how I see him too. I always loved Mertesacker as a calming influence on the pitch. So important to have.

    I liked the subs… Willock for energy and some threat. I still don’t think his football instincts are good enough, but guys like ESR and Martinelli, Saka need to be protected from too many minutes, so Joe is a strong body to bring on. .., Pepe also, I think, is not a 90 minute player, but can still be very useful.

    Regardless of the penalty save, I don’t think Leno gets his deserved credit. He is great with his feet, he needs to improve distribution, I admit. He’s a brave sweeper keeper. But he, like any other keeper should not be ordered to play out from the back 100%, the way Arteta has asked… the keeper should always have the choice to go by the situation, and also to mix it up with long kicks. This also makes it harder for other teams to pressure us, keeps them off balance.

  • The boys have really done well today,in fact I still can’t believe that we trashed Chelsea 3-1 fair enough.

  • I request as any that please if we are to continue winning, don’t play PEPE,WILOCK,NKITIA,WILLIAN, you can see how we lost form just after those two were brought in

  • What a great turn around! These young stars are a treat to watch for the energy they injected into the game.
    We have plenty of young talents, please use them simply for that ability to fight.
    Keep it up Pablo, Rob & Tierney.
    I love these new blood.

  • I believe our one and only team will continue to do better if the coach continue to concentrate more on this talented young players. He had been using this boys in our UFA games and we won all,why he can just learn from that.thanks.

  • Its been good here TA.. nowadays the cases are imported and one or 2 cases every 4 to 5 days, meaning that the community cases are mostly controlled. I understand that the situation in UK is largely grim, with London dropping to tier 4 and movement is severely restricted.

    How are you and other BKers coping?

    Back to the match. Most of the people were talking about Pepe and Luiz as the guys that broke us, but it remains to be seen as we played Pablo Mari and ESR on the crucial positions and they played perfectly last night.

    It is the squad cadamaderie that mattered and the forward play is much much better last night.

    Looking forward to winning step by step but we had to learn it the hard way.

  • Nice and fair ratings, as usual.
    Without challenging the figures the MotM could have been similarly awarded to Xhaka (who bounced back from his suspension with his performance as well his leadership) and Lacazette too (led the line well to help link up the other attacking players around him).

    I really love Tierney that in his average days he plays like Monreal did in his good days. And I liked Nacho very much. Kieran need to improve only in having more good days. But when he has some, he is truly unstoppable.

    Holding indeed had a great night. I really enjoyed watching him play as well as reading about him after the game: “One of the main reasons Timo Werner was hauled off at half time. Big performance from the 25-year-old as he’s become a staple under Mikel Arteta.”

  • Must’ve been one of the most pleasant ratings you’ve ever made, TA
    I liked the “much less of the playing out from the back torture” a lot, and yes, we’ll all run out of superlatives for Kieran/Marti/Bukayo very quick
    I agree with Jnyc, I just can’t get through my thick heads why Granit doesn’t take those FKs more often; actually i’m not sure he’s made to perfect them at Colney as he should be, set pieces can be such a weapon …
    The kids are our vibranium mine indeed, sky’s their/our limit
    Bukayo oozed happiness on his RW, I hope he’ll settle there he’s our robben/salah … still in the bud, though, which is truly amazing. When he blooms, where will that kid take us?
    Bring Brighton on, now, our lads have an account to settle there, just ask Bernd …

  • A good, well fought win (wins) has that effect; every player looks like a world beater. What we need to do is have more of such days when we start on the front foot, are aggressive, press well and take our chances. Get that right, Arteta, and you won’t have to be under pressure anymore.

    Agree with the ratings and can understand the pick for MoTM. Even though Martinelli didn’t score a goal (he had four chances to), it was his energy that was transmitted throughout the team; when he left, we lost a bit of that verve. That boy epitomizes all that I want to see (and why I picked on Auba a bit, for lacking that all-or-nothing approach when chasing down defenders) in our forward players; never stops working, chases lost causes, focused when he hones in on a defender and just shows determination to win duels, whether defending or attacking. He gave Laca impetus as well as Laca put so much pressure on Zouma and Thiago Silva, forcing them into hurried hoof balls and errors. Mendy in goal too couldn’t handle it. I can’t help but gush at the way Martinelli plays the game (same way I did; only now, I run out of gas quickly and depart for a breather 😂😂) with determination to end up on the winning side. When Arteta spoke about his fitness and readiness a few weeks back, you could tell he was happy to have the lad back and was impressed with him in training. I wasn’t surprised when he began to play him sooner than most fans expected.

    Leno had a good game; improved his handling and timing of his sweeper game. That penalty save was crucial too, as without it, we would have had an uncomfortable last few minutes on the pitch and at home. He also varied his playing out-of-the-back routine with long balls because both Martinelli and Laca were willing to contest the headers effectively and ESR, Saka and Xhaka were willing to pounce on the knockdowns.

    Xhaka raised his game too, as if to make up for that silly red card he copped, which cost the team. Hats off to him. Even his worst critics had to eat their words and you heard a lot of “this is how he should play, every game”. Newsflash: he always had this in him, but like any pro, must respect instructions and team structure. With Chelsea against the ropes and Arteta urging more forward play, he was freed up to do more, offensively. Counted at least four occasions where he was chasing down their last defender and once, the keeper. Who thought he could ever come that far forward?

    I misread the roles of both Bellerin and ESR early in the game and slated them a bit. On second viewing, I thought ESR did a job on N’golo Kante and Kovacic, and this could only be under instruction. His overall play was commendable, after so long out of the first team. Intelligent, aggressive and good positional sense were the traits I picked from his performance. Bellerin grew into it and handled himself well. The arm band may have helped, rather than weigh him down.

    All round, a good day for the fans (if only we could have had a full stadium, those lads would have deserved the accolades that would surely have come) and the club. Would Arteta dare send the message by playing the youth more, seeing as they have bailed us out here? With Luis, Willian and Gabriel unavailable for that game, can Arteta drop them and force them to win back their places rather than just walk back into the side? Time will tell.

  • TA, you did ask on a previous thread…. Alas! I am having to spend the Christmas in Nigeria without my wife and children. With Toronto on lockdown and Canada banning flights to and from the UK, my family was caught up in all of that as they were booked on British Airways (my wife preferred that so she could dash into London during the Heathrow lay-off, to visit with her Dad who lives in Balham). We thought of booking on other airlines but that would have meant them coming after Christmas, so we thought better of it and rather chose safety. All plans are now on hold.

    This pandemic has sure changed a lot of things about how the world used to work. I have resolved to return early in the new year. Maybe, we spend the summer in Nigeria, instead.

  • Wow, some fab comments today. Especially JNYC and Eris’ comments deserve a good response!

    I am busy this afternoon but will get back to you later on.

  • How cool is it to see so many new commentators on here, keep popping in fellas it’s what makes this blog what is, thanks for dropping in…

  • Well it’s not a game that is fruitful for conclusions Chelsea really underestimated us and were total crap as a result. The goals were very lucky to say the least, we should wait to see through the next 6 fixtures how we will play since the teams that we are playing should be easy to win.

  • I wasn’t too worried about our situation but obviously not too happy
    I go back to the mid 60s when we were probably the 4th best team in London
    I can’t believe some of the stick we’ve been getting,certainly from a particular radio station is outrageous I’m not even gonna mention them
    I also remember the mid 70s when we were having a sticky patch
    Don t worry folks Arsenal are going to be ok
    Dermot Hackney Cheers

  • Well done
    Only shed tears of joy instead of sorrow. Please do not change the make up of the team. The members of the team praying the youngsters would fail must look into their hearts and feel ashamed

  • I agree with you on player ratings but to me MOTM was laca because of his confidence when he was gonna take penalty, and also his workrate was superb. 9 for me

  • Cheers Kev, no availability of those Samba boys may have forced Mikel into changes, and that may have been beneficial. The youngsters did well but I also thought the formation change was important.

  • Yes Madhu a great gift. You should watch the game when you can. Where about are you based Madhu and how old is your son, and is he also a Gooner?

  • J, imagine Laca had missed that pen… A point for me. But in general I agree that pen goals don’t deserve a full extra point.

    All agreed re playing just one CF. It was a sort of 4-5-1 and that really suits this team.

  • LeG, Xhaka gets often the short straw for free kicks as Luiz, Auba and Laca seem to get preference. But from that distance and angle, Xhaka’s left foot is very sweet indeed. I am convinced he has been told not to attempt long distance shots by Arteta, as he does them regularly still for the national team.

  • Eris, great comment and all agreed.
    Sorry to hear you have to be without the family and I hope you get reunited soon. At least you are not freezing your toes off right now 😊

  • Really fun to see the new guys posting here, great comments from all.
    Peter, your comment :
    “I really love Tierney that in his average days he plays like Monreal did in his good days. And I liked Nacho very much. Kieran need to improve only in having more good days. But when he has some, he is truly unstoppable.”
    Those words express exactly how I feel. I think Nacho didn’t get enough credit for consistently good play. A great servant to the team. Tierney is on another level, up there with Robertson. As a matter of fact, I heard Liverpool were considering both at the time. I’m glad we got Kieran. I said a long time ago… future captain. A real captain, not the revolving captaincy we see of late.

    LeGall, I was going to mention it today, and I’m glad you pointed it out… Saka on the right wing, is a whole different player. I can’t even figure out why, but he just is. Must be a comfort thing. But I don’t mind him moving around during the game. I like right and central. I hope Arteta recognizes it, because it wasn’t just this game. He always seems more effective there.

    Eris great comment about the work rate and pressing causing Chelsea to scramble and give us opportunities. You guys remember, last week I was despairing that we don’t press effectively anymore, or in packs , and how a coach from Man City should have us doing that better. I think Arteta secretly reads this blog!

    A. Dellas, welcome, good to have you join in. I think we can draw some of these conclusions…
    *The young guys bring energy, desire and some special quality. *We are better when we press our opponents. *It’s great to play out from the back a lot, but not religiously, or to a point of near disaster. *Most of all, playing one striker makes us stronger in midfield, where we usually are playing as if we’re a man down. I hope Arteta understands that, and stops trying 2 squeeze in 2 strikers every week. All positions need to contribute goals. The strikers will get their share when we are flowing freely.

    Lastly, I want to make this comparison. The characteristics I see in Martinelli, I haven’t noticed in a player for any team, in a long time. The last time was a few years ago, playing for Chelsea, a guy with amazing raw talent, but played a little bit out of control at times. A kid named Salah. Let’s give him time, and do our best to keep him healthy.

  • Fat Sam has Albion playing very disciplined football and drew 1-1 with Liverpool today, we will be in for a tough game on Saturday.

  • Totally agree with the starting 11 performance every player played with passion and didn’t give up which is what I want to see in every game all youngsters gave everything and should be given the chance to play!! Tierney,saka have been outstanding martinelli is a massive boost for us gives us more energy and pace up top.the past few games aubamayang,Willian are frustrating me at the moment they look disinterested in the game before they’ve ko why?and pepe is not worth the money we paid for him he looks lazy has had plenty time to adapt to the Premier league now there’s no excuse,mustafi I’d let go for free he’s a liability I say give give the youngsters a chance like they proved against Chelsea

  • Total, as much as the non availability of the Brazilians forced Arteta’s hand he still left the likes of Ceballos, Mustafi and even Aubameyang on the bench so a lot of credit still needs to go to him for trusting the Kids…

  • Thanks for review TA! Seems we’re both beaming about it. 😁

    Finally! A 3-5-2 and an inclusion of the Kids. Been begging for this for a month. Though in fairness it likely doesn’t have same impact without Martinelli’s presence. And really, playing Saka on the right.

    Martinelli, Smith Rowe, and Saka played– together. Gears that meshed– also bringing Lacazette to life. Pressing that kept Chelsea backfooted (without a shot on target for 85′)– facilitated our opportunities. Even when Chelsea evaded the press– the pace of the Kids recovery helped our defenders blunt the Blues attack (2nd in GF).

    A joy to watch (thrice already). Could feel the team’s intensity and energy radiating through the TV.

    Believing yesterday’s lineup is how Mikel intends to open on Tuesday– having taken both ESR and Martinelli off at 70′. Xhaka looked much better in a more forward role, in a midfield tandem with Elneny. Holding and Mari were good together–despite Pablo’s shaky moments. The only pause might be Saka’s minutes. When was the last PL match he didn’t play?

    Here’s hoping this was as revelatory to Mikel as it was to those of us watching.

    Onward. Upward.


  • JW, was it really a 3-5-2 though? TA thinks 4-5-1, I was thinking 4-2-3-1. Honestly the label doesn’t really matter, especially playing and pressing as a unit.

    ..but good forward thinking about limiting Martinelli, Smith Rowe, Saka from overplaying. I’d consider a little role reversal. Meaning, they are the priority players. First choice starters, but mix in the older (more expensive) players to supplement and protect them. But definitely use Nelson as part of the young guns too. Is he healthy yet? Did I hear a rumour that he could be leaving in January? I couldn’t blame him for wanting out for lack of opportunities.
    Mikel has come this far… now start working in Balogun as a sub and eventually a start.. convince him to stay.

  • Hey J–
    At the start I thought it was a 4-4-1-1.
    But as often as I saw Elneny dropping deep into the box or receiving the ball out from the back on the right– he seemed less a shield in front of the CBs. Perhaps more defensively when in our third then. A hybrid I guess– which really means– you’re right– it doesn’t matter. It was all quite fluid. On the left it seemed more of a traditional setup with Martinelli roaming central some and Tierney on the flank (Kieran was everywhere at once). Where Saka and Bellerin were interchangeable– seeing Saka first back on that side at times. Organic then? No doubt MA got it just so yesterday. As did the Kids.

    Think Nelson on a loan might be for the best (or Pepe instead!). But it’s imperative not to lose a goalscorer like Balogun– when it’s more likely someone in front of him in the order will be gone by next season.


  • With so many games stacking up we need to start using Niles in as many positions as we can to give others a breather, it’s going to be a far more physical game vs Brighton and then a level or two up from them vs Fat Sam and his Throstle’s and as mentioned above Reiss Nelson, it would be crazy not to use them not least for the energy they’d bring to the table.

    Did anyone notice the Coach of Benfica mentioning that drawing Arsenal in the Europa wouldn’t be giving him any sleepless nights, great stuff, I like those types of comments as it makes the team talk and motivation a lot easier.

  • Kev, the coaches must make the Benfica remarks known and remembered! Perfect motivator. Did AMN play in midfield against Man City? I heard he had a terrible game. Anybody remember?

  • TA, iam based out of Bangalore India. Yes my son is a gooner as well. He is 12 and watches with me if the games are not ton late. I have been a gooner for more than 2 decades now. The first time I was able to watch premier League in India I fell in love with Gunners. From then on my mood swings wiht the gunner performance. My wife riles me and my son by being a Spurs fan intentionally. Both me and my son has our Arsenal jerseys as well. I have a plaque as well in my room ‘You can’t buy class faithful forever’ gifted by my wife. My book shelf has collection of Arsenal books as well.
    There you are hoping that I can claim to be a legitimate gooner and be part of the family.

  • Great info Madhu, I like to know where our bloggers are based and how they became a Gunner. As you will have seen, we have bloggers here from all over the globe, except South America unfortunately. So you and your son are very welcome here!
    Your wife sounds rebellious haha 😂

  • Hope everyone has had a happy holiday season so far!

    What a match! Still buzzing after that win and guess what finally happened?! Arteta FINALLY played the youngsters and it worked!! Sometimes the easiest solutions are just staring you in the face and you need to be brave enough to make that decision. We’ve been crying out for central creativity, everyone knew it and it’s a shame it took Arteta this long to give ESR a single league minute amidst our poor run of form.

    TA, I wouldn’t disagree with any of the ratings aside from ESR – I think he deserved an 8 or 8.5. He was clearly the missing piece up front, helping us to connect the attack and provide an outlet for Mr. Xhaka. He didn’t have an outstanding game, but he did everything that was asked of him and his work rate in tracking back and pressing was also impressive.

    It’s a great win that should be celebrated, but in context, we beat United and were buzzing then immediately went on a long losing streak. There’s a need to stay grounded and realize that we often struggle against Brighton and we cannot take any opposition lightly. I hope to see the same starting 11 tomorrow!

  • Good shout for ESR, HH. I was pleased with his performance after the game but others were even more enthusiastic – as are you!

    Fully agreed re not over celebrating this victory and stay grounded. There is a long way to go.

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