Arsenal bounced back from a disappointing defeat against West Ham United to beat Chelsea convincingly at the Emirates Stadium and keep their top four hopes alive.
Even in mid-January, this was a must-win game for Arsenal. A defeat would’ve left them nine points behind Chelsea, three points behind Manchester United and a potential 10 points behind Tottenham Hotspur (depending on Sunday’s result). Even with a few months to go, overtaking two of those teams would be a massive task.
The players seemed to understand the importance of the game, putting in one of their best team performances of the season. Scoring twice in the first half, Arsenal then managed to grind out the victory in the second, without ever really looking like throwing it away.
It was one of Arsenal’s hardest-earned results, with the team covering more ground (121.7km) than in any single match since Opta started tracking the stat in 2013/14.
Let’s have a look at our individual player ratings for the match.
1Goalkeeper and Defence
Bernd Leno 7
Leno finally kept a clean sheet, after a relatively unfortunate run of six league games without one. However, most of the work was done by the players in front of him. The goalkeeper only had to make one save, and sweep up one or two through balls. Other than that, it was a quiet game.
Hector Bellerin 8.5
Making his first start after a calf strain, Bellerin was excellent all over the pitch. He dribbled past opponents with ease, won six out of his seven individual duels and won a couple of good tackles as well. To top it all off, he provided the assist for Alexandre Lacazette’s opening goal.
Then it all went wrong, as he suffered an injury that forced him off the pitch on a stretcher. There are plenty of theories flying around about the nature of the injury, from ligament injuries to torn quad tendons. It looks like a few months out, regardless of the result.
Sokratis Papastathopoulos 8.5
Sokratis won all of his attempted tackles and six of his nine duels as he formed a formidable partnership with Koscielny on the night. The duo’s performance was rather bizarrely capped off as the Greek defender provided the assist for the Frenchman’s goal.
Arsenal’s 30-year-old summer signing continues to the team’s most consistent defensive presence, for whatever that’s worth.
Laurent Koscielny 9
Koscielny had his best game since returning from injury, and a performance that earned him the official man-of-the-match award. He made a massive 13 clearances and three interceptions, winning the only tackle he attempted and blocking a goal-bound shot in painful-looking fashion.
The centre-back also provided an aerial threat at the other end, getting clear of Chelsea’s defence on two occasions. The first time, he headed the ball powerfully but straight at Kepa Arrizabalaga. The second, he got a bit lucky, with the ball coming off his shoulder and looping into the goal. He’d earned that luck with a captain’s performance.
Sead Kolasinac 8
Like the rest of the defence, Kolasinac certainly had plenty of good moments, with one or two crunching tackles catching the eye. His passing was a bit off though, with the lowest accuracy of any defender by a very long way (66% vs 84, 92, 84 and 100%).
In his defence, that was partly because the 25-year-old got forward and took offensive risks so often. That resulted in a couple of chances created, jointly leading the team in that regard alongside Granit Xhaka.
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