Eden Hazard, N'Golo Kante underwhelm as Chelsea well-beaten by rivals Arsenal
LONDON -- First-half goals from Alexandre Lacazette and Laurent Koscielny gave Arsenal a 2-0 victory over a woeful Chelsea at the Emirates to make the race for a top-four finish in the Premier League tighter than ever.
Chelsea could have lost by a lot more than two goals after a first-half performance without any redeeming features. If nothing else, however, this kind of emphatic defeat should provide Maurizio Sarri with the push he needs to shake up a stale and stagnant starting XI.
This felt every bit as bad as the first half against Tottenham at Wembley that left Chelsea 2-0 down after just 16 minutes. Sarri's men were slow, predictable and passive, failing to even threaten Arsenal's goal until the game was beyond them. Ominously, they must still go to the Etihad Stadium, Anfield and Old Trafford.
Manager Rating out of 10
3 -- For all his complaints about a lack of training time this season, Sarri had a full week to prepare for this game and it didn't show. Chelsea looked totally unprepared for Arsenal's intensity and there was no tactical variation once the game began to go against them. Gonzalo Higuain can't arrive soon enough.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Kepa Arrizabalaga, 6 -- Occasionally punched when he should have caught and some of his kicks went awry, but was otherwise the only Chelsea player who could leave the Emirates with his head held high. Made a couple of excellent saves and could do nothing about either of Arsenal's goals.
DF Cesar Azpilicueta, 4 -- Could not isolate himself from the collective disintegration of the Chelsea defence and was at times every bit as guilty of letting Arsenal attackers get away from him -- most notably when he was among four blue shirts to leave Koscielny totally unmarked for the Gunners' second.
DF Antonio Rudiger, 5 -- The best of Chelsea's defenders but, on a day like this, that really isn't saying much. Was still found positionally wanting on a couple of occasions and his speed across the ground was not enough to get him out of trouble.
DF David Luiz, 4 -- Does not tend to keep his head when those around him are losing theirs, and he did nothing to steady the ship as Chelsea floundered early on. Never got to grips with Lacazette and Pierre- Emerick Aubameyang and was perhaps lucky only to see a yellow card for a studs-up lunge on Aaron Ramsey.
DF Marcos Alonso, 3 -- His lack of mobility with and without the ball has become a real problem for Chelsea at both ends of the pitch. He was too slow to react to the threat Lacazette posed in the build-up to Arsenal's first goal and often failed to escape their press. Hit the post with a header, but this was a torrid display.
MF N'Golo Kante, 4 -- Probably the worst passing performance of his Chelsea career. Was repeatedly pressed into mistakes and even made a couple when he had as much time as he wanted. Also committed a number of silly fouls which conceded free kicks in dangerous areas.
MF Jorginho, 4 -- When he breaks down, Chelsea break down. Ramsey did the Dele Alli marking job on him from the first minute and he set the tone for his team's error-strewn opening with some loose passes. Once the Gunners sat back and invited pressure, too few of his passes were progressive.
MF Mateo Kovacic, 4 -- His neat and tidy qualities on the ball are only useful when those around him are also looking after it, and he offered little else either in terms of defensive cover for the labouring Alonso or in the final third. It was no surprise when Barkley replaced him just after the hour.
FW Pedro, 4 -- Unlucky not to convert Chelsea's best move when he lobbed just wide from Luiz's superb floated pass, but he blazed another gilt-edged effort over after the break. Didn't have his shooting boots on, which is a big problem when few of his teammates even own a pair.
FW Eden Hazard, 4 -- So clearly doesn't want to play as a false nine and Sarri has given up on telling him to stay up front. Every time he drifts deep or wide, however, Chelsea are utterly toothless in attack. Arsenal shackled arguably the most talented player in the Premier League far too easily.
FW Willian, 4 -- His evening was summed up when his most dangerous shot, cutting in from the left flank, struck Alonso's back and ricocheted straight out of play. Another less threatening effort flew straight out for a throw. Offered very little to his team in attack or defence.
FW Ross Barkley, 6 -- Played with welcome drive and purpose when he came on, forcing one painful block from Koscielny with a fierce drive. That said, the game was already well beyond Chelsea by that point.
FW Olivier Giroud, 6 -- Should have started the game and definitely should have been on at half-time. Instead, he was granted a 22-minute cameo with Arsenal already set and comfortable in their defensive shape.
FW, Callum Hudson-Odoi, N/R -- Brought on in place of Pedro for the final 10 minutes, having seen nothing in the first 80 to justify Sarri's decision not to trust him as a starter -- and nothing to make Bayern Munich's offer any less appealing.