As discussed in the post-match review, the outcome dents but doesn’t destroy title hopes, a welcome-contrast to previous years when this fixture felt like a veritable train-wreck. It’s a disappointment, to be sure, but a lackluster performance from a weary, perhaps under-the-weather squad battles a determined, perhaps desperate one and very nearly nicked a point anyway. So it goes. Here, then, is a rundown of the players’ performances, using whoscored.com‘s statistics and ratings:
- Thomas Vermalaen—7.49: Put in his finest performance in a long way despite having been thrown on last-minute due to Per’s illness. Hustled and battled well, led the team with 10 clearances and four aerial duels won, and co-led with four interceptions and played the kind of assertive but aware performance we’ve looked for from him for months.
- Mikel Arteta—7.46: shared team lead in interceptions with Vermaelen and Gibbs, shared most-tackle honors with Sagna and Ramsey, and did everything else we’ve come to expect from him. Team-high ten long balls embody our disjointed attack, relying on optimistic attempts rather than patient build-ups.
- Kieran Gibbs—7.39: might have had a goal on one of Sagna’s many fine crosses but fluffed the header by ducking too much, strong from the back with four interceptions and seven clearances but ultimately not his best day despite those numbers, looking tentative and less-confident than usual.
- Bacary Sagna—7.28: arguably the most dangerous playing going forward with a number of great crosses, well-placed beyond the in-form De Gea’s reach, that teammates simply flubbed or otherwise failed to finish. He co-led the team with key passes (2) and was typically ferocious on defense with four tackles and six clearances. My MotM, for what that’s worth.
- Laurent Koscielny—6.54: without Mertesacker filling the zone behind him or organizing things, Kos seems to have played more cautiously than usual, eschewing more aggressive tackling for conservative play. Very nearly deflected Rooney’s shot in a dangerous new direction. Eight clearances in an otherwise quiet performance.
- Wojciech Szczesny—6.48: recovered well from getting crushed by Phil Jones’s skull but didn’t have much else to worry about. He might have done better on the goal by either charging out to punch clear or to stay one the line; hovering about four yards out left him in no-man’s land for the ball to float over him.
- Aaron Ramsey—6.35: a muted performance from the man whose most-vital contribution was those four tackles. An atypically anemic 76% pass-accuracy highlights how out of sorts we seemed in the midfield as we struggled, really for the first time all season, to find or maintain rhythm for such long stretches.
- Mesut Özil—6.26: cleary another one of Wenger’s flop-signings after failing to score or deliver an assist. Kidding. Seriously, though, this might have been his least-effective showing of the season. He might have done better on Ramsey’s cross but seemed to
- Santi Cazorla—6.23: a starkly anonymous performance from the man, just one shot taken and little else to point to on the evening, perhaps bothered more than he should have been by Smalling on the wing. It felt like the only time I really noticed him was when he was subbed off by Bendtner. Weary? Ill? Let’s hope the interlull is good for whatever ails him.
- Matthieu Flamini—6.13: seemed sluggish, even flaccid at times, as he works his way back from injury. Not much to comment on as far as statistics although he did pick up his customary yellow card and will miss the Southampton match.
- Olivier Giroud—5.73: There wasn’t much for him to do; what’s worse, he didn’t do it well. He looked forlorn and frustrated all night. In his defense, he’s played about 87,213 minutes this season and might be due a rest. Then again, Bendtner, so…
- Jack Wilshere (61′ for Flamini)—6.23: brought a welcome bit of intensity and purpose that had been lacking but found few who could match it anyway. He changed the tempo and momentum, but only drew a yellow card of his own for his troubles.
- Nicklas Bendtner (78′ for Cazorla)—5.97: after his whingeing about still being at Arsenal, I can’t believe he was thrown on at all. Almost let a Sagna cross bump into him but couldn’t be bothered, perhaps worried too much about mussing his E. Honda chonmage.
- Serge Gnabry (83′ for Arteta)—6.14: as with Wilshere, he brought some intensity, not to mention pace, enough to make me wish he had come in earlier. He adds a dimension that we sometimes lack, all the more against a strong side. I love the deftness and flair of Cazorla and Özil, but sometimes we just need something a little more direct.
Well, the other shoe was bound to drop at some point, and maybe that’s what happened. With World Cup qualifiers and friendlies coming up, France is the only country still looking to qualify and have to face Ukraine twice over the next eight days, but everyone else is either already through (Germany, England, Belgium…) or eliminated (Wales, Czech Republic, Poland) and is playing friendlies of some kind or another. Let’s hope managers all around have the good sense to rest some weary legs…