A mediocre Chelsea performance was enough to take three points from their game against Fulham. Goals from Pedro and second-half substitute Ruben Loftus-Cheek secured the victory for Chelsea but Sarri will be concerned with his team after a few below-par individual performances and a slow disjointed second-half.
Chelsea Player Ratings Against Fulham
Kepa Arrizabalaga – 8
Chelsea’s young Spanish keeper continues to impress this season, claiming another clean sheet and making two crucial saves with the game at 1-0. His first contribution was to make an instinctive stop following Callum Chambers’ near post header. He got down well to parry the header into a position where Pedro dealt with the second ball. His second contribution was to push away a well-struck shot from Cyrus Christie.
The Spaniard also showed fantastic composure on the ball. A ball-playing goalkeeper is a must for a team wanting to play from the back. At goal kicks, it is his first pass and his initiative that are vital for the tempo and style of football. He shows great confidence with the ball at his feet, has formed a good relationship with both David Luiz and Antonio Rudiger and is clearly buying into Sarri’s philosophy. Today was an example of the player Kepa is rapidly becoming, bouncing back well after he received some criticism after the game against Spurs.
Cesar Azpilicueta – 7
Captain and Mr Dependable, Azpilicueta looked back to his normal self for Chelsea. He has come in for some stick for being too slow, not attacking enough and losing his solidity in one-on-ones. Today, he provided a strong foundation for Chelsea and linked well with N’Golo Kante to stop any Fulham supply to Aleksandr Mitrovic. Although he may have held back and not ventured forward as much as fans like, Azpilicueta did his defensive job first and he did it well.
Antonio Rudiger – 7
‘Rudi’ in the back line of Chelsea’s defence has been their most consistent and impressive player this season. The German has fast become a fan favourite and his rock-solid performance earned Chelsea another clean sheet. Fulham’s lack of really threatening chances is a testament to this, not only being assured in defence but more than competent in delivering an effective out ball for the Blues on many an occasion. Although his and Luiz’s passing and tempo was, at times, slow and not to the satisfaction of fans, they were assertive as a partnership and responded well to last Saturday’s defeat.
David Luiz – 7
Alongside Rudiger, David Luiz was effective in his blockading of Kepa’s goal. He wasn’t massively tested but dealt with Mitrovic well, especially considering the threat the big Serb carries in the air. Luiz’s passing was not as accurate as usual, however, this did not take away from a much-improved display.
Marcos Alonso – 3
One of Alonso’s worst performances in a Chelsea shirt. Worryingly, he was not playing against particularly attacking or imposing opposition either. Alonso had a disastrous game which even saw Eden Hazard swap wings, possibly to be further away from Alonso. His crosses were either too long, too short or at the wrong time. There were many times he took bad touches leading to counter attacks and he continuously fell to the floor, proceeding to complain and then walk back on his defence.
To worsen things, Chelsea face Manchester City at the Bridge next. This poor game from Alonso casts massive doubt on the left-back position in coming games with Emerson showing promise and excitement in the few matches he has played so far.
N’Golo Kante – 7
For someone who ‘can’t play as a right-sided central midfield player’, the Frenchmen did a good job of it, providing an assist for Pedro’s goal. He won the ball on the halfway line, made a surging run and found the Spaniard. He was key in retaining the ball and linked superbly with Azpilicueta when moved around the pitch. Kante did what we now expect of him as standard.
Jorginho – 6
After his worst two games so far in Chelsea blue, Jorginho returned to the role of conductor in the heart of midfield. Not only were his extreme composure and ability to find space on show, but also his dictation of play. Jorginho bossed his teammates around and reverted back to his style of controlling the game himself. When needed, he could pick up the pace of an attack.
His forward play and passes in the final third lacked, however. He wasn’t able to match Cesc Fabregas’ genius and breathtaking balls into Olivier Giroud. Jorginho also suffered in the second half, with Mateo Kovacic providing little support to the Italian.
Mateo Kovacic – 5
Chelsea have an identity problem in midfield. Kovacic does not add anything to the game that Jorginho or Kante can’t bring. His powerful runs from deep are effective, however, in the final third, he continues to lack. On Sunday, he had no creativity and often carried the ball into no man’s land.
Kovacic also does not have the same defensive charisma of Kante or of a defensive midfielder. His below-par performance was confounded when he was unfortunately injured and replaced. He struggled to find any space away from Fulham’s back line and couldn’t conjure anything in the advanced central areas.
Pedro – 8
A return to the team for Pedro marked with a goal and another good run out. Chelsea have never lost in a game that Pedro has scored and Sunday was no different. His energy to run laterally and also back and forth into midfield showed his enthusiasm. He was out to prove a point that, while fit, he should be the first choice right-winger.
His neat first touches and quick darting turns were too much for Fulham to deal with at times. He has bags of experience at the highest level and he showed it today, outshining most of the players in Blue. He, though, like most Chelsea players, struggled to make an impact in the second half
Eden Hazard – 6
A surprisingly quiet game for the Belgian. He grabbed the assist for Loftus-Cheek but was left on the outskirts of a game that largely passed him by. He was more heavily involved in the first-half and showed signs of his magical powers whilst twisting and turning. However, he appeared to lose patience with Alonso on the left-hand side. Often finding his space being run into, or not receiving the ball while in dangerous positions between the Cottagers defence and midfield.
Olivier Giroud – 5
Chelsea’s striker problems continue. Giroud failed to make it three games in a row with a goal, still waiting to do so for the Blues. It wasn’t for the lack of trying, though. The Frenchman had several snapshot chances saved by Sergio Rico in the Fulham net. However, he was unable to get into the game and dominate defenders due to some suspect crossing. Also not able, or trusted, to see out the 90 minutes yet again, there will be interesting decisions to be made in the coming games over who is to start up front for Chelsea.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek – 8
Midfield problems? What midfield problems? Here lies Chelsea’s solution. Almost like a caped crusader, Loftus-Cheek came off the bench to bring everything to the team that is was missing. Drive, passion, pace, flare, end product and desire. His skilful runs from deep were similar to Kovacic, however, he had something to show for it. Providing great movement and a cool finish to score his goal. In just 20 minutes on the pitch, Loftus-Cheek showed no signs of nerves, just natural ability. He dribbled past players, using his strong and powerful build to bully players and waltz through with style.
Loftus-Cheek is maybe not giving Sarri a selection headache as people suggest. He is giving him the answer on a plate with a knife and fork, writing himself into the starting team on Wednesday night and maybe into the consistent team selection for the season.
Davide Zappacosta – 5
Brought on for Alonso and given not long to make a difference in the game, Zappacosta was solid, playing very safe and being cautious in his approach not to put Chelsea’s lead at risk. He was reliable and put his height to good use when moving to help the centre-backs mark Mitrovic.
On this small sample of game time he won’t have changed Sarri’s mind on anything, but if given the shot at right-back (moving Azpilicueta to left back), the Italian would be a solid, even if very safe and ‘boring’ option.