Chelsea’s three-game winning run in all competitions came to a brutal end on Wednesday evening, as the west London outfit succumbed to a shock 4-2 defeat to rivals Arsenal at Stamford Bridge.
The hosts had twice come from behind in an enthralling first half to head in level at the break, although their shambolic defensive performance continued after the interval, with Eddie Nketiah and Bukayo Saka capitalising on some bizarre and frankly foolish defending from the Blues’ backline to secure all three points.
While that defeat will do little to impact the home side’s stranglehold on third spot in the Premier League table – particularly with them five points clear and with a game in hand over both the Gunners and Spurs – there were no doubt alarm bells ringing for manager Thomas Tuchel, particularly on the evidence of that defensive showing.
The seemingly Barcelona-bound Andreas Christensen has come under fire for his early blunder that gifted the visitors the lead, although the Dane is perhaps an easy scapegoat for the defeat, particularly with fellow defender Malang Sarr having endured a torrid evening of his own.
The Frenchman – who joined the club on a free transfer back in the summer of 2020 – failed to take his chance on what was his first start for over a month, notably recording a fairly dismal 6.4 match rating, as per SofaScore, the third-worst among the starting XI.
On a shaky outing for the former Nice man, the £7.2m-rated centre-back was particularly at fault for the away side’s third goal just after half-time, with his clumsy attempted clearance gifting the ball straight to the feet of a grateful Nketiah who grabbed his second of the night.
The 23-year-old would be forgiven for struggling against the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool, although this was an opposition who had lost their previous three league games and had a striker in tow who prior to the game had failed to score a top-flight goal this season.
The £34k-per-week defender had been tasked with filling the shoes of the stricken Antonio Rudiger for the visit of Mikel Arteta’s side, although on the basis of that defeat he hardly looks fit to lace the German’s boots, with the statistics proving rather damning for the 6-foot brute.
As per SofaScore, the former France U21 international lost possession on 22 occasions during his 90-minute horror show, while he was also dribbed past three times, eventually committing three fouls and failing to make a single interception throughout the hefty loss.
That underwhelming display was dubbed a “shambles” by talkSPORT pundit Dean Saunders, with the Welshman going on to insist that Sarr is simply “not good enough”, hence his recent absence from the side.
Football.london’s Adam Newson was also heavily critical of the defender’s showing, handing him just a five in his post-match player ratings and writing of the player’s performance that:
“With Antonio Rudiger ruled out through injury, Tuchel opted to pick Sarr on the left of his back three. It was the Frenchman’s first appearance in the Premier League for over a month, and he appeared rusty in the opening period as Bukayo Saka was able to dominate down the Arsenal right. Sarr was hesitant in possession and uncertain with his positioning.
The French defender didn’t improve after the break, and it was his poor touch after a Silva tackle that allowed Nketiah to score Arsenal’s third. Sarr was later booked for a poor tackle later in the contest.”
Perhaps there may need to be an element of sympathy with a player who was making just his sixth league start of the season, although he will likely have little complaint if he is replaced for this weekend’s clash with West Ham United, with Tuchel hinting that Rudiger is “close” to being available for that match.
In truth, Sarr simply let his manager, and the club’s supporters, down.