After the team news came out at 11:30, you would’ve been forgiven if you thought Chelsea would cruise into the fifth round of the FA Cup against Plymouth Argyle. However, the away side, inspired on by their 6000 fans, took an early lead through Macaulay Gillesphey and continue to frustrate their hosts until captain Cesar Azpilicueta’s moment of genius levelled proceedings.
Proceedings continued to follow the same pattern as the minutes ticked by and as half time of extra time approached, some nice interplay between German duo Kai Havertz and Timo Werner led to Marcos Alonso putting Chelsea ahead for the first time.
The final twist was yet to come though as an error from Malang Sarr gifted the visitors a penalty but penalty hero Kepa Arrizabalaga once again rescued his team when they needed him and to secure progression into the next round.
Kepa Arrizabalaga – 9.5
There was a lot of worry in the fanbase when Edouard Mendy left for the African Cup of Nations, but Kepa has more than proved he is up to the mark and showed exactly why again on Saturday. He was unable to do anything away from Plymouth’s goal but away from that he was commanding coming for balls and punching them, alert when needed and pulled off the all-important penalty save late on.
Cesar Azpilicueta – 8.5
Talk around whether he will stay at the club remains but his performance against Plymouth underlined his importance to the side. For large parts of the game, it felt like he was one of the only ones trying to do something in attack and consequently was rewarded with a goal through an exquisite backheel finish. He had another couple of chances but couldn’t convert but overall, it was another solid display from the Spaniard.
Andreas Christensen – 4.5
Much like Azpilicueta there is a lot of talk around his future and that seems to be affecting his concentration on the pitch. He only lasted 45 minutes as he went off with a ‘knock’ but during that time his performance was littered with errors such as overcomplicating things and giving away needless free kicks.
Antonio Rüdiger – 6.5
By the eccentric German’s standards this was a very quiet day at the office for him. Due to the nature of the game, his only regular contributions were with the ball at his feet but towards the end he made a couple of good headers/interceptions to keep the lead intact.
Malang Sarr – 6
Ultimately this will go down as a frustrating afternoon at the office for the Frenchman. Up until the 116th minute he had done what Thomas Tuchel and Arno Michels would have wanted from him both at left back and centre back. However, a double error in giving the ball away and then compounding it by following Ryan Hardie threatened to derail Chelsea’s hopes.
Jorginho – 6
A combination of being unable to exert his influence fully on the game today and overrun by the Plymouth midfield slightly saw a poorer performance than we’ve become accustomed to from the Italian. Despite that in an attacking sense he went close to a rare open play goal twice and played a key role in moving the ball forward for the first goal.
Mateo Kovacic – 6.5
Much like his midfield partner Jorginho this wasn’t the best version of the Croatian. It was a usual workmanlike performance that saw him rattle the bar early on before crashing one into the post a short while later. Overall, tidy on the ball but a bit sloppy when quality was needed the most.
Hakim Ziyech – 8.5
This fluid four at the back system seems to have reborn the Moroccan. It’s no secret he loves to cut in on his left foot from the right hand side and Argyle gave him plenty of chances to do just that. Numerous balls were whipped into dangerous areas, some met and some not by a Chelsea player. Somehow, he went the whole 120 minutes without an assist, but it is another step in the right direction for him.
Mason Mount – 8
It was a rather mixed day out for the Englishman and one that ended in him limping off but not before he had a positive effect on the game. His combination play with Ziyech was a highlight and their interchanging played a big role in Mount getting the assist for Azpilicueta’s goal. Away from that he looked to be proactive in possession and be that spark Chelsea needed but also frustrated fans with several poor corners.
Callum Hudson-Odoi – 4.5
Everyone knows of the potential the young winger has but it is about time he starts to show it with his performances of the pitch. A game against League One side Plymouth seemed perfect to build up some confidence but he looked devoid of it. On several occasions he decided to not take on his man and therefore attacks came to nothing.
Romelu Lukaku – 4.5
Ever since that infamous interview, the Belgian has underperformed on the pitch and apart from sparks today, it was a similar story. He was weak in the air for Gillesphey’s goal, and his movements seemed out of sync for the most part. However, as the game went on his effect in the game started to grow with a couple of bits of hold up play but still not up to the level that is expected of him.
Marcos Alonso – 7
Much like the story around Kepa replacing the absent Mendy, there was significant concern around how the Spaniard would fill in for Ben Chilwell. He hasn’t been as effective as Kepa on the whole but on Saturday he got the job done for the Blues. It was his smart movement into the box and cool finish that sealed progress into the next round.
Kai Havertz – 6.5
It was a typically frustrating performance from the young German international off the bench. It was a performance typified by the number of times he was caught offside but that playing on the edge mentality is what gifted him the space in behind the Plymouth defence after a one two with Werner to square it for Alonso.
Timo Werner – 5.5
Just like his compatriot, Werner was caught offside within moments of coming on and equally struggled to find his rhythm in the game. Notably, he seemed to pull out of a challenge as the goal was beckoning in the ninetieth minute. After his pivotal involvement in the winner, his game management was poor and invited more pressure onto his defence.
Saul Niguez – 6
Just like his fellow midfielders, this was a quiet and rather uneventful day for Saul in his 25 minutes on the pitch. Only 21 touches of the ball during that time sums up the state of the game but he won four out of his six ground duels and made four tackles in Chelsea’s late rear guard effort.
Trevoh Chalobah – 6
Ultimately it was good to see the young English central defender back on the pitch after his injury and he did what was asked of him when replacing captain Azpilicueta. His only real contribution of note was a good example of how to use your body and hold off attackers on the edge of your own box.
Written by Harrison Burridge (@hburridge2)
Edited by Tom Coley (@tomcoley49)
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