Cardiff City 2-3 Arsenal Player Ratings: Ralls impresses

 

Mustafi heads in the opener – bbc.co.uk

After a very awkward encounter in the Welsh capital, Arsenal managed a 3-2 victory at Cardiff City thanks to Alexandre Lacazette’s late winner. Here’s our Player Ratings from the game.

Cardiff City

Neil Etheridge – the Filipino stopper has enjoyed an excellent start to the campaign, saving two penalties; he was called into action early on here, making a good save. Could not have done much about Mustafi’s header for the opener, or excellent strikes from Aubameyang and Lacazette. Went long to Ward with his goal-kicks. 5

Bruno Manga – a centre-back by trade, Manga has had to move to right-back due to the outstanding form of Morrison and Bamba. Naturally, he didn’t offer much width when he got forward and thus did the simple things in possession, but still defended his box well with one good tackle on Ozil shortly before the break. 5
Sean Morrison – one of the best centre-backs in the Championship last season, Morrison has enjoyed a good start to life in the Premier League. He was strong in the challenge early on, even if one poor attempted clearance early on nearly rebounded into his own goal. Posed a threat with his long throws and in the opposition box – headed over the last chance of the game. 7
Sol Bamba – the powerful centre-back is capable of bullying the opposition, especially in aerial duels, but interestingly he twice lost out here to Mustafi, once for the goal. It’s tempting to question whether he has the necessary pace for this level and he could have got closer for Arsenal’s other two goals; the likelihood is though he wouldn’t have been punished for doing the same thing against most strikers. 5
Joe Bennett – the left-back is known for his crunching challenges but here, he showed he is capable of contributing going forward with some good runs beyond Hoilett and pinpoint crosses. Guarded against opposition counter-attacks diligently when the centre-backs were caught up the pitch, too. One of the best players on the pitch, his positioning for Arsenal’s third goal aside. 7

Harry Arter – a very good performance. Showed the tenacity to press as far up as the opposition goalkeeper early on, firing over from Cech’s misplaced pass early on. Ensured Xhaka had no space and did some excellent covering work to cut out crosses. Bournemouth were happy to let Arter go, but the midfielder appears to have enjoyed a positive individual start to life in Wales. 8
Victor Camarasa – combined brightly with Reid down the right channel and took his goal well, even if his touch was a tad heavy on occasions. Forced back at times in the second half, which meant it was difficult for him to influence things in a positive way. 6
Joe Ralls – one of the best midfielders in the Championship last season, Ralls covered Bennett effectively early on; he also helped the left-back and Junior Hoilett’s wing-play by making supporting runs and picking out some accurate passes. Some good deliveries in the second half, too. 8

Bobby Reid – the talented ex-Bristol City forward pressed with plenty of energy, showed good movement and in the first half provided an excellent cross which Ward nearly made contact with. Got in enough good positions to get on the scoresheet but fired over the bar with an over-head kick shortly before the break, then hit straight at Cech on the counter after the interval. 8
Danny Ward – the forward deserves his chance in the Premier League, having been part of a poor Rotherham side in 2015-16 and then suffering from injury last year. Here, he showed his desire to prove himself at this level with selfless pressing whilst occupying Sokratis. Had to attack more individualistically when Cardiff were level due to the deeper midfield but he did manage to torment Mustafi before curling over on the break, then headed home the second equalizer with great accuracy. 8
Junior Hoilett – looked lively at times and, once he learnt to use Bennett when the moment called for it, he became a real threat. Fired wide of the far post from close range shortly before the first half’s midway point. Hoilett was once described as a talented but languid performer but one or two strong challenges suggests he’s developed a more aggressive side to his game under Neil Warnock. Quality of his shooting in the second half might have been better but certainly a good performance. 7

Kenneth Zahore (on 84) – added some extra athleticism and struck fear into the away side’s back-line. 6
Gary Madine (on 89) – brought on to provide alternative physical presence to Zahore as Cardiff piled the pressure; certainly didn’t give Arsenal’s defence much rest. 6

Arsenal

Petr Cech – before the match, there were question marks about Petr Cech’s ability to play out from the back; his struggles in the first minute in that regard gave Cardiff encouragement and, after the first five minutes, his teammates didn’t give him the ball as often, perhaps wisely. Cech made saves one would have expected him to make but didn’t establish himself as a goalkeeper who can single-handedly keep Arsenal ahead in games; it might not be too long before Bernd Leno gets his chance. 4

Hector Bellerin – the right-back normally offers plenty of pace and width down the flank, but the first half, which often saw him swamped and outnumbered two-on-one, posed a different test of his qualities. Didn’t push on as much as expected, even in the second half. 5
Shkodran Mustafi – the German centre-back stood strong amid the early pressure and powerfully headed home the opener; that wasn’t the last time he got the better of Bamba from a corner. Lacked pace when asked to partake in duels with Ward on the break, but was perhaps the better of the two centre-backs. 6
Sokratis Papastathopoulos – the centre-back looked uncomfortable against Ward early on and at times felt compelled to do daft shirt pulls that resulted in the concession of free-kicks, playing into Cardiff’s hands. Without generalizing too much, it is not impossible that the Greek footballing culture he first became accustomed to was more accepting of foul play and, now he’s 30, one questions whether he will be able to adapt to English culture. 3
Nacho Monreal – although the Spaniard doesn’t offer natural pace, he makes up for that with clever movement in behind and that was key to one or two of Arsenal’s early chances. Did well to put off Reid’s overhead kick and generally defended his box reasonably well, even if he lacked positivity in his passing in his own half. 6

Granit Xhaka – although the Swiss midfielder made a couple of strong challenges in the first half, he wasn’t given the space to show his technical ability. When Cardiff dropped off a few yards in the second half though, he found it easier to call the shots. Clumsily gave away one or two free-kicks late on though when he should have simply held his ground. 7
Matteo Guendouzi – one or two weak headers when put under pressure; while he picked out some nice passes and his application couldn’t be questioned, he perhaps lacks maturity in his game which is perhaps to be expected from a teenager. There’s potential there but for now, Emery must use Guendouzi selectively. 5

Aaron Ramsey – poked over the bar from an awkward position inside the box early on but showed clever movement in from the channels; because he isn’t exactly a central midfielder, a winger or even a withdrawn forward, he can be a difficult player to pin down. Forced back at times by Arter but, when he could get ahead of steam, he showed neat feat to get past opponents and did well to get into advanced areas to receive diagonal passes from the full-backs. 8
Mesut Ozil – the German has had a lot on his mind recently for various reasons and perhaps that impacted his first half performance, which saw him take some poor touches and fail to negate Cardiff’s left sided threat. Grew into the game in the second half when given more of a central role; that switch highlighted his ability to find passes that few playmakers in the world can. 7
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – spent most of the first half stuck in wide areas, which made it harder for him to combine effectively with Lacazette. Once he moved to a more central role though, he did that more often and took his goal superbly; it was a wonderful curling strike just after the hour mark following some sharp link-up play. 8

Alexandre Lacazette – the Frenchman received a lot of praise for his performance; not necessarily because he always a prominent influence on the game, but because he showed his distinctive quality at key moments. The ex-Lyon man hit the post with an effort from outside the box just after the half-hour mark, then benefited from having Aubameyang closer to him after the break and took his late winner with ruthless precision. 9

Lucas Torreira (on 70) – added a touch of composure to proceedings, instigating a calculated passing move that led to Lacazette’s goal. Should start the next game over Guendouzi. 8
Danny Welbeck (on 84) – brought on to offer more energy and defensive diligence than Ozil; ironic, perhaps, given that he started out as a striker. 5
Henrikh Mkhitaryan (on 89) – the Armenian was brought on to, potentially, help finish the job on the counter-attack but he barely touched the ball in his short time on the pitch. 5