We've spent part of the international break handing out our first quarter grades for Chelsea players. Part one was the defence, part two the midfield, and now, part three is, you guessed it, the goalkeepers.
Wait, no, the forwards. We didn't write about goalkeepers. Courtois probably gets an A, Begović gets a C, and Eduardo gets an incomplete because he only ever exists in training videos. Back to the forwards.
CURRENT STARTERS (GRADES):
It can be a bit tough to figure out in modern football where the line is between midfielders and forwards, so the grouping may be a bit arbitrary. Players other than out-and-out center forwards like Diego Costa and Michy Batshuayi could very well be classified as midfielders. In fact, we did put Ruben Loftus-Cheek in that group even though he's largely been played as a second striker in those few appearances that he's had. In the end, the grouping itself doesn't matter much; the grades would be the same regardless.
Diego Costa (A+) — Chelsea's Player of the First Quarter and the leading goalscorer in the Premier League. Consistent excellence, even through the dip of the back-to-back losses to Liverpool and Arsenal — during those days Costa was the only player who seemed to genuinely care and try and, later, even get mad at the coach. Any such issues, real or imagined, have seemingly been resolved since. Winning will do that.
Eden Hazard (A) — The difference between Costa's impact and Hazard's impact was that aforementioned dip. Hazard went missing; Costa didn't. They've both been rather excellent otherwise, especially as of late. We could argue that we're seeing the best Hazard yet in some of these games.
Pedro (B-) — This may be slightly harsh, depending how much weight we give to more recent performances, but early on in the season, Pedro was mostly his usual self from last season, rather than his self from his Barcelona career like nowadays. His capacity to make some truly odd and silly plays remains.
Chelsea have played at least three formations already this season, including setups with a lone striker, a striker-duo, and ever whatever this current system classifies as.
Willian (C+) — Willian has played more than Pedro but accomplished less. It would've been interesting to see how Chelsea's fortunes would've developed had Willian not missed a couple games while on compassionate leave — one would assume Pedro's more direct style fits the system a bit better, but Willian always has the capacity to decide games with one skill or one perfect shot.
Michy Batshuayi (C) — Social media all-star who got off to a tremendous start as a substitute in the first few games, but has since struggled with his finishind and stamina. He's undoubtedly a young man just oozing with talent and joy and happiness, but it's also up to the team to make sure he gets proper opportunities.
Dominic Solanke (Incomplete) — He's there, somewhere; had even made a couple matchday squads. Supposed contract dispute isn't helping anyone either.
In keeping with the theme of the previous looks at defence and midfield, let's give the attack an overall first-quarter grade of a B as well. Tremendous lately, but not so confidence-inspiring early on.
The full list for reference:
A+ — Costa
A — Courtois, David Luiz, Hazard, Kanté, Moses
A- — Azpilicueta, Matić
B+ — Alonso
B — Cahill, Chalobah
B- — Pedro
C+ — Oscar, Willian
C — Begović, Fàbregas, Terry
C- — Ivanović
D — Loftus-Cheek
Incomplete grades: Aina, Eduardo, Mikel, Solanke, Zouma