For just about as long as people have been writing about football, player ratings have followed each and every game. Whether it’s letters, numbers, decimals or otherwise a raft of player ratings from a variety of publications seem to follow almost every game.

At Saintsplus we want to do things slightly differently so instead of rating each Saint in the immediate and emotional aftermath of full-time and rushing them up online, we’re taking a more relaxed and in-depth approach.

The rules:

Saintsplus will rewatch the recent game as many times as necessary in order to review each player’s performance as well as pick out any interesting tactical tidbits

- Each player will receive a grade on a sliding scale of A+ to F

- It’s important to note that we do not know the specific tactical instructions given to each player so we will attempt to grade with what we can see

- Each week we’ll choose a few players for our ‘standouts’ section

- Only players who play 15+ minutes in each game will receive a grade so late substitutes will almost always get a N/A

If you're feeling masochistic, feel free to check out our ratings from last week's 6-0 defeat to Chelsea. Or if you want something more fun, these ratings are far more complimentary...

Daily Echo: Saints celebrate the win against Arsenal. Image by: Stuart MartinSaints celebrate the win against Arsenal. Image by: Stuart Martin


Fraser Forster: A+

Whether it’s come from Ralph Hasenhuttl, Mikel Arteta, his teammates, or every corner of the Saints media, much has been said about Fraser Forster’s performance against Arsenal. And for good reason too.

Earning the first ‘A+’ thus far, Forster deserves all the plaudits he’ll receive in the wake of a truly memorable goalkeeping performance.

In total, he made six saves - almost all of them excellent - although none more impressive than his reflex stop to deny Bukayo Saka in the first half and his delayed dive to push away Emile Smith-Rowe’s scuffed attempt in the second.

But that’s not all Forster did. He also repeatedly left his line when needed and caught or punched his side out of danger, relieving the pressure time and time again.

Just take the 17th and 18th minutes of Saturday’s victory.

First, Forster pulls off the ridiculous save to stop Saka’s goal-bound effort…

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Before flying through a crowd of bodies to punch the ensuing corner away…

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The saves will understandably be remembered, but this was a complete performance from the goalkeeper who was equally composed with the ball at his feet as he was with it in his hands. And to think he very nearly missed the game with an ankle injury…

It’s impossible to know what the future will hold for Forster, but he’s certainly doing as much as he possibly can to prove he deserves a new contract.

Lyanco: A-

After two months out of action with a hamstring injury, Lyanco finally returned on Saturday and it did not look like he’d missed a day.

Starting as the deepest defender of the Saints’ back three, Lyanco was the anchor for his side’s excellent defensive performance as seen in the trio’s general starting shape below…

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He led his side with eight clearances and frequently emerged victorious in his battle with Arsenal striker Eddie Nketiah. In total, the two competed for the ball 12 times and Lyanco came out on top on ten of those occasions.

But with a player and personality like Lyanco, so much of his effect is based on the intangible qualities that clearly rub off on his fellow teammates. Lyanco is a defender who loves defending and that energy seemed to pass on to the players around him.

Here’s a fairly innocuous example from late on in the first half.

Under pressure, Yan Valery clears the ball out of play for an Arsenal throw-in. 

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It’s not a moment that will grab the headlines, but Lyanco is immediately following up to applaud his centre-back partner.

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Late on when Gabriel Martinelli smashed a shot over the crossbar, Lyanco was seen celebrating it like a goal.

These are little things but they go a long way towards creating the kind of connection with supporters that’s so crucial while also no doubt helping the other ten Saints on the pitch feel that they have an emotional leader to rally around.

Plus, he’s just a whole lot of fun.

Mohamed Salisu - dropped to the bench for the Gunners’ visit - will get more opportunities and he’s shown enough to prove he can be a real star in this team. Perhaps alongside, Lyanco, Saints may have found their centre-back pairing of the present and future.

Jan Bednarek: A-

Speaking of centre-backs, let’s talk about one who has been written off by some. An inconsistent and ultimately disappointing campaign can not be cleansed with one great performance, but credit where credit is due, this was a great performance.

Playing as the left-sided centre-back, the cover provided by Lyanco and Valery allowed Bednarek to aggressively push up the pitch where he frequently stopped Arsenal attacks before they got started.

Here’s one example from the first half…

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And another from the second half...

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The Polish defender also won nine of his ten duels and was in the right place at the right time to make numerous crucial interventions.

Just past the hour mark, with Arsenal applying serious pressure, we see an example of that.

With a cross aimed towards the free space between the Saints defence and Forster in goal, Nketiah is unmarked between Bednarek and Perraud. For a moment, it seems the ball might reach him. That is until Bednarek, at full stretch and facing his own goal, heads the ball away from danger.

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Not even one minute later, he once again makes the crucial difference in preserving Saints’ slender advantage.

Martin Odegaard loops a cross towards the back post and seemingly misjudging the flight of the ball, Bednarek takes a step forward and appears caught on his heels…

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With Arsenal centre-back Ben White lurking at the back post, this looks seriously concerning. But Bednarek adjusts, makes up the ground, and beats White to the header, despite the opposition centre-back actually out-jumping him.

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Oh yeah, and on top of all of that, he scored the winner with a superbly well-taken finish for his fourth goal of the season.

Will Bednarek still be starting for Saints next season? It’s another question that only time will answer. But it’s once again clear that at his best, the 26-year old is someone who can be relied upon. Unfortunately, his best has been missing all too often this season.



The point of this exercise is to grade each player individually, but in this unique case, it’s almost impossible to do so. Every player’s performance is naturally affected by those around him, but the Saints’ midfield on Saturday played less like a group of individuals and more as one cohesive and fluid unit. 

It was a major aspect of the entire team’s success.

On paper, it was hardly a surprising midfield set-up with James Ward-Prowse and Oriol Romeu through the middle, Stuart Armstrong on the right and Moi Elyounoussi on the left.

But in reality, they frequently shifted about as each midfielder went wherever they were needed.

Here’s one example of Stuart Armstrong in central midfield with Oriol Romeu on the right…

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And another of Elyounoussi in the middle of the pitch with Romeu this time on the left...

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The below heat map shows just how much of the pitch the quadruple covered, putting in a seismic physical shift.

Daily Echo: Heat map of the Saints midfield. Image by: WhoscoredHeat map of the Saints midfield. Image by: Whoscored

Off the ball, they had to stay incredibly diligent and concentrated, operating as a flat four with the intention of stopping Arsenal’s ability to play through the middle of the pitch.

In the first half, it worked to clog things up and frustrated Arsenal before the midfield dropped much deeper after the break and did everything required to hold onto Saints’ lead.

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While they were largely one compact unit in a flat four, as seen in the examples above, Romeu was often the player given the most freedom to leave his post and press which resulted in his fellow midfielders covering for him.

Much of it was made possible by the discipline of Ward-Prowse who largely operated as the deepest of the four midfielders, there to stop any Arsenal counter-attacks and provide an extra layer of protection.

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There may not have been a huge amount of attacking brilliance in the performance from the Saints midfield, but they all clearly understood their jobs and stood up in crucial moments. It’s a major reason why Hasenhuttl’s side escaped with all three points.


Replacing Tino Livramento, who dropped to the bench for the first time since mid-February, Perraud stepped in and showed why Hasenhuttl has such a difficult decision to make each and every week.

Forced into an extremely disciplined role as a wing-back, Perraud really played as a full-back in a flat back five, charged with significantly more defending than anything going forward.

Here’s a look at that first half back five, with Perraud wide and in line with his other four defenders…

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In the second period, when his entire team dropped deeper, Perraud joined them, tucking inside as Saints spent much of the time camped out in their own box…

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Someone who plays with intense energy and determination, Perraud got forward when he could. His touch map below just shows how impressively he did so despite the rigidity of the Saints system and the need for him to prioritise the defensive side of the job.

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Perraud deserves more minutes. But Livramento is just so hard to leave out. Is it possible to get all three full-backs on the pitch? It might be worth experimenting as they are proving to be three of Saints’ best players.

Yan Valery: B-

In truth, Valery was the toughest player to rate from Saints’ impressive victory on Saturday. For much of the game, he wasn’t just good, he was very good.

Playing on the right side of three-pronged centre-backs, Valery gave the Saints' defence a physical edge as he bullied Arsenal’s attackers any time they got in range. He won 12 of his 16 duels and led his team in interceptions with nine as he frequently strutted out of the back five to challenge higher up the pitch.

Here’s a great example of that from the first half…

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This was certainly a performance to build on for Valery. He’s someone who was probably aided by the ‘simpler’ defensive tactics Hasenhuttl preached, with less space to be exploited and more help around him.

But he also made those around him better with his raw physicality and constant rough and tumble presence.

So with all the good, why was Valery tough to rate? Well, it all came down to one first half moment in which he left a pass short leading to the opening from which Saka was presented with his golden chance. Thankfully - for both Saints and Valery - Forster came to the rescue. 

Still though, despite the major error, this was a performance full of positives regardless of whether he starts again when Saints are back in action at Burnley on Thursday.

Kyle Walker-Peters: B-

Playing on the right side of the back five rather than left with Perraud in the team, Walker-Peters put in a typical Walker-Peters performance. Consistent, effective, and error-free. 

Playing as a deep wing-back, Walker-Peters couldn’t show off his attacking abilities but in a game where defending was paramount, he did his job with the calmness and ferocity that has become expected from him.

He’s reached the point of consistency where each evaluation is largely the same. He’ll continue to start each and every game regardless of the flank he’s on and is now on a march towards potential Player of the Season honours. If he doesn’t win it, he’ll certainly come close.

Armando Broja: B-

This wasn’t a game where you wanted to be a striker. With less than 30% of the ball, Saints spent almost the entire afternoon soaking up pressure, playing deep in a 5-4-1 shape.

That meant the striker, the '1', Armando Broja, was almost entirely isolated. Still, he did himself absolutely no harm. Broja battled for everything and made things as tough as possible for the Arsenal defenders. 

He’s likely the only striker in this Saints squad capable of succeeding in the role he was given thanks to his physical edge. He received just eight passes from his teammates, the least of any Saints outfield player, but still made the most of his limited ball.

Here’s one example early on where he powers to a loose ball before taking it around Ben White and eventually to the byline...

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After cutting back once, twice, and thrice, he leaves White lost in a crowd of Arsenal players and fires the ball back across goal where Elyounoussi can’t quite react in time.

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With just 21 touches, Broja was the least involved of any Saints player but it’s hard to fault him for that. The Albanian did his job: he fought and refused to accept failure in the difficult task presented. He may not be on the South Coast next season, but it’s clear he’s still giving everything.

Shane Long: N/A

Long wasn’t quite on the pitch long enough to earn an official rating, but he put in a cameo that deserves mentioning. Not just happy, but seemingly thrilled, to do the dirty work necessary to get his team over the line, Long definitely had an effect on this game for the final 10+ minutes.

Enjoy the below passage of play that says so much about the striker, both this performance and his character as a whole…