Chelsea continued their unbeaten run as they emerged comfortable victors on the south coast, putting three past Mark Hughes’ men with no reply.
With an overall tally of 15 attempts on goal and 65% possession, it was almost inevitable that Chelsea were going to take the lead, and take the lead they did.
The 30th minute saw another fatal mistake from Southampton as Ross Barkley dispossessed Pierre Hojbjerg in Southampton’s defensive third after the Dane attempted to nutmeg the English midfielder. Quick thinking and expert precision gave Eden Hazard a one-on-one opportunity which anyone would have put their money on Hazard burying in his current form. The Belgian made no mistake, sending Alex McCarthy to ground and calmly slotting the ball into the right-hand side of the net giving Chelsea first blood at St Mary’s.
Just prior to the hour mark of the game, Chelsea had their second. A well worked free-kick was the causation for the goal as Willian floated the ball to the back post, where Olivier Giroud had pulled across to. The Frenchman had it all to do however, as the ball was slightly higher than expected, but in typical Giroud style he bicycle kicked the ball across the six yard box to Ross Barkley who simply could not miss from a yard out. Yet another moment of brilliance from the Chelsea striker to add to the highlights reel.
The final nail in the coffin for the Saints came in the last 20 seconds of the game, created by, none other, than the Belgian wizard himself. Alvaro Morata the scorer this time as Hazard’s ball played the Spaniard in perfectly and a little dink over McCarthy was all it took to seal all three points; the essence of a striker whose confidence is slowly but surely returning after his 70 million price-tag hadn’t necessarily been justified in his beginnings at Chelsea.
Are Chelsea underdogs for the Premier League title?
All of the talk before the beginning of the season revolved around Manchester City and Liverpool and that the chase for the league title was between these two teams. Though it seems that Sarri has other ideas for the London side. The chemistry in the current Chelsea side is phenomenal, and with big players such as Hazard really stepping up to the plate, it is very possible that Chelsea are in with a solid shout at the league title.
With all three teams currently sitting on 20 points, only goal difference separating them, it could well be a very closely contested competition this year with minor slip-ups having the potential to decide the winner. Another asset that Sarri has coming back into the side is Alvaro Morata, a player who has been largely underwhelming for the Blues so far. However, his finish today and movement off the ball shows that there is no doubt in this players quality, it’s all about regaining confidence which after today’s game, seems very likely.
The Saints or the Sinners?
Saying that Mark Hughes has his work cut out for him is a huge understatement as Southampton are a team which look to be really struggling both offensively and defensively. Hughes’s side were not without their chances today, with Ryan Bertrand and Danny Ings both missing opportunities from less than six yards out. These are chances that are going to be rare when playing a team with the calibre of Chelsea, and really should be snatched up as the dynamic of a game can completely flip once team morale is raised by a goal.
The lack of confidence upfront would be a lot less of an issue if defensively Southampton were solid. However even with the introduction of Vestergaard the Saints seem to be shipping goals left right and centre. The three conceded goals to Liverpool away could potentially be overlooked as Anfield has the potential to be a fortress this year, but conceding three goals at home is criminal.
Mark Hughes mentioned individual mistakes were the bane of their current form and that the system was not to blame for their lack of positive results, though with only one win in their last five games, questions are beginning to arise surrounding Hughes’ knowledge of the current game. A relegation battle is the last thing that Southampton need right now, but sitting 16th and only two points off the bottom three, something is going to have to change for the south coast side.
Man of the Match: Ross Barkley
Choosing between Ross Barkley and Eden Hazard for man of the match was a difficult one as both players came off with a goal and an assist, however, I believe Ross Barkley was deserving of this title today.
The young Englishman has had trouble breaking in to the first team for a multitude of reasons, and finally getting the opportunity and playing outstandingly well shows his improvement in not only his attitude but his work ethic and ability on the ball.