Southampton vs Chelsea  (3-0): Four talking points

Southampton FC v Chelsea FC - Premier League
Southampton FC v Chelsea FC - Premier League

Southampton hosted Chelsea in the ninth gameweek of the Barclays Premier League this season. Last season, Olivier Giroud scored a brace and led Chelsea’s comeback from a 2-0 to a 3-2 win. Unlike last season, the man in the dugout was Maurizio Sarri instead of Antonio Conte. The Italian has enjoyed an unbeaten start to the campaign as he has managed to quickly transform his side into a possession-oriented offensive team scoring goals for fun.

Southampton, on the other hand, have endured a miserable start to the season. Before the game, the Saints were loitering on 16th position with five points from seven games, registering only one win so far in the season. Mark Hughes would have been more than happy even with a point from this fixture as the fans were rather betting on how much goals that the Blues as the loss for Southampton looked like a near certainty.

In the starting eleven Chelsea fielded their usual starting eleven and the only exception was Ross Barkley in place of Mateo Kovacic as the Croatian was rested after playing midweek against Videoton. For Southampton, Danny Ings, Manolo Gabbiadini and Nathan Redmond spearheaded the Saints’ attack with Maya Yoshida, Wesley Hoedt and Bednarek forming the back three. Mario Lemina and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg formed the central midfield pair with Cedric Soares and ex- Chelsea defender Ryan Bertrand patrolling the flanks.

Chelsea started the game confidently with hosts surrendering all the possession as Jorginho and co. found plenty of joy in the middle of the pitch. Southampton’s moment in the game finally came after 20 minutes into the first half as they finally started the first asserting themselves in the game. During that spell, Saints’ best chance came when Danny Ings missed an absolute sitter from three yards out. Soon after, the first goal of the match came as Eden Hazard scored his seventh Premier League goal of the season at half an hour mark. It all started when Barkley dispossessed Wesley Hoedt in their opponent’s half and slipped in the Belgian one on one with the keeper as he made no mistake with a thunderous shot, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way. Soon after, it was all one-way traffic until the halftime whistle.

The second half started quite like the same as the first one with Chelsea having most of the possession with Eden Hazard and Willian keeping the Southampton defense on their toes. Ross Barkley was the man who helped Chelsea open their account in the first half with an assist and he opened his own for Chelsea with a goal in 57th minute after Olivier Giroud acrobatically squared a freekick and the Englishman was there to tap it in. Southampton soon after threatened with long-range shots from Nathan Redmond and Danny Ings which drew top-class saves from Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Willian was substituted in place of Pedro and Mateo Kovacic was brought on in place of Ross Barkley. Alvaro Morata, who replaced Giroud finally got his second premier league goal of the season and of the week as he scored in the 93rd minute with Eden Hazard setting him up in a quick passing move. As the final whistle went off, Chelsea piled on the misery on the Saints as they completed an impressive 3-0 win.

Four talking points ahead:

#1 Ross Barkley:

Southampton FC v Chelsea FC - Premier League
Ross Barkley scores Chelsea's second

The Englishman has enjoyed a fruitful start to the season as he made a comeback to England senior squad and also earning compliments from Maurizio Sarri. The 24-year-old joined Chelsea last season in the winter transfer window but was barely used by Antonio Conte. This season, however, Barkley has seen regular game time and has shown his quality

Although he is often criticized for his lack of incisive passing and dribbling that Mateo Kovacic or Ruben Loftus-Cheek bring to the table but this game he was the difference maker. He set up Eden Hazard’s opener with an intelligent tackle on Hoedt and even better through pass which slipped the Belgian through. In the second half, the midfielder scored Chelsea’s second with a tap-in from an acrobatic Giroud cut in from a freekick as he scored the first goal of his Chelsea career.

With Cesc Fabregas and Ruben Loftus-Cheek competing for opportunities and Mateo Kovacic looking to be the first choice along with Jorginho and Ngolo Kante, Barkley has his task cut out. It will be intriguing to see whether the former Evertonian manages to cement a place in Maurizio Sarri’s first choice eleven.

#2 Southampton: Dire straits

Southampton FC v Chelsea FC - Premier League
Southampton FC v Chelsea FC - Premier League

During the game, the commentator made a mention of Southampton’s home form as it was pointed out that since December, Leicester City has managed to win more games at St Mary’s than the hosts themselves. Mark Hughes’ side has looked bereft of ideas offensively and frail defensively. The Englishman has failed to lift his Southampton side as he is consistently found out tactically by his opponents. There is a very serious risk that Saints might get relegated this season.

There was a time when Southampton’s management continued to unearth unpolished gems both in terms of playing and managerial personnel. Both have been repeatedly poached away from the club and the Saints are paying a price for the same. It is about time that Southampton put together a core of players and appoint a manager with a long-term vision as the current manager looks like he might be first managerial casualty this Premier League season.

#3 Cesar Azplicueta

Southampton FC v Chelsea FC - Premier League
Southampton FC v Chelsea FC - Premier League

Over the past few years, the Spaniard has been the first name on the teamsheet ever since he took over Ashley Cole and donned the left flank for Chelsea. Since his debut, he has played as a right back ( under Rafael Benitez), left back (under Jose Mourinho) and a center back ( under Antonio Conte). Now under Maurizio Sarri, he is back to his natural position.

In a possession-oriented system, fullbacks’ offensive contribution is of prime importance as they help in stretching the opposition defense so that offensive players can have space to unlock defenses. Azplicueta in this aspect has been solid but unspectacular. Even defensively, he has looked shaky at times. He, along with Ngolo Kante, are the perhaps the lowest contributors offensively. So often, Chelsea’s right-hand side of the attack has lacked the danger element.

The ex- Marseille defender needs to improve offensively in order to give Chelsea an extra option going forward and he has the ability as he started out as a winger in his professional career.

#4 Maurizio Sarri: First silverware in his managerial career awaits

Southampton FC v Chelsea FC - Premier League
Southampton FC v Chelsea FC - Premier League

Before the Italian’s arrival, eyebrows were raised as Chelsea had the habit of recruiting managers with a proven record of winning silverware. Sarri is yet to win a trophy in his top-flight managerial career. However, his Napoli side last season was perhaps one of the best sides in Europe last season with a whopping 92 points and were the only side to seriously challenge Juventus’ dominance in Serie A.

At Chelsea, he has arguably a better playing personnel and a larger budget at Chelsea. With Jorginho by his side, as a key cog in his system, he has overseen a seamless transition to life at Cobham. Also, Chelsea is one of the better sides in the Europa League and have also kept pace with Liverpool and Manchester City at the summit of the Premier League. Another crucial factor is having Eden Hazard at his disposal who is currently one of the world’s best players. There is a very real chance that Maurizio Sarri wins his first trophy in his first season at Chelsea.

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Edited by Deepanshu Sharma
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