Chelsea and Arsenal keeping up the challenge

LONDON • This felt like the Chelsea of old at times. The result was all that mattered to manager Maurizio Sarri and he was happy to see his side at the top of the table, albeit provisionally, with a clinical 3-0 English Premier League win at Southampton yesterday.

Sarri can keep insisting that his unbeaten team are not title contenders but it is difficult to ignore them when the Italian has introduced himself to English football with six victories in his first eight league games.

And Eden Hazard, who opened the scoring at St Mary's for his seventh goal in the top flight this term, is relishing his role as Sarri's spearhead in attack.

"We are enjoying playing well and scoring goals. I don't know if I've played better (than I am at the minute). It is good to be up there (with Liverpool and Manchester City)," the Belgium forward, who also became the first player to be directly involved in 10 league goals this season, told BBC Sport.

There was rarely any danger of Chelsea suffering a Europa League hangover against the Saints and they took control from the start.

The Blues drew first blood in the 30th minute when Ross Barkley, who was selected ahead of Mateo Kovacic, won possession before releasing Hazard to strike home for his first assist in 18 months.

Chelsea doubled their lead in the 57th minute with Barkley bundling in his first goal since last May from Willian's free kick.

The Saints never recovered and Hazard played in substitute Alvaro Morata to net for his third assist of the campaign.

At Craven Cottage, Aaron Ramsey produced a contender for goal of the season as Arsenal swept past Fulham 5-1.

His goal, a wonderful free-flowing move which he started and ended, was the pick of the bunch, while Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who came off the bench, also netted braces after Fulham's Andre Schurrle had levelled the score just before the break.

The rout marked the Gunners' ninth win in a row in all competitions and the first time they have secured six consecutive league victories since 2016.

It was a significant statement of intent from a team widely written off ahead of Unai Emery's first season in charge.

"I believe in us, in our process. We are in the first part of the war," the Arsenal manager said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 08, 2018, with the headline 'Chelsea and Arsenal keeping up the challenge'. Print Edition | Subscribe