Chelsea Crush Everton To Cement Top Four Place

 

Frank Lampard warned Chelsea not to get complacent after they took control of the race to qualify for the Champions League with a 4-0 demolition of Everton on Sunday.

Lampard’s side won for just the second time in seven league games thanks to goals from Mason Mount, Pedro, Willian and Olivier Giroud in a masterful display at Stamford Bridge.

Fourth-placed Chelsea are in pole position to qualify for the Champions League with nine games to play.

But Lampard doesn’t want his stars to rest on their laurels just yet.

Aware that inconsistency has been the Achilles heel of his promising young team, Lampard said: “We can’t get ahead of ourselves. I’m experienced enough to know we go to Aston Villa next week, they are fighting for their lives and we have to replicate this performance.

“There’s still a long way to go. It’s still close. Even if it looks like a cushion as I sit here now, it doesn’t feel that way.

“It’s in our hands, but I’m certainly not going to jump in and say we are favourites. We have had inconsistency at times this season.”

While Lampard struck a cautious note about Chelsea’s Champions League ambitions, the Blues boss was quick to praise his players for delivering their biggest league win of the season.

It was exactly what Lampard demanded after Chelsea got back on track with their FA Cup fifth round win over Liverpool on Tuesday.

“At home yes, it was our best performance, because of the goals and the clean sheet,” Lampard said.

“In terms of performance we have been close to that a lot. We haven’t got the hard bit, the goals. Today we reached that.

“The finishing, the energy in the team, the speed of the pass, getting after the ball. We saw some really good stuff.

“It’s encouraging. You will always need your squad. We have a lot of injuries. The only way to tackle that is to work hard, play with energy and trust either other.

“I thought the whole attitude and focus of the team felt strong after Liverpool.”

Gilmour shines

Too often this term, Chelsea have dominated possession without killing off defensive opponents at Stamford Bridge.

But they tore into Everton from the start, with Mount and Pedro especially lively as they built on the platform provided by 18-year-old midfielder Billy Gilmour.

Gilmour was making his first Premier League start after a fine display against Liverpool and the Scot did everything Lampard asked of him.

“In the position where he plays, receiving the ball under pressure, he has to show balls. He’s done that, then when he played further up the field later in the game, he immediately took that on as well,” Lampard said.

Everton’s revival under Carlo Ancelotti has hit the buffers, with a run of three games without a win exposing them as frauds in the Champions League battle.

“Everything went wrong. We were too open defensively. We lost a lot of duels and with the ball we did a lot of mistakes,” Ancelotti said.

“It is not difficult to analyse this game. It is the first game when we did not compete. We have to learn from this.”

Defeats against Arsenal and Chelsea, along with a draw against Manchester United, have left Everton to focus on a Europa League berth instead.

“We never said we could qualify for the Champions League, but we can fight for the Europa League,” Ancelotti said.

Asked if he was satisfied with Everton’s commitment, Ancelotti gave a pointed pause before saying: “There are things I can analyse with you, and things I can analyse with my players.”

AFP

Sheffield United Weather The Storm To Climb To Fifth

 

Sheffield United closed to within two points of a Champions League place by coming from behind to keep Bournemouth perilously close to the relegation zone with a 2-1 win at Bramall Lane.

John Lundstram came off the bench to score the winner as the Blades moved up to fifth after Billy Sharp had cancelled out Callum Wilson’s early opener for the visitors.

Defeat leaves Bournemouth still just two points above the bottom three, having played a game more than most of their rivals to avoid relegation.

READ ALSO: Man City Clash With West Ham Postponed Over Storm

The only game in the Premier League due to on Sunday went ahead after a pitch inspection as the effects of storm Ciara, which saw Manchester City’s clash with West Ham postponed, were not enough to convince referee John Moss to abandon the game.

Early on it was the hosts who were blown off course as the Cherries looked to build on back-to-back wins that had hauled them out of the bottom three.

Wilson struck his second goal in three games with an emphatic finish on the rebound after Harry Wilson’s initial effort was blocked.

United responded just in time to go in level at the break when captain Sharp was quickest to react as the ball flashed across the Bournemouth goal after the visitors failed to clear a corner.

A day after Jordan Pickford’s blunder nearly cost Everton all three points Dean Henderson did no harm to his chances in his challenge to be England’s number one at Euro 2020.

Henderson produced a brilliant save from Ryan Fraser to prevent Bournemouth retaking the lead 20 minutes from time.

That save proved crucial when six minutes from time Lys Mousset’s cross was controlled and finished by Lundstram on a trademark run into the box to keep the Blades dreams of European football next season very much alive.

Iheanacho Denies Villa As Leicester Earn League Cup Semi-Final Draw

 

 

 

Brendan Rodgers warned Leicester will have to suffer to reach the League Cup final after Kelechi Iheanacho’s late goal earned a 1-1 draw against Aston Villa on Wednesday.

Rodgers’ side fell behind to Frederic Guilbert’s first half goal in the semi-final first leg at the King Power Stadium.

But Iheanacho came off the bench to equalise with his sixth goal in eight appearances this season.

Leicester will feel they should have won after dominating for long periods, but the team in second place in the Premier League will have to finish the job at Villa Park in the second leg on January 28.

“Overall I thought we dominated the game. Villa made some blocks and the keeper made some good saves,” Rodgers said.

“Over two ties it was always going to be tough and to get to a final you have to suffer, but the boys are confident.”

Rodgers has a remarkable record of advancing from his last 30 domestic cup ties with Liverpool, Celtic, and Leicester.

But the last team to beat Rodgers in a domestic knockout competition were Villa in the FA Cup semi-finals in 2014-15 when he was Liverpool manager.

And Villa, whose last major trophy was the 1996 League Cup, will feel they are in pole position to reach the final after surviving a stern examination.

“I thought Leicester were the better team. We have given away a farcical goal. Ezri Konsa has got brain dazzled,” Villa manager Dean Smith said.

“But we defended brilliantly at times and it will be a raucous crowd at Villa Park. I’m looking forward to it. It’s all to play for.”

The second leg winner will play Manchester City or Manchester United in the final at Wembley, with City leading 3-1 after their first leg at Old Trafford on Tuesday.

Leicester last won the competition in 2000, beating Villa in the semi-finals that year, and they were well on top at the start.

Jamie Vardy was back after missing three games due to the birth of his daughter and a calf injury and took the fight to Villa.

He seized Marvelous Nakamba’s wayward header before testing Orjan Nyland, then saw his low drive blocked by Villa’s keeper moments later.

But, having soaked up Leicester’s early blitz on a rain-drenched evening in the east midlands, it was Villa who snatched the lead against the run of play in the 28th minute.

Infused with confidence

Anwar El Ghazi was playing in an unfamiliar role up front due to Wesley’s injury and Jonathan Kodjia’s illness.

The winger drifted back out to the left flank to deliver a cross that landed perfectly for Guilbert, who got in front of Ben Chilwell and stabbed his volley in from close-range.

The French defender’s first goal since August was Villa’s first shot on target in the match.

Infused with confidence after that bolt from the blue, Smith’s team were inches away from doubling their lead before half-time.

Jack Grealish’s inswinging free-kick found Ezri Konsa and the Villa defender headed against the bar from inside the six-yard box.

Leicester wrestled back the initiative after the interval and Nyland alertly smothered the danger when Vardy tried to latch onto a through ball.

Tyrone Mings won header after header as Villa tried to weather the storm and when James Maddison did get past the defender with a bold burst, Nyland was on hand to make another good save.

Maddison tried again with a run onto Ricardo Pereira’s pass, but the Norwegian saved at the near post.

Leicester’s pressure finally told in the 74th minute.

Luiz, put in trouble by Konsa’s sloppy free-kick, lost possession to Hamza Choudhury and Vardy found Iheanacho, who shot high past Nyland from 15 yards.

Vardy nearly won it in the closing minutes, but his shot rippled into the side-netting just as Leicester fans were anticipating a dramatic finale.

Arteta’s Arsenal Off To A Slow Start As Chelsea Falter Again At Home

 

Mikel Arteta got off to an underwhelming start as Arsenal manager with a 1-1 draw at Bournemouth as Chelsea slumped to another shock home reverse, losing 2-0 to Southampton, on Boxing Day.

Carlo Ancelotti had a more positive impact on his Everton bow as Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s brilliant diving header earned a 1-0 win over Burnley.

Chelsea’s defeat allowed Tottenham to move back to within three points of the top four as they came from behind to beat Brighton 2-1 thanks to goals from Harry Kane and Dele Alli.

The top two clash later when Leicester host Liverpool hoping to close the gap on the runaway league leaders to seven points.

Arteta got an early lesson in the flaws that have blighted Arsenal’s season as they were caught out trying to play from the back to concede the opening goal when Dan Gosling put Bournemouth in front.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang again rode to the Gunners’ rescue to equalise just after the hour mark and Arteta will be frustrated not to have won all three points as Alexandre Lacazette was denied a winner by a last-ditch challenge from Steve Cook.

– No home comfort for Chelsea –
After the highs of victory at Spurs as Frank Lampard got one over on his former manager Jose Mourinho, Chelsea again struggled when faced with breaking down stubborn defensive opponents in Southampton.

The Blues have now lost to West Ham, Bournemouth and the Saints in their last four home league games.

Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl rested in-form talisman Danny Ings, but that decision paid off as his replacement Michael Obafemi scored just his second Premier League goal with a calm finish into the top corner on the counter-attack.

The visitors struck again to seal all three points 17 minutes from time when Nathan Redmond prodded past the onrushing Kepa Arrizabalaga at the end of a fine team move.

– Spurs strike back –
Mourinho’s Tottenham fell behind again at home to Brighton as Adam Webster headed in midway through the first half.

Spurs were shorn of the suspended Son Heung-min after his appeal against a three-match ban for a kick out at Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger was dismissed.

But two of their other star men stood up to be counted as Kane swept home at the second attempt after his first shot was saved by Mat Ryan.

Alli then delivered all three points with a delightful chipped finish from an acute angle.

“It’s hard after a defeat to have confidence and we started poorly, it affects the confidence,” said Mourinho.

“Brighton have monsters in the air and it affected the self-esteem of our team.

“In the second half the players put all the negative aside and were very strong in their performance.”

Sheffield United are behind Tottenham only on goal difference as they missed the chance to close to within a point of Chelsea in a 1-1 draw with bottom-of-the-table Watford.

Gerard Deulofeu gave the Hornets an early lead as they looked to build on a 2-0 win over Manchester United on Sunday.

However, Oliver Norwood’s penalty quickly brought the Blades level and only the brilliance of Ben Foster to deny John Fleck from point-blank range denied Chris Wilder’s men a fourth consecutive win.

Crystal Palace climbed up to eighth and within six points of the top four themselves as they came from behind to beat West Ham 2-1 and hand manager Roy Hodgson his first ever Premier League win on Boxing Day.

Robert Snodgrass put the Hammers in front early in the second half at Selhurst Park, but Palace roared back as Cheikhou Kouyate smashed home the equaliser against his old club.

Jordan Ayew then produced a sublime individual run and finish in the final minute to snatch victory for the Eagles.

Aston Villa won the battle of two of the bottom three as Conor Hourihane’s fine strike was enough to beat Norwich 1-0.

Emery Axed As Arsenal Boss After Worst Run In Decades

Unai Emery AFP Photo

 

Unai Emery was sacked as Arsenal manager on Friday after less than two years in charge and with the club without a win in seven games, their worst run since 1992.

The 48-year-old Spaniard was fired following the 2-1 home defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt in Thursday’s Europa League match.

His assistant Freddie Ljungberg takes over as interim manager during the search for a permanent replacement.

Arsenal fans had demanded “decisive action” from directors with the club’s run of five draws and two defeats just one match off equalling George Graham’s run of eight without a win in 1992.

Club directors responded by axing the man appointed in May 2018 to revive a club stagnating after two decades under Frenchman Arsene Wenger.

“We announce today that the decision has been taken to part company with our head coach Unai Emery and his coaching team,” read the statement.

“We have asked Freddie Ljungberg to take responsibility for the first team as interim head coach.

“The search for a new head coach is underway and we will make a further announcement when that process is complete.”

Ljungberg will be the first Swedish manager to take charge of a Premier League game since Sven-Goran Eriksson, whose last game in the competition came in May 2008 in charge of Manchester City.

Among those in the mix for the permanent job include former Gunners star Mikel Arteta, Pep Guardiola’s assistant at champions Manchester City, ex-Juventus handler Massimiliano Allegri — Sky Sports reported there had been contact between the two parties — and Portuguese manager Nuno Espirito Santo, who is at Wolves.

Napoli’s coach Carlo Ancelotti is another name that has entered the reckoning — he won the domestic double in the 2009/10 campaign when in charge of Chelsea — but Nuno is the early bookies favourite at 11/10.

However, Nuno, 45, has had two spells in charge of relatively high profile clubs at Valencia and Porto and did not enjoy success.

‘Rejuvenation’

 

Emery’s cause has not been helped by the controversy over Granit Xhaka. The Swiss international swore at Gunners fans when Emery took him off against Crystal Palace last month. Emery responded by stripping Xhaka of the captaincy.

Pepe, Arsenal’s record signing, has been a huge disappointment since his £72 million ($93 million) move from French Ligue 1 outfit Lille in the close season. Under Emery the club has spent at least £200 million.

Emery’s position had looked shaky enough when north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur sacked Mauricio Pochettino last week only months after he took Spurs to the Champions League final.

Emery’s first season ended in disappointment. Arsenal blew two chances for a return to the Champions League, winning just one of their last five games to finish fifth in the Premier League and then losing the Europa League final 4-1 to Chelsea.

“Our most sincere thanks go to Unai and his colleagues who were unrelenting in their efforts to get the club back to competing at the level we all expect and demand,” read the club statement.

“We wish Unai and his team nothing but future success.

“The decision has been taken due to results and performances not being at the level required.”

Supporters see the board, and especially unpopular American owner Stan Kroenke as part of the problem.

The influential Arsenal Supporters’ Trust, the official supporters’ club, issued a statement welcoming the departure of Emery but calling for further radical changes.

“Emery’s departure is the easy part,” read their statement.

“The more difficult challenge is to recruit a suitable successor.

“We are far from certain that Arsenal has the right personnel to lead this process.

“If Arsenal are to genuinely move forward from today it requires not only a new head coach appointment but also a rejuvenation of the boardroom.”

Mourinho Appointed Tottenham Manager After Pochettino’s Sack

 

Jose Mourinho was on Wednesday appointed new Tottenham Hotspur head coach to replace sacked Mauricio Pochettino.

The Portuguese former Chelsea and Manchester United manager signed a contract until the end of the 2022/23 season, the north London club said in a statement.

Pochettino, 47, transformed Spurs’ fortunes since arriving from Southampton in 2014 and although he failed to win a trophy he took the club to the Champions League final for the first time in their history just six months ago.

READ ALSO: Tottenham Sack Mauricio Pochettino

But the Argentine was sacked on Tuesday with Tottenham languishing 14th in England’s Premier League after picking up just three wins from their opening 12 games.

This season they were knocked out of the League Cup by fourth-tier Colchester United and suffered an embarrassing 7-2 defeat at home to Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

“I am excited to be joining a club with such a great heritage and such passionate supporters,” said Mourinho, who has won domestic titles in a record four different countries.

“The quality in both the squad and the academy excites me. Working with these players is what has attracted me.”

Spurs Chairman Daniel Levy said: “In Jose we have one of the most successful managers in football. We believe he will bring energy and belief to the dressing room.”

Southampton Players, Coaching Staff To Donate Wages After 9-0 Defeat To Leicester

 

 

Southampton’s players and coaching staff are to donate their wages from last Friday to the Saints Foundation in a first step towards redeeming themselves following the 9-0 thrashing by Leicester City.

Friday’s rout equalled Manchester United’s 9-0 demolition of Ipswich at Old Trafford in March 1995 for the biggest win in Premier League history.

Saints manager Ralph Hassenhuttl — who accepted the blame for the humiliation — has the daunting task of rebuilding his players morale ahead of two trips to Manchester City this week.

Southampton play League Cup holders City in the fourth round of the competition on Tuesday and are back there on Saturday for a Premier League clash.

“Southampton Football Club’s first-team players and coaching staff have announced they will be donating their wages from last Friday to Saints Foundation,” the club said in a statement.

“The squad has been in at Staplewood Campus throughout the weekend, working on putting things right for the club’s supporters.

“As the first step towards that, the group has decided that they wish to donate their wages from the day of the Leicester game to Saints Foundation, in order to help the vital work that is conducted by the charity.”

The foundation helps children, young people and troubled adults in the Southampton area.

Southgate And Squad To Prepare For Potential Racist Abuse In Bulgaria

England’s midfielder Jordan Henderson (L) and England manager Gareth Southgate (R) attend a press conference at St Mary’s Stadium in Southampton, southern England on September 9, 2019, ahead of their Euro 2020 football qualification match against Kosovo. Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

 

England manager Gareth Southgate is to meet with his squad ahead of their Euro 2020 match in Bulgaria next month and discuss what measures they might take if they are subjected to racist abuse.

One Bulgarian fan was arrested for “discriminatory abuse” directed at Raheem Sterling during the 4-0 win over Bulgaria last Saturday at Wembley, although he was subsequently released without charge.

A previous England team have already experienced racist abuse in Bulgaria in 2011 — Southgate’s team also were showered with abuse in a Euro qualifier in Montenegro last year.

READ ALSO: British Police Arrest Fan For Abusing Sterling

Bulgaria’s Stadion Vasil Levski will be partially closed for the matches with England on October 14 and Czech Republic in November because of the racist behaviour of fans in June.

A total of 5,000 seats of the 46,000 capacity stadium will be closed off for the England visit and 3,000 for the Czech Republic match — and a banner with the wording “#EqualGame”, with the UEFA logo on it will be displayed over the seats.

“It is a concern, we’re not confident that we’ll go there and nothing will happen,” Southgate said, adding that the meeting to address the issue was “already planned.”

“We’ve already planned what our schedule looks like and we’re going to discuss it with the players before we go, because we’re aware that there is history there and we want to make sure that we’re all prepared for what might happen and how we want to respond.”

UEFA ordered the partial closure of Bulgaria’s national stadium following racist behaviour by their fans in Euro 2020 qualifying games against Czech Republic and Kosovo in June.

Last month, Bulgarian club sides PFC Levski Sofia and PFC Lokomotiv Plovdiv were punished by UEFA for racism during Europa League games.

Lampard Sees Positives As Chelsea Miss Out On Super Cup

Chelsea’s English head coach Frank Lampard gestures during the UEFA Super Cup 2019 football match between FC Liverpool and FC Chelsea at Besiktas Park Stadium in Istanbul on August 14, 2019. OZAN KOSE / AFP

 

Coach Frank Lampard took great encouragement from Chelsea’s display in the UEFA Super Cup in Istanbul on Wednesday, despite the disappointment of losing on penalties to English rivals Liverpool.

“I think we can get better, there are things I still want us to improve on in terms of how we play slightly, but I am really happy with the performance,” said Lampard after Chelsea held the European champions to a 2-2 draw after extra time, only to lose 5-4 in the shoot-out.

“To lose the game was disappointing but if it means Chelsea’s season can be something like how we played today, we’ll be OK.”

Chelsea took the lead in Istanbul through Olivier Giroud, but Sadio Mane’s equaliser meant the match at the home of Besiktas went to extra time.

The Senegal star then put Liverpool in front in the 95th minute, only for a Jorginho penalty to restore parity again.

The decisive moment came after nine successful spot-kicks when Tammy Abraham’s effort was saved by Adrian.

However, Chelsea were a match for Jurgen Klopp’s team for long spells and Lampard believed they were moving in the right direction after his first competitive game at the helm ended in a 4-0 defeat to Manchester United.

“You know Liverpool have got to where they have got, and I have complete respect for Jurgen Klopp,” said Lampard.

“I am a new manager who’s been here for six weeks or so, and what I saw today were things that I want in the team.

Abraham ‘will come back stronger’

Lampard had already twice been on the losing side in the Super Cup as a player for Chelsea, including the 2013 shootout defeat to Bayern Munich.

He admitted that having two days fewer to prepare had been a factor as the match went all the way. Chelsea played at Old Trafford on Sunday, two days after Liverpool beat Norwich City in their Premier League opener.

“To have two more days recovery at this stage early in the season, it’s clear that it affects your preparation and it’s an advantage to them going in,” said Lampard, whose side next host Leicester City on Sunday.

“But that said I think it happens a lot. I don’t want to look like I’m moaning, I’m delighted with our performance, we didn’t lose the game because of that but it was a bit frustrating.”

Lampard said he had offered words of comfort to Abraham, the 21-year-old who has returned after a loan at Aston Villa with Chelsea unable to make new signings due to a transfer ban.

Abraham had started against Manchester United but was on the bench at kick-off Wednesday before replacing Giroud in the second half.

“He will come back stronger. It is part and parcel of being a player at a top level which is what Tammy now is.”

Lampard was also delighted with the contribution of USA star Christian Pulisic, who made his full debut after signing from Borussia Dortmund in January.

Not 21 until next month, Pulisic played 74 minutes and set up Giroud’s opening goal.

“I think there’s a lot more to come. I think the expectation is right because he is a big signing for us, but we must also remember his age, he’s 20. I am really happy with him.”

Everton Sign England Midfielder Delph From Manchester City

 

Everton said on Monday that they have signed England midfielder Fabian Delph from Manchester City on a three-year deal.

Everton did not say how much they had paid for the 29-year-old England international, who joined City from Aston Villa in 2015.

Delph played 89 games for City, winning two Premier League medals. He also has 20 England caps.

“When I look to bring a new player into our squad, the first thing I look for above all the other things is quality and Fabian is a player with high quality,” Everton manager Marco Silva told the club web site.

“But what they can bring to our dressing room is also important.”

The web site also quoted Delph.

“Every time I have played against Everton, whether it was home or away, straight away the first thing that comes to mind when you see the fans is passion,” he said.

“You are always going to hear Evertonians and I’m excited to play at home and hear them when I am playing.”

“Hopefully we can push together, fans and players, to do something special.”

AFP

Arsenal Open US Tour With 3-0 Friendly Win In Colorado

Brazilian Gabriel Martinelli scored in his Arsenal debut Monday as the English Premier League club launched their pre-season tour of the United States with a 3-0 friendly win over the Colorado Rapids.

Bukayo Saka and James Olayinka also scored for the Gunners, who cruised to the victory at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in suburban Denver.

Martinelli, the 18-year-old forward signed from Ituano on July 2, was given a surprise start in attack by Unai Emery and sent an early chance wide.

Saka, 17, was an energetic presence and put Arsenal up 1-0 in the 13th minute as he collected a through-ball from Eddie Nketiah.

Another teenager — 18-year-old Olayinka — doubled the score in the 29th, seizing a stray pass from defence and racing into fire into the top left corner of the net.

READ ALSO: Man City Set For Pre-Season Tour After Frustrating Delay

Martinelli, having missed his early chance, capped the scoring in the 61st when he slotted home a cross from close range.

The Rapids, in the midst of the Major League Soccer season, fielded a mostly reserve side that featured several players from the lower-rung Colorado Springs Switchbacks.

Arsenal, too, started a reserve team as they begin their build-up to the Premier League season after again failing to secure a Champions League berth.

The tour hasn’t started without controversy. Captain Laurent Koscielny refused to travel to the US, and a group of influential Arsenal supporters’ organisations published a statement on Monday hitting out at Stan Kroenke’s “passive ownership”.

Under a hashtag “WeCareDo You” the statement decried a “soulless” atmosphere at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium and a lack of transfer strategy.

Kroenke, who began investing in the club in 2007 through his company Kroenke Sports Enterprises and took full ownership in 2018, also owns the Rapids as well as the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams.

AFP

Frustrating Night For Sarri As Southampton Hold Chelsea

 

 

Chelsea wasted a chance to cement their place in the Premier League’s top four as a superb display from Southampton goalkeeper Angus Gunn gave his struggling side a 0-0 draw on Wednesday.

Maurizio Sarri’s team remain in fourth place, but they are now just three points ahead of fifth placed Arsenal in the race to qualify for next season’s Champions League.

It was a frustrating evening for Chelsea, who dominated possession but lacked any cutting edge, maintaining a worrying sequence for Sarri.

His side failed to score for the third time in their last five Premier League games at Stamford Bridge, raising more questions about Chelsea’s need for a top-class striker in the January transfer window.

With Olivier Giroud sidelined after suffering an ankle injury in Sunday’s win at Crystal Palace, Sarri opted to recall misfiring striker Alvaro Morata.

READ ALSO: Guardiola Hopeful De Bruyne Fit For Crucial Liverpool Clash

Morata has played so badly this season that Sarri had used Belgian winger Eden Hazard in the central forward’s role recently rather than turn to the Spaniard, who had managed only seven goals this term and none in the league since November 4.

But, once again, former Real Madrid star Morata looked completely bereft of touch and confidence.

It was no surprise Morata wasted a golden opportunity to open the scoring when he met Cesar Azpilicueta’s long pass with a tame header straight at 22-year-old Gunn — the son of ex-Norwich stopper Bryan Gunn.

Southampton avoided a third consecutive defeat with a well-drilled performance, but they still dropped into the relegation zone.

Having announced the signing of Borussia Dortmund midfielder Christian Pulisic earlier in the day, Chelsea are planning ahead following a season of inconsistent displays from Willian and Pedro on the right flank.

United States international Pulisic will return to Dortmund on loan before completing his move to Chelsea in the close-season.

For the moment, Sarri continues to use Willian, but the Brazilian’s bid to prove his worth was ruined when he was forced off with an injury late in the first half.

– Mounting frustration –
Hazard hinted several times that he preferred to play wide rather than up front during Sarri’s experiment with the Belgian as a ‘false nine’.

Looking more vibrant back in his favoured role, Hazard made a fine run that opened up the Southampton defence, yet his fierce drive was well saved by Gunn, making his Premier League debut after his close-season move from Manchester City.

But Hazard couldn’t do it all on his own and, while successive away wins at Watford and Palace made it a happy Christmas for Chelsea, their first home game of the new year was a lot like their last in 2018.

Despite dominating against Leicester, Sarri’s team were beaten 1-0 as they paid the price for lacking the incisive passing and movement needed to break down the visitors’ obdurate defence.

It was exactly the same story against Southampton.

The Blues monopolised the ball but Morata squandered another opportunity when Yan Valery blocked his shot.

Chelsea’s frustration grew at the start of the second half when Stuart Armstrong’s curling effort forced Kepa Arrizabalaga into action for the first time.

Although they controlled the game, chances were few and far between for Chelsea until Hazard burst down the left for a shot that Gunn beat away at his near post.

Morata’s luck was out when he slotted home from a Cesc Fabregas pass, only to see a tight offside decision deny him a goal.

And the hapless Spaniard endured more misery when his took Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s pass and shot straight at Gunn to groans from the crowd.

Capping a forgettable game for Chelsea, Marcos Alonso had a strong penalty appeal turned down in the closing moments.

-English Premier League results on Wednesday-

Bournemouth 3 (Ake 34, Wilson 37, Fraser 40) Watford 3 (Deeney 14, 27, Sema 38)

Chelsea 0 Southampton 0

Huddersfield 1 (Mounie 33) Burnley 2 (Wood 40, Barnes 74)

Newcastle 0 Manchester United 2 (Lukaku 64, Rashford 80)

West Ham 2 (Arnautovic 66, 68) Brighton 2 (Stephens 56, Duffy 58)

Wolverhampton 0 Crystal Palace 2 (Ayew 83, Milivojevic 90+5-pen)

Played Tuesday

Everton 0 Leicester 1 (Vardy 58)

Arsenal 4 (Xhaka 25, Lacazette 55, Ramsey 79, Aubameyang 83) Fulham 1 (Kamara 69)

Cardiff 0 Tottenham 3 (Kane 3, Eriksen 12, Son 26)

Playing Thursday (2000 GMT)

Manchester City v Liverpool