Chelsea slumped to another damaging home defeat against Brentford on Saturday as Eddie Nketiah hit a hat-trick in a 5-0 win for unbeaten Arsenal against bottom club Sheffield United.
Mauricio Pochettino’s Chelsea appeared to have turned a corner in recent weeks, taking seven points from their three previous fixtures, but their 2-0 defeat means they have just one home win from their past 13 games in the league.
Ethan Pinnock took advantage of non-existent marking to head the visitors in front shortly before the hour mark after Chelsea had failed to capitalise on their first-half dominance.
Robert Sanchez was embarrassed in added time after joining his team’s attack for a corner, failing to catch Neal Maupay in a race as he broke with the ball, allowing Bryan Mbeumo to score in an empty net to compound home fans’ woes.
The result means Brentford leapfrog Chelsea into 10th place in the Premier League table, pushing Pochettino’s men into the bottom half.
“I’m not happy and think the players also and the whole club is not happy about the run (at home),” said the Argentine manager.
“It’s a long time that we need to be more consistent here and very disappointed with this. We feel the responsibility that we need to change the dynamic.”
The former Tottenham boss said on Friday that Christopher Nkunku is nearing a comeback from the knee injury that has prevented the £52 million ($63 million) signing making a competitive appearance yet for his new club.
On this evidence, the French international’s return cannot come soon enough as Chelsea’s other new striker, Nicolas Jackson, again failed to fire.
“If you don’t score, you need to blame ourselves,” said Pochettino. “We were not nasty or clinical in front of the goal.”
– Nketiah hat-trick –
It was a different story for Arsenal, who roared back from 2-0 down to draw against Chelsea last week to preserve their unbeaten league record.
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta shuffled his pack –including dropping captain Martin Odegaard to the bench — for the visit of Sheffield United and Nketiah celebrated his recall in style.
Arsenal broke through a resolute Blades defence as Declan Rice’s pinpoint pass was collected by Nketiah, who made no mistake with a close-range finish past Wes Foderingham.
Nketiah doubled up when Foderingham failed to deal with a Bukayo Saka corner and palmed the ball into the path of the England striker, who lashed home to make it 2-0.
Nketiah’s hat-trick was sealed in style as he smashed home from 20 yards.
Arsenal were awarded a penalty after a lengthy VAR check for an Oliver Norwood foul on Fabio Vieira, the Portuguese midfielder taking the spot-kick himself and sending Foderingham the wrong way to make it 4-0.
Another substitute, Takehiro Tomiyasu, completed the rout in stoppage time.
The win lifts Arsenal two points behind pacesetters Tottenham, who beat Crystal Palace 2-1 on Friday.
Struggling Burnley took the lead against Bournemouth through Charlie Taylor but Antoine Semenyo levelled midway through the first half for the south coast club with a superb individual goal.
Bournemouth took the lead in the 76th minute when Philip Billing chipped over goalkeeper James Trafford from long-range.
Newcastle, who have won four of their past five league games, take on Wolves in the late kick-off.
High-flying Liverpool and Manchester City are in action on Sunday.