Chelsea supporters must be hoping this transfer ban never ends. Nobody would have believed it could have been the best thing that happened to the club in years, but they have fast become the feel-good story of the season.
And it is also benefiting England, as two of Chelsea’s Three Lions quartet, Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount, were once again on target to underline their huge potential for club and country.
Abraham’s week just about sums up how the fortunes of Chelsea’s youth brigade has changed since the club were stopped from throwing money at their problems.
Having celebrated his 22nd birthday, scored his first Champions League goal and earned an England call-up, Abraham found the net with a superb lob to put Chelsea on the way to victory at St Mary’s.
Abraham now has eight Premier League goals and nine in total this season, and head coach Frank Lampard pointed out the fact he has preferred him to Michy Batshuayi and Olivier Giroud, regardless of the transfer ban.
“I trusted in Tammy at the start of the season,” said Lampard. “I felt it was his time to come back to Chelsea. I know people point to the circumstances, but he has Olly Giroud (behind him) – a World Cup winner. And Batshuayi, who is a great Premier League striker too in my opinion.
“Tammy’s goal was incredible to get the purchase and the contact on the ball. It’s confidence. When people are in good form, things happen for them. And that comes from how Tammy has handled himself all season from the early moments when people were questioning him. The work ethic behind the scenes that gets him in such good nick.
“He’s not just a handful for defenders, he has good feet, holds up the ball well. He is also getting goals, which is brilliant for him.”
Callum Hudson-Odoi started his first Premier League game since rupturing his Achilles last season ahead of £58million signing Christian Pulisic and the teenager was responsible for setting up Abraham.
It was Hudson-Odoi’s superb pass over the top that had Abraham scampering towards goal and the striker managed to get one of his long legs to the ball ahead of Angus Gunn and loop it towards goal. Maya Yoshida thought he had acrobatically cleared the ball only for referee Paul Tierney confirm it had crossed the line.
Mount is now keeping out Mateo Kovacic and Ross Barkley, and the boyhood Portsmouth fan clearly enjoyed scoring against their South Coast rivals to double Chelsea’s lead in the 24th minute.
Willian made the most of Jan Bednarek’s terrible header and played in Mount, who finished clinically past Gunn before cupping his ears in celebration at the Southampton supporters.
Mount could have killed the contest when Abraham gave him a shooting chance from inside the penalty area, but the midfielder pulled his effort wide and Chelsea briefly let the hosts back in.
Lampard will have no doubt noted that Mount was one of the Chelsea players who allowed Yan Valery to wriggle his way down the right before producing a low cross that Danny Ings got to in front of Kurt Zouma.
Nathan Redmond quickly hit the side-netting before N’Golo Kante restored the visitors’ two-goal advantage with a 20-yard shot that took a deflection off Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.
Central defender Fikayo Tomori was handed his first England call, to join Abraham, Mount and Barkley in Gareth Southgate’s squad, and the former Derby County loanee survived a couple of nervy moments.
Tomori settled back down in the second half and helped Chelsea ease towards another three points, much to the annoyance of Southampton manager Ralph Hassenhuttl who heard his team booed off at full-time.
“You can lose against a strong side, and that’s OK, but what I was really disappointed with were the mistakes we made in the first half,” said Hassenhuttl. “If you invite them to score, then you don’t have to wonder if they do it.
“We must be really, really honest and true to ourselves otherwise you lie to yourself and say you have played better than you have and at the moment we are not better.”
Hudson-Odoi could have made it a hat-trick of Academy graduate goals straight after the restart, but the winger’s angled shot was too close to Gunn, following more good work from Willian.
There was another Chelsea goal to come, though, as substitutes Pulisic and Batshuayi combined for the Belgian to net his team’s late fourth after replacing Abraham.
The only negative for Lampard, who confirmed Abraham was not injured, was a section of Chelsea fans once again using discriminatory language against the traveller community in a song about him.
Lampard said: “I will always back the Chelsea fans in terms of how they support us, but we don’t want to have chants and stuff that is discriminatory to anyone. And I think we all need to look at it. It’s a wider problem than Chelsea, without a doubt. But it shouldn’t stop us talking about it.”
71 minutes: Southampton 1 Chelsea 3
Chelsea starting to exploit the space on the counter now, Tammy Abraham drives them back with a great run down the right. The Chelsea fans sign his name – fair to say he is their most popular striker since Costa.
Hudson Odoi wins a corner but after loud handball appeals, Southampton clear.
60 minutes: Southampton 1 Chelsea 3
Ward Prowse’s free kick flies over, much to Chelsea’s relief. Up the other end, Abraham pulls the trigger from 20 yards or so but straight at the ‘keeper.
I can tell you Bournemouth have enjoyed a really strong spell at Arsenal but remain a goal down. Martinelli about to come on for Arsenal.
57 minutes: Southampton 1 Chelsea 3
Chelsea sitting a bit deeper since the break, denying Long and Ings space to dart into. Southampton therefore seeing much more of the ball but not looking especially dangerous.
Just as I say that though, Redmond gets the wrong side of the Chelsea midfield and Kante barges him over. Free kick, 25 yards out dead central.
52 minutes: Southampton 1 Chelsea 3
Bournemouth should have scored at Arsenal – Wilson went round Leno and looked to be squaring to King for a tap-in but Chambers took it off his toe. Much better game there now.
At Southampton, a little bit more pressure from the home team with some throw ins deep in Chelsea’s half but no real quality.
50 minutes: Southampton 1 Chelsea 3
Chelsea keeping the ball really well and that is outstanding from Willian. Drives right through the middle of the pitch and fizzes a pass into Hudson-Odoi who is fre in the left channel. Tries to pass it into the far corner Henry-style, but Gunn sticks out a leg to deny him. Lovely move.
35 minutes: Southampton 1 Chelsea 2
Bournemouth have been really poor at the Emirates, but Arsenal have not yet scored the second goal.
Abrahama down looking for a free-kick but that was too soft, and Southampton keep possession. They look more confident trying to press Chelsea rather than keep hold of the ball themselves. Valery does well again down the right to win a corner.
GOAL! Abraham goal given with help of goal-line technology
Long ball over the top for Abraham to chase. Neither Yoshida nor Gunn take charge of the situation, enabling Abraham to make contact with an outstretched right foot. The ball loops miles in the air, it’s a race between the ball and the recovering Yoshida to the line, but despite the defender’s acrobatic clearance the ball wins. Soft goal.
16 minutes: Southampton 0 Chelsea 0
Southampton having the better of this in midfield and on territory, but you just sense Chelsea have a little bit of extra quality at the sharp end. Cute from Jorginho to win a free kick in his own penalty area under minimal contact.
Ward Prowse gives the ball away in a promising position, and Abraham is in….
14 minutes: Southampton 0 Chelsea 0
Long down on all fours after his leg buckled awkwardly. Was very unfortunate, Kante slipped as he went to make a tackle and crashed into Long’s standing leg, twisting his knee in the process. The forward is up on his feet though.
Bertrand almost gets in on the overlap but the ball had run out for a throw.
6 minutes: Southampton 0 Chelsea 0
Tomori drops off and reads the play well to cut out a long ball towards Ings, but he mis-places a pass to put Chelsea right under pressure. Southampton cross is cleared but at the expense of a corner. Zouma gets up well to head away.
Then Long gets on the end of another direct ball forward to win another corner.
The managers speak
Hasenhuttl says creating chances has not been Southampton’s problem and says Shane Long gives them something extra with his pace and deep runs behind the Chelsea defence.
Lampard says Chelsea have been extra cautious with Hudson-Odoi due to the severity of his injury, but says it is vitally important they have threat from the wide areas. CHO is back in the starting XI today.
Granit Xhaka is Arsenal’s captain, but is this man their leader?
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been one of the best goalscorers in Europe for years now and has carried this Arsenal team since the start of the season. As Sam Dean reports, Unai Emery has been impressed with his behaviour on and off the pitch.
“He scored a lot of goals last year but has now also taken a big responsibility within the team. He is one of the captains who can manage the dressing room.”
Mason Mount the creative heart of this Chelsea team
Before the season started, Matt Law looked at Mount’s development as part of our Season of the Superkid series.
He has lived up to the billing, pressing teams into mistakes and keeping his head in front of goal. He is one of the first names on Lampard’s team sheet while £58 million Christian Pulisic sits in a tracksuit on the bench.
Solanke gets a chance to impress
Dominic Solanke left Liverpool to play first-team football, and Jason Burt spoke to him this week in this exclusive interview with the Bournemouth striker.
Here is a taster:
“The good thing? It’s good that you are getting talked about for a reason, having a good start early in your career. But the negative thing is that if things are not going so well – you know how social media is, for example. There will always be negative things said but it makes it even more important then to keep focused.”
Arsenal team news
Early reports suggesting Unai Emery is going with a midfield three of Granit Xhaka, Dani Ceballos and Matteo Guendouzi. Chambers and Kolasinac expected at full-back following Tierney and Bellerin’s exertions.
The concern with that midfield is the potential for a ‘too many chiefs, not enough Indians’ scenario. All three players want to dictate the game and have lots of touches – who will defer to who?
Chelsea and Arsenal, do not look this gift horse in the mouth….
Following defeats for Leicester and Tottenham on Saturday, a golden window of opportunity has opened up for Arsenal and Chelsea this afternoon in the race for a top-four finish.
Chelsea’s trip to Southampton is a tricky one to call. Frank Lampard’s team have been one of the best attacking units in the league in recent weeks and really should have scored more than two against Brighton last time out.
Southampton have been competitive against the bigger teams though, drawing with Man Utd (perhaps a disappointing result in hindsight) and losing narrowly to Liverpool when Danny Ings missed a late chance to level.
They look more comfortable when opponents try to dominate possession and build play from the back, inviting them to execute the pressing for which Ralph Hasenhüttl is renowned. When asked to take the initiative in games, Southampton can stutter.
I was not sure if a Chelsea player would reach 10 league goals this season, but Tammy Abraham has been proving me wrong and thoroughly deserves his England call-up with team-mate Fikayo Tomori.
At the Emirates, Arsenal host Bournemouth in a fixture they usually excel in: 5-1, 3-0 and 3-1 are the scorelines from the last three league meetings in north London.
Bournemouth have neither the inclination nor ability to sit deep and frustrate, and there are question marks over their belief levels in these away trips to big clubs when they tend to be quite brittle.
Manager Eddie Howe admitted as much saying: “We haven’t started well at the Emirates Stadium in recent years so we need to start better. They’re dangerous and we’ll have to be at our best.”
Nevertheless, in Ryan Fraser, Harry Wilson, Josh King and notably Callum Wilson they do possess goal threat and speed on the counter-attack.
Arsenal are likely to have Calum Chambers and Sead Kolasinac at full-back with Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney having their fitness managed, and Bournemouth will fancy getting some change out of both. There could be goals at both ends.
Team news on the way shortly. Chelsea is the televised game, so that will be our main focus but we will have goal updates from Arsenal plus as much detail as we can squeeze in.