Plus: James Maddison steals the show again as Tottenham maintain their stunning start to the season, while Sheffield United’s lack of quality is painfully clear in defeat to Arsenal
Nketiah steps up in Jesus’ absence
FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Arsenal’s 5-0 win over Sheffield United
Mikel Arteta described Gabriel Jesus’ injury as “really bad news” for Arsenal on Friday and it may yet prove to be. For now, though, it is no great concern. Not when Eddie Nketiah is in this kind of form.
The 24-year-old delivered a devastating display at the Emirates Stadium, seizing his chance in the absence of the Brazilian and firing a first Premier League hat-trick as Arsenal thrashed Sheffield United 5-0 to move back within two points of leaders Tottenham.
Nketiah is of course best known for his goal-poaching instincts and they were razor sharp for his first two goals as he converted from Declan Rice’s low cross following an excellent first touch, then fired home first-time after an error from Wes Foderingham.
- Arsenal 5-0 Sheff Utd – Match report and highlights
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But his third goal, rifled into the top corner from long range, showed there is more to his game than sniffing out chances in the box. It is now five goals in eight Premier League starts for him this season.
Arteta was eager to emphasise the number of games he has started afterwards. “That tells you how much we trust him and the importance he has in the team,” he said. But there is a sense that some supporters still need winning over and this will help.
It will help, too, if he continues to improve, and that is something Arteta is in no doubt about. “For me, he is top level,” he said.
“But the best thing about Eddie is the talent that he has got but especially his mentality. It’s incredible. When he has that mentality, with that talent, obviously he is going to get much better.”
With Jesus still some weeks away from fitness, Arsenal will need their hat-trick hero to continue in the same vein as they gear up for four fixtures in 11 days before the international break.
Pochettino and Chelsea back to square one
FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Chelsea’s defeat to Brentford
Mauricio Pochettino has cut a calm figure since joining Chelsea, refusing to get too low after troubling defeats and keeping his feet on the ground amid talk of a corner being turned in recent weeks.
But he was unusually tetchy from an early stage against Brentford, even shouting down an overly-vocal home fan when they saw fit to offer Nicolas Jackson some unprompted advice from behind the dugout.
- Chelsea 0-2 Brentford – Match report and highlights
- How the teams lined up | Match stats
This was a big game for Chelsea, a chance not just to end their neighbours’ dominance of this fixture but also continue the momentum generated by the seven points picked up from the last three games.
Instead, Pochettino’s side must face up to reality. No ever-present Premier League team has won fewer home games than their two since the start of February, while they have now failed to win 11 of their last 13 London derbies.
Having once ruled the roost in the capital, Chelsea are not even the best team in west London anymore.
Maddison proves to be Spurs’ game changer again
FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Tottenham’s win against Crystal Palace
James Maddison was as culpable as his team-mates in a below-par first-half display from Tottenham at Crystal Palace. But he changed the game in the second half. The summer signing seems to be at the heart of everything good this Spurs side do.
His fired cross-shot forced the own goal from Joel Ward and his fancy footwork in the box then allowed Brennan Johnson to tee up Heung-Min Son for Spurs’ second. Neither count as an official goal involvement so he misses out on the record for registering those in six straight away games at the start of his Spurs career. But his influence is plain to see.
- Crystal Palace 1-2 Tottenham – Match report and highlights
- How the teams lined up | Match stats
This is a player who has the talent but also the personality to make things happen. His passionate protests to the fourth official when Jordan Ayew’s injury-time strike was allowed to stand, despite having been subbed off, underlined his commitment to the cause.
It is an approach which saw him made a vice-captain of the club within weeks of arriving. His leadership with and without the ball has been instrumental in this record start from Spurs. It will be intriguing to see how far Maddison and Spurs can take it.
Sheff Utd’s lack of quality is painfully clear
Image: Sheffield United's Jack Robinson vies with Arsenal's Eddie Nketiah
Paul Heckingbottom bemoaned Sheffield United’s injury list after their thrashing by Arsenal. Certainly, they would have been stronger had players such as Chris Basham, Anel Ahmedhodzic, John Egan and Oli McBurnie been available for selection.
But would they have been strong enough? Heckingbottom is right when he says his side’s season will not be defined by their trip to the Emirates Stadium but even at full strength, and with a far easier fixture schedule coming up, it feels like they are short on the quality required to compete at this level.
It is not just the top sides who have beaten them this season. It is also Crystal Palace, Nottingham Forest, West Ham and Fulham. It is a goal difference of minus 18. It is one point from 10 games. It is a historically bad start to a Premier League season and, injuries or not, the worry is that the writing is already on the wall.