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Arsenal, Chelsea cruise into Europa League Round of 16

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Arsenal looked right at home back in the friendly confines of the Emirates Stadium.

After losing twice on the road this month, including a surprise 1-0 defeat last Thursday to BATE Borisov, Arsenal took care of business at home. The Gunners defeated BATE, 3-0 on the night (3-1 on aggregate), with goals from centerbacks Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis Papastathopoulous, while BATE’s Zakhar Volkov scored an own goal early to tie the scoreline between the two legs.

[READ: Premier League Power Rankings]

South of the Emirates Stadium, Chelsea built on their 2-1 aggregate lead over Malmo FF with a resounding 3-0 win. Malmo finished with ten men and the game was highlighted by goals from Callum Hudson-Odoi and a Ross Barkley free kick.

With the wins, both Premier League sides advance to the Europa League Round of 16. The draw for the Round of 16 will be held on Friday, with matches taking place March 7 and 14.

Arsenal took an unexpected lead in the fourth minute of the match. A seemingly harmless cross from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was somehow turned into his own net by BATE centerback Zakhar Volkov. After some shaky moments early, Arsenal settled in and controlled the match, leading to the go-ahead goal. Granit Xhaka played the first of his two assists as Mustafi got on the end of a corner kick to head the ball in for a goal.

In the 60th minute, Sokratis’ header off a corner kick put the game away and allowed Arsenal fans to relax for the final half-hour of play.

Chelsea, meanwhile, didn’t get the early goal like Arsenal but didn’t end up needing it.

Maurizio Sarri sat Jorginho, David Luiz and Marcos Alonso and it led to a better defensive performance, albeit Malmo isn’t a world beater. Olivier Giroud opened the scoring in the 55th minute with a tap-in after great work from N’Golo Kante and Willian. It was Giroud’s sixth Europa League goal this season.

Barkley delighted the Stamford Bridge crowd with a terrific free kick from the edge of the box in the 74th minute and Hudson-Odoi put the cherry on top with a right-footed strike ten minutes later.

Chelsea top Malmo in Europa League

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Ross Barkley scored 30 minutes in, and that was all Chelsea needed as they picked up a solid first-leg advantage with a 2-1 victory over Malmo in Sweden.

The former Everton midfielder made a blistering run to reach Pedro‘s deep cross, losing his defender while collecting the ball and firing an off-balance shot into the back of the net on the half-hour mark. Olivier Giroud added the icing on the cake in the 58th minute as Willian sent the ball across the face of goal and the Frenchman was on hand to poke it in on the doorstep.

It wasn’t elementary for the Blues, as Malmo was dangerous throughout the match, especially in the start of the second half as blocks from David Luiz and Cesar Azpilicueta kept the home side out. Ultimately, despite holding just 33% possession, Malmo somehow outshot Chelsea 14-4 through the first hour of the match but could only put one of those on target. Anders Christiansen eventually grabbed a late goal for Malmo in the 80th minute to give the Blues something to think about in the second leg. The Danish international struck on the break as he beat Emerson to a through-ball and muscled him off for the finish.

Mateo Kovacic was the biggest influencer in the match for Chelsea, completing a hefty 115/117 passes and completing all three of his one-on-one take-ons. Barkley was the most dangerous going forward, scoring the first goal and then running the break before distributing to Willian ahead of Giroud’s finish.

The win for the Blues is a solid bounce-back from its embarrassing 6-0 defeat at the hands of Manchester City, as winning on the road in European play is always a positive result. It also means Chelsea has reached 10 straight European games unbeaten, with nine wins and a draw in that span.

Chelsea now heads home for the second leg on February 21, holding a solid advantage in the matchup. Malmo would need to outscore Chelsea by two goals and also score more than two goals to win in regulation.

What is going wrong at Chelsea? What next for Sarri?

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Chelsea’s 6-0 hammering at Manchester City on Sunday was their heaviest defeat in the Premier League era.

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Just six months into his time in charge at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri is under severe pressure and many are calling for the Italian coach to be fired as his famed “Sarri-ball” has failed to catch on so far in his first season in England.

Despite all of their issues Chelsea remain just one point off the top four, but Sarri knows the next few weeks are pivotal if he’s going to be given time to make this a success.

Do Chelsea fire yet another manager during the season to spark their squad into life? Does Sarri need to show more tactical flexibility?

Below we take a look at the key factors behind Chelsea’s slump in recent months and how Sarri can turn things around.


Jorginho overpowered, Kante out of position
This is the key problem for Chelsea. Jorginho has been found out in the Premier League, badly. His range of passing is superb, but the best teams can shut him down easily if they press him high. Jorginho’s ability as a deep-lying playmaker is key to Sarri-ball working and the fact he hasn’t got N'Golo Kante alongside him to protect him is another reason why Chelsea are so easy to break down right now. In their last three away games (all defeats) they’ve now conceded 12 goals and scored zero. Kante is the player who is often making runs into the box and it makes no sense to turn the greatest defensive midfielder on the planet into an attacking midfielder. Sarri needs to take Jorginho out of the line of fire, put Kante back in holding midfield and try to shield his porous defense. He isn’t going to do this. But he should.


Eden Hazard isn’t bothered
With his future at Chelsea still in doubt, it is quite clear Eden Hazard isn’t the leader this team in a rut needs. He tried his best away at Man City, but failed to help out Marcos Alonso on the first goal and is not known for digging deep and doing defensive work at the best of times. Hazard’s mind seems like it is somewhere else and that’s a real shame. At times this season he has been unstoppable. But in other spells he has been unspectacular. Chelsea need Hazard to make up his mind on his future, and fast, because he just isn’t focused. Without him in top form they will not finish in the top four.


Replace Alonso, Luiz now
In recent weeks the duo of Marcos Alonso and David Luiz have put in some horrendous displays. But they still start every game. That can’t happen. Emerson Palmeri should now play over Alonso, while Andreas Christensen or Gary Cahill should be given the chance to replace Luiz. Both Alonso and Luiz love to attack, score goals and deep down believe they should be strikers. First and foremost they need to defend and they just aren’t doing that like they did in Conte’s first season in charge. The hammering at Man City has to be the final straw for Luiz and Alonso under Sarri and if this doesn’t force him to hand chances to Callum Hudson-Odoi, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Ethan Ampadu, what will?


Further backing for Maurizio Sarri needed
It is clear that Chelsea’s model of hiring and firing managers has worked over the past decade. The trophy cabinet says so. But the one constant throughout all of the sackings was that a squad of elite, opinionated players remained. It often came down to this: if the players wanted to player for the manager they would. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t. As we saw with the core of this squad, they threw in the towel for Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte once they were bored of their defensive tactics. Conte said while he was still at Chelsea that this squad needed a huge overhaul and that is crystal clear. He was spot on. This isn’t a Chelsea squad with Drogba, Lampard and Terry, characters who can keep the DNA of the side and win trophies no matter who is in charge.

Conte’s achievement of winning the PL and the FA Cup over his two campaigns in charge is looking better by the day. If Chelsea truly want to usher in Sarri-Ball they must give their manager the players he needs to suit his style. Christian Pulisic might be able do that, but Sarri’s other key additions Gonzalo Higuain and Jorginho seem unable to cope with the demands of the Premier League. A huge clearout is needed. Not just shipping out Alvaro Morata on loan and bringing in Higuain on loan. 10-12 players need to leave this summer if Sarri remains in charge.

The vast majority of this squad isn’t capable of playing the way he wants, and that’s something which will not change overnight. Sarri said he will happily chat with Roman Abramovich in the coming days, but admitted that he doesn’t really speak to him. Is that an admission that he wants to clear up the big issue here: how much do Chelsea really want Sarri to remain in charge? Right now both Sarri and the club seem ambivalent about seeing this out.

Manchester City destroy Chelsea (video)

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  • Aguero earns two league records via another hat trick
  • Sterling scores two
  • Chelsea sinks 6th, below Arsenal

Sergio Aguero wrote his name twice more in the record books as Manchester City smashed Chelsea 6-0 at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

Aguero scored a hat trick for the second week in-a-row, joining Alan Shearer as the only players to register 11 Premier League hat tricks. He also went atop the Man City leaderboard for league goals.

Other guys played, too, with Raheem Sterling and Ilkay Gundogan scoring while Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva put on playmaking and possession master classes.

City goes back atop the Premier League table on goal differential, now nine better than Liverpool having played one more game. Chelsea drops below fifth place Arsenal on goals scored, the goal differential level.

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City’s habit of striking quickly continued with a 4th minute goal off the boot of Sterling.

Left all alone at the back post to collect a David Luiz-deflected cross from Bernardo Silva, Sterling hammered the ball into a gaping space.

Aguero also worked himself into a back post position and skewered his chance to tap in Bernardo’s unreal dribble and pass through the six.

Eden Hazard work Chelsea up in the 12th minute with a long dribble down the left producing a shot that Kepa Arrizabalaga collected wide of the post.

Maybe the tap-in was too easy, because Aguero then took a Kevin De Bruyne feed and curled a 20-yard beauty around a flying Arrizabalaga.

Aguero helped produce the fourth, his dribble blocked by Antonio Rudiger onto the path of Gundogan for another long distance goal.

Ederson made a second decent save of the half when Gonzalo Higuain tore into a shot from distance, but Chelsea did not pull any goals back before halftime.

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Aguero nearly nodded home for his hat trick when his header of a De Bruyne cross hit the cross bar.

Mike Dean pointed to the spot after Cesar Azpilicueta took down Sterling in the 55th minute, and Aguero had his chance for back-to-back hat tricks and a share of the Premier League hat trick record.

De Bruyne sent an arrow of a free kick around the wall, but Arrizabalaga stopped it.

Substitute Gabriel Jesus was shoved by Luiz as he attempted a 1v1 shot on Arrizabalaga, but Dean stopped short of awarding another penalty.

Sterling got his second in a similar enough fashion to his first. It was 6-0 with 10 minutes to play.

Chelsea advance to League Cup final past Tottenham on penalty kicks

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Maurizio Sarri‘s team had the perfect response at home after a rough defeat last weekend to Arsenal.

Chelsea overcame Tottenham, 4-2 on penalty kicks in the League Cup semifinal after the tie was locked at 2-2 on aggregate after 180 minutes of action. Eric Dier skied one penalty, Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga saved one from Spurs winger Lucas Moura, and David Luiz put the finishing touches to send Chelsea to the League Cup final on February 24 at Wembley Stadium in London. Awaiting Chelsea in the final is Manchester City, who recorded an impressive 10-0 aggregate victory over Burton Albion in the other semifinal.

[READ: Premier League Power Rankings]

Chelsea got off to a quick start on home ground and took the game to Mauricio Pochettino‘s banged up Spurs. In the 27th minute, off a corner kick, Chelsea finally struck gold. A corner kick from Eden Hazard was cleared to the top of the box, where N'Golo Kante rifled a shot home that went through three (3!) pairs of legs before slipping past Paulo Gazzaniga and in for a goal.

Hazard followed that up with a side-footed finish of his own, giving Chelsea the 2-1 lead on aggregate just 40 minutes into the game.

But in the second half, Fernando Llorente connected with a flying header into the box to tie the score on aggregate. Chelsea came close on a few more occasions in the second half, but the score was deadlocked at two each.

The defeat is insult to go with the injury, as two players limped off injured during the match, Ben Davies and Moussa Sissoko, leaving Tottenham with even fewer players available for the next stage of the season. Mauricio Pochettino’s silver lining, if there is any, is now he can focus on the UEFA Champions League and the Premier League, but he’ll rue losing another chance to get an elusive piece of silverware.