The Premier League threw up yet another thrilling affair on Saturday as Chelsea fought back from two goals down against a resilient Southampton in a stunning eight-minute blitz inspired by Olivier Giroud.
Mark Hughes’ side appeared to have secured an invaluable three points in their fight for safety after Dusan Tadic and Jan Bednarek established a two goal advantage with just half an hour of the game remaining.
Enter Giroud. The Frenchman’s appearance off the substitute bench changed the complexion of the game as a lacklustre Chelsea came alive after he nodded home the Blues’ opener in the 70th minute, before Eden Hazard levelled the scores only for the January signing to strike again to clinch a memorable 3-2 victory.
Here are four things we learned from the thrilling encounter on the south coast…
4. Repeat Performances From Southampton Will Go Along Way in Securing Premier League Safety
Hughes’ side were the much better team for over two thirds of the game as their intensity and desire went unmatched by the visitors, falling only to the expertise and supreme talent afforded by the reigning Premier League champions.
Whilst the way in which the Saints succumbed to a small period of pressure from Chelsea cannot be overlooked, their return to front foot football and attacking desire will instil much needed confidence on the goal scoring front ahead of vital clashes against Leicester and Bournemouth.
The intensity of their play and four goals in two weeks against Arsenal and Chelsea will add much needed belief as the Saints move into their final five games of the season.
3. Chelsea’s Early Attitude Was Troublesome
Chelsea’s comeback put a gloss on their performance on the south coast as they looked disinterested for well over an hour as Southampton’s intensity went unmatched, raising more questions over the future of Antonio Conte.
Despite the Blues’ hopes of a top four finish still alive as they travelled to the south coast, their performance said otherwise as they allowed the relegation battlers to dictate play with ease as they went through the motions.
Whilst Giroud’s arrival and Southampton’s collapse paved the way for three much needed points – for only the fourth time in 2018 – questions will continue to be raised over the future direction of the club should the level of performance continue in the same vein.
2. Gary Cahill Is a Growing Liability
Gary Cahill did little to fight the tide of criticism in his latest outing as he proved to be Southampton’s way to goal at St Mary’s after failing to mark Tadic in the Saints’ opener, and was guilty of failing to clear his lines as Bednarek scored the home sides’ second of the afternoon.
The 32-year-old was continually exposed by pace on Saturday afternoon and with the FA Cup and a chance of a top four spot still on the line, Chelsea can ill afford yet another dismal performance from their skipper if they are to finish on any sort of a high come the end of the season.
1. Olivier Giroud Finally Stamps His Arrival at Chelsea
The Frenchman needed only nine minutes to find himself at home under the sun at St Mary’s before he provided Chelsea with a lifeline off the bench as a subsequent eight minute spell turned the Blues’ fortunes around – keeping his super sub tag well and truly alive.
Antonio Conte’s side looked all but out of the top four race prior to Giroud’s opening goal but his domineering presence in Southampton’s back line wreaked havoc as two more goals then fell the way of Chelsea.
The strikers first two league goals for the Blues could not have come at a better time, and his ability to change the game ensured he finally stamped his arrival at Chelsea following three long months of settling in to his new surroundings.