Chelsea struggles without a top striker while backup Nketiah hits hat trick for Arsenal

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Arsenal's Eddie Nketiah celebrates scoring his side's first goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Arsenal and Sheffield United at Emirates Stadium in London, Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023.(AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

What Chelsea would do to own a striker as razor-sharp as Eddie Nketiah.

A failure to have an elite, healthy goalscorer following its squad rebuild costing more than $1 billion is really starting to hurt Chelsea, and it hit home in a 2-0 loss to Brentford in the Premier League on Saturday that continued the team's woeful form at Stamford Bridge.

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Arsenal has no problems on that front.

With Gabriel Jesus out for a few weeks because of a muscle injury, Nketiah — who made his England debut this month — came in as a back-up and netted a clinical hat trick in a 5-0 thrashing of Sheffield United. Nketiah's haul was capped by a scorching strike from outside the area and highlighted the strength in depth at Arsenal, which is unbeaten after 10 games.

Arsenal moved back to two points behind north London rival Tottenham, which played Friday and beat Crystal Palace 2-1 to also stay undefeated and as the surprise leader heading into November.

With 24 points, Arsenal already has double that of Chelsea, which is languishing in 11th place and has won just one of its six home games so far — and that was only against promoted Luton.

Nicolas Jackson again toiled up front and even if Cole Palmer looks a player of some talent in the No. 10 role, Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino desperately needs the return of France forward Christopher Nkunku, who sustained a serious injury in preseason and is only just back in training.

It was the 10th time in all competitions in 2023 that Chelsea failed to score in a game at home.

“We're not nasty or clinical in front of the goal,” Pochettino said.

In other games, Newcastle was held 2-2 at Wolverhampton and Bournemouth beat Burnley 2-1 for a first win of the season.

CHELSEA'S NEMESIS

Brentford's players must wish every away game was at Stamford Bridge.

Make that three straight seasons they have won there after second-half goals by Ethan Pinnock and Bryan Mbeumo completed a tactical masterclass by Brentford manager Thomas Frank, who is establishing a reputation for plotting wins over the league's top teams.

Chelsea might have dominated the first half but Brentford's rope-a-dope tactics ultimately worked beautifully. Pinnock headed home in the 58th and Mbeumo scored on a break in the fifth minute of stoppage time after Chelsea goalkeeper Robert Sanchez went up for a corner and was unable to get back in time.

“I think it’s a coincidence that we’ve managed to win here three times," Frank said. “But it’s very impressive that we can do that being Brentford, given the players and the budget Chelsea have.”

NKETIAH'S HAUL

The 24-year-old Nketiah kissed the yellow game ball and lifted it to the sky with one hand as the crowd at Emirates Stadium chanted his name following his hat-trick goal against Sheffield United.

It came in the 58th and added to his strikes in the 28th and 50th minutes to complete a first Premier League hat trick.

"For me, he’s top-level,” Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said of Nketiah. "What he’s done is remarkable and he needs minutes, opportunities and service and if he gets that, Eddie is going to score goals, that’s for sure.”

Substitutes Fabio Vieira — from the penalty spot — and Takehiro Tomiyasu completed the rout as Sheffield United remained without a win, on one point from 10 games and as a leading candidate for relegation.

FINDING THE BALANCE

Balancing playing in the Champions League with competing for a top-four spot in the Premier League was always going to be a challenge for Newcastle, and it's proving exactly that.

The Saudi-controlled team has now dropped points after each of its last two Champions League group games, the latest being a 2-2 draw at Wolverhampton three days after losing 1-0 to Borussia Dortmund.

Callum Wilson twice put Newcastle in the lead but Wolves had equalizers from Mario Lemina and Hwang-Hee-chan.

Newcastle is nine points behind Tottenham.

BILLING'S WONDER GOAL

It wasn't just Harry Kane scoring long-range wonder goals on Saturday.

Philip Billing delivered a similar strike — albeit from slightly closer to the goal — to earn Bournemouth a 2-1 win over Burnley and a first league victory of the season for the south-coast team.

The Denmark midfielder collected the ball just inside Burnley’s half, took a couple of touches and then — from a central position — lobbed back-pedaling goalkeeper James Trafford from around 40 yards (meters) for a goal celebrated wildly inside the Vitality Stadium.

The win eased some pressure on Bournemouth manager Andoni Iraola, who had failed to win any of his first nine league games in charge after arriving in the offseason from Spain.

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Steve Douglas is at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80

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