London (AFP) – Tottenham thumped Aston Villa 4-0 on Saturday to tighten their grip on fourth spot in the Premier League after Manchester United and Arsenal both slipped up.
Third-placed Chelsea ended a tough week by hammering Southampton 6-0 while Leeds climbed nine points above the relegation zone with a comfortable 3-0 win at Watford.
Six wins in seven league games for free-scoring Spurs have made them firm favourites to qualify for next season’s Champions League along with Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea.
Son Heung-min scored a hat-trick for Antonio Conte’s men at Villa Park, with Dejan Kulusevski also chipping in as Spurs put their opponents to the sword.
The impressive Harry Kane provided two assists while Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris made seven saves in the opening 45 minutes to keep Villa at bay.
The win takes Spurs to 57 points — three clear of fifth-placed Arsenal and six ahead of West Ham and Manchester United.
“I’m very happy because I have a group of players who want to show me that they will improve in many aspects,” Conte told the BBC.
“When you have this you have to be happy to work with them and to try to do something important at the end of the season. Seven games to go and we are showing that we are deserving to stay in the race for a place in the Champions League.”
In the early kick-off Frank Lampard’s Everton beat misfiring United 1-0 to climb four points above the relegation zone while Arsenal slumped to a 2-1 defeat against Brighton — their third loss in four games.
The decisive moment at Goodison Park came midway through the first half when Anthony Gordon hit a shot that took a huge deflection off England defender Harry Maguire and wrong-footed David de Gea in the United goal.
Lampard said he was proud of his battling side, who are trying to maintain Everton’s record of being ever-present in the English top flight since 1954.
“Beautiful football can come later on,” he told BT Sport. “I have ambitions for this club to stay up, play well, but in the position we are in, fighting comes first and foremost.”
United’s interim manager Ralf Rangnick, who has a two-year contract to remain as a consultant at United beyond this season, was asked whether speculation over the club’s next manager was creating a state of limbo.
“I don’t think this should be an excuse for anybody,” he said, with Ajax boss Erik ten Hag touted as a strong favourite to be the next permanent boss.
“We’re Manchester United, we’ve got a lot of international players.”
– Arsenal stumble –
Arsenal are having a wobble at the wrong time after putting themselves in a strong position to qualify for the Champions League — they have not played in Europe’s elite competition since the 2016/17 season.
Brighton took the lead at the Emirates Stadium when Leandro Trossard turned home a low cross from Enock Mwepu and the Zambian midfielder himself added a second. Martin Odegaard scored a late consolation.
“It has been a difficult week and we’ve lost some big players, but if you get what you want, not everything is going to be with a blue sky,” Mikel Arteta told the BBC.
“This is our team in the good moments and especially the defeats. There are many games to play but we have to be concerned about that performance, especially first half.”
Chelsea suffered a shock 4-1 defeat at the hands of Brentford last week before losing 3-1 against Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final.
But they restored confidence on Saturday, racing into a 6-0 lead in the 54th minute, with two goals apiece for Mason Mount and Timo Werner.
“The performance changed, the commitment and the discipline,” said Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel. “This is how we want to play and we gave an answer finally because you could see it on the scoreboard.”
Manchester City and Liverpool go head to head at the Etihad on Sunday in a top-of-the-table clash.
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