It seems Chelsea may be targeting a player from a Premier League club to strengthen their wide options, and it’s not someone you may have guessed.
According to Sky Sources, Chelsea have made an approach to Middlesbrough to ask about the availability of their winger Adama Traore.
The 20-year-old began his career at Barcelona and was originally brought to England by Aston Villa. This summer, following Villa’s relegation, Traore moved to Premier League Middlesbrough and has been one of the clubs most influential attacking players. His pace causes lots of problems for opposition defences and that is certainly something that will have attracted Antonio Conte to him.
Conte plays with wing backs and wingers, and it is possible that Traore could be an option in both of those roles. Although he is a more attacking player, Traore could follow in the footsteps of Moses and adapt to a more defensive position.
Chelsea were said to be looking for a couple of new wide players to add to their squad this month, and we recently brought you the news that they were considering moves for Michail Antonio and Jonas Hector.
With the news that Dimitri Payet wants to leave the club this month, I think there is no chance Slaven Bilic will part with Antonio this month, and that may explain why Chelsea appear to be interested in Traore, a possible alternative.
Traore has made 15 appearances for Boro this season, with 6 of them coming from the bench. He is yet to register a goal or assist in a Boro team that lacks a cutting edge moving forward.
Joining on deadline day, Traore reportedly cost Boro £7million, so Chelsea would probably have to pay more than that to convince Karanka to part with Traore, especially considering we are in the middle of the season.
Traore is unlikely to make a big difference in Chelsea’s title charge this year, as he is far from the finished product at this stage. But aged 20, he has the raw attributes to develop into a top level player. His pace and dribbling ability are certainly his most attractive traits and Conte may want to sign him purely to add another dimension to his attacking force.
If you consider that he hasn’t scored or assisted a goal this season, Conte may have him in mind to play as a wing back. His pace will help with defensive security and also stretching opposition defences with overlapping runs. Training with a squad of Chelsea’s calibre and working alongside a manager of Conte’s calibre, Traore’s technical ability would surely only improve.
Looking deeper into Traore’s statistics, there is one that really stands out. That is his dribbles per game which averages at a huge 5.2. His pace means he plays with a very direct style and that may suit Conte’s structured and efficient system. He is only dispossessed 1.6 times per game on average. His technical ability and reliability on the ball is a bit of a worry though, completing just 68.8% of his passes..
It’s an interesting move if it does happen. I would think that being in such a strong position to go and win the title, Conte’s focus should be on strengthening his squad in the short term. An extra injection of senior quality at this stage would make his team strong favourites for the title.
Someone like Antonio would be a better addition, but Traore is perhaps a more realistic one and he would certainly be cheaper. I’m interested to hear Chelsea fans thoughts on this one. Be sure to comment below or tweet us your thoughts @FreshFootball.
Chelsea could be lining up a Diego Costa replacement from Bayern Munich, according to reports. Chelsea fans, would you be happy with this?
The Express claim an ‘Exclusive’ that Chelsea are targeting an unsettled Thomas Muller to replace Diego Costa should the Spaniard leave the club. Conte stressed that Costa missed the game at the weekend due to a back injury, but widespread reports suggest that this is not, in fact true. Costa appears to have fallen out with the hierarchy at the club and could move on. Chelsea won’t sell him cheap though, with a £80million price tag touted by several sources.
If he was to go, Chelsea would have a large fund to try and find a replacement. But there is a lack of top number 9’s on the market right now. This might mean the club will have to opt for an alternative option. It seems Muller could be just that and perhaps he could be amongst a very small group of top players that could transfer in January.
Muller is reportedly unhappy at the German Champions after failing to hold down a regular spot in the Bayern Munich team under Carlo Ancelotti. He has started just 10 Bundesliga games this season.
“The last game against Leipzig was not optimal for me personally, since I did not play,” Muller told German newspaper Bild.
“There was more space than in the games before. It was a game I could have enjoyed. Of course, I’m not sitting there with a grin on the bench.”
That’s a very public statement of frustration. The reports suggest that Muller would be allowed to leave for a fee in the region of £75million. A huge amount of money, and something similar to what Costa would probably move for.
I can believe that Bayern would be open to selling him for such an amount, especially because he has not been an important player for them this season. They have recently signed the young attacking duo of Renato Sanches and Kingsley Coman, as well as handing a contract extension to Arjen Robben. Muller is no longer an integral part to this Bayern Munich team under Carlo Ancelotti.
But would swapping Costa for Muller improve Chelsea? Personally, I think Costa is perhaps the best number 9 in world football right now, and even with Muller at the club, I think Chelsea would be better off with Costa. He’s more of a natural 9 that is incredibly well suited to the style of play under Conte and I think that at least initially, Muller would struggle to make such a profound impact and difference.
Both players are in the prime of their careers, with Muller one year younger than Costa. They are both natural goalscorers but I feel Costa has that aggression and clinical attitude that makes him a slightly better player than the German, or at least, more suited to the Premier League.
I’m interested to hear about what Chelsea fans would think about swapping Costa for Muller. Although he is not a natural striker, Conte showed that Chelsea worked well with Hazard in the number 9 role at the weekend. Does the 3-4-3 formation require a traditional number 9, or could Muller work there?
Chelsea returned to winning ways and in convincing fashion on Saturday evening with a comfortable 3-1 win over Leicester City.
Last season’s Champions continued to struggle and put in a very poor performance as Claudio Ranieri attempted to match the league leaders 3 at the back formation. But it didn’t work at all, and Chelsea took control of the game with left-back Marcos Alonso with two of the goals.
Alonso has not had too much praise since he joined Chelsea in the summer, with many suggesting that he was one of the weak links in the team, a team that has been incredibly strong, to be fair.
Playing on the left-hand side of the midfield 4, Alonso showed that he has plenty to offer in attack against Leicester, scoring two goals and putting in a very accomplished all-round performance.
Alonso won 4 aerial duels, 3 interceptions, 2 tackles and made 2 clearances, showing that he also put in a near flawless defensive display. Playing as a left wing back, you could forgive Alonso for not being too involved in the game, but he was completely the opposite, wanting to play his part in every phase of the play, making a huge 104 touches, only Matic (112) made more on the pitch. No Leicester player made more than 62.
Here’s how some fans reacted to Alonso’s performance on Twitter.
Nathan Ake's been back at Chelsea for one week, and suddenly Marcos Alonso has turned into Roberto Carlos.
— ️ (@ContehoIic) January 14, 2017
— Josh McMillan (@JTFIFA7) January 14, 2017
Can remember the scepticism with which Marcos Alonso's arrival at Chelsea was met.Fiorentina fans +Conte knew what Chelsea were getting #cfc
— Adam Summerton (@adamsummerton) January 14, 2017
Marcos alonso was very good today, gets a lot of criticism happy to see him play well. #CFC
— Harry (@decisiveDiego) January 14, 2017
Marcos Alonso was on fire today.
— Malcolm Omego (@DjDirtyBizness) January 14, 2017
Ake was recalled from his loan spell at Bournemouth and he was reportedly going to be an alternative to Alonso – as well as being an option at central defence. Alonso’s best performance in a Chelsea came a few days after Ake was recalled, perhaps showing that competition for places really does bring out the best in players!
It was, of course a brilliant performance from Alonso on the night, but he will need to deliver these kind of performances more regularly if he is to justify his hefty price tag and keep the ever-improving Nathan Ake out of the side.
Antonio Conte is expecting to be busy this month with Chelsea looking to sign two new wing-backs, despite their excellent 13 matches unbeaten run and impressive defensive record.
The Chelsea manager is looking to improve his top of the table squad with the wing-back position being his prime priority. Since his change of formation to a 3-4-3 Chelsea have been immense in both offensive/defensive phases, impressive wing-back pair Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses has been pivotal to their recent success but may find their position up for grabs once the window slams shut.
West Ham United star Michail Antonio and Jonas Hector are on Conte’s wish list this month according to The Times, who say two wing-backs are the main targets for Chelsea this month.
Slaven Bilic will be reluctant to sell his star man this winter as he has been the bright spark in a dark season for the Hammers. The 26-year-old has thus far managed eight goals in 27 games.
The former Nottingham Forest man cost West Ham just £7 million in 2015 but Bilic will know they could demand more than triple if they were to part ways this winter.
Conte as reportedly eyeing Hector before opting for former Fiorentina man Alonso in the summer, with him going on to cement himself in the starting XI and making a positive impression in the first half of the season. But there remain doubts over Alonso’s ability in the long run and also the depth in his position.
Chelsea are currently six points clear at the top of the Premier League table and are in formidable form despite their hiccup at White Hart Lane, the signing of Antonio/Hector will give the Blues boss many options on the wing-back/defensive positions and will help to continue their momemtum until the end of the season.
Both players have had experience playing the wing-back role, and have both been thoroughly impressive thus far this season. Germany man Hector has managed to win 1.62 tackles per 90 minutes this season which puts him ahead of Hammers man Antonio who has managed just 1.05, which in itself is still impressive.
Occupying the role Conte will want either to adapt too will see both players utilising their pace to get past their man, whether that’s to spring counter attacks or get out of defensive positions. Hector again comes out on top of Antonio, managing 69.23% successful take ons whilst Antonio trails on 57.65%, which again is impressive and over the half way mark.
Being a German, and learning his trade within his native country it was almost inevitable Hector would be impressive in possession and this shows with 85% pass completion, again leading Antonio on 72%.
But, something the West Ham man does have over Hector is his eye for goal, he has a fair few goals thus far this season managing to find the net 0.44 times per 90 minutes compared to Cologne man Hector, managing zero. This will again have caught the eye of Conte who knows he can add goals to his game which is a massive plus for any manager. It’s possible that Antonio could be deployed in the most advanced right wing berth of the 3-4-3 formation.
Not just a goal scorer, but a creator too, Antonio has managed to create 0.94 chances per 90 with the German ahead of him on 1.44, which shows he’s certainly more of a creator than a goalscorer.
Antonio would be an immense signing for Chelsea, versatile, direct & good in 1v1 situations in both phase whilst Hector also possessing similar abilities.
Conte seems set on signing new full-backs this winter and has already recalled the impressive Nathan Ake to strengthen the squad with the title race in full flow. Both clubs will be reluctant to sell their stars this transfer window, but when Chelsea come calling, and having the offer of having the chance to win the Premier League title, I think it will be hard for both players to say no.
Chelsea look set to welcome another defender to their squad this month, with the club keen to add to their defensive options.
It appears that Antonio Conte will continue to favour playing young players over external recruitment with the Italian manager seemingly set to recall Nathan Ake from his loan at Bournemouth.
Ake has been brilliant during his loan spell at Bournemouth so far, and with Conte now deploying a 3 at the back formation, Chelsea would really benefit from having another central defender in the squad. Despite the clubs overall good defensive displays, Gary Cahill has come under a fair amount of criticism and Ake may have his eyes on displacing the Englishman.
Another option would be to shift Cesar Azpilicueta to the right or left wing-back role and then bring Ake into central defence. Crucially Ake’s recall will give the club more options and more depth.
Bournemouth boss Howe said Ake’s exit was “not 100% finalised yet”. But in saying that, all but confirmed that he would be heading back to the capital.
He told BBC Radio Solent: “It would be a huge blow to us as he’s done so well. It is easier said than to done to say we are going to go and recruit a player of a similar stature to Nathan.”
Chelsea will now be negotiating with Bournemouth for a cancellation fee, as it is likely they will have to pay one due to cutting the season-long-loan deal short.
Howe added: “I am not sure there are too many out there, hence why Chelsea would recall him. With Simon Francis’s suspension and Marc Pugh’s injury and now Nathan going back, our defensive resources are certainly stretched.”
Ake turns 22 next month and will hope to continue his progression this season at Chelsea. The player is also capable of playing in midfield and at left back, so his versatility will certainly come in handy for the club.
In 10 Premier League appearances Ake has netted 3 goals, highlighting his ability to attack well and make the most of opportunities in the other box. For his height, he’s very good in the air, winning on average 2.07 per 90 minutes in the Premier League this season. He’s also won an impressive 1.82 tackles per 90.
An energetic defender, Ake has also made 1.22 interceptions per 90. He’s a defender that is more than capable of playing out from the back and his pass completion of 88% highlights that.
Summer signing David Luiz has really excelled in the defence since re-joining the club, but with Cahill now 31, could Ake be the England international’s long-term replacement? He’ll certainly hope so.
What is refreshing to see is a manager that is willing to give young players a chance, and Conte seems to be doing just that.
With yet more points dropped between the likes of Liverpool and Arsenal at the top end of the table, Tottenham Hotspur’s clash at home to Chelsea tonight sets itself up to be of the greatest importance for both sides.
For the Blues, a record 15th consecutive win opens up a nine-point-gap between them and 2nd place Liverpool, whereas a triumph for Spurs over their London rivals not only keeps Manchester United off their backs, but also sees them leapfrog 3rd and 4th placed Manchester City and Arsenal, as well as reducing the distance between themselves and top spot to seven points.
As both sides go toe-to-toe in tonight’s heavyweight encounter, Fresh Football has consulted its bubble of imagination to compile what we think an All-star Chelsea and Spurs combined XI would look like, relative to form. Here’s what we’ve conjured up:
Goalkeeper: Hugo Lloris – Tottenham Hotspur
There is, without a doubt, very little between Hugo Lloris and Thibaut Courtois, who stand as two of the greatest shot-stoppers in the league, if not, the world.
Both come into the game with envious defensive records; Courtois has 11 clean sheets in the league to Lloris’ seven, but the latter has conceded just one more goal than the Belgian.
Last year was a totally different experience for Courtois, however, under-performing alongside his teammates in a season to forget for Chelsea. At the same time, no Premier League side conceded less than Spurs (and Man United), which is why Lloris takes our number one jersey.
Right Back: Kyle Walker – Tottenham Hotspur
As impressive as Victor Moses has been in his new-found right wing back role, there’s the argument that the Nigerian formerly considered “deadwood” would struggle defensively without the added back-up of a third centre back in Antonio Conte’s lauded 3-4-3 system.
Further north in London, there’s few who operate better at right back than Kyle Walker. Blistering pace, coupled with well-built physicality and technical ability sees the Englishman boss the entire right flank more often than not, making him vital to the way Spurs play.
Moreover, Walker already has four assists to his name this season from defence, one more than he managed last season, and so concludes one of the easier decisions we’ve had to make in this line-up.
Centre Back: Toby Alderweireld – Tottenham Hotspur
The Belgian’s transition to English football has been no less than impressive, joining the north London club from Atlético Madrid to steal some of the thunder surrounding his compatriot, Jan Vertonghen, in becoming the main man at the back.
Reliable, refined in possession and a notable aerial threat, Alderweireld combines traits that sees him stand as one of the league best centre halves, therefore taking this spot in our combined XI ahead of the likes of Gary Cahill and John Terry without question.
Centre Back: David Luiz – Chelsea
Many a human welcomed Chelsea’s £30 million signing of David Luiz, a man often synonymous with erratic defending, with smiles and laughter.
In its kindest form, his signing was branded as a complete panic buy in response to Chelsea’s failure to land the likes of Leonardo Bonucci and Kalidou Koulibaly in the summer, but the Brazilian defender and Chelsea fans alike will be sure to be giving some stick back to the numerous critics.
Since the Blues’ tactical reinvention, Luiz has seen the defensive set-up form around himself at the at the heart of the defence, subsequently seeing the 29-year-old go from strength-to-strength in his return to Stamford Bridge.
So much so has been his success with Conte’s tactical shift that he’s now touted as one of the favourites to finish the campaign in the Premier League’s Team of the Season, so it’s only fair that he sits Vertonghen out of this one.
Left Back: César Azpilicueta – Chelsea
Much like Kyle Walker, Rose plays a pivotal in Mauricio Pochettino’s high-pressing side, doing so well, but meanwhile the Spurs product excels going forwards, César Azpilicueta comes up trumps going in the opposite direction, hence why he’s played across Chelsea’s backline across the years. The Spaniard gets our vote.
Right Midfield: Pedro – Chelsea
Pedro looked to be on somewhat of a downward spiral in the past couple of seasons, falling out of favour at Barcelona before failing to crack life at Chelsea last season.
Things just abruptly clicked, however, after the Blues’ heavy 3-0 defeat away to Arsenal back in September, with Pedro scoring four goals, including one versus Spurs, and assisting six since the debacle at the Emirates.
With Erik Lamela still out injured and Willian only just now beginning to find his feet in the west Londoners’ new look outfit, Pedro claims his spot.
Centre Midfield: N’Golo Kanté – Chelsea
The first name on the team sheet. By now you will have already heard that N’Golo Kanté picked up more points alone than any other team in the Premier League since joining Leicester City in the summer of 2015. The man is just ridiculous.
Centre Midfield: Mousa Dembélé – Tottenham Hotspur
In the same vein as Kanté, Dembélé is equally crucial to a side hoping to get their hands on the coveted Premier League trophy.
Following recovery from injury in October 2015, Spurs didn’t lose once in his presence. Contrarily, once the Belgian was suspended for his ill-tempered altercation with Diego Costa back in May 2016, Spurs picked up just 12 points from their next 11 league games.
He was, undoubtedly, the cerebral driving force among the high praise solely directed at Dele Alli, Harry Kane, among others, and the aforementioned stars proved to be a lot poorer without Dembélé in the side. An underrated entity.
Left Midfield: Eden Hazard – Chelsea
A shining light in Chelsea’s side, Eden Hazard finally looks to be back to his best in a free role given to him by Conte.
Nine goals and two assists in the league sees the Belgian playmaker spearhead his way as one of the favourites to take the Player of the Year gong, so he’s got his place reserved in our squad.
Striker: Diego Costa – Chelsea
Rivalling his teammate, Hazard, to Player of the Year award has been Diego Costa, so, again, there was little chance of us leaving him out of this combined XI.
The Brazil-born Spain international has been taken to the next level by Conte, at least from a disciplinary perspective, as the 28-year-old leads the goal-scoring charts with 14 league goals so far.
Striker: Harry Kane – Tottenham Hotspur
For the second season running, after Euro disappointment, Harry Kane started the season rather tentatively, but alas the constant stream of goals appear to be following the Spurs number 10.
The striker’s brace versus Watford in Tottenham’s 4-1 win saw the Englishman hit double figures in the league for the season, his 59th overall after 100 Premier League games, making him hard to overlook.
Chelsea and Arsenal are set to battle over the course of the January transfer window for Wolfsburg left-back Ricardo Rodriguez, with both clubs reportedly keen on signing the Bundesliga man.
The Sun claim that Chelsea have made the first move in an attempt to secure the services of Rodriguez, with Antonio Conte keen to strengthen his squad ahead of the title race and run-in, which is set to reach boiling point in the next few weeks.
Arsene Wenger is also keen to bolster his defensive options ahead of a title push, which took a huge blow last point despite the Gunners earning a point against Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium after being three goals down with just twenty minutes to go.
The Gunners currently have Nacho Monreal and Kieran Gibbs in their squad that can fill in that left-back position, but Arsene Wenger is reportedly targeting this area for strengthening over the January transfer window.
The Blues have reportedly contacted the player’s agent regarding whether his client would be interested in a January switch to Stamford Bridge in an attempt to get negotiations underway.
Arsenal have been keeping track of the left back’s progress for a couple of months now, but Antonio Conte is keen on securing the services of Rodriguez for £21m as he starts his New Year squad strengthening ahead of the title run-in.
Who will win the race for Ricardo Rodriguez?
The 24-year-old seems like a player who likes to get forward and cause problems for the opposition defence. The left-back has scored two goals this season as well as providing two assists in 14 Bundesliga appearances. If he does enjoy getting forward and becoming an attacking threat down the left, then a move to Antonio Conte’s Chelsea might be the move for him.
Conte’s 3-4-3 system has proved to be a real success this season in the Premier League, with the Blues sitting proudly at the top of the table, despite a stuttering start to the season. The 3-4-3 formation allows a lot of freedom for those wing-backs. Although they have to work extremely hard down their respective wings, their positions give them a license to regularly join the Chelsea attack as well as help out defensive tracking wingers. This seems like a system that Rodriguez would enjoy playing in.
With Chelsea making the first move ahead of Arsenal, and with the Blues reportedly willing to offer £21million for the left-back, it seems that they are in pole position to sign the 24-year-old in this January transfer window.
Chelsea are top of the Premier League table, but according to reports, Antonio Conte is still looking for reinforcements in the January transfer window, and is not afraid to spend big in order to land his key target.
Southampton’s Virgil Van Dijk is at the top of Antonio Conte’s January wishlist, having impressed the Chelsea boss with a strong string of performances on the south coast. In fact, the Italian has been so impressed with the Dutch international so far this season that he is prepared to pay up to £60m for his services according to the Daily Express.
The Blues are on a highly impressive winning streak in the Premier League that stretches back thirteen games, a run which has seen Conte work his magic since the switch to a three-at-the-back system following the loss at Arsenal.
Chelsea are top of the league, and Conte is keen to consolidate their position at the summit of the top flight, and sees the signing of Virgil Van Dijk as a way of strengthening the defence and helping Chelsea to lift the Premier League trophy come May.
Southampton boss Claude Puel is reportedly adamant that Van Dijk will not be leaving the club over the January transfer window. With this knowledge, Conte is ready to make an offer that Southampton simply cannot refuse that will make Van Dijk the latest big player to leave St. Mary’s in the last few years.
Despite sitting 9th in the Premier League table, the Saints have struggled in front of goal, scoring just nineteen goals this season, often having to rely on their defence for results. Despite conceding six goals in their last two games, Southampton’s defensive record remains solid, shipping 23 goals in total this season.
A £60m deal would not only see Virgil Van Dijk make the move to Stamford Bridge, but it would also see Pep Guardiola at Manchester City miss out on one of his key targets. Manchester City’s defensive problems have been well-documented this season despite the £47.5m signing of John Stones over the summer. Guardiola also appears keen to bolster his defensive options over the January transfer window.
Is this deal possible or likely?
Yes, the deal is possible. Chelsea could well offer £60m for Van Dijk at some point in January. They certainly have the financial capabilities to do so, and I am sure £60m for the defender is an offer that Southampton would not be able to refuse.
Is it likely though? Not for me. Chelsea’s defence has been very good this season, and they hold the best defensive record in the Premier League, conceding just thirteen goals this season. If they were to look to bolster their defensive options, Chelsea might do that with a £60m bid for Van Dijk in the summer, but I can’t see this deal happening in the January window.
It is fair to say that this season has not gone to plan for Slaven Bilic and West Ham. In a bid to turn the Hammer’s fortunes around, the club have reportedly sent letters asking their Premier League rivals for help in the January transfer window, according to The Telegraph.
Tottenham are the only one of the Premier League big hitters not to receive a letter from West Ham chiefs as the Hammers plan some very smart January transfer business. Letters were reportedly sent to Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool and Manchester City asking if any of those clubs have fringe players that the Hammers can sign on loan for the rest of the season.
With many players not becoming available that Slaven Bilic will want to sign until the summer transfer window, this plea to sign players with Premier League experience at the top clubs would seem like a good plan. Having sent a general letter to those five clubs, The Telegraph claim that West Ham have further enquiries regarding loan moves for Michy Batshuayi, Daniel Sturridge, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial as their search for a striker to sign in January begins.
In addition to this, the Hammers are also going to make enquiries over the availability of Chris Smalling, Branislav Ivanovic, Mamadou Sakho, Mathieu Debuchy and Carl Jenkinson. However, many of the highlighted players above are unlikely realistic targets for West Ham for two reasons.
First of all, it is well documented that clubs are often not prepared to loan out or sell players to Premier League rivals, unless it is at the right price. With loan moves being proposed by the Hammers, it is unlikely that clubs such as Manchester United and Liverpool will allow key players such as Sturridge and Martial to leave the club, even if it is on a loan basis.
Secondly, I feel the wages that West Ham would have to pay these players would not be within their price range, they simply would not be able to compete with the Premier League big boys. Would the players highlighted take a pay cut in favour of a move to West Ham when many get regular game time anyway? Probably not.
Although West Ham’s idea of taking Premier League players on loan for the rest of the season seems good business at first glance, the proposed deals not only look unlikely, but they look impractical as well.
There are some players there that are more realistic though, with the Gunners reportedly willing to allow Debuchy and Jenkinson to leave should the offer be right. But Jenkinson’s most recent spell at West Ham didn’t go too well, so I’m not sure how the fans would feel about that one should it happen. Smalling is also an interesting one should Manchester United sign their reported target, Victor Lindelof. The young central defender is being linked with a big-money move to United and with Eric Bailly already at the club and Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones impressing at the heart of defence at the moment, how much football will Smalling be playing in the new year?
There’s every chance that it could be another weekend filled with goals, given the sheer amount of relegation “six-pointers” and high-profile clashes coming our way in Gameweek 17 of the Premier League.
Arsenal’s trip to the Etihad Stadium and this season’s first instalment of the Merseyside derby stick out like a sore thumb, but pay special attention to West Ham United hosting Hull City, the clash down on the south coast between Bournemouth and Southampton, Sunderland versus Watford, and many more potentially goal-infested games.
With the festive period over the horizon, we appreciate Fantasy Premier League won’t be the first thing on your mind, which is why this week’s edition of Fresh Football’s tip-offs is dedicated to those players you should look to invest in while you take your eye of the ball. Here are our choices:
Club: West Ham United
After appearing totally downbeat a fortnight ago in response to West Ham’s 5-1 meltdown at home to Arsenal, Slaven Bilić and his men have managed to grab onto some form with a bounce-back 2-2 draw at Anfield to Liverpool and a 1-0 win over a resilient Burnley side in midweek.
The picture looks brighter ahead of Hull’s trip to east London, with the Irons taking on Swansea City and Leicester City following Saturday, all subsequently languishing alongside them in the bottom half of the table.
West Ham have the opportunity to kick-start a revival and in Michail Antonio, the goal scorer in their 2-2 draw against Liverpool and currently with seven league goals to his name, they have a potential hero guide them out of a precarious situation.
2 – Alexis Sanchez
Sunday’s clash sees a reunion between Alexis Sanchez and his former Barcelona boss, Pep Guardiola, who’s had his fair share of success up against Arsenal in European competitions over the years. The Gunners will be without key man Shkodran Mustafi, sorely missed in their 2-1 defeat versus Everton on Tuesday, but list of absentees in the blue half of Manchester also goes a long way into opening up this clash.
Sergio Agüero headlines the list of players Guardiola can’t count on ahead of their next fixture, as he serves part of his four-game suspension, whereas midfield general Fernandinho and Nicolas Otamendi are joined by İlkay Gündoğan on the sidelines, likely to be out for up to eight months!
Guardiola will be tasked with averting Arsenal’s recent unbeaten run against City, currently without a loss in their last five league meetings, but if they continue to expose themselves as much as they have done with expansive football directly from the back-line, in particular with Sanchez and co. sniffing around, they could land themselves in deep trouble.
The Chilean leading the line for the Gunners has proved to be a revolutionary feature in north London this season, thus far leading the Premier League’s goal scoring charts with Chelsea’s Diego Costa on 12 goals, and with a double-header at home coming up against West Bromwich Albion and Crystal Palace into the New Year, there could well be more to come from Sanchez, starting Sunday.
Theo Walcott is a valid alternative, despite his poor show at Goodison Park this Tuesday, off the back of two goals in Arsenal’s last two home games, as well as occasionally popping up on the score sheet against City over the years.
3 – Diego Costa
Winning ten out of their last ten games in the Premier League, leading the table by six points, Chelsea are without a doubt the in-form team in the division. A portion of that is owed to Diego Costa, goal scorer of the winning goal versus West Brom last weekend and owner of 11 more throughout this season, with the Spain international promising more from his startling performances.
Next up for Antonio Conte’s man is a date with Crystal Palace; an away trip that is sure to test the Blues’ endurance in what can be considered a gap year for the side relieved of its European duties in midweek, as opposed to many of their title rivals. Chelsea’s last outing on Wednesday saw them settle for a 1-0 win against relegation candidates Sunderland.
Crystal Palace are coming off a strenuous task themselves, however, as they were sunk by an 88th minute Zlatan Ibrahimovic winner in a 2-1 defeat at home to Manchester United, so the fitness worries are also there for the club that’s conceded 31 goals already this season.
Can Costa add to that count? We wouldn’t bet against it, whereas the all-action striker also has winnable home fixtures against Bournemouth and Stoke City to top up his goal scoring antics following Saturday’s early kick-off.
A crushing 3-0 defeat at Arsenal prompted Antonio Conte to switch to a 3-4-3 formation, and to say it has worked in Chelsea’s favour is an understatement. The Blues sit top of the Premier League and have won every single league game since that Arsenal defeat. Here are three reasons why Chelsea’s 3-4-3 is so hard to play against.
1) They can defend extremely well
You only have to look at Chelsea’s defensive record since Antonio Conte’s switch to the 3-4-3 system to see just how well Chelsea can defend. Since the switch eight games ago, the Blues have conceded just two goals, one against Spurs a week ago, and one against Chelsea yesterday. They did go on a run of six games without conceding a goal.
The wing-backs are so important to the Chelsea system, and when needed they can drop back in to make a back five when Chelsea are under a lot of pressure. This can be used to frustrate teams, and catch them on the break, and it was a masterclass in counter-attacking football on Saturday from Conte’s side, with two of their three goals coming from quick breaks.
Admittedly, Chelsea were a little lucky to concede just the one goal. Sergio Aguero nearly capitalised on a poor back-pass, and Kevin De Bruyne somehow managed to miss a sitter. Nevertheless, Chelsea have let in just eleven goals this season, boasting the second best defensive record in the top flight.
Chelsea fought back from 1-nil down to win a stunning and eventful top of the table clash against Manchester City.
The game and result surely makes Chelsea title favourites after back to back wins against title rivals. In the 3-4-3 formation, they have been phenomenal and one player this new formation has got the best out of is David Luiz. The Brazilian defender re-signed for Chelsea this summer for a lot of money, and his return was met with much scepticism from fans around the world with his defending often coming under criticism.
But Luiz has looked a world class defender in Conte’s new formation. He is a relaxed defender that can control possession from deep. You would have to think that Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola would love to have him in his defence, especially after his quality performance on Saturday that saw Manchester City frustrated for most of the 90 minutes.
Luiz, like all of the Chelsea team at the moment just exudes confidence on the pitch. No matter the opposition, the scoreline or situation – he looks like he won’t make an error. An important factor
Here’s some statistics from his performance on the day. Defensively Luiz was majestic, making 6 clearances and 2 interceptions. It was perhaps his range of passing that impressed most, though, attempting a huge 13 long balls, with 7 of them being accurate. He kept the ball on the ground and completed 34 passes.
There’s been high praise on Twitter for Luiz, with some dubbing him the man of the match on the day, the signing of the summer and even the best defender in the world!
Question: is David Luiz the best defender of all time?
Answer: yes, yes he is
— Alex Finnis (@AlexFinnis) December 3, 2016
See, forget your Koscielny. David Luiz is the best defender in the league at the moment
— Alhaji One™ (@AbeikuLytle) December 3, 2016
David Luiz has been a monster since his return, arguably the best defender in the league right now.
— Jack (@Jackbrommyyy) December 3, 2016
David Luiz easily the best signing of the summer
— Marco (@FutboIMarco) December 3, 2016
Still can't believe David Luiz is back! What a signing what a player best defender in the world rn without a doubt #ProperChels
— Magic Conte! (@EliteConte) December 3, 2016
I must say that when Luiz re-signed for Chelsea I was very sceptical and thought that Conte had wasted a lot of money. Let’s be honest, Luiz wasn’t even Chelsea’s first choice. It was widely reported that Chelsea originally wanted to sign other defensive targets ahead of Luiz, who was the last resort as the transfer deadline loomed. Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly was the subject of strong interest from Chelsea in the summer, and whilst he would still be a fine addition to the team, Luiz has surely surpassed even his biggest fans expectations during the start of his second spell at the club.
As far as calls for him being the best defender in the world go, they are far too early. I think it could be right to say that he is the best defender in the league at the moment, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves on the back of 10 or so games. If Luiz wants to be the best defender in the world, he must continue at this level for the next few seasons.
We are coming up to the festive period and that means one thing… silly season is back! And so are the rumours. Throughout this period we will be monitoring the rumours and adding our unique analysis to the stories that catch our eye.
Jon Obi Mikel to Manchester United? That’s the claim from The Sun who earlier this week claimed an ‘Exclusive’ and said that Mourinho is aiming to raid his former club with an ‘incredible cut-price deal’ January.
Mikel is the forgotten man at Chelsea as with Matic and Kante excelling in the central roles, there’s no real space for the Nigerian in the team. It’s very believable that the player would be open to a move away from a club where his opportunities have been so restricted this season.
But would Jose Mourinho want him? The former Blues boss used Mikel sparingly during his time at the club, but certainly more regularly than Conte and I would imagine that Mikel would be open to a reunion with his old manager.
It is no secret that United have been most impressive this season when playing with Michael Carrick at the base of the midfield. But aged 35, the Englishman struggles to play regularly and the club cannot afford to be reliant on him. Mikel is of a similar ilk, perhaps less perfect in possession and more proactive defensively. He might be somewhere between Carrick and Fellaini, both of whom Mourinho is a fan. The Portuguese manager also said that he’d love to have Carrick ? years younger. Aged 29, Mikel is 6 years younger than Carrick and that may mean he has the extra durability to be relied upon.
Of course United nearly signed Mikel ahead of Chelsea when he first came to England, so, despite all the change at the club since then, there is a long standing admiration of the player, even though he has failed to reach the heights many expected.
Despite that Mikel is a seasoned international with 78 caps and having played regularly in the Premier League for some years now (more than 200 games for Chelsea in his 10 year spell), he would certainly bring something to the United squad.
Considering he would be competing with the likes of Carrick and Fellaini, I thought I’d take a look at the stats and compare the trio.
What do you want from a defensive midfielder / deep lying playmaker? The 5 areas we chose to analyse were pass completion, interceptions, tackles won, aerial duels won and total forward passes. We opted to use the statistics from last season to use a larger data set. Mikel leads the way in two of these areas with an impressive pass completion rate of 90%, Carrick is 2nd with 86% and Fellaini last with 83%. Mikel also wins the most tackles on average with 1.86 per 90, Fellaini is not far behind on 1.52 and Carrick last on 1.23. In the 3 areas Mikel is not 1st, he is 2nd! With 1.61 interceptions per 90, 0.85 aerial duels and 40.91 forward passes per 90.
Mourinho has spent millions on the likes of Paul Pogba already so maybe it is a low key signing like this that United need to compliment their squad. I’m not saying that Mikel would get into the starting eleven, but in a January market where options are not aplenty, Mourinho may have to look for shrewd additions like these to add to the quality and depth in his squad.
Chelsea ended Spurs’ unbeaten run with a 2-1 win at Stamford Bridge to go to the summit of the Premier League, courtesy of goals from Pedro and Victor Moses.
Spurs started the much better of the two, and had the ball in the back of the net just five minutes in, Harry Kane reacting quickest to smash home a loose ball in the box. However, it was ruled out for offside.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side were rewarded for their fast, strong start when they went ahead after eleven minutes. Dele Alli made a menacing run before laying the ball off to Christian Eriksen, who lashed a terrific left-footed effort into the back of the net.
Spurs continued to dominate, but they were to go into the break level when Pedro produced a bit of magic to fire Chelsea back on level terms. The Spaniard picked up the ball on the edge of the box, before curling a delightful effort into the corner.
Chelsea took the lead soon after the break, Diego Costa doing well to break into the box down the left hand side before pulling the ball back for Victor Moses, who saw his shot deflected twice before bulging the net. The win sees Chelsea continue their excellent form and fire them to the top of the Premier League.
One player that constantly caused Spurs problems all evening was Victor Moses. The Nigerian international has found a new level under the management of Antonio Conte, and continued his terrific form here. He constantly looked to stretch the Spurs defence, and did so successfully, working tirelessly in a great performance.
3 interceptions and 5 crosses were just two of the standout statistics from Moses’ game.
Moses has been a key figure alongside Eden Hazard and Diego Costa in the Chelsea team in recent weeks, and here is how fans reacted to his display against Tottenham.
Chelsea is the fantastic team to watch this season. Thanks to Conte’s tactics, return of Luiz and rebirth of Moses.
— Justus mwaniki (@Justusmwaniki14) 26 November 2016
Victor Moses is on🔥🔥
— Fantastic Mr. Wolf (@Donhyce) 26 November 2016
— Jeeva Vijay Prasath (@jeevajay) 26 November 2016
If this is his actual quality and not just a good form then I’d consider Victor Moses world class. Been amazing this season
— Bryson Tyler (@Tylerminchxlla) 26 November 2016
— Raf (@raf815) 26 November 2016
All about the wide players again today. Moses and Alonso both had great games
— David Kaizer (@TheKaizerChief1) 26 November 2016
Chelsea retained top spot after a well fought battle at Stamford Bridge against London rivals Tottenham Hotspur. Christian Eriksen gave the away side the lead after a thunderbolt strike but goals from Pedro and Victor Moses saw the three points remain with Antonio Conte’s men as they extend their run to seven consecutive league wins.
We take a look at the numbers behind the Blues top performer, Diego Costa, after another majestic performance saw the Spanish international grab an assist whilst giving Spurs defence something to worry about every time he was on the ball.
The 26-year-old was influential for the Blues, his assist for the winning goal was excellent – the way he drived past Dembele / Wimmer was so impressive, he glided past with ease showcasing a bit of neat footwork before driving the ball into the on running Moses’s path.
Although Costa did not get on the score sheet like he has so many times this season, he was showing why he is more than just a goal scorer with two key passes, one leading to the winning goal. What is most impressive about Costa’s game, which other strikers shy away from, is when the going gets tough, he gets tough. The Spanish international does not mind getting back for his side and doing the defensive work, with the Chelsea striker managing four clearances against Tottenham Hotspur.
The striker is working very hard for his teammates if things aren’t going their way, he will chase down any long ball which can relieve pressure on his side, this is the attitude Conte has managed to bring out of him after a below par season last term.
In another excellent display, Costa had 44 touches, making 25 passes finishing with a 72% pass accuracy. The Chelsea man helped his side take maximum points which see them sit top for another week, after another quality display we take a look at how Twitter reacted to Costa’s performance.
14 – Diego Costa has been involved in more goals than any other PL player this season (10 goals, 4 assists). Force.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 26, 2016
The work rate Conte is getting out of Diego Costa is incredible, it's far more even, than Simeone managed at Atletico. #CFC
— John Merro (@johnmerro1) November 26, 2016
The most complete striker in the league. Defends, attacks, creates chances, impeccable hold-up play. Diego Costa
— Nana Owusu (@AlfOwusu) November 26, 2016
It's amazing how many chances Diego Costa creates each game for his teammates to score.
And more so he being a Top 9.
We love you DIEGO!!!
— VoN The Web Designer (@OgaVoN) November 26, 2016
The pure joy of having Diego Costa in your squad. That guy is a blessing!!!! 👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏
— NOV 18TH BADASS!!! (@Cartha_of_CFC) November 26, 2016
MOTM for me; hands down, Diego Costa. Immense presence & played a huge part in our winning goal. Worked tirelessly all over the pitch. #CFC
— Umesh Nerwin Nair (@NerwinNair) November 26, 2016
Diego costa, best striker in the world.
— R (@Costaroics) November 26, 2016
I can't find words to describe my love for Diego Costa
— Khal Alcohol (@_6_Legend) November 26, 2016
Diego Costa is my man of the match. Didn't score, but never stopped running from the go. Got an assist too.
— Habi (@habeelz) November 26, 2016
Credit to Diego Costa he's gonna up a level this season. Elite striker
— Rhaegar (@GeneralRaheel_) November 26, 2016
As you can see, Costa’s performance did not go unnoticed and rightly so, he was excellent once again and proved why he is arguably the best number nine on the planet at this current time in his deadly form. If he is not scoring, he is creating goals, if he is not creating, he is working tirelessly. A truly brilliant player who could fire his side to Premier League glory once again if Antonio Conte’s men were to keep up this supreme form.
Antonio Conte is well known for his success playing with a 3-4-3 formation. Now he starting to bring success at Chelsea with the same setup, the 1-0 win away at Middlesbrough being Chelsea’s sixth win in a row and sending them top of the table.
After a stuttering start, the Blues are starting to look like the real deal, and here is three reasons why they can beat the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal and Spurs to the Premier League title this season.
1) They defend extremely well
Antonio Conte has not always set his Chelsea team up in a 3-4-3 formation this season. He had been playing with four at the back, but following defeats at home to Liverpool and away at Arsenal, Conte decided to change the system.
It has been a success ever since the change. One of the areas in which we have seen particular improvement is in the defensive department. Gary Cahill and David Luiz have been key to the impressive defensive record that Chelsea have maintained since their system switch. The Blues have not conceded a single goal since their 3-0 defeat at Arsenal, conceding just nine all season.
That record means they have conceded just one more goal than Tottenham, who have the best defensive record in the Premier League. All title winning sides are built on good defences. We saw that with Leicester City last season who conceded just 36 goals over 38 matches, and we have seen it with previous title winning sides.
Chelsea have been in brilliant form lately and after a 1-0 win against Middlesbrough they moved to the top of the league. Some players have been particularly impressive during the clubs recent run, and one player in particular has been receiving praise.
A number of Chelsea players have improved under Antonio Conte and in the 3-4-3 formation, but arguably none have made such a drastic improvement as Victor Moses. The Nigerian midfielder had been frozen out under Jose Mourinho and many wondered as to why he was still at a club of Chelsea’s size. But new systems and managers often throw lifelines to certain players, and Moses is one that has come to fore under the new management. He is playing in the right wing-back role and excelling defensively and offensively to give Chelsea good balance.
Since Chelsea have moved to the 3-4-3 formation and Moses to right wing-back, the team haven’t conceded in 6 league games. Moses has played a big part in that defensive solidarity and it is strange to see from a player that was previously so attacking inclined. A lot of credit has to go to Conte for that, and also the player. We’ve seen several examples of players settling for squad roles and decent wage, but Moses has rose to the challenge and adapted his game to improve himself and the team.
A look at his stats from the game against Middlesbrough helps highlight Moses’ improvement. Moses was influential, attempting 5 crosses, 2 of them finding a Chelsea man. He also attempted 6 long balls, 3 of which were accurate. Defensively Moses made 1 clearance, won 1 aerial duel and completed a dribble. Moses gets involved in the player a lot for a full back, he made 54 passes on Sunday. Although this wasn’t his best game to date in a Chelsea shirt, Moses was once again part of a defensive unit that secured another clean sheet. This has earned him many plaudits. Here’s how the fans reacted to Moses’ performance on Twitter. \
damn..moses has improved tremendously
— kehinde (@StaxKenny_) November 20, 2016
Victor Moses' game has really improved. His crosses are so on point!
— Osborn Kwarteng Adu (@osbeezzy) November 20, 2016
Oscar be looking like a lost man. Moses is the most improved player. Defensively and offensively
— bamideleisaac (@xtrimlysoccer) November 20, 2016
When you turn Victor Moses into Cafu. pic.twitter.com/15Q9pLWGjj
— ️ (@AddictedToCFC) November 20, 2016
Victor Moses aka Cafu
— Kiz (@KizzleKicks7) November 20, 2016
Conte has turned Victor Moses and David Luiz in to Cafu + Alessandro Nesta!
— Stan (@LiamSweeney_) November 20, 2016
Personally I think it’s great to see stories like the one we’ve seen with Moses. So often new managers look to spend millions and bring in new signings to suit their tactical changes, but credit to Conte, he has first looked internally for solutions and has appeared to find a near-perfect one in 25-year-old Moses. The player looked as if his career was going nowhere but he has worked hard, impressed and now looks like he will move into the prime years of his career starting regularly for Chelsea.
Chelsea have been marvellous in recent weeks and on Sunday they moved to the summit of the Premier League with another impressive win and clean sheet. The goal came from Diego Costa, the Spaniard is just one player that is performing much better under Antonio Conte.
Since the move to a 3-4-3 Costa has had more attacking support from the likes of Eden Hazard and that has seen him move to the top of the goalscoring charts. With the defence keeping 6 clean sheets in a row, Costa’s goals have proved crucial in winning games for Chelsea. He’s now netted 10 in the Premier League, that’s two more than his closest rival Sergio Aguero.
Costa was deadly in his debut Premier League season but last year he really struggled, along with most of the Chelsea squad. Conte has crucially managed to get Costa and Hazard back to their best. Doing that has ensured that his team are much more clinical going forward and he defensive re-shuffle has enabled the team to also be extremely efficient defensively.
On top of all his goals, Costa has shown his ability to be a team player and has managed 3 Premier League assists, in comparison Aguero has none. Costa’s overall ability has led to many calling him the best forward in the league. Not only is he a clinical player, but Costa fights hard for his team, using his physical attributes to create space and opportunities for his teammates.
Of course his goal was the most important contribution to the game for Chelsea on the day, but it wasn’t his only one. Here’s some more stats from the big man’s performance. Costa had 3 shots, and made 4 key passes against Middlesbrough. He also completed 41 passes, 1 through ball and 2 dribbles. Defensively Costa put in his usual shift and made 2 interceptions – overall he earned an impressive WhoScored match rating of 8.31.
Here’s how the fans are reacting to Diego Costa’s most recent performance on Twitter.
Diego Costa has become the first player to reach 10 Premier League goals this season.
What a campaign he's having! pic.twitter.com/YSjdNnJiKt
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 20, 2016
— ㅤⅫ ㅤ (@XIBASH) November 20, 2016
Diego Costa is easily one of the best goalscorers in the world
— Finlay (@ObsCesced) November 20, 2016
Diego costa is the best striker in the league by far
— ABS (@Emresque) November 20, 2016
10 in 12. Best in the league surely @diegocosta
— Peter Wilder (@Petros_filios8) November 20, 2016
10th of the season, double figures for Diego Costa. Best in the country.
— Chelsea HQ (@Chelsea_HQ) November 20, 2016
As an Arsenal fan I have to declare my admiration for Costa. He’s a truly brilliant striker and the perfect player to play as a lone frontman in the Premier League. He has everything and aged 28, in his prime, Chelsea must appreciate they have one of the best players in the Premier League right now. With him and Hazard in form, of course they can win the league.
Despite Aguero’s obvious brilliance, I think if I had to choose one player to have at Arsenal right now it would be Costa. The man is a real winner, hard as nails and everything you want in a front man. He’s got more to his game than Aguero and is capable of performing against many different types of defences.
Although it is only November, the transfer rumours are already in full swing ahead of the January transfer market, and it seems as if Chelsea are already preparing well ahead of January and have an offer prepared for a certain Sampdoria forward.
Massimo Ferrero, the president of Sampdoria said on Muriel to Chelsea (as quoted in Fanta Gazzetta); “Yes, there is an offer, so tell me. But Muriel is not for sale, 35 million (euros) we can talk.”
So, from the president’s comments it seems the striker is available for the right price and Chelsea can get their man if they firm up their interest once the transfer window opens, but of course will have to spend the money Ferrero is demanding.
Chelsea have found top form since Antonio Conte changed the set up of the Chelsea squad, often playing a 4-2-3-1 formation prior the arrival of Conte, they are now playing a 3-4-3 formation which has seen the Blues play some immense football, with speed, aggression and flair in abundance.
With Diego Costa, Eden Hazard and Pedro finding excellent form in the new formation. It is difficult to see Muriel coming in and taking one of their positions, but he could certainly add something and we take a look at what he could bring to the club.
The 25-year-old Colombian International has been in fine form for Italian club Sampdoria this season and has gone on to create 1.29 chances per 90 minutes thus far this season which shows he is very efficient going forward. Diego Costa has been one of Europe’s best strikers in the early stages of the season and has created 1.49 chances per 90 this season which puts him just ahead of the Sampdoria man.
Costa, who has been majestic under Conte, has also made 1.21 key passes per 90 minutes this season, which again shows the influence he is making in Chelsea’s attacking flair, again this puts him ahead of Muriel, who managed just 1.18, which is still quite impressive.
The Chelsea man has been in immense form in front of goal, showing signs of his first season in England again this term, scoring 0.84 goals compared to Muriel who has managed just 0.43 per 90. On the topic of goals, Costa also has a much better shot accuracy than the Colombian with 68% and the latter managing 47%.
As the stats show, the Chelsea man is head and shoulders above the Sampdoria striker, which is not a bad thing as the Spanish International is a level above most strikers this season.
But there is a spot for Muriel at Chelsea if he was to sign for the in the winter, summer signing Michy Batshuyai has failed to make an impact at the club since his big money arrival so his position could come under severe pressure if they do pursue the man in their sights. Muriel is also capable of playing in a wide berth or behind the striker.
Of course, the plus side of playing a 3-4-3 would allow Costa, Hazard and target Muriel to all start together which would be very impressive. It is clear to see why Conte is interested in the man who has impressed thus far this season, and with the Blues pushing for the league title he could be the extra piece to push them on over the finish line.
Chelsea are in great form at the moment and having switched to the 3-4-3 formation they look serious contenders for the title. No European football will certainly help Chelsea in the long term against their rivals, but here’s three things Conte needs to do to keep Chelsea in the running.
1 – Keep Hazard in form
One of the biggest differences about Chelsea this season is the fact that they have an in form Eden Hazard. He is arguably one of the best players in the league and at his best can be a matchwinner is every game for Chelsea. He can make the vital difference in close games due to his individual quality on and off the ball. If Conte can continue to get the best out of Hazard then for me, Chelsea have every chance of winning the title. Along with Diego Costa, those two give the team world class talent in the frontline.
Chelsea have found a new lease of life in a 3-4-3 formation under Antonio Conte – with the key being that their star players are finding their form.
One who is particularly thriving is Belgian midfielder Eden Hazard. A player we know can do so much, Hazard struggled last season and looked a defeated player. One of Conte’s biggest tasks when he joined the club was to get the most out of the world class Hazard, and the new formation he has implemented does just that. Hazard still has to play with discipline, but he has more of an attacking license in this formation allowing him to make the devastating difference, just as he did against Everton on Saturday evening.
The Belgian made all the difference with his two goals in the 5-0 rout against Everton, though his goals were not his only impressive contributions. His passing accuracy was a phenomenal 95%, making 56 passes in total. He attempted 5 crosses, 3 of them were accurate. He also attempted 2 long balls and both were accurate. He had 3 shots, all of which were on target and 2 resulted in goals. He also completed 2 dribbles. It was perhaps the Belgian’s best performance of the season and it really highlighted that he is back and certainly amongst the best in the Premier League when on form.
Here’s some of the reaction on Twitter.
— ChelseaTalk (@CheIseaTalk) November 5, 2016
Gary Lineker branding Hazard's performance today as "one of the best in Premier League history."
— ParkedTheBus (@ParkedTheBus) November 5, 2016
Hazard best in this league….. Again👌🏼✌🏼️⚽️
— Ozair (@OZ_air) November 5, 2016
Eden Hazard – 11 games, 7 goals.
Diego Costa – 11 games, 9 goals.
Best duo in the league. pic.twitter.com/Gn7D58tria
— Chelsea Transfers (@CFCTransfers) November 7, 2016
If Hazard can continue this kind of form then Chelsea have a serious chance of winning the league. They will face stiff competition from the likes of Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal, but with players like Hazard in the team they must set their targets very high.
Hazard is a top player – but the only way he can truly be considered the best in the league is if he can consistently prove himself. The fact that last season he really struggled means that no matter how he performs this season, there will always be doubts over whether or not he is actually the very best. He’s only 25 though, and the next 5 years or so will be the prime years of his career. He has said he wants to become one of the top 5 players in the world, and I do not think that is unrealistic. So long as he keeps his ambitions high, but also plays for the team, I think he can be a great asset to the side.
Bertrand Traore joined Ajax on loan in the summer but has so far scored just 3 goals in 15 appearances and failed to impress the staff at the club.
“His attitude is nothing wrong, but the shape is not good. I know he can do much better that he has shown at Ajax in his early days. But since the last international period, he will never get the level of before. It is important that he gets back to form as soon as possible,” the Ajax manager said, as quoted by Dutch publication Voetbal International.
It is well known that Traore was not happy with being loaned out to Ajax in the first place, with the powerful forward feeling he was ready for first team football at Chelsea – he recently said ‘Youngsters get no chance at Chelsea!’. Conte may have felt that he was not suited to the club initially – but with the tactical shift to a 3-4-3 formation – I think he may be more welcome at the club and with the player struggling in Holland – maybe it would be a good idea to recall him?
A January re-call for the talented youngster could give the Chelsea squad a welcome boost in a busy time for fixtures and with the loan spell clearly not working out, there’s surely no point in keeping him out there? Although his best position is through the middle as a centre forward, I feel he would be a very good squad option in the wide forward roles and with Conte showing more faith in the youngsters than previous managers have at the London club – it makes sense.
It’s true Diego Costa and Michy Batshuayi are ahead of him in terms of quality, so first team chances in his favoured role would be limited – but in that wide role for a 3-4-3 he can really use his pace and attacking qualities to hurt team. Because of the back of four behind them, the attacking three do not have to really worry about defensive responsibilities. Capable of playing on the left or the right, I think Traore would get a good amount of chances in this new system.
The fact that he is not performing for Ajax does not mean he is a bad player. It could just be that the environment is not suited to him. At the end of last season he started to adjust to Chelsea and his teammates, only to be, like so many Chelsea youngsters, sent out on loan.
West Ham reached the quarter finals of the FA Cup with an impressive 2-1 win over London rivals Chelsea on Wednesday night.
One player who did impress on the night was West Ham’s Michail Antonio. The Englishman has played at both right back and right midfield this season, but on Wednesday night he led the line as a striker. The Hammers have struggled to find a reliable number 9 this season, and that has just been part of their big early season problems. But Bilic has obviously seen potential in Antonio as a striker, he has strength and pace and is also very good in the air. He’s scored a lot of goals from the right and it seems sensible to give him a go upfront. He’s played there a few times already, but it was on Wednesday night where he really excelled there, and certainly looked more useful than Simone Zaza in that position.
Antonio played as a lone striker and came up against new Chelsea summer signing David Luiz, who cost €35million. But on the night Antonio made the Brazilian look nothing like that value.
Here’s how the fans reacted to his performance on Twitter.
Antonio up front today was immense, ran himself into the ground. As did all of our players, what a great night
— West Ham Stuff ⚒ (@WestHamStuff) October 26, 2016
MOTM @Michailantonio by far anyone notice he offered to play RB and stopped Slav from taking Lanzini off because Ed was injured, superb! ⚒
— Samm. (@samuellwalkerr) October 27, 2016
@Raashaad Antonio was everywhere mate – played as a lone striker & destroyed Luiz. Feel sorry for David for when he has to face his family.
— West Ham Central (@WestHam_Central) October 27, 2016
Spare a thought for David Luiz. Michail Antonio absolutely tore him to bits, poor guy probably doesn’t know what day of the week it is
— West Ham Stuff ⚒ (@WestHamStuff) October 26, 2016
Michail Antonio playing up front once again. Tells you a lot about #WHUFC‘s poor recruitement during the summer.
— Benny Berger (@benny_berger) October 26, 2016
Antonio worked tirelessly up front, humiliating David Luiz several times throughout the game. It is great for West Ham that they have a player like him, who is so versatile and willing to work hard no matter where he plays. Excelling in striker just shows how Antonio was certainly not a right back. His defensive abilities are not great at all, but he has so much to give going forward. He really works hard, has a great leap, strength and pace, whilst his dribbling skills are also of a very high quality.
‘He’s Miles Better Than Pogba’ Chelsea Fans Delighted With Midfielders Performance vs. Manchester United
Chelsea fans have every reason to be cheerful after their clubs impressive 4-0 win at home to Manchester United on Sunday afternoon. At the heart of the Chelsea team was one player, N’Golo Kante.
Not only did Kante have a great overall game, but he netted a rare goal, dancing past the United defenders and slotting past De Gea with ease. It was a goal to crown a fabulous performance for the Frenchman.
In Antonio Conte’s early games at the club, Chelsea were struggling to perform and were particularly humiliated at the Emirates Stadium, but since that heavy loss they have reverted to a 3-4-3 formation and since then they have won 3 out of 3 and not conceded a goal. Kante is not the only player who is excelling in this formation, but he is one of many now benefitting from Conte’s shrewd tactical switch.
Before the season started, the only concern about Kante was his lack of playmaking ability. In this game though he completed 88% of his passes. He completed 65 passes in total, that’s more than any other Chelsea player on the day. He attempted 3 long balls and completed 2. Offensively he made 2 key passes and defensively he was as reliable as ever, making 5 interceptions and 2 tackles. In total he was awarded an impressive 8.61 match rating from WhoScored.
Here’s how fans reacted to Kante’s performance on Twitter. The Chelsea fans were pretty pleased as you might imagine. Many opted to compare Kante’s performance to Pogba’s, the former cost less a third of what Pogba did – and after humiliating the United man on the way to scoring the 4th goal, the comparisons were inevitable.
Kanté is light years ahead of Pogba.
— Conteholic (@Conteholic) October 23, 2016
90m for Pogba vs 30m for Kante 😭😭😭😭😭😭😭 https://t.co/Pz6eFdmy0R
— RMacs (@PhillyHotspur) October 23, 2016
Remember when people said Kante joined Chelsea for money. They were right. He literally played the whole game with 100m in his pocket.
— Chelsea Action (@ChelseaAction) October 23, 2016
I can imagine Ngolo Kante getting home tonight and emptying his pockets.
The French Scott Brown.
— Deluded Brendan (@DeludedBrendan) October 23, 2016
Kante’s added goals to his game?? That’s not fair… His awful shooting was his only achilles heel. Give other midfielders a chance. #CFC
— John Bennett (@JohnBennettBBC) October 23, 2016
Kante leaves Pogba in his wake to score his second goal ever in English football.
— Dave O’Connell (@DaveOCKOP) October 23, 2016
Chelsea will be delighted with how Kante has started his career in London. They probably cannot believe how they managed to sign him from Leicester for so little – especially when they’ve seen today Pogba’s performance, a player who cost so much more. Kante’s impact on a team is very obvious, you can see that by how not only Chelsea are doing well, but how Leicester City are seriously struggling to replace him.
Manchester United fell to a 4-0 defeat at the hands of Antonio Conte’s Chelsea on Sunday afternoon, and fans were quick to criticise a certain member of the Manchester United midfield.
World-record signing Paul Pogba started the match in an advanced midfield role, playing just behind lone striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but his role slightly changed when Jose Mourimho introduced Juan Mata into the game, meaning that the Frenchman took up a deeper role alongside Ander Herrera.
Jose Mourinho would have been keen to take something away from his return to Stamford Bridge, where he spent many successful years managing Chelsea. However, the game started in a disastrous fashion from a United point of view as Pedro raced onto a through ball before rounding David De Gea and firing Chelsea into the lead after just 30 seconds, the quickest goal in the Premier League so far this season.
Chris Smalling failed to stay tight to his man, and this proved costly as Gary Cahill thumped home Chelsea’s second midway through the first half as the ball broke to him six yards out.
Manchester United started to pose a threat at the other end of the pitch, and had a couple of good chances before the break. Mourinho’s men started the second period in a similar fashion as they ended the first, but Chelsea caught them on the break, Eden Hazard exchanging passes with Diego Costa to put the Blues out of sight.
The afternoon just got worse for Jose Mourinho when N’Golo Kante was allowed to walk through the United midfield and defence to finish into the corner and secure the three points for Chelsea.
One player that was subject to much criticism for Manchester United was world-record signing Paul Pogba, who put in yet another under-par performance in the Premier League, failing to build on his pleasing display in the Europa League on Thursday night.
The Frenchman completed 90% of his passes and won 100% of his aerial duels in the game against Chelsea, but playing in that advanced role, he must pose much more of an attacking threat. The 23-year-old failed to create a single chance for his teammates in the 4-0 hiding.
Here is how Twitter reacted to Pogba’s latest Premier League performance.
Overrated and the biggest waste of money we’ll ever see on these shores.
— Ryan K. Davidson (@_RyanDavidson) October 23, 2016
the way pogba is playing cost u 89 mil? i can do that for free! SIGN ME UP @ManUtd
— fiq (@afiqrosss) October 23, 2016
Paul Pogba: nicking a living.
— 7amkickoff (@7amkickoff) October 23, 2016
Pogba and Ibrahimovic need to be dropped next match
— UtdInterest (@UtdInterest) October 23, 2016
Pogba doesn’t deserve any sympathy or time to settle. Really really average player.
— . (@alexburns1088) October 23, 2016
Does Pogba still play football or does he just get cool haircuts and dance in adidas commercials nowadays?
— Young Cast Iron (@jstnbradley) October 23, 2016
Perhaps if Pogba started worrying less about haircuts, handshakes and dabbing he’d be able to actually perform against a decent side
— Matthew Sheerin (@SheerinMatthew) October 23, 2016
On Jose Mourinho’s return to Stamford Bridge, he left empty-handed as Chelsea run away with the points in a 4-0 demolition job of Manchester United in South London.
Things went from bad to worse for Mourinho on Sunday afternoon as he saw his team 1-0 in the first thirty seconds of the game, before seeing goals added to Pedro’s opener by Gary Cahill, Eden Hazard and N’Golo Kante.
There was one Chelsea player that stood out throughout the game, and that was Eden Hazard, scorer of the third Chelsea goal. The way he exchanged passes with Diego Costa before slotting the ball past David De Gea was exquisite, and he earned himself the Man of the Match award.
Since the defeat at Arsenal, Chelsea have won their last three playing under a new system that has allowed Hazard to put in his best performances of the season. Conte has pressed on with plans to setup his Chelsea side with a back three, and over the last few weeks has been able to make this a success.
The new system adopted by Chelsea with wing-backs has allowed Eden Hazard to concentrate more on his attacking work rather than his defensive work, and this change in mindset has enabled the Belgian to really excel over the last week games and weeks.
The 25-year-old seems to be back to his best after an extended string of poor performances, but showed us all today what he is capable of once again, playing a big part in the taking apart of Mourinho’s Manchester United.
Hazard, in addition to his goal, completed 84% of his passes and delivered four crosses on his way to picking up the Man of the Match award as well as creating one further chance for his teammates.
Fans took to Twitter to heap praise onto the Belgian, who played extremely well in the 4-0 win.
Hazard’s goal was superb. What movement.
— Siddhu (@cheekyponnama) October 23, 2016
— Nate (@NateNwajei) October 23, 2016
Hazard has tore Utd to shreds, superb footballer
— Pilib de Brún (@Malachians) October 23, 2016
Brilliant Eden Hazard. Get in. 👏
— Costa’s Son (@Nuwaha17) October 23, 2016
— Azhar Khan (@shah_azhar_shah) October 23, 2016
perfect motm eden hazard 💪👏👏 #CHEMUN
— rdza (@shahrdza_) October 23, 2016
Hazard has been superb tonight. Deserved to be on the scoresheet 👏🏻
— Husen Chopx (@chopxhusen) October 23, 2016
Eden Hazard is once again becoming an influential and integral part of the Chelsea side, causing defences up and down the country huge problems. He will be key if Chelsea are to make a push for the Premier League title this season in Conte’s debut campaign. Are Hazard and Chelsea up to the task?
It may seem as though José Mourinho has a grudge match scheduled for every weekend these days, but this one is truly eye-catching. The Portuguese manager returns to Stamford Bridge on Sunday, only this time he’ll be sitting in the opposing dugout, as Chelsea welcome his Manchester United side.
Just how fractious Mourinho’s decision to join a competitive rival has been for his relationship with his former club remains to be seen, as both teams go head-to-head in what undoubtedly looks to be the main event this weekend.
We’re not sure whether there’ll be any love lost, be we think we may have a pretty good idea where the crucial three points may be won on either side. Here are the three key battles to look out for:
1 – David Luiz vs. Zlatan Ibrahimovic
John Terry may well be on the brink of a return to the first-team after a spell out injured, but time will tell whether the Man United game comes too soon for the Chelsea skipper.
In his absence, David Luiz has deputised, somewhat unconvincingly next to Gary Cahill in the big games, and he could well find his stint in the starting XI extending itself for another week if Terry isn’t fit enough to start.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic often combats with the right-sided defender, in this case Gary Cahill, but it’ll be interesting to see if Mourinho instructs the big Swede to target his former Paris Saint-Germain teammate.
Contrarily, Chelsea may use Luiz’s knowledge on the fiery Swede when formulating a defensive duo in light of Terry’s potential return.
It might only be October, but there’s already talk of what Conte is planning for the January transfer window at Chelsea.
When Chelsea opted to sign Marcus Alonso in the summer for so much money, many question marks were raised by fans. The concern was only multiplied by the fact that Alonso had already been in England and not really excelled at all. Yes, during his time at Fiorentina he improved, but whether he warranted his price-tag is another matter.
One of the reasons Chelsea fans were perhaps puzzled by the signing of Alonso, was because Swiss left back Ricardo Rodriguez was seemingly available for less money. Whilst the Wolfsburg defender didn’t have the best of seasons last year, he is still widely considered as one of the best left backs in Europe, and certainly almost every fan and pundit would say that he is a superior player to Alonso. Transfer Market Web, an Italian source cited in the Daily Star are now suggesting that Conte is not satisfied with summer signing Alonso and that he will look to bring in Rodriguez in January to replace him. Would this be a good idea?
Let’s take a look at the stats, how do the two defenders compare? I’ve decided to look at both players statistics from last season as there is more data to compare – however it is worth noting that both were not playing in the Premier League, which is a very different environment.
Looking at the stats, it’s a pretty close match in every department (all stats per 90 minutes). Alonso edges Interceptions (2.03 vs. 1.92), Tackles won (1.46 vs. 1.44) and Chances Created (1.65 vs. 1.57) – whilst Rodriguez comes out on top in aerial duels won (2 vs. 1.88) and is the clear winner in total forward passes per 90, averaging 33.61 to Alonso’s 23.17.
There is also the fact that Rodriguez is very strong in attacking areas traditionally, apart from last season he is known for scoring and assisting goals. With Conte looking at perhaps deploying 352 formation, or 343, Rodriguez could be the ideal candidate to play in the wide left role. I think this would help us to see the very best of him, because if there is a criticism of his that I have found whilst watching him in action for club and country, it is that perhaps he lacks the pace and offensive work rate to be a defensively-sound left back, he looks more naturally wingback. A 3 at the back formation would give that security behind him and allow him more freedom to excel with his attacking play.
Rodriguez is likely to cost in the region of £20million should he leave, and it is thought that the player is not currently happy at the German club, so a move is possible if Chelsea really want him.
Maarten Stekelenburg – Everton
Well, I doubt Stekelenburg has quite had a performance like he did at the Etihad stadium in his whole career. The 34-year-old was absolutely fantastic for his club and saved two penalties which he made look routine, there comes a stage in the game where City must have thought they weren’t going to score, he was near on unbeatable between the sticks and was unlucky not to keep a clean sheet which he thoroughly deserved.
César Azpilicueta – Chelsea
Reverting back into right-back in a back three seemed to be very more comfortable for Azpilicueta, we have seen him occupy the left-back position more often than not in recent seasons but he looked very much at bay in his new (old) position in the back three and showcased a solid performance against the Premier League champions.
Azpilicueta gained possession nine times against the Foxes, more than any other Blues player and helped his side keep a clean sheet.
Winston Reid – West Ham United
Finally, West Ham gets back to winning ways after an impressive display at Selhurst Park in their 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace.
Winston Reid was very impressive and was solid at the heart of the Hammers defence which went on to help the club keep a clean sheet on away soil, in a tough physical battle against Christian Benteke Reid come out on top overall and helped his side take the three points, a exceptional performance.
David Luiz – Chelsea
Much like Azpilicueta, Luiz found himself in a back three under Conte’s new formation for the Blues which inevitably worked. Luiz was absolutely sublime during the course of the 90 minutes and gave the Foxes hitman Jamie Vardy a very tough afternoon after pocketing him quite comfortably.
He won his duels, swept up any attacks and played the ball efficiently from deep, a solid display whilst nearly getting him-self on the scoresheet…. At both ends.
José Holebas – Watford
Scored an absolute thunderbolt striker in Watford’s 1-0 victory over Middlesbrough, scoring form outside the box to the top left hand corner of the goal giving the goalkeeper no chance.
Holebas was efficient going forward and was just as instrumental defensively giving the Boro’ players a very tough afternoon after a superb performance.
Joe Allen – Stoke City
Joe Allen has been majestic all season and is single handily winning games for the Potters, three goals in four games thus far for the Welsh Pirlo whilst being a real nuisance for the opposition to cope with.
He has kick started his career after having a tough time under Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool and is slowly becoming one of the most key players in Mark Hughes squad, and if the Stoke man can keep up his consistent form I can certainly see himself get in double figures for the season.
Manuel Lanzini – West Ham United
West Ham looked much back to their old selves against Crystal Palace on Saturday evening and star of the show was their majestic Argentinian Lanzini who was a real problem for Palace all game.
He scored a well taken goal and drifted between the attack midfield and winger role throughout, he retained possession up the pitch with a 90% pass accuracy and linked the attack and midfield exquisitely making four key passes whilst having two shots, both of which tested the keeper and one paving out to be the winning goal.
Dele Alli -Tottenham Hotspur
Dele Alli scored Spurs’ equalizer as the North Londoners remained unbeaten thus far this season. The English international caused havoc all afternoon and tested the West Bromwich Albion goalkeeper numerous times, including one beautifully taken goal in the second half, showing composure and coolness whilst being surrounded in the penalty area.
The 20-year-old has become key in the Spurs’ side and has continued to shine again this season, scoring in back to back Premier League games for the first time since April 2016 he is starting to find his goal-scoring boots again.
Mesut Ozil – Arsenal
After a slow start to the Premier League campaign Mesut Ozil is starting to pull the strings again for the Gunners and has started to add more goals to his game too.
The German international has been excellent in recent weeks and scored the winning goal in the exhilarating 3-2 victory over Swansea, his winning goal come from a volley after a perfect ball from Alexis Sanchez, a partnership that could see Arsenal go far this season.
The Arsenal playmaker completed 53 of his attempted 58 passes against Swansea in the opposition half, as always brilliant.
Theo Walcott – Arsenal
Is this the year Theo Walcott finally shows his worth? The Arsenal forward score two well taken goal, and show have had a hat-trick or even four goals after hitting the post / crossbar twice in the 90th minute.
Walcott has often come under strong criticism for not nailing down a starting position for the Gunners on a consistent basis, but after a summer of hard work he looks set to score double figures this season.
When he is in this form he is arguably impossible to defend against, something Arsenal will relish in the coming months.
Junior Stanislas – Bournemouth
Bournemouth or Barcelona? After their comfortable 6-1 demolishing of Hull it didn’t look like a side that would be in a scrap for survival come the end of season, maybe they won’t?
Stanislas was the best of the bunch scoring two goals and also grabbing an assist in there massacre of the Tigers.
The Bournemouth man could have scored more after hitting the woodwork and going close on another occasion during the game after an exceptional performance by the Cherries forward.