Tag Archives: Chelsea

Analysis: Would Verratti be better for Man United or Chelsea

Manchester United and Chelsea have received a boost via the recent comments from Marco Verratti’s agent, as The Daily Mirror suggests the Italian is unhappy at Paris Saint-Germain.

24-year-old Verratti is one of the finest young midfielders within world football and interest from top clubs, including that of Barcelona, is likely to be high. Now, Verratti’s agent Donato di Campli has handed any interested party a boost in the quest for his client’s services.

“The situation is very complicated – he has a very good contract until 2021. He wants to win and PSG, like it is, cannot win. He has been in Paris for five years now and he has to make a decision: earn a lot and not win or earn and become a champion.”

“It is not a problem of money. Whoever signs Verratti will pay him a lot of money. One thing is certain: if he leaves PSG, it will be for a top European club. There are some top Italian clubs but I have my doubts Italy will be his final destination. Spain, the Premier League or the Bundesliga? A top European club.”

Both Chelsea and Manchester United already have a wealth of talent in midfield but Verratti would be a significant addition, though it begs the question of where he’d be the best fit. Here, we’ve taken a look.

Which style works best?

Manchester United and Chelsea both have contrasting styles under Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte, with the latter adopting a three-man defence and utilising wing-backs; which means the midfield duo, which this season has largely consisted of N’Golo Kante and Nemanja Matic, needs to be solid defensively.

United, on the other hand, usually adopt a flat back-four but their shape doesn’t have too much space for another creative midfielder, with Paul Pogba playing further forward whilst Ander Herrera or Michael Carrick sweeps up the danger.

If Verratti were to arrive at either Premier League side, he’d need to be strong defensively to fit into the current set-up; although there is a chance that the tactics could be tweaked if his future does lie in England.

Is Verratti defensively strong?

Squawka statistics show Verratti can hold his own defensively but there is certainly work to be done, with the concerning aspect showing the Italian international has picked up five yellow cards this season and committed a hefty 26 fouls.

On a more positive note, 45 successful tackles and 15 interceptions make for good reading but winning three aerial duels show’s he’s not quite suited to a defensive role. Clearly, he’s better in attack than he is in a deeper role.

With that being the case, Chelsea seems to be an incredibly unlikely destination with Antonio Conte’s current tactics but the Italian link could work. Meanwhile, United would equally have to adjust their set-up.

Looking at it this way, Barcelona would probably be the best fit for Verratti and he’d certainly be a top-quality successor to Andres Iniesta in the Catalan side’s ranks.

Conte’s No.1 transfer target ‘ready’ to join Chelsea this summer

Chelsea are in with a chance of finally signing Antonio Conte’s number one transfer target. 

According to The Metro, if Massimo Allegri remains at Juventus, then star defender Leonardo Bonucci could be looking to leave because of their poor relationship. The duo recently fell out on the touchline during a match and reports suggest that they have failed to recover from this event.

Allegri’s future is up in the air himself, but he does have a contract beyond this season at Juventus currently and it is looking more likely that the Arsenal and Barcelona target will remain in charge of the Italian Champions next season.

According to Yahoo, Bonucci is prepared to leave Juventus for the Premier League with Chelsea and Manchester City heavily interested, but the former favourites for his signature. Bonucci would almost certainly break the world transfer record for a defender.

How would Bonucci fit in? 

Wonderfully. The Italian would thrive in Conte’s 3-4-3 system and probably replace Gary Cahill. Alongside Luiz and Azpilicueta, Chelsea would perhaps have the best central defence in the whole of Europe. A man with Bonucci’s experience would need very little time to settle in, despite moving to a new league. He’s worked under Conte before too, so the manager would be able to handle his implementation into the team with ease.

How likely is this? 

We know Conte is a big fan of Bonucci and he tried to sign him during his first window in charge. Instead, Conte got David Luiz, and that’s turned out pretty well, but I have no doubt that if Bonucci were to come on the market, then Conte would do everything in his power to add him to what is already an extremely resolute Chelsea rearguard.

I think if Allegri stays at Juventus and Chelsea are prepared to spend like they normally are, then there’s every chance of this deal happening in the summer.

How much would he cost?

As I say, it would certainly break the world transfer record for a defender, I think Juventus wouldn’t listen to anything less than £60million, which seems a lot for a 29-year-old, but remember how much they spent on Gonzalo Higuain and how much they managed to sell Paul Pogba for. Bonucci is more integral to Juventus than Pogba ever was. The club will be desperate for him to stay and as well as paying a lot of money, Chelsea will have to hope that Bonucci forces the move, otherwise Juve will keep him at the club.

Chelsea, Arsenal or Manchester United? A Look At Where Lukaku Will Be Next Season

Romelu Lukaku revealed he would not extend his contract and in an interview, appeared to question Everton’s lack of ambition. The Belgian forward would like to extend his career and move to a bigger European club. 
Manager Ronald Koeman was not happy on Thursday when discussing his star striker.

‘Of course I’m not happy about that interview because first, if Everton is not a club with a lot of ambition I wouldn’t be the manager,’ Koeman said.

‘The second – and I spoke with Rom this morning – is I know it’s difficult, if you’re a player, prepare yourself to play good and score goals. He is one of the best.

‘The rest needs to be done by the manager and board.

‘First you speak with the player, then the board and we’ll see what happens. We have time to decide what we need to do.

Will Lukaku score at the weekend when Everton welcome Hull City? Take a look at LBS.co.uk for the latest betting odds.

With Lukaku seemingly on the move in the summer, we look at 3 possible Premier League clubs that Lukaku could move to.

Arsenal

Arsenal have lacked a natural number 9 for some time now and Lukaku could be the answer. My worry with him is he is lacking a quality first touch and I think that could see him struggle in Arsenal’s system.

This is perhaps the destination where Lukaku is most likely to get first team football. Arsenal have Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez as options through the middle, but Alexis could be on his way in the summer and Giroud will be 31 this year. Lukaku could easily make the number 9 spot his own at Arsenal, whilst there would be more competition at Chelsea and Manchester United. Remember he left Chelsea originally due to a lack of first team football.

Chelsea

Could a return to his old club be on the horizon? Lukaku would need first team assurances so that would force Conte to change to a 2-man attack, or perhaps part ways with Diego Costa. Costa almost left the club in January with interest from China and Atletico Madrid unsettling the forward, so he could possibly be on his way in the summer. That’d open the door for a Lukaku return.

Manchester United

United could be on the lookout for a striker in the summer, especially if Zlatan does’t extend his current contract. However I think a move is unlikely, as there is Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford also competing with Zlatan for a central role currently. Rashford and Martial are both already reportedly unsettled by their lack of game time, so adding another top striker to the mix would surely unsettle the talented youthful duo.

‘Shocking Performance’ Football Fans On Twitter Criticise Manchester United Midfielder

It was a miserable night for Manchester United as they crashed out of the FA Cup in the quarter-final of the competition.

Ander Herrera may have been the man to really let United down by picking up two silly bookings, but it was Paul Pogba who frustrated the fans most as the Frenchman once again failed to deliver in a big match.

Despite pretty much all fans saying Pogba was poor against Chelsea, Mourinho amazingly declared Pogba ‘the best player on the pitch’. There was one player that was certianly better, and that was N’Golo Kante.

The international compatriot of Pogba arrived at Chelsea for just a margin of Pogba’s fee, but Kante has been the more impressive player all season and the difference in form showed in this game. One area Pogba is perhaps regarded as being better than Kante is in attacking areas, but in this FA Cup game, Kante was even more effective than Pogba in the final third. Kante scored the only goal of the game with a long-range effort that crept past De Gea into the bottom corner.

There’s been criticism from United fans themselves, rival fans and pundits. Here’s a sample of the reaction…

Pogba is starting to have one too many poor performances and when you cost £89million, that is something you really cannot afford to do. The likes of Mesut Ozil do not get away with it and Ozil cost less than half of what Pogba did. He’s still young, but Pogba needs to start making the difference in the big games sooner rather than later.

I do have a bit of sympathy for Pogba on this occasion because Herrera let him down early in the game getting those two bookings. It is hard enough having to handle Kante with a fully stocked midfield, but when one gets sent off it makes it pretty much impossible. Pogba’s attacking influence was restricted and he was forced to chase the game and work hard defensively, not his forte’ to say the least.

All The Player Ratings: Chelsea 1-0 Manchester United

These are Fresh Football’s ratings for the FA Cup Quarter-Final tie between Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea

Thibaut Courtois – 7

The Belgian came up with a crucial stop in the second period, denying what would have been Manchester United’s equaliser through Marcus Rashford’s left-footed strike at goal.

César Azpilicueta – 6

Impressive at the back, less so going forward.

David Luiz – 7

Luiz was able to boss the circulation of possession, even throughout United’s sharpest spells.

Gary Cahill – 6

Noted as the weak link in Chelsea’s backline, exemplified by the rare surrender of possession in sight of United’s pressing traps, but such pressure was eventually eased on the ex-Bolton Wanderers man.

Victor Moses – 6.5

The former Crystal Palace and Wigan Athletic winger got up and down the flank well, despite it being crowded by a defensive-looking United line-up.

N’Golo Kanté – 8

The man of the match, N’Golo Kanté proved to be the decisive difference between the two FA Cup hopefuls with his goal from range.

Nemanja Matic – 6.5

Positive and tidy in possession, which boded well for Chelsea’s game plan in the second half.

Marcos Alonso – 6.5

Another to put in a decent performance, as his influence on proceedings grew in the second half.

Willian – 7

Sharp, direct and unlucky not to have earned himself a goal and assist along the way.

Eden Hazard – 8

Along with Kanté, Eden Hazard was as expressive as ever in the final third, escaping the aggressive press-traps from Man United and inflicting lasting damage.

Diego Costa – 5.5

This wasn’t the Diego Costa we’ve become accustomed to seeing in recent times, taking the bait when embroiling himself in physical battles with Marcos Rojo and missing a couple of dead-cert goals on another day.

Subs:

Cesc Fabregas – 6

Accentuated Chelsea’s dominance after coming on in the second half.

Kurt Zouma – N/A

Michy Batshuayi – N/A

 

Manchester United

David De Gea – 7.5

The Spaniard was the main reason why Manchester United kept Chelsea away from the lead in the first half, as the Blues dominated proceedings following Ander Herrera’s red card.

Antonio Valencia – 5

Plenty of fouls coming from a man who was visibly frustrated with his team’s performance. Antonio Valencia was a poorer player, as a result.

Phil Jones – 6

The Englishman was fairly sound at pressing higher up the pitch in the early stages, but Eden Hazard and co. soon had his number, as he succumbed to mistimed tackles.

Chris Smalling – 6

Few complaints hang over the centre back’s head as far as the result is concerned, but as a captain, and United boss José Mourinho also joins him in this equation, Chris Smalling perhaps could have done more to prevent his teammates from losing their cool in battle.

Marcos Rojo – 5

Rash and aggressive, Marcos Rojo was another to tread on a fine line with regards to his discipline.

Matteo Darmian – 5.5

Mirroring Phil Jones’ duties in pressing a little higher up the pitch, almost like a fourth centre back, Darmian also collected his fair share of failed attempts.

Ander Herrera – 5

Man United fans may bemoan Michael Oliver’s decision to red card the midfielder in the first half, especially after such a positive impact in the early exchanges, but the visitors should also be disappointed in Herrera’s foolish actions just seconds after the referee’s general warning.

Paul Pogba – 5

Little inspiration came from the French playmaker, in particular after being paired up with Marouane Fellaini.

Ashley Young – 4.5

Totally retracted, whereas Chelsea’s preference to attack down their own left-hand side saw Young come into the picture at a sporadic rate.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan – 5

Appeared fairly lively in and around the box, but the Armenian star was the one to be hooked early in response to Herrera’s red card.

Marcus Rashford – 5.5

Kept Chelsea on their toes, but the striker will be disappointed to have not finished a very good chance he managed to fashion for himself in the second period.

Subs:

Marouane Fellaini – 4.5

The Belgian never got into the game, much to United’s detriment.

Jesse Lingard – N/A

‘A Machine’ Chelsea Fans Heap Praise Onto This Chelsea Man Following West Ham Win

Chelsea opened up the gap at the top of the table to ten points once again as the league leaders beat West Ham 2-1 on their first Premier League visit to the London Stadium.

West Ham started the match strongly as they looked for Andy Carroll up top, who aimed to cause the Chelsea defence problems all night. However, it was Chelsea who took the lead on 25 minutes. N’Golo Kante nicked the ball to spark a Chelsea counter-attack. Eden Hazard stayed onside before rounding Darren Randolph and slotting into an empty net to give the Blues a first half lead.

The home side failed to create any notable chances before the end of the first half as Chelsea went into the break one goal to the good. It was Chelsea who extended their lead just after the break. Diego Costa couldn’t believe his luck as he was left with a tap-in from a corner to hand Chelsea a two-goal lead.

Antonio Conte brought on Nemanja Matic and pushed Hazard up front alongside Costa to hold onto his lead. He was successful in doing so, but failed to keep a clean sheet as Manuel Lanzini pulled one back just a minute before the full-time whistle.

One player that impressed once again for Chelsea was Kante. The defensive midfielder has turned out to be one of the signings of the season, and put in yet another trademark performance in the Chelsea midfield on Monday night.

One of the areas where Kante has picked up criticism in the past is with his passing. But in this game he managed to impress with a 90% pass success rate. As usual, he was running around blunting the home attack throughout, and he managed 4 tackles and 1 interception in Chelsea’s 2-1 win against a West Ham side that has improved in quality recently.

Kante may have felt hard done by by not being awarded PFA Player of the Year last season, but after (almost certainly) winning back to back titles and being an integral part of both teams, surely Kante will be awarded the best player in the division for this campaign. He’s been phenominally consistent for Chelsea, and on the back of last season, he has shown that he, unlike some other Leicester City players, was not a one season wonder.

‘He Must Start Every Game’ Chelsea Fans Impressed With Midfielder vs. Swansea

Chelsea managed to get past a resilient Swansea City side on Saturday with a 3-1 win. The Welsh side grew into the game after scoring an eqauliser against the run of play and at 1-1, the game could have gone either way. But Chelsea again found a way to win and move comfortably 11 points clear at the top of the league. Cesc Fabregas came in for Nemanja Matic and he proved to be the player that made all the difference on the day.

Fabregas has had to sit on the bench for much of the season but his performances in recent weeks will have done his chances no harm whatsoever. Alongside Kante, Fabregas has more creative freedom to roam and make the difference in possession – the duo compliment each other extremely well and we are certainly seeing a more confident and better Fabregas next to Kante rather than Matic.

Cesc was the heartbeat of the Chelsea team, with 127 touches during the game – crucially he picked up a goal and an assist. The Spaniard is a much more creative option than Matic and that was shown not only with his goal and assist but also with his 5 key passes.

He completed a huge 108 passes with a 86% success rate – that’s more passes than anyone else on the pitch. Despite playing in a central position, he attempted 7 crosses, and 8 long balls with 5 of them accurate. Fabregas was not afraid to shoot either, he had more shots (5) than any other Chelsea player, with two of them finding the target.

Here’s how the Chelsea fans reacted to his performance on Twitter.

In my opinion Fabregas should be in the first team regularly, I think he has been better than Matic this season, although Matic of course has his benefits for when the game is more physical or Chelsea may be required to do more defending.

It’s great that Antonio Conte has options outside his first eleven though, as injuries could start to kick in in the latter stages of the season. Conte will also be keen to win the FA Cup and next up is Manchester United in the quarter final – he’ll certainly need his squad players to contribute then.

3 Must Have Players In Your Fantasy Football Premier League Teams This Week

As Manchester United and Southampton prepare themselves for a special night out in Wembley for the EFL Cup final, subsequently taking Arsenal and Manchester City out of the firing line for a hot minute, life in the Premier League continues with important clashes in and around parts of the table.

But in the absence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Alexis Sanchez, Sergio Agüero and others, the question of who to turn to as captain will be the one that looms large for many of us Fantasy Premier League players this weekend. That’s nothing that a little friendly advice from Fresh Football can’t fix, however.

1. Diego Costa

Club: Chelsea
Position: Striker
Price: £10m

It’s the week of the heavy hitters for us and fewer names have been as synonymous to the skipper’s armband as Diego Costa’s this season. The Chelsea forward has supplemented the Blues’ title charge with 15 league goals from 23 appearances, making him a top favourite for the Golden Boot this season.

We fully expect to see the Brazilian-born Spain international reinforce his bid for the hotly-contested end-of-season gong this weekend, as Chelsea welcome a few familiar faces back to Stamford Bridge.

Paul Clement, the former assistant manager of the London outfit under Carlo Ancelotti’s tenure, as well as his sidekick, Claude Makélélé, another to don the Chelsea blue, have turned fortunes around at what was once considered to be a relegation-bound Swansea City side.

The team from South Wales have made steady strides since Clement’s appointment to find themselves 15th in the Premier League table, but that does little to the fact that the West Londoners are overwhelming favourites in this clash, as they look to take another step towards the league title.

It may or may not be easy for Blues, but Costa has come up with his fair share of clutch moments up top for Antonio Conte’s side in the best and worst positions, so we expect the ex-Atlético Madrid striker to deliver.

‘Chelsea’s Best Player’ Defender Praised For Another Great Performance vs. Burnley

It’s a funny old game. Who remembers the reactions surrounding David Luiz’s Chelsea comeback in the summer? Some of you may choose to forget it all.

The Brazilian defender first joined the Blues from Benfica back in 2011 for £21.25 million, and despite conquering the hearts of those at Stamford Bridge, Luiz never quite convinced the doubters in comparison to John Terry and Gary Cahill.

José Mourinho’s second stint in west London saw him incline towards the same pairing, so it was with great disbelief that much of the football world saw Chelsea receive a record-high bid for the out-of-favour defender, as he joined Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain for an initial fee of £42 million in 2014.

Luiz’s flaws were then on full show, alongside many of his Brazilian teammates, as his national team were infamously thumped 7-1 on home turf against Germany, the eventual winners of 2014 World Cup, with the queries into his reliability as a central defender escalating further.

Football in Ligue 1 took the ex-Benfica man out of the limelight, somewhat, so it’s perhaps no surprise to see the amount of eyebrows raised when his eventual return had been announced.

Chelsea had formerly been interested in other big names to fill the void Antonio Conte believed needed to be plugged in, as they failed to land the likes of Leonardo Bonucci and Kalidou Koulibaly.

The opportunity to bring back Luiz arose on deadline day, adding a scent of panic buy to the deal, but the Brazilian has silenced those critics by coming on leaps and bounds since his latest transfer.

Chelsea’s latest bout versus Burnley accentuated the £30 million man’s growth in popularity, with social media quick to show their appreciation for the curly-haired character.

Such has been Luiz’s zero-to-hero rise that, even with a heavily strapped knee away to a physically imposing Burnley side, he’s kept club legend John Terry and hot prospect Nathan Aké parked on the bench, becoming Conte’s go-to-guy in the lauded 3-4-3 formation.

The Brazil international’s typically good construction of play shun through the pain barrier, a role maximised by the added cover of two more central defenders either side of him, whereas Luiz also racked up the most amount of interceptions (8) in a tight contest.

Luiz continues looks a shoe-in for the PFA’s Team of the Year, as Chelsea set their sights on the Premier League title. Not bad for a panic buy!

Fans Call For Midfielder To ‘Never Play For Arsenal Again’ After Awful Performance vs. Chelsea

Arsenal put in another limp performance at Stamford Bridge, losing 3-1 to see their title hopes all but ended at the hands of Antonio Conte’s men, who will surely go on to lift the trophy in May. 

Chelsea were not brilliant, but they were ruthless, and Arsenal were a lot worse. The Gunners started the game pretty brightly, but the second Chelsea went ahead through Marcos Alonso, Arsenal fell flat and never really looked like getting anything from the game from that point on. It was an all too familiar performance from Arsenal at the Bridge, and many fans have questioned the manager because of the result.

Whilst the manager certainly can be held accountable, several individuals were extremely poor on the day. The big boys, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil did not turn up, whilst Petr Cech, another senior figure in the squad, was simply horrific. He doesn’t look comfortable passing out from the back and his reactions are worryingly slow.

But a lot of the blame will fall on the shoulders of midfielder Francis Coquelin. With Ramsey, Elneny, Cazorla and Xhaka unavailable, Wenger did have little choice but to select Coquelin, but his performance was truly worrying. Arsenal missed a midfielder that could dictate the play from deep, as Coquelin seriously struggled to get a grip on the game. His individual error saw him fail to stop Eden Hazard in the build-up to Chelsea’s second goal, which killed the game.

Coquelin completed just 82.8% of his passes, completing 0 of his attempted crosses, and 0 through balls. With just 58 passes in total, the Gunners needed someone to take more control of the game in Coquelin’s position. Xhaka would’ve been perfect, and the Gunners desperately need him back.

Defensively he made 0 interceptions – considering he offers pretty much nothing in an attacking sense, it is vital that he does more defensively, especially in big games like this.

Here’s some reaction to Coquelin’s performance from Twitter. 

Personally I think Coquelin is a good squad player, but honestly he is no more than that and deserves no more than that. A team like Arsenal, who try to control games, need a more efficient deep lying playmaker. Coquelin didn’t even do his defensive duties well today. It was a game to forget for him, and pretty much all of the Arsenal eleven. It will be interesting to see how Wenger selects his team for the crucial Champions League trip to Bayern Munich in 10 days time.

Arsenal need a fresh approach, players like Coquelin need to get out of the eleven and perhaps we need a new manager.

 

Did The Gunners Create Their Own Problems In 3-1 Defeat vs. Chelsea?

Everyone knew Chelsea’s reception of the Gunners would be a tricky one for Arsenal to come out victorious from at Stamford Bridge, a ground the north Londoners had tasted success just once since 2011.

Arsène Wenger’s conundrum began to find its form when Granit Xhaka was shown a red card in the hard-earned 2-1 victory at home to Burnley, a dismissal reciprocated by a then furious Arsenal boss en route to the pair grabbing themselves four-game bans.

That might not have meant a great deal with a cup-tie versus Southampton and a supposedly low-risk clash at home to an off-tune Watford side awaiting the title hopefuls, but it did leave Arsenal at a clear disadvantage against Chelsea in the following fixture.

The trip to the St. Mary’s Stadium proved to be a success, as the Saints also chopped and changed in the fourth round of the FA Cup, but the Gunners’ incompatibilities in midfield were clear versus Watford.

Xhaka-less, whereas Mohamed Elneny was representing his country in the Africa Cup of Nations, Wenger turned to an Aaron Ramsey and Francis Coquelin pairing against the Hornets, a duo that was bypassed with ease and dismembered within 20 minutes via the former’s injury, enough time to leave Arsenal 2-0 down already.

This all conditioned the Gunners’ hand at Stamford Bridge, without key components in midfield, now including Ramsey, and with the added woe of apparent knocks being carried by Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain and Coquelin, the pivot that would be backed against the West London outfit.

With a deep-seated crisis in the middle of the park, Arsenal were tasked with defeating the title favourites, of which the luck with injuries has seen the Blues necessitate to extend their starting XI to no more than 13 players – Quite the contrast.

But even under less than favourable circumstances, the Gunners might well have managed to worsen their chances of withholding success against Antonio Conte’s side.

Wenger opted for a relatively untried Chamberlain – Coquelin pivot, both, as mentioned, reportedly carrying knocks, to set up a two vs. two against Nemanja Matic and the ever-impressive N’Golo Kanté.

The results proved to be obvious, as the Chelsea pair, subsidised by the club’s wing backs, took control in the moments before Marcos Alonso’s opener and, later, took advantage of Arsenal’s middlemen’s physical limitations through counter-attacks.

All facts considered, domination by Kanté and co. was predictable, but the north Londoners might well have made their own bed when fielding just the two central midfielders.

With both Chamberlain and Coquelin failing to transport the ball to the likes of Mesut Özil, the midfield pair were contrarily left to fend for themselves defensively due to the German’s tendencies to not track back.

The same scenario has repeated from time-to-time with a tried and tested side, making Arsenal’s 4-2-3-1 look more like a 4-2-4 and highly-susceptible to counter-attacks – a dangerous set-up versus a team of Chelsea’s ilk.

A change many ‘Gooners’ have called for is a transition to a 4-3-3 set-up, pushing Özil into a forward role instead, and it’s a formation that could have been debuted against the Premier League leaders even with limited options.

On the bench sat Ainsley Maitland-Niles, a wide man by trade, but one that has excelled in a central role on more than one occasion. Could the energetic youngster not have added something this Saturday? With Chamberlain and Coquelin supposedly not in peak condition, how could you not turn to an extra body for help?

Today will go down as a missed opportunity for Wenger and his men to have closed the gap on their title rivals, and in Maitland-Niles’ addition they may have discarded their only hope of being disciplined enough to do so.

Ratings: All The Arsenal Players Rated Out Of 10 For Shambolic Performance vs. Chelsea

Here are the Arsenal player ratings for the match against Chelsea.

Petr Cech – 0
The pundits gave him no criticism but he was poor for Alonso’s opener, with a terrible reaction speed once the ball had hit the bar. He made no effort to get up to challenge Alonso and then watched the ball sail past him into the net. The second goal was brilliance from Hazard but Cech went down too early and the third goal was completely his fault. He’s past it.

Hector Bellerin – 5
Should’ve been stronger to challenge Alonso for the opening goal. Injured in the process and subbed off, didn’t have a chance to redeem himself, hence the 5.

Shkodran Mustafi – 6
Was a decent performance from Mustafi. Had a good chance to fire Arsenal back into the game with a header at 2-0, wasted it. Overall his handling of Costa was good.

Laurent Koscielny – 6
Like Mustafi, Koscielny helped nullify the threat of Costa throughout the game but it wasn’t really Costa that caused the problems for the Gunners.

Nacho Monreal – 4
Poor from him again. Arsenal need a new left back, but for now, Kieran Gibbs surely deserves a run in the team. He really cannot do much worse than the Spaniard has in recent weeks.

Francis Coquelin – 2
Shocking. Truly shocking. I’m not his biggest fan but today he reached new lows. Terrible on the ball, constantly caught in possesion and was at fault for both the first and second goal. Xhaka might have some weak points but he is certainly better than this guy.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – 6
To be fair to him, he was one of the better Arsenal players on the afternoon. He tried throughout, working hard to attack and defend, and it was good to see a bit of passion from one of the player. More like that are needed if Arsenal are to even finish in the top 4 this season.

Mesut Ozil – 4
So disappointed with him. The German barely showed up again. He was one of Arsenal’s brighter players at times, but that really is not saying much. In the second half he was really really poor.

Alex Iwobi – 4
A good young player, but out of his depth in this game. He’s extremely indecisive and got caught on the ball far too often for someone who was supposed to keep the Arsenal team ticking.

Theo Walcott – 2
Did he even play? A shocking anonymous performance from Walcott once again. It’s too often we are saying things like this about Walcott, his time is up.

Alexis Sanchez – 3
Ran around a lot, but tried too hard and did pretty much nothing offensively to help us. Although he was bright at the start, after Chelsea scored their 1st goal he was barely involved.

Subs

Gabriel – 4
Terrible. Defensively all over the place at right back when he came on and had a great chance to make it 1-1 in the first half, but directed his header right at Courtois.

Olivier Giroud – 6.5
Scored a late consolation

Danny Welbeck – 6.5
A bright spark for Arsenal. He needs to be starting future matches, a big and important player.

Lucas Starts: The Likely Arsenal Line-Up That Will Face Chelsea On Saturday

Arsenal go into Saturday needing all three points to remain in the title race after a disappointing result in midweek against Watford.

Goalkeeper: Petr Cech

Defence: Hector Bellerin, Shkodran Mustafi, Laurent Koscielny, Kieran Gibbs

Bellerin needs to come back into the defence at right back after Gabriel seriously struggled against Watford in midweek. His extra attacking quality will certainly help Arsenal in their quest to break down a resilient Chelsea setup. Mustafi and Koscielny must continue in the heart of the defence and I would select Gibbs at left back. Monreal has not been good this season and Gibbs has, whenever he has been played, performed very well. Wenger should reward the Englishman for this, especially with the Spaniard struggling for form.

Midfielder: Theo Walcott, Mesut Ozil, Lucas Perez

I’d like to see Danny Welbeck start this one but I think Wenger will continue to be cautious with him and just utilise him as an option from the bench. Walcott has a good record against Chelsea and Wenger is likely to put him on the right wing after he played just 45 minutes against Watford. Lucas Perez deserves to start based on his recent cameo performances and I really hope that Arsene rewards his fine form with a start in this big fixture. He’s fresh and plays with a lot of passion and desire, that kind of football was missing against Watford and putting him into the team will certainly help revitalise us. Ozil needs to improve on his recent showings in the number 10 role, against two central midfielders he may get more freedom than usual and he needs to capitalise on that and make the difference, rather than go missing.

Striker: Alexis Sanchez

Arsenal played their best football this season when Alexis was playing as a number 9 and with Giroud’s effectiveness fading, I think it is time to revert to having the Chilean through the middle again. He creates space for others and make the Arsenal attack much less predictable. Giroud is a top quality option to have from the bench but Alexis needs to start this game. Especially with attacking wingers in Walcott and Lucas, I think Alexis’ ability to drop deep at times will help Arsenal stretch the Chelsea defence. Ozil needs to make runs beyond Alexis like he was doing at the start of the season, it saw him get on the scoresheet on many occasions and one goal could make all the difference tomorrow.

 

Transfers: Chelsea Tried And Failed To Sign This Serie A Star On Deadline Day

Inter Milan winger Jonathan Biabiany has turned down the chance to join Premier League Leaders Chelsea on loan, according to Sky in Italy.

The French-born Inter Milan winger has struggled to cement a place in the starting XI since his arrival in 2015 and has made just three appearances thus far this season, playing just 20 times in the 18 months he has been with the Italians.

Antonio Conte had reportedly identified the wide areas as a priority in the winter marker but had failed with an attempt to sign 28-year-old Biabiany as the Chelsea boss also held an interest in Michail Antonio, which also failed to materialize.

Chelsea target, Biabiany, has also been subject of interest from Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool but has decided to stay and fight for his place in Milan despite being sounded out of the first team.

We take a look at what Jonathan Biabiany could have potentially brought to Stamford Bridge.

Biabiany is known for his acceleration and pace with the ball which would have been perfect in Contes 3-4-3 system, using his speed to help him in transitions whether that was getting back in defensive situations or trying to spring a counter attack.

The 28-year-old is a player who likes to be in possession and has proven to be very composed/efficient with the ball, which any winger would be asked to do, including good ball retention in tight areas.

The Inter Milan man likes to drive at defences and get crosses into the box which would have been ideal for Chelsea hitman Diego Costa, as he would thrive off the deliveries into the box. The offensive side of his game seems very positive and direct but his lack of defensive work would have been a nightmare for Conte, who demands his players to help in all phases.

A key stat which stands out for Biabiany is his lack of goals in recent years. From 2011 – 2017 he has managed just 15 goals which would have concerned Conte, especially as the Chelsea XI currently contribute with goals from all areas of the pitch on a regular basis.

The Frenchman, who has one cap at u21 level, may regret his decision if the Blues go on to win the Premier League title this season. But, it may turn out to be the right decision, despite not playing for Inter this season, it is unlikely he would have pushed into the Chelsea starting XI with the likes of Pedro/Willian both thriving at any given opportunity.

The interest in Biabiany highlights the position in which Conte wants to work on, but missing out on the Inter man is not drastic as they will look to sign a younger/better player in the same position this summer.

Analysis: How Arsenal Can Beat Chelsea On Saturday Afternoon

Arsenal head to Stamford Bridge on Saturday afternoon knowing that they must win the game to stand any real chance of winning the title this season. After getting it all wrong against Watford, Wenger needs to be at his tactical best to overcome this Chelsea side.

Chelsea are top of the table for a reason and their 3-4-3 formation has seen them perform exceptionally well. To stand a chance in the title race, Arsenal need to take all three points from the table toppers – doing that would reduce the gap to 6 points.

I think a lot of their success comes from their ability to overload in wide areas and also their defensive structure and organisation. So how can Arsenal line up to counteract this?

Let’s start with Chelsea’s stern defensive shape. Conte has three central defenders, wing backs and in Kante and Matic, two more defensive minded central midfield players. To try and break this down Arsenal need to be at their fluent best, quick attacking football that can put a spanner in Conte’s well-oiled works. Arsene needs to select the right personnel, and whilst Giroud has been in a bit of a purple patch recently, I don’t think he should lead the line. The Gunners need to disrupt Chelsea with a mobile number 9 and attacking wingers. That’s why I’d like to see Alexis or Welbeck through the middle for this game, with the the likes of Walcott, Iwobi and Lucas considered for the wide berths.

Ozil could hold the key in this game. He was terrific in the reverse fixture but Chelsea are a much better side now. He needs to make the difference more often in these big games and if he can get between the lines of Chelsea’s midfield and defence, then I think he could hold the key. Arsenal’s two deepest midfielders are likely to be occupied defensively for much of the game, so Ozil needs to be the man to link the midfield with, what I hope will be a very fluid and dangerous attacking three.

(Fig. 1 – Arsenal on the attack)

See Fig.1 above. With Ozil and Alexis combing between Chelsea’s midfield and defence it will create good opportunities, especially with the two wide forwards making diagonal runs and stretching the Chelsea back three wide. Having such an attacking front three will help create space for Alexis and Ozil to make the difference. Chamberlain, the most defensive red dot in the picture, will need to occupy the two Chelsea central midfielders, with Coquelin further back (off pic) acting as protection from the counter attack. Of course Arsenal will have full backs also attacking (not in pic) to help ensure that Moses / Alonso are not able to simply mark our wide forwards out of the game. To be at their best, Arsenal need to build a team that gets the best out of their best players. Ozil and Alexis are the two best in the team, at least going forward, and I feel this kind of setup would see them both flourish.

My biggest fear is Wenger will opt with Giroud up top and attempt to control the midfield. This Chelsea side haven’t won so many games because they’ve been controlling the midfield, they’ve won games because they have a functioning and efficient lineup. This kind of team would make it much easier for Chelsea to defend against us. Wenger needs to stop this Chelsea side from functioning and not play to its strengths.

Let’s say Alexis leads the line with Lucas on the left and Welbeck / Walcott on the right. Such a positive front three could cause problems in handling the other strength of Chelsea’s, though – their ability to overload in wide areas. This is why Wenger may consider Alexis and Welbeck as the wide players as they both have good defensive work ethic. Walcott has improved this area of his game but I’m still not sure he comes close to Welbeck or Alexis in terms of defensive contribution when that duo are instructed to do so. Lucas has never really had to do this role at Arsenal but he always performs with great desire and stamina and I believe he is capable, and based on others performances, he deserves his chance.

The Arsenal full backs will need help. I expect Bellerin and Monreal to be the two selected (although I’d like to see Gibbs) and whilst both have good defensive qualities, they will need help when coming up against two quick and skillful (for the most part) wide men. For me, I’d have Welbeck on the right, providing he’s now feeling completely fit. On the left I think Iwobi tends to perform well in this type of games and he gives the midfield a bit of balance, so I could see Arsene perhaps opting for him on the left. Monreal is pretty strong defensively but Iwobi, with assistance from Coquelin can help shut out Chelsea’s threat from the right.

(Fig. 2 – Arsenal’s defensive shape)

See Figure 2, Mustafi and Koscielny must try and replicate what they did at the Emirates in the reverse fixture and completely shut Costa out of the game. But with two wide forwards having attacking freedom, their work will be cut out. This is why Arsenal’s defensive shape must be structured. Chamberlain will need to use his stamina to get back and help the full backs, as will Coquelin. Arsenal’s two wide players will also have to ensure that Chelsea’s wing backs do not get much joy. This will leave just Alexis and Ozil out of defensive duties, the perfect duo to lead a counter attack.

The best thing, as an Arsenal fan, is that I’m even having to write this article. Too many times lack of transfers and injury problems have meant that Wenger has gone into huge games like this and not even had a chance to pick players based on tactics, especially in attack. This has made Arsenal very predictable and other teams have been able to set up to counteract their main threats. At the weekend Conte will not be able to guess the Arsenal eleven, especially the front 3. Lucas, Welbeck, Giroud and Alexis are all very different, quality options through the middle. On the wings Wenger could opt for Ramsey (injury permitting), Iwobi, Walcott, Welbeck, Alexis, Chamberlain, Lucas etc.

Arsene knows what Chelsea team he will come up against. If he does his homework and approaches the game with the right mentality and tactics then Arsenal have every chance of taking what would be, a huge three points.

But a lot comes down to the players also. They let the fans down on Tuesday night with another mentally weak performance. The first half was shambolic and their mentality was all wrong. Whilst we perhaps deserved to pick up a point based on our second half showing, it is simply inexcusable to start a game how we did, and it’s not the first time that has happened this season – it needs to change.

Based on what I’ve said in the article above, this is the Arsenal eleven I would like to see up against Chelsea on Saturday afternoon. Obviously, I don’t know the condition of Welbeck and would opt for Walcott on the right if he is anything but 100% fit. You could also put Welbeck or Lucas through the middle and shuffle the others around, but the key for me is that Arsenal have direct wingers, with a mobile number 9.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on what team you would like to see against Chelsea. Tweet me at @OliPriceBates to join the discussion.

Ratings: Liverpool 1-1 Chelsea – All The Players Rated Out Of 10

Liverpool

Simon Mignolet – 7

Was caught off guard for Luiz’s free kick and was not watching even though the whistle was blown. Made a good save from a Willian free-kick but had a relatively quiet first half. Saved Costa’s penalty in the 76th minute to keep the scores level.

Nathaniel Clyne – 6

Showed great drive in offensive situations but was very wasteful in possession, good defensively when called upon.

Joel Matip – 6

Looked shaky all evening and gave away a penalty in the second half after fouling Diego Costa but was saved his blushes after Mignolet made a fine save.

Dejan Lovren – 7

Was not overly worked in both halves as Liverpool were the more attacking team, but still managed to keep Diego Costa at bay.

James Milner – 7

Struggled in the first half but got in behind the Chelsea defence and grabbed an assist for Wijnaldum’s header and was much more efficient in the second half.

Emre Can – 5

Had a very quiet first half, struggled to help Liverpool break down Chelsea and failed to make an impact again in the second half in a rather poor showing.

Jordan Henderson – 6

Despite a bright opening 15 minutes, the Liverpool captain struggled to help control the midfield battle throughout the match.

Georginio Wijnaldum – 8

Had a great shot outside the box in the 11th minute and was one of the more promising players in the first half. Scored in the 57th minute to level the scoreline and had a very positive all-round game.

Adam Lallana – 6

Considering he has been so influential for Liverpool this season, he had a very quiet game and struggled somewhat to make anything happen.

Roberto Firmino – 6

Missed a golden chance in the 48th minute, should have scored and showed much more composure and much like most of Liverpool’s attacking trio, had a very quiet night for his standards.

Philippe Coutinho – 5

Much like Eden Hazard, Coutinho had a very quiet evening but did try and press the Chelsea backline in the second half. Was subbed off for Mane in the second half.

Chelsea

Thibault Courtois – 6

Made a good save early on to deny Wijnaldum but had next to nothing to do for the rest of the first half, Wijnaldum finally got the better of him with a header in the second half which helped the Reds get a point.

Cesar Azpilicueta – 6

Had a very quiet first half but was defensively sound when relied upon, much the same in the second half as he helped grind out a point.

David Luiz – 9 (MOTM)

Scored a wonder free-kick in the 24th minute and was excellent defensively and knew when to step into midfield to help build-up play from the back, much the same in the second half despite being under extreme pressure.

Gary Cahill – 7

Had a solid defensive performance throughout and kept the Liverpool attacking threat at bay despite being under pressure for most of the second half.

Victor Moses – 7

Was the more busier wing-back out of the two, both attacking and defensively. Moses did get himself into good positions in the final third but was very wasteful.

N’golo Kante – 8

As always, covered every single blade of grass, was everywhere on the pitch, broke up play, kept things ticking and his high level of energy showed for Chelsea, another good performance by the Frenchman.

Nemanja Matic – 6

Again, much like Alonso, he has a very quiet evening but done enough to help his side take a point. Was ok in possession and was always solid defensively.

Marcos Alonso – 6

Had a very quiet evening in both phases but did not play badly, just was not exceptional either. That said, done well in possession and was committed as always.

Willian – 6

In the 28th minute he nearly scored a free-kick which goes all the way through the box and was unlucky not to be tapped in by David Luiz. Had a somewhat quiet night after that.
Diego Costa – 6

Struggled to get into the game in the first half but was always making runs in behind the Liverpool defence. Missed a penalty in the 76 minute which could have won the game, an off night for the Chelsea hit man.

Eden Hazard – 5

Had a very quiet evening, to the extent where I forgot he was actually playing. Was subbed off after 70 minutes.

‘He’s The Best In The League No Doubt’ Twitter Reacts As Chelsea Star Gives Them 3 More Points

Much has been made of Diego Costa in recent weeks, with the media fuelling speculation that the striker could be on his way out of the club amid a huge bid from China. The Spaniard was rumoured to have a fall out with Chelsea boss Antonio Conte, with the manager not happy with Costa’s supposed injury troubles that have seen him out of action for the Londoners.

However, Costa scored on his return to the side as Chelsea strengthened their grip on the Premier League title, moving eight points clear at the top. The Blues top goalscorer was applauded throughout the match by the home fans, as his side won against a struggling Hull City side.

He got the opening goal of the game, converting Victor Moses’ low cross from eight yards out  and his celebration of moving hands seemed to put an end to speculation of his departure – much to the delight of Chelsea fans, I’m sure.

Here’s how Twitter reacted to Diego Costa’s performance. Do you agree?

Costa has been at the heart of Chelsea’s title bid this season, proving a real handful for defences with his strength and finishing ability. The Spaniard was the only player to have more than one shot in the side (6) and his return to the side couldn’t have been better timed, with the Londoners set for a showdown at Anfield next weekend.

It could have been a very different game had Costa not found the net just before the half time interval, with Hull doing well to frustrate the home side. They looked at risk of not making the most of their rivals shortcomings over the weekend, but Costa, once again, delivered when it mattered.

The mood following kick-off was a stark contrast to last weekend when Chelsea’s run was halted by Spurs. Diego Costa’s future was up in the air and fans were understandably worried about what that could mean for their title hopes. His return, and goal, will have certainly lightened the mood at the club as they moved closer to another Premier League title. Any risk of instability or distraction has dissipated – Chelsea are back in control and continue to roll on.

Any risk of instability or distraction, after the defeat at White Hart Lane and Costa’s wantaway strop, has been seen off now. Chelsea are back to normal, back in control, and looking likelier than ever to stroll to this year’s title.

Costa’s record at the club speaks for itself, with the 28 year old’s quality clear for all to see. Coming up with important goals for Chelsea, he is the most important player to club have, thus Antonio Conte and co. will be delighted to have him back. It would take surely take something miraculous for Chelsea to not end up lifting the trophy at the end of the season.

3 Players To Put In Your Premier League Fantasy Football Teams This Week

As the scenario gets tighter both at the top and bottom of the Premier League, the margin for error for all 20 clubs hits an all-time low with each coming week, adding greater intrigue to every upcoming matchday.

This week sees Manchester City hope to bounce back from their disarmament at Goodison Park last week when hosting Tottenham Hotspur, whereas José Mourinho’s men roam to the Bet365 Stadium to take on Stoke City.

London duo Arsenal and Chelsea land more ‘favourable’ fixtures at home to Burnley and Hull City, respectively, in addition to Liverpool welcoming Swansea City to Anfield, which has the potential to alter the picture at both ends of the table. Here’s who we’re tipping for success in Fantasy Premier League this week.

  1. Héctor Bellerín
    Club:
    Arsenal
    Position: Defender
    Price: £6.5m

A home game versus Sean Dyche’s Burnley could prove to be a potential banana skin for the Gunners, as they try the utmost to leave the Emirates with at least a point.

Commonly, that could see the Clarets take to the field in a naturally rigid and organised manner, much like they did at Old Trafford and at home to Merseyside pair, Everton and Liverpool, subsequently earning themselves five points from a potential nine.

Burnley’s record away from home, however, isn’t so impressive, earning just one point altogether this season on their travels and scoring a mere three goals in the meantime.

A more conservative approach is sure to invite the likes of Héctor Bellerín further up the field, increasing the potential for defensive goal contributions, meanwhile also heightening the chance for clean sheet bonuses, given the visitors’ poor record on the road.

Premier League Team Of The Week: ft. 3 Everton, 3 Arsenal & 2 Chelsea Players

Here is the Fresh Football Team of the Week for the most recent gameweek (21). We’ve opted for a 4-4-2 formation.
Simon Mignolet – Liverpool
It has not been a regular theme that Mignolet gets praised and included in TOTW after a tough few months for the Liverpool man, but after a sublime performance at Old Trafford he deserved all the plaudits.
 He is now the Reds No.1 and made numerous saves against Manchester United helping his side leave the Red Devil’s with one point.
Seamus Coleman – Everton
Coleman, as always, was fantastic against Manchester City and helped his side get all three points in an  afternoon to remember for Ronald Koeman’s men.
He was superb in all phases of play helping his side both attacking and defensively, the Toffees man managed two blocks, 67% tackles and showed why he is also an outlet going forward creating one chance.
Laurent Koscielny – Arsenal
The Frenchman signed a new contract with the Gunners last week and ended the week in style after an immense performance vs. Swansea.
The impressive Arsenal man managed  100% aerial duels, nine clearances, four interceptions and finished the game in true Arsenal style, with 94% passing.
 The 31-year-old has been one of Arsenals best players for a number of years, and is the true rock in the Arsenal side.
Shkodran Mustafi – Arsenal
Mustafi is yet to taste defeat in the Gunners shirt extending his impressive run to 20 games in total, which is an incredible record to hold.
The Arsenal man was yet again brilliant against Swansea and contributed with five interceptions, two clearances and finished the game with an impressive 88% passing.
Arsene Wenger will be relieved he is back from injury and will hope he stays fit as they look to close the gap at the top of the table.
Marcos Alonso – Chelsea
Well, it is not often a wing-back produces two goals, and is whiskers away from a hat-trick in one game, but that is exactly what Marcos Alonso managed in Chelsea’s win on Saturday.
The Blues star was superb offensively/defensively and was always an outlet going forward, turning out to produce the goods in front of goal in a perfect game for the Spaniard.
Pedro – Chelsea
The Chelsea man has been a revolution this season since a very disappointing opening campaign to life in England last year.
The former La Masia has thrived in Antonio Conte’s new system and was superb for the Blues against Leicester City.
He showcased some skill you will probably not see again this season in the build up to his goal and finished the game with 95% passing accuracy, which is superb.
The Spaniard is enjoying life at the Blues and has certainly played a massive part in the topping the table thus far.
Tom Davies – Everton
Well, what a star Everton have on their hands.
The 18-year-old was superior to most players on the pitch in a very disciplined, mature display against Manchester City.
He scored his first senior goal for the Toffees and completed two take on’s whilst playing the all round midfield role perfectly.
His goal was a thing of beauty, his run, timing, finish, everything was majestic and if Lionel Messi scored it, you’ll watch it for years to come.
Koeman has a thing for talented young players, doesn’t he? and the Dutchman has another gem on his hands.
Ross Barkley – Everton
Despite coming under strong scrutiny in recent months and being dropped by Ronald Koeman, Ross Barkley showed why he is so highly rated against Manchester City in a fine performance.
The English international was influential going forward and created four chances, whilst having that burst from midfield to attack completing four take on’s too.
After helping his side batter the depleted City, he will not be dropped anytime soon.
Alex Iwobi – Arsenal
Alex Iwobi was the most impressive star on show for Arsenal this weeking as they beat Swansea 4-0 away from home.
The 20-year-old was unfortunate not to score himself after his deflected effort was put down as an own goal, but the Nigerian went on to create two chances and finished the game with 89% passing.
Iwobi was running at players at will and was showcasing his fine talents. He is already starting most weeks for the Gunners and will become a future star if he continues to develop at his rapid pace.
Harry Kane – Tottenham
Tottenham Hotspur’s impressive run continued against West Brom after running riot in a 4-0 routine victory on Saturday afternoon.

England international Harry Kane was immense throughout and bagged himself a hat-trick, whilst creating once chance and completing four take on’s.
If Spurs are to push on for the title they’ll be reliant on their prolific goalscorer to keep firing in the goals, and of course staying fit. If he does, then maybe, just maybe Spurs could push for the title.
Andy Carroll – West Ham United
Since his return from injury, Andy Carroll has been a very positive sign in a glum few months for the Hammers, and his impressive form continued on Saturday.
The Hammers beat Crystal Palace 3-0 and Carroll was at the heart of it all, and scored one of the goals of the season in a very solid display.

Chelsea Make Shock Transfer Move For Premier League Midfielder

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.

Could This Bayern Munich Man Be On The Way To Chelsea?

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?

‘He Was On Fire Today’ Chelsea Fans Rave Over Midfielder’s Performance vs. Leicester

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.

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.

The Times Say Chelsea Want To Sign These Two Wing-Backs: But How Good Are They?

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.

Manager Confirms Premier League Defender Will Be Moving To Chelsea This Month

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.

Combined XI: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Chelsea

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 LlorisTottenham 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 WalkerTottenham 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 AlderweireldTottenham 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 LuizChelsea

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 AzpilicuetaChelsea

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: PedroChelsea

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 KantéChelsea

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 DembéléTottenham 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 HazardChelsea

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 CostaChelsea

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 KaneTottenham 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.

January Transfer: Why This Bundesliga Ace Is A More Likely Signing For Chelsea Than Arsenal

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.

Could Chelsea Complete This Stunning £60million Move For Premier League Star In January?

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.

West Ham Plot January Moves For Manchester United, Liverpool & Chelsea Stars In New Year Shake-Up

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?

3 Big Investments You Need To Make For Your Fantasy Football Teams This Week

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:

Michail Antonio
Club:
West Ham United
Position: Midfield
Price: £6.7m

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
Club:
Arsenal
Position: Midfield
Price: £11.7m

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
Club: Chelsea
Position: Forward
Price: £10.2m

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.

3 Reasons Why Chelsea’s 3-4-3 Is So Difficult To Play Against

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.