Sarri out, Lampard in but could this be a huge mistake for Chelsea?

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And so it was confirmed over the weekend that Maurizio Sarri has left Chelsea and took the reigns at Italian champions Juventus after just one season. And the favourite a 1/20 bet to take over is Frank Lampard, but could this be a huge mistake from the Europa League cup winners?

Giving Lampard the job actually makes no sense at all, but this isn’t to discredit him in anyway. Lampard is an intelligent person, was a wonderful football player, knows the game inside out and knows how to win as a player. But surely the key factor here is that he used to play for Chelsea and is rightly regarded as a club legend. So with that knowledge, are we to believe that the only reason Lampard looks set for the job at Stamford Bridge is because he is a club legend and ex player. It does seem so.

Sarri was never liked at the club and it is no surprise that he packed his bags. This is unfortunate, he was obviously a good coach for the Blues, winning the Europa League in his debut season, finishing 3rd, losing 2 games at home all season and reaching the Carabao Cup final. Fans complained of his tactics and always selecting Jorginho, who for them was underperforming but always got the chance to play. Scapegoating comes to mind and perhaps Sarri was right to leave after a year if he felt no love.

Lampard will be warmly welcomed there is no doubt about that and everyone will want him to do well. But the fact is that he has just one professional season under his belt and that was in the Championship with Derby. He had some highs with the club reaching the play-off finals but they did not win it and in the league they finished 6th, just like they had the previous season without Lampard.

Perhaps this is all in the timing and no one is suggesting that Lampard is not good enough to coach Chelsea. But he will have a hard ask on his hands. Eden Hazard by far the clubs best player has left for Real Madrid and the club face a two window transfer ban. This could be reduced to one window on appeal but if it is it is still likely to be this summers one that is affected.

It is thought that Lampard has struck a deal where what ever happens he will be in the job for at least 2 years. This seems like fantasy, and if Chelsea have a nightmare first season under him, he could be fired and a bright promising career in management could fizzle out at least if Lampard has dreams of coaching the bigger teams.

Of course one can think back to another club legend taking the coach’s job just a few months ago, that was Thierry Henry at Monaco, and look how that ended, sacked after three months and replaced with the man he had taken the job from.

At the same time look at this from his point of view- he loves Chelsea and if they have come calling for him, that will be too hard to refuse. At the same time does he really want to spend another season in the Championship when he could be in charge of a Premier League club who are also in the Champions League? Of course not, and so unless there are any last minute hitches this will happen and he should be wished good luck.

 

 

Juventus or Real Madrid? Where will Paul Pogba end up?

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It is no secret that Paul Pogba has not enjoyed the greatest of times at Manchester United and the Frenchman looks set to leave the club this summer, but who for?

Reports have suggested that Fabio Paratici the sporting director of Juventus is in London and having talks with Manchester United representatives about Pogba joining the club. Actually he would be re-joining since United bought Pogba from the Old Lady back in 2016. What has been interesting is that if Juventus do buy Pogba then the player has spent his footballing career switching from these clubs alone, since he started his professional career with United back in 2010.

One wonders if Pogba’s indecisions and playing back and forth for the same clubs sums up his career thus far? The midfielder remains an enigma- a delightful player to watch on the ball and fearsome coming forward but his total inconsistency marks him out to be a player that may well end his footballing career as simply a footnote in the history of the game.

Alongside Juventus’ interest seems to be another and that is Real Madrid who are rebuilding this season after a chaotic last one. Los Blancos have already spent near to £300m on acquiring five players including Eden Hazard and it is thought that coach Zinedine Zidane would love to work with Pogba. Pogba himself may feel that a fresh change is needed from returning to Italy again. One thing is clear and that is United could do with offloading a player that they already know could fetch the club upwards of £100m and release funds to invest in players that want to play for the club and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Keeping with United they have upscaled their interest in Crystal Palace player Aaron Wan-Bissaka who impressed this past season as the Eagles finished strongly. But the talking price seems to be spiralling out of control and one figure has the Palace player at £70m. For now he is on top of Solskjaer’s list and United agree to that sum it seems highly unlikely that they won’t get their man.

West Ham raised eyebrows by purchasing the exciting 23 year old Pablo Fornals. The attacking midfielder cost the Hammers just £24m which is seen as a bargain in today’s football. He comes from Villarreal and even though he had an average last season he is seen as a very good prospect and will add attacking flair to West Ham’s forward line.

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Tottenham’s Harry Kane could burn out if he doesn’t protect himself

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It was unfortunate to see such a lethargic display from Harry Kane in the Champions League final after the Tottenham striker returned from injury and was immediately put into the first team. Kane is one of the very best prospects in England but the player needs to be protected and mainly from himself.

We do not have to doubt Kane’s goal scoring abilities and his eye for goal and work rate in the area is brilliant. He is so precise and if anyone does want to doubt Kane’s abilities as a striker then his 164 goals in 253 appearances for Tottenham should put that to bed.

But here’s the problem and it cuts both ways with coaches and Kane himself- he needs to know and they need to know when the player needs rest.

Before the Champions League final Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino was asked why he brought Kane straight back into the team forcing Lucas Moura the hat trick hero in the semi-final win over Ajax to be dropped to the bench? Pochettino reacted as if the interviewer was pulling his leg, such is Kane’s importance to the team, but it was arguably wrong to think that and it was a genuine question. Had Moura been returning from injury, he still would have started the final from the bench, and yet Kane was brought in. True he is special to the club but he was still slightly rusty after having missed almost the last two months of football. It was the wrong choice to start him.

That was proven in a game where Kane was almost invisible. Again not his fault, this was the final and he wasn’t about to miss it but Kane’s inclusion actually helped Liverpool, because it felt for the most part that Tottenham were playing with 10 men, he was that quiet.

A few days later England were playing the Netherlands in the UEFA Nations Cup and England manager Gareth Southgate absolutely did the right thing in not starting Kane but bringing him on later in the game. No matter if England eventually lost the match, Kane’s presence or not wouldn’t have made the difference as he is still clearly recovering.

The problem was that after the game Kane was interviewed where he remained positive and upbeat and told journalists that he would get right back to fitness, go for a run on the beach and hit the gym.

Whilst Kane’s words would seem normal to any day footballer who is 25 remember the problem is that Kane doesn’t seem to be listening to his own body. He missed two chunks of the season because of injury and his quality is such that Tottenham cannot really afford to be without him for long periods. And when he gets injured his willingness to get fit quicker than expected seems to hamper his recovery time. So when he is ready to return, he actually really isn’t.

Southgate did the right thing Pochettino to a lesser extent didn’t. But Kane also needs to listen to his own body, the last thing anyone wants to see is a career where he keeps picking up injuries here and there and doesn’t get a good run of games under his belt. He is a special talent and he needs to be looked after.

The case for Virgil van Dijk to win the Ballon D’or

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Such has been the dominance enjoyed by Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in the Ballon D’Or over the past decade, the notion that any player other than the two could win it is often scoffed at. Virgil van Dijk, however, is not receiving such treatment.

Fresh from Champions League glory, the Dutchman finds himself at the front of an altogether different competition. Van Dijk is currently the bookmakers favourite to win the Ballon d’Or. He’s ahead of the aforementioned Messi and Ronaldo, as well as Kylian Mbappe, Liverpool teammates Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane and Raheem Sterling.

In fact, he’s the only defender on the list with odds shorter than 100/1, with Marcelo and Diego Godin the next on the list. Continue reading

Top Premier League Goalkeepers in 2018/19: Kepa Arrizabalaga

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On reflection Kepa Arrizabalaga has had a very successful debut season with Chelsea. The Spaniard moved from Athletic Bilbao for a huge fee €80m which made him the most expensive goalkeeper of all time at age just 24.

But Kepa has repaid the faith shown in Chelsea. He starred in a season that saw the Blues win the Europa League- their first European silverware since 2013. He helped the club finish in 3rd place and gain automatic Champions League qualification, though the Europa League win achieved that anyway. Chelsea lost just 2 games at home and they also reached the Carabao Cup final matching Manchester City throughout 120 minutes of football the game ended 0-0 but they lost on penalties.

Kepa is an excellent shot stopper with a potentially fantastic career ahead of him but at the same time if we talk about the Carabao Cup final we have to mention his low point this season. In the final Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri called for the Kepa to be substituted- he want fresh hands in the form of Willy Caballero for the penalty shoot out. But Kepa refused to come off. In the end he was dropped for the next game in favour of Caballero and fined a week’s wages.

But there are many positives to take from Kepa’s first season. He started the season off by keeping a clean sheet as Chelsea beat Huddersfield 3-0 and earned 7 points in the process. Overall he kept a clean sheet 14 times. His best period was the New Year, where he kept 2 clean sheets in a row, earning 14 points in a row. If there is to be a few criticisms of him it’s that he did not remain consistent throughout the season. This is shown in his final points tally of 62. Alisson ranked the number 1 goalkeeper in European Fantasy League earned more than double that.

The biggest low point for Kepa was when Chelsea were crushed 6-0 by eventual champions Manchester City. Kepa finished that weekend losing 10 points.

But there is a lot of hope for a goalkeeper who is still learning at the very highest level and one that on his debut season still finished ranked 3rd in the Premier League. His value this season in the fantasy league was just 6m and that is sure to rise for the beginning of next season where he will of course remain a Chelsea player after signing a 7 year contract with the Blues.

Kepa has his wish next season to be in the Champions League and it will also be interesting to see if he can break his points tally for this season. He has also ousted Manchester United’s David de Gea from the Spanish squad as first choice goalkeeper, so the future looks great for the 24 year old.

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Top Premier League Goalkeepers in 2018/19: Ederson

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A huge part of Manchester City’s Premier League title win has to come down to goalkeeper Ederson, full name Ederson Moraes who was like a wall in goal. This was evidenced in the fact that he kept 20 clean sheets, just one less than Liverpool’s Alisson.

While Alisson could arguably be seen as the best goalkeeper in the Premier League this season what is so impressive about Ederson’s season is that he cost £35m to City, half of what Alisson cost and basically Ederson seemed to match Alisson game for game. It will be a headache of course for the Brazilian national team who have arguably their best 2 goalkeepers in their history- but at the same time!

In the Premier League Fantasy rankings Ederson finished in 2nd place for the goalkeepers and got 130 points, just six less than Alisson. His value was the same as Alisson’s at 10m.

Personally Ederson had a fantastic season with Manchester City not only winning an historic league title which was the first back to back win for the club but also picking up the FA Cup and the Carabao Cup which means that Ederson became the first ever goalkeeper in English history to win a domestic treble.

Ederson started the campaign off in fantastic style earning 7 points when City beat Arsenal 2-0 at the Emirates. Against Huddersfield he was set to earn zero points but he actually created an assist for Sergio Aguero as City won 6-1 and so earned 2 points, and thus became the first ever City goalkeeper to complete an assist.

Ederson’s best points total was 7 which he wasn’t able to beat and would be rare to do so but he got 7 points on no less than 20 times which included earning that amount on 4 games in a row towards the end of the season when City were picking off opponents seemingly by the same score line of 1-0.

The Brazilian has had to fight off challengers from Joe Hart and then Claudio Bravo to keep his place as the number 1 goalkeeper for City and one of those reasons isn’t just because he is one of the best shot stoppers in the game. It is no secret that City manager Pep Guardiola loves keepers who will quickly distribute the ball forward if they come into contact with the ball and keep the game flowing in a natural attacking way, and Ederson is one of the best goalkeepers in the business at doing that.

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Transfer News: Are Tottenham finally ready to spend money and buy Lo Celso?

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The transfer window in the Premier League opened up on May 16th and so far it hasn’t seen many players coming in but has seen quite a few leaving. There is a lot of work at Manchester United to be done and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer realises this and has acted accordingly. Two players have already been released in Ander Herrera and Antonio Valencia and we should expect more in the coming weeks.

West Ham have been very active in juggling up their squad and have released 8 players which includes Andy Carroll and Samir Nasri. They have also got Roberto the goalkeeper from Espanyol on a free as a back up.

A couple of legends of the Premier League will play no more in England in Manchester City’s Vincent Kompany who will become player/manager of his boyhood club Anderlecht. Petr Cech’s last game was in the Europa League final for Arsenal and he will hang up his gloves and join Chelsea’s goalkeeping coaching team.

The big news this week regarded Tottenham and their reported pursuit of Giovani Lo Celso. The North Londoners have reportedly bid £53m for the midfielder who was on the books of PSG but was then loaned out at Spanish club Real Betis, who bought the player only in April.

With Tottenham buying no new players in the last two transfer windows this would signal the clubs first purchase in over a year. However whether Tottenham will get their man is up for debate given that Betis have him under a release clause for £88m. It is understood that the club would listen to offers though in the region  of £75m but that is still over £20m what Tottenham have bid. And to further make things complicated for the club other Premier League sides have shown an interest in the 23 year old.

The connection could be a good one though for Tottenham fans hoping that their manager Mauricio Pochettino stays at the club next season given that Lo Celso is Argentinian. But this could end up being a war of words between Pochettino and club chairman Daniel Levy. If we remember a few weeks ago Pochettino hinted that he needed assurances from the club in order to stay with them, and surely one will be to bring in quality players this summer in the form of Lo Celso.

For Real Betis they would be looking at massive profits. They purchased Lo Celso only in April for about £20m, and if they did accept Tottenham’s bid they would have made a massive £33m profit in one month. Though it looks likely they will hold out for more and Tottenham will need to make a bigger improved bid.

The good news even if Tottenham fail with Lo Celso is that the club have revealed their purchasing power and that they will be buying players this summer, which must come as a relief for any Tottenham fan.

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Top Premier League Goalkeepers in 2018/19: Alisson

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Though Liverpool did not win the league in the end it was by the narrowest of margins and while the whole team shined in their respective positions, a lot has to be owed to goalkeeper Alisson who kept the Reds in contention right up to the final 70 minutes of the league season.

Jurgen Klopp spent almost £67m on the Brazilian shot stopper which for a small time became the world record transfer fee for a goalkeeper. It was broken by Chelsea when they signed Kepa Arrizabalaga for £71m. However it was Alisson that emerged from the Premier League season as the best goalkeeper in England if not Europe.

Liverpool were attracted to the services of Alisson after they met his then side Roma in last seasons Champions League semi-finals. Ironically Liverpool put 7 goals past the Romans, but Klopp could see the wider picture which included Alisson keeping 22 clean sheets for Roma that season in Serie A.

Alisson’s competitive debut started off in style as he kept a clean sheet in Liverpool’s 4-0 rout of West Ham. Alisson would go on to play every league game of the campaign for Liverpool which was by far their most successful season since winning the league title in 1990.

As far as clean sheets were concerned Alisson did not concede in goal for Liverpool’s first three games of the season. Overall he helped keep 21 clean sheets for the Reds in a remarkable season that saw Liverpool reach 97 points and lose just 1 game and still not win the league. However his 21 clean sheets was the best record in the league with Manchester City’s Ederson coming in 2nd with 20.

Alisson did not pick up any players of the month awards but these are usually given to strikers and this was the case again this season when 8 of the 9 awards went to forwards. The only exception being Virgil van Dijk, Alisson’s Liverpool teammate.

With 22 goals conceded Liverpool shipped the least amount of goals in the league beating eventual champions Manchester City by one goal. And in the Champions League, Alisson has played every game so far, with the final coming up against Tottenham on Saturday. He was able to keep a further 2 clean sheets from 6 group games played. In the knock out stages he kept clean sheets in the home games v Bayern Munich, Porto and Barcelona.

For all leagues in European Fantasy Football goalkeepers Alisson is ranked as number 1 and earned 136 points over the season. He finished 6 points clear of Manchester City’s Ederson. His discipline was also very good with just 1 yellow card shown during the whole season. At this time Alisson is valued at 10m to bring into your team. It is inevitable that the Brazilian will be at Liverpool for many more years and he has proved this season that he is amongst the world’s finest goalkeepers.

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Are Newcastle about to become the next Manchester City?

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There isn’t a whole lot of love for Newcastle United’s owner Mike Ashley, from the current manager Rafa Benitez to the fans there has been friction between the ‘three’ which has caused problems on the pitch as well as off. Now that could be set to change in a massive way as reports suggest that Mike Ashley will sell the club for around £350m.

Of course we have been here before and it was revealed just last year that Ashley almost sold the club to Sheikh Mansour who of course went on to purchase Manchester City and the club never looked back.

But this time it feels more concrete more real and unless something dramatic happens in the coming days it seems that now is finally the time that Ashley will sell his beloved club, a team that he has supported for his whole life. But what will leave fans and the football world flabbergasted is that Ashley looks set to sell the club to Shiekh Khaled.

Shiekh Khaled is a cousin of Shiekh Mansour and the thinking is that if Khaled does take over the club that the Magpies could end up being one of the big teams of the Premier League.

Newcastle have had to endure a torrid time in recent years and it has been almost 25 years since they nearly won the league which was scuppered in the heat of the moment when Alex Ferguson’s mind games got the better of the then Newcastle manager Kevin Keegan and the club blew a 12 point lead. Since then it has been a battle without any trophies and one wonders if a new era could be taking shape at the infamous club.

What is certain is that manager Rafa Benitez who has been incredibly loyal to the club after coaching them in the Championship could leave the club at the end of June when his contract runs out. No one at the club wants that given that the Magpies have to stabilise. It is thought that if Khaled does take over the club that he wants to keep Benitez as manager, which would be good for the club.

As far as how much the Premier League has changed it all started when Roman Abramovich took over Chelsea in 2003. That signalled the end of Arsenal and Manchester United’s reign of the English league. A few years later it was Manchester City. As we enter a new decade could it be that Newcastle will join them? Will Khaled change the history of the club? This summer will undoubtedly be one of the biggest of Newcastle’s in some time.

Why Liverpool need to spend this summer

Jurgen Klopp Liverpool transfer window

After the season Liverpool had the temptation will be for everyone to sit back and admire their work. That temptation will only increase should they taste success in the Champions League final against Tottenham.

And few could blame them for doing so. A record points haul, the most managed by any team to finish second no less, one defeat all season and several individual awards all tell the tale of an incredible campaign. They also show that this Liverpool squad is one that doesn’t need significant work anymore.

For the first time in Jurgen Klopp’s reign, there is little improvement to be made. This is a squad full of talent and showed it last season. Continue reading