There is something about welcoming Chelsea to the London Stadium that seems to bring out the best in West Ham United. The Hammers’ rivals from across the capital lost 1-0 at this ground last season and also came unstuck in the League Cup the year before, going down 2-1 in the fourth round. Chelsea managed to avoid defeat on their latest visit on Sunday afternoon, but their failure to emerge victorious means Liverpool are now the only Premier League team with a 100 per cent winning record after six matches.
When it comes to the Premier League Golden Boot and who has the best chances of winning it, the main players that instantly come to mind are Harry Kane, Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Sergio Aguero. These three individuals have shown week in and out that they are consistent and dominant in the penalty box, and they also have the vital mentality to be a game changer in their own way.
However, it may be an ideal time to add Eden Hazard into this bracket as he has started the new season in the best way possible, bagging five goals and notching two assists in just over 300 league minutes whilst Chelsea sit in first place on goal difference. The arrival of Maurizio Sarri has changed the club’s style of play, from being a defensive-minded team to a side that now play in fashion.
The Belgian international is not a clinical or ruthless winger in front of goal, though, if he was to improve on this aspect of the game, he would be appreciated more by a large number of football supporters and he would be recognised as a player that deserves to be mentioned as a contender for the Ballon D’or award. Also, he will need to work on his aspiration and desire to reach this level.
Over the last five to ten years, Hazard has been unlucky in quite a few ways as his respective managers have not had faith in playing dominant and possession-based football. On top of that, he has played in the false striker role on a number of occasions, a position he is not totally comfortable in as he does not have the aerial ability or the physical presence to hold his own as the lone forward.
The 27-year-old has played under coaches such as Antonio Conte, Guus Hiddink, Jose Mourinho, Rafael Benitez and Roberto Di Matteo. Majority of the managers mentioned did not have a successful time at Stamford Bridge, and the reason was that their style of play may have been to cover up the defensive issues or lack of force in midfield, but it was not to get the best out of Hazard.
With how the managers failed one after another, the Chelsea board and Roman Abramovich had to make sure that some drastic decisions took place in order to retain their key players. This first started by the entrance of Maurizio Sarri, someone who brought the ultimate and perfect style of play that suited players such as Hazard, Marcos Alonso, Pedro as well as summer signing Jorginho.
Given that the likes of Aguero, Kane and even Romelu Lukaku have had a couple of problems here and there in front of goal, it would not be a huge surprise if a winger once again wins the Golden Boot. Last season, everyone witnessed Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah win the award as he went on to complete 32 goals in 36 league appearances, setting a new record for most goals in a campaign.
The 2016-17 Premier League season is Hazard’s most prolific campaign up to date, where he notched 16 goals from 77 shots attempted and was averaging 2.1 attempts per game with a shot conversion rate of 21 percent. Looking at how Chelsea play along with the number of quality players they have in each department, it’s simply more than possible for Hazard to beat his current record.
In the end, Hazard’s chances of attempting to win the Premier League Golden Boot are quite high, as he is the first choice penalty taker for the club and will also be in the danger areas to test the goalkeepers on a regular basis. Also, his mindset of taking more shots on will help him to become a better player and a better goalscorer, even if it takes him time to turn into a clinical attacker.
After an exceedingly exciting weekend in the Premier League, only Chelsea remain as unmatched as Liverpool. But while the ladder faced a tough away match at Wembley, the former enjoyed a day out in the sun at Stamford Bridge tearing Cardiff City apart.
Maurizio Sarri’s front three of Willian and Eden Hazard led by Olivier Giroud all finished the game with success, but it was the Belgian who claimed our Player of the Weekend – finishing with Man of the Match and a tidy hat-trick. Continue reading
It was a summer all about France as they became world champions for a second time in Russia but if there was one negative pointed at Les Bleus it was that their forward Olivier Giroud failed to score in all 7 World Cup games.
It got to the stage that every time France completed a game at the World Cup it felt embarrassing almost awkward to repeatedly see Giroud finish it with no goals despite the fact that France scored 11 times alone in the knock out stages and Giroud had 13 shots on goal. But Giroud wasn’t useless in the team, because even though he failed to score he held up the ball and was able to bring in Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann into the game. A bold example was in the semi final against Belgium when he dropped back and defended well.
When France won the World Cup Giroud was cheered just as loudly as any other French player by the French public, they understood his ‘silent’ contributions. But still it would have chipped away at Giroud that he wasn’t scoring goals and that was very evident at the weekend when he scored against the Netherlands in the UEFA Nations League.
It was a smart goal too, a quick shot flick in from a pacey cross and it ended up being the winning goal in a 2-1 defeat of the Dutch. Friendlies aside this was his first competitive goal for France since last October when he got the winner against Belarus in a World Cup qualifier. The relief was immense with his latest goal and seemed to shake off his uncertainty as a forward, it was no surprise to see him sink to his knees and his teammates surrounded him. For that moment it wasn’t about going in front it was about his own personal coming back.
The goal was significant too as it put him past Zinedine Zidane in France’s top ever goal scorers list with 32. Even though Giroud is the ripe old footballing age of 31 and will be 32 by the end of this month there are no signs of him retiring from international duty just yet and so he should be able to pass David Trezeguet, needing 3 more goals to do so to enter the top 3, that’s no mean feat and should be remembered every time someone wants to point to his goal scoring record.
So with Giroud finding himself once again how will this bode for Chelsea? At the Blues he has played 3 games so far this season with no return. Overall in his career with Chelsea he has played 21 games and netted 3 times and it does seem a lack of opportunity and age is catching up with him.
Does current Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri have the patience with the Frenchman is the key question? It is still, after all, seen as a shock that Chelsea came in for Giroud when most people would have expected a lesser quality team to be after his trade. Perhaps that could have been the perfect fit for Giroud to get more playing time and score more goals. Under Chelsea who want everything and with expectations that are much higher, Giroud, who is not in the prime of his footballing days could feel more frustrated and lack more confidence if he stays. A move away from Stamford Bridge in January would not be a surprise.
When Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich purchased Chelsea in 2003 it was believed to be a hobby for him. Fast forward 15 years and after securing a few Premier League titles and cup triumphs the 51-year-old is believed to be considering selling the club and moving on to pastures new. Whether this would be the right approach for him on a personal (or a business) level is something only he can decide, but Blues fans will likely be hoping that he opts to remain in charge at Stamford Bridge. He has transformed the shape and future of Chelsea Football Club during his ownership, bringing in several world-class players and delivering a standard of football which had long since been desired among the terraces.
Seven years ago, one French Club, Paris Saint Germain invaded Serie A and plundered the league’s top stars from its top teams. Jérémy Ménez, Javier Pastore, Thiago Motta, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Marco Verratti, Thiago Sliva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Later, Marquinhos and Edison Cavani joined the fray. PSG’s incursion was propelled by current owners, Qatar Sports Investments, spearheaded by Nasser Al-Khelaifi.
It wasn’t just the ability of the oil rich investors to price away the best talents from other clubs as was the case with Neymar last season, but it exposed how vulnerable and financially weak clubs in Italy were at that particular period. Let’s look at it from this perspective, the strength of a league is predicated on the strength of its clubs. Thus, Serie A became weak in the eyes of its opposing leagues.
It’s worth to note that, during those trial moments, Juventus were putting in place the right structures, both administratively and infrastructure (The Allianz Stadium). They managed to sign the likes of Carlos Tevez from Manchester City, Arturo Vidal from Bayer Leverkusen, got Andrea Pirlo on a Bossman and a world class potential in Paul Pobga. The results are six scudetti on the bounce and two Champions League finals in the last five years. They continue to attract some of the best talents in Douglas Costa, Blaise Matuidi and Emre Can.
This season,the backdrop to Juventus campaign is the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo. Portuguese Captain is a symbol of perseverance, whiles his great achievements and showy personality drags the media to his orbit. A report this year from D’Marie Analytics, a social media research firm estimates that a post by Ronaldo across Instagram, Facebook and Twitter is worth a cumulative $728,973.35, making him both the most valuable soccer player and athlete overall.
And of course, commercially, there are all sorts of financial spin offs when you sign Cristiano Ronaldo, from merchandise to image rights.
According to Gazzetta dello Sport, Ronaldo’s debut match against Chievo attracted 2,330,234 unique viewers, with an audience share of 11.9 percent. That’s a 68 percent increase in viewers on Juve’s first match of last season, when they faced Cagliari at home. It is also the fourth-highest total since the Italian branch of Sky launched, surpassed only by the Derby d’Italia in 2013 and 2016, and Roma-Juventus in August 2015. Another Broadcast giant ESPN signed a multi-year deal to broadcast Serie A in the United States It’s difficult to quantify how much of this attention is contributed by the competitiveness of the league after Napoli gave Juventus a hard fought for the scudetto last season.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s entrance has brought the sheen that Serie A needs.
It is however important for the other top teams Inter Milan, Napoli, AC Milan and AS Roma to leverage on the current attraction to lure elite players to their abode.
The two San Siro outfits, AC Milan and Inter are beginning to recover their financial muscle after the change of ownerships from Italian families to foreign Investors, as well as Roma. Things are beginning to look up for AC Milan under the current owners Elliot Hudge Fund Management who have brought back Leonardo in the position of Sporting director, alongside Paolo Maldini as sporting strategy and development director.
AC Milan’s transfer activities have not triggered the kind of excitement that greeted the appointment of their former heroes. Paolo Maldini’s name seems to have overshadowed their purchases in the summer and rightly so because names likes, Tiémoué Bakayoko, Alen Halilovic, Samu Castillejo and Diego Laxalt do not generate euphoria. But the Rossoneri take consolation in the signature of Gonzalo Higuain and Mattia Caldara.
Inter Milan managed to sign Radja Nainggolan from AS Roma and Kwadwo Asamoah from Inter whiles keeping Ivan Peresic and their priciest asset, Captain Maruo Icardi. The reports about Luka Modric wanting to join the Nerazzurri drew a lot of enthusiasm around the club and showed further proof of the kind of players that Serie A are missing. Though the player decided otherwise, it was a sign of ambition on the part of the Nerazzurri.
Despite the acquisition of Javier Pastori and Steven Nzonzi by AS Roma this summer, the Giallorossi have lost world class goalkeeper Alison Becker to Liverpool and Kevin Strootman to Marseille. Whiles Mauricio Sarri and Jorginho have joined Chelsea from Napoli. Last year, three players from Serie A mounted the FIFPro World XI podium. Two of them, Dani Alves and Gialuigi Buffon are currently PSG players. Cristiano Ronaldo may be on the podium in the next FIFA Mens Best Player Award Event but it will be based on his performance at Real Madrid.
Serie A need a continue purchase of world class players to continue enjoying the attention it’s currently attracting.
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It was, on the face of it, not the most impressive afternoon for Chelsea. Maurizio Sarri’s side required a controversial penalty and late own goal to beat Newcastle United 2-1 on Sunday, a result which nevertheless maintained their 100 per cent winning start to the 2018/19 Premier League season. The Blues were not quite at their fluent best despite dominating proceedings throughout, but Sarri will be delighted that his players still found a way to emerge victorious at St James’ Park.
From the very first whistle, Newcastle’s approach was clear. Rafael Benitez, who usually employs a 4-2-3-1 formation, switched to a five-man backline for his side’s second home assignment of the campaign. Fabian Schar and Ricardo Rodriguez both made their debuts at centre-half alongside Ciaran Clark, while DeAndre Yedlin and Paul Dummett played as conventional full-backs rather than wing-backs looking to get forward and attack down the flanks.
It has been a great start to the Premier League season for Chelsea in terms of results. They beat Huddersfield comfortably in the first match of the season, 3-0, before winning a thrilling contest against Arsenal 3-2 last weekend at Stamford Bridge.
If there is one thing that we have learned from the first two games, it’s that Chelsea are really trying to play Maurizio Sarri’s style of football. The players all seem to have bought in to the manager’s philosophy.
Unfortunately, to get going properly under Sarri, it takes time. This is something he was not afforded as he was not even in charge of the squad from the first day of preseason training. We are starting to see now what the delay has cost the Blues and their Italian manager. Continue reading
There are so many question marks over Napoli this season after surrendering the league title to Juventus during the latter weeks of the previous campaign. The chief concern is, does Carlo Ancelotti have the necessary tools to bring success to the fans at San Paolo?
Whichever way, Carlo Ancelotti will look to continue Maurizio Sarri’s legacy of bringing exciting attacking football to the people of Naples whiles making them a genuine force again in the league. The Partenopei still boast a chunk of the key components of the squad that almost secured the Serie A title. Notably Senegal center back Kalidu Koulibaly, Lorenzo Insigne, Dries Mertens and Captain Marek Hamsik. These are players of vital importance.
However, the aforementioned players come nowhere near to the players that have brought Ancelloti success in the past. Paulo Maldini, Alexandro Nesta, Segio Ramos, Tiago. Silva, Andrew Pirlo, Frank Lampard, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Andry Shevechenko, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ricardo Kaka, Dida, Iker Casillas and Philp Lahm just to mention a few. One won’t be wrong to say with the exception of Messi, Carlo Ancelotti has coached the best players in the game in the last two decades.
Carlo may possess the ability to lure a few top players to Napoli based on his reputation, but after a reprehensible end to his Bayern Munich reign, many who love and follow him fear coaching a team like Napoli, despite their upswing in performance in the last three years could further lower his status in the game. In terms of history, stature and experience, Napoli lack the cachet of previous clubs such as Milan, Chelsea, PSG and Real Madrid.
The Partenopei rise to prominence in Serie A in recent years, had nothing to do with the acquisition of world class talents, but propelled and earned through Mauriczio Sarri, whose meticulous work ethos enabled his players to show better quality on the ball, redefined their defensive identity while their offensive ratings skyrocketed.
The San Paolo outfit do not have the financial might of Carlo’s previous employers, and with Inter, AC Milan and Roma constantly upgrading owing to the ambitions of their new owners, it’s hard to envisage Napoli challenging for the Scudetto in the not too distant future. It’s no surprise that ahead of the opening fixtures of the season, newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport predicted that both Inter and Milan will leapfrog the Partenopei in the scrap for Champion League position. One wouldn’t be far from right to surmise that this bold call was made taking into account the performance of the teams in the transfer market.
The frustrations of Napoli fans about the club’s lack of ambition in the Mercator were echoed in a recent comment by club president Aurelio De Laurentiis when he argued that “They want me to spend millions on buying new players, but then they are the ones who buy fake jerseys, make counterfeit merchandise and push through the turnstiles without paying. “So they challenge me too, and I’ll do the same with them.
Despite the talent available to Carlo Ancelotti, Napoli lag behind the likes of Juventus, Inter and AS Roma in terms of depth, and it’s difficult to imagine Ancelotti win the Scuddeto with such a thin squad. The San Paolo fans will miss midfield orchestra Jorginho who has left to Chelsea but it’s also a great opportunity for Polish international Piotr Zieliński to fulfil his potential.
Notwithstanding the win against Lazio at the Olympic last Saturday in their opening Serie A fixture, the manner in which Ciro Immobile turned three Napoli defenders to score that perch of a goal was disappointing, and Ancelotti will hope that such misjudgments do not occur going forward. It was big performances and results like this that made them favorites for a lot of neutral in their last campaign.
For Napoli to pose a threat to Juventus, it’s imperative that Arkadiusz Milik remains fit this season as his height and strength would be crucial in the box against teams like Juventus and Inter. The Polish International could be key in how Ancelotti intends to unhinge his opponents alongside the likes of Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne.
One notable difference in this Napoli team is how Carlo Ancelotti intends to use Marek Hamšík. The skipper seems to have been assigned the role of a deep lying playmaker and despite his limited defensive capabilities the Slovakian distinguished himself against Lazio. But it remains to be seen if that is an ideal plan in the long term. It’s worthy to note that, just like former boss Mauricio Sarri, Carlo is another conservative who hardly rotates his squad. Carlo Ancelotti has got an impressive coaching record, but has he got the right materials to inspire success at San Paolo?
Maurizio Sarri could hardly have asked for more from his first half an hour in the home dugout at Stamford Bridge. Goals from Pedro Rodriguez and Alvaro Morata gave Chelsea a deserved 2-0 lead inside 20 minutes of Saturday’s London derby against Arsenal, with the Blues completely in control as they repeatedly carved open their opponents at will.
Towards the end of the first half, though, Sarri’s side allowed Arsenal a route back into the game. Unai Emery’s men had not played at all well in the opening 30 minutes, but they had still managed to create two golden chances which were spurned by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. The next two opportunities that came the Gunners’ way were ruthlessly dispatched by Mkhitaryan and Alex Iwobi, putting the visitors on level terms heading into the interval.