Five keys to Juventus vs Napoli

This weekend of the 2019/20 Serie A season is one of the more anticipated rounds, with it having been circled on the calendar ever since it came out last month.

Saturday evening sees two of the league‘s main title contenders pitted against one another at Juventus Stadium in Turin as Maurizio Sarri’s Juventus play host to Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli. Though the attention and buzz surrounding this fixture stems from Sarri’s first match against his former club, his status for the bench remains unclear at the moment. In any case, this clash promises to deliver plenty of excitement, tension and drama.

Here are five key elements which could determine the outcome of this round 2 encounter. Continue reading

Marek Hamsik’s curtain call opens the door for Amadou Diawara at Napoli

SSC Napoli v AC Chievo Verona - Serie A

Bombshell transfer news struck post-match of Napoli’s 3-0 win over Sampdoria at the Stadio San Paolo as Carlo Ancelotti revealed to the media “talks are in progress over a potential move” for Slovakian Marek Hamsik.

The eyebrow-raising Italian boss went on further to explain the Partenopei “will work to satisfy his wishes,” but according to Sky Sport’s Gianluca Di Marzio, it seems like president Aurelio de Laurentiis has already.

Di Marzio has reported the 31-year old, who has been a folklore hero in Naples for 12 years and is the club’s all-time leader in goals and appearances, will join Chinese outfit Dalian Yifeng for a fee of €15 million. He is expected to earn €9 million per season under a new three-year contract. Continue reading

Four Reasons Why Chelsea Can win the Premier League this Season

eden hazard chelsea

Chelsea are in red-hot form at the moment as evidenced by their most recent victory over a newly-promoted Cardiff side who have managed to garner just two points from their opening five games in the Premier League thus putting them in danger of relegation despite it being so early in the season.

Whilst many might dismiss Chelsea’s win over Cardiff as a routine victory considering the latter’s position on the league table, the dominant manner with which the Blues won the game is a testament to their Quality this season.

Without further ado here are 5 reasons why Chelsea can win the Premier League this season;

Eden Hazard’s Brilliance

In the past few years, Eden Hazard hasn’t had the best of luck regarding Chelsea’s managerial choices. From Jose Mourinho to Antonio Conte – two managers with defensive tactical advocacies back-to-back have prevented the Belgium international from showing the Premier League and and world what he’s truly capable of.

Whilst he’s always been Chelsea’s key man, the defensive responsibilities placed on him along with the lack of fluidity on the pitch continuously prevented him from playing to the best of his ability – not anymore, though, as he now plays in a system that let’s him focus on attacking thanks to the presence of Maurizio Sarri at the helm of Chelsea’s tactical affairs.

Hazard has scored five goals and registered two assists in 5 Premier League games, two of which saw him come in off the bench. His goal and assist contributions, though, don’t tell the full story of his brilliance for Chelsea this season considering how well he’s been bringing other players into play and drawing opposition defenders out of position to create space for his opponents. Hazard is currently playing at a level rivaled only by the likes of Messi, Neymar and Ronaldo – With Hazard in this kind of form, Chelsea are unstoppable going forward.

Strength in Depth

Since the start of the campaign Willian and Pedro, both of whom were rumoured to be on their way out of Stamford Bridge have been used interchangeably by Sarri to great effect with Pedro being Sarri’s preferred option at the start of games. The Italian tactician’s use of both players has kept Chelsea unpredictable going forward and also prevented either of them from tiring out ahead of upcoming Premier League encounters.

Sarri is also able to utilise either Olivier Giroud or Alvaro Morata up front, and whilst they’re not really as prolific as they should be, they’re capable of scoring goals.

In midfield Sarri is able to call upon Real Madrid loanee Mateo Kovavic, Ross Barkley, Jorginho, Kante and Danny Drinkwater, all of whom are capable of putting in great performances should they be deployed in any area of the midfield.

Even in defence, Chelsea’s strength in depth is telling, hence when the Europa League begins the Blues will be able to participate without neglecting their Premier League ambitions and vice versa.

Jorginho’s Midfield Masterclass

Italy international Jorginho has settled into Chelsea’s midfield quite nicely having contributed a great deal to the team’s increased fluidity, attacking prowess, and, of course, success.

Despite being yet to register an assist this season, due in large part to his deep-lying playmaker role, Jorginho has effectively dictated Chelsea’s play for five games in a row, often allowing his teammates to constantly move into different areas of the attacking third knowing fully well that the ball will be distributed to them at the right time, with the right pace and the right weight.

Jorginho appears to be one of Chelsea’s most influential players as he’s very integral to the success of Sarriball, especially against high pressing teams.

His presence in the side could see Chelsea go all the way and win the Premier League title come the end of the season.

Chelsea’s Support

Chelsea’s support has been tremendous since the start of the season. The club’s fans are ecstatic thanks to the team’s attacking mentality, and their success whilst utilising a more attacking system than the fans have been used to seeing over the past few years.

The club’s support have received Maurizio Sarri’s system with open arms and the joyous mood of the fans has helped to motivate Chelsea’s players to perform to the best of their abilities and grab maximum points each time they step onto the pitch.

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Jorginho’s growing influence at Chelsea

Jorginho_Napoli For all the talent within Manchester City’s ranks Pep Guardiola felt the need to acquire new players during the recently concluded transfer window, one of whom was Algerian winger Riyad Mahrez who’s displays for Leicester City over the past few years warranted a move to a club of City’s calibre.

Another one of Guardiola’s prime targets was Napoli midfield maestro Jorginho, who’s sublime displays in Maurizio Sarri’s Napoli made him one of the most highly-rated midfielders on the European football scene and the subject of multiple bids from City.

“He always plays through the middle, with one-metre passes. It’s difficult to keep him back and intercept his play. He tires you out because he distributes the ball very quickly yet remains practically stationary. You must have a lot of energy to keep him behind the ball and defuse his intentions. He can be difficult to face” said Radja Naingollan, one of Europe’s best midfield enforcers, after naming Jorginho as his most difficult opponent on the pitch.

Luckily for Chelsea fans, Jorginho opted for a move to Stamford Bridge despite Guardiola’s keenness on making him part of his silky-smooth Manchester City side.

Maurizzio Sarri’s move to the London outfit certainly played a role in the Italy international’s decision to ignore Manchester City’s attempts to sign him considering the fact that Chelsea are absent from this season’s Champions League competition, and participation in Europe’s elite cup competition is usually a big factor for top players looking to switch clubs.

Since joining Chelsea, Jorginho has effectively performed the role he was acquired for as evidenced by his side’s points tally. He’s deployed as a deep-lying playmaker but evidently has a license to move further up the pitch should certain plays demand it. He starts attacks off from deep, often searching for the right option in midfield in a bid for Chelsea to find a good route into their opponent’s half of the pitch.

Jorginho also looks to pick out players further up the pitch when such an opportunity presents itself, making the ball segue with relative ease. He has been instrumental in Chelsea’s perfect start to the 2017/18 season, making key passes, intercepting the ball and dictating the tempo of games.

He managed to bag a goal on his Premier League debut against Huddersfield, albeit from the penalty spot – but the confidence and fearlessness to strike the ball so cleanly is testament of the composure and calmness he brings to Chelsea’s midfield.

Such is his equanimity that he doesn’t dive into tackles often, he much rather prefers to asses the situation and set himself up for an interception He is yet to register an assist for the Blue, due in large part to his role on the pitch – he often finds himself at the start of attacking moves, hence; someone else is almost always going to be the one to play the final pass which ultimately counts as the assist.

Four games into the season and Jorginho already tops the individual chart for the most successful passes in the Premier League with a tally of 417 successful passes in a list dominated by defenders who are often able to pass the ball sideways to an open player deep within their own half without having to deal with constant pressure all the time. He currently averages 104.25 passes per game with a 92.1% pass success rate.

His presence in the middle of the park allows Chelsea to execute Maurizio Sarri’s tactical advocacy excellently, with the ball being distributed from midfield non-stop with the right speed, right weight and superb accuracy making it difficult for opposing team’s to half Chelsea’s fluidity with the ball.

From his first few games of the season, Jorginho has shown the Premier League why he’s widely regarded as the heir to Andrea Pirlo’s throne. His style of play is markedly similar to the Italian football legend and his effectiveness in utilising that style in a regista role on the pitch is on par with the Juventus icon.

Jorginho has quickly established himself as an indispensable member of Chelsea’s first team set-up as a result of his exquisite performances and from the looks of it his influence is likely to grow once the Blue’s Europa League campaign fully commences. Maurizio Sarri is certainly happy he was able to bring the 26-year-old to Stamford Bridge with him after a great run in Naples – it remains to be seen, though, if Jorginho’s brilliance will be enough to keep Chelsea firing on all cylinders until the end of the season.

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Kalidou Koulibaly Emerges As Napoli’s Most Valuable Player Entering The 2018/19 Season

Koulibaly

As the price tag for elite central defenders continues to soar with each passing summer, it is becoming quite clear that Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly is not only the Partenopei’s most valuable player, but perhaps even the best of his kind trotting the Italian peninsula as we enter the 2018/19 Serie A season.

The 27-year old Senegalese centre-half went mainstream last season in Europe as Maurizio Sarri’s dominant defensive force and a major contributor to their 90+ point campaign. Although the Azzurri came up short in their efforts to dethrone rivals Juventus, Koulibaly’s season-long form was as good as any defender in Europe last year and was exemplary of just how complete he has become at this stage of his career.

Since arriving in Campania four summers ago for a meager £6,5 million from French side Genk, Koulibaly has moved from strength to strength, showing both elite physical and technical quality and with the game recognition that casts him as one of the best models younger defenders should strive to emulate.

The former Metz player ticks off all the boxes you require of a top-flight central defender here in 2018, and the traits the world’s powerhouse look for when lodging massive bids.

From a pure physical standpoint, Koulibaly’s 1,95 metre frame makes him a handful to deal with engaging in aerial battles – both offensively and defensively. Look to his match-winning header at Allianz Stadium late last season to lift Napoli over Juventus as an example of what he is capable of on set pieces and corners, along with the fact he scored 5 goals from the back. When you combine his size, strength and ability to attack the ball in the air, you have a nuisance coaches and defensive units must scheme to combat.

Beyond that, Koulibaly’s a swift, classy operator on the ball with the unwavering confidence and handling in possession that made him one of the key cogs in the smooth-working ‘Sarrismo’ machine, completing an average of 91.2% of his passes in 2017-18 (via WhoScored).

In 2018, defenders certainly need to offer more than a crunching tackle or bullying effort to win possession. While Koulibaly is more than adequate with each, and can initiate build-ups and beat a press by virtue of his passing ability, there are still the fundamentals of defending that remain essential in today’s game even in this era of advanced statistics and analytics.

You cannot deny that while his technical and physical quality puts him right there amongst the best in Europe, it is also the awareness and positional sense to cover his ground defensively that puts him over the edge.Seldom do you see Koulibaly egregiously lunge into a challenge or stray out of position leaving himself vulnerable, which is sometimes underappreciated when you consider how much emphasis is laid into the technical aspects of the role.

Without question, the 59-year old chain-smoker Italian played a vital role in Koulibaly’s progression and maturity, much like with several in the squad during his tenure in Naples. We can be sure the Senegal international will be eternally grateful for Sarri’s tutelage, but now, Koulibaly will get the luxury of working with one of the world’s most winningest managers Carlo Ancelotti, who will undoubtedly have an impact in more ways than one as he enters the prime of his career.

In a summer where Napoli have lost two key figures in Sarri and Jorginho to Chelsea, it was imperative they retained Koulibaly at all costs, even if it required president Aurelio De Laurentiis to reject an astronomical €100 million bid. In doing this, it has been made abundantly clear that not only is Koulibaly Napoli’s most valuable player at this point in time, but also a defender who will likely become the most expensive of his kind when De Laurentiis feels he has been given an offer he simply cannot refuse.

For now, Neapolitans, Ancelotti and their entire defensive line will continue to show immense appreciation for Koulibaly and his influence at the heart of what fans hope will amount to yet another strong run towards winning a league title.

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Maurizio Sarri finally appointed as Chelsea’s coach

AC Chievo Verona v SSC Napoli - Serie A

It took way longer than anticipated, but Chelsea have finally announced Maurizio Sarri as their new coach on. He was effectively replaced at Napoli by Carlo Ancelotti on May 23rd, with the president Aurelio De Laurentiis unwilling to wait any longer. The Blues took their time to sort out what to do with Antonio Conte’s conspicuous severance pay and the two parts seems headed to a messy divorce after the firing. A frontrunner all along, Sarri beat Laurent Blanc and Luis Enrique for the job and will be assisted by Gianfranco Zola.  Continue reading

Chelsea’s delayed signing is setting Maurizio Sarri up for failure

rsz_1sarri-midtjylland

Maurizio Sarri to Chelsea has been spoken about so much that it seems like a done deal. Only, it isn’t.

As of now, the facts remain the same: Antonio Conte is the manager of Chelsea and Maurizio Sarri is still employed by Napoli. This remains a problem for all four parties involved. Why? Well Conte is the manager of a club who doesn’t want him. Sarri is employed by a club who has no use for him. Chelsea can’t get their transfer campaign started until this is resolved, and Napoli are paying two coaches to do one job.

At the end of the day, the bigger problem lies with Chelsea and Maurizio Sarri; however, as Conte has a huge buyout clause in his contract and will be paid very well to walk away. Napoli also have their coach in place and have begun signing new players, therefore, they are not affected by Sarri still being on the books.  Continue reading

Amadou Diawara and his foggy future at Napoli

SSC Napoli v AC Chievo Verona - Serie A

It’s no secret. Napoli have on their hands a future star midfielder in Amadou Diawara, yet he hasn’t entirely been granted the full opportunity to prove it to the rest of the world in Naples as Jorginho’s always remained ahead of him under the recently departed Maurizio Sarri. However, with the 26-year old Italian controller reportedly set to finalise a big move to Manchester City as Pep Guardiola’s ideal tempo-setter, there are questions to be asked about Diawara. Will he now be handed full reins at the base of the midfield, or do the rumours of president Aurelio De Laurentiis exploring the market for recruits in the Guinean’s role mean his days in azzurro are numbered?  Continue reading

Napoli Coach Carlo Ancelotti Should Consider Building His Midfield Around Jorginho

Jorginho

After months of speculation in the media surrounding his future at the club, manager Maurizio Sarri’s era as Napoli boss came to an end earlier this past week as president Aurelio De Laurentiis announced the chainsmoking Italian tactician would no longer be in charge.

Sarri, who has been at the helm of the Partenopei since 2015, transcended the way Napoli football was played with an aesthetically pleasing brand that earned widespread praise and plaudits across continental Europe.   Continue reading

Help Wanted: Napoli set to delve into the goalkeeper market this summer

Over the last few years, Napoli have been in the market for a goalkeeper that could be the long-term replacement for Spaniard Jose Reina who is set to join AC Milan on a free transfer this summer when his contract expires.

The former Liverpool shot-stopper has commanded the Partenopei’s net the last three seasons, eclipsing over 100 total appearances along the way. For the most part, Reina has been reliable for Maurizio Sarri and his Napoli side with title ambitions. Yet, there is no denying that at times, the 35-year old’s been less than stellar and without question past his prime.

Continue reading