The end of the season: such a routine time, where the expected play themselves out: some teams reveal kits for the new season (yes, you, Everton), Manager XYZ says he’s leaving club XYZ at the close of the campaign, a tearful farewell follows the departure of a long-serving cult hero at a club, and Real Madrid win the Champions League (just typical).

Oh, right, and also, supposed writers run out of gas and opt to take a look at those Premier League players who might well switch clubs at the end of the season (or June 30 in Football-Managerish). It’s the ti…errr.. like I said, out of gas. So, straight to it then. Who are those players you could just about bet on to switch clubs after the season is read its last rites?

Arsenal

It’s likely there’ll be a raft of changes at the Emirates come the end of the season, the biggest one being the departure of Arsene Wenger. After 22 years, the French gaffer will call time on his Arsenal tenure at the end of the campaign, and it’s not unlikely that some players will also depart. Jack Wilshere’s contract runs out at the end of the season, as does the recuperating Santi Cazorla (although there’s an option of a one-year extension for him), while there are rumours linking Hector Bellerin with a move away. And with a new manager coming in, there’s expected to be a squad shake-up. No rest for the Arsenal revolving door in the summer, then.

Bournemouth

With first team opportunities hard to come by lately, Artur Boruc might well move on at the end of his contract in the summer. Harry Arter remains linked with the exit door, the rumours putting West Ham in front of the queue. Marc Pugh and Rhoys Wiggins are also out of contract at the end of the season.

Brighton

There’s always a worry for the Seagulls that bigger guns might come calling for Pascal Gross, who has been involved in 44% of the team’s goals in the Premier League this season. Liam Rosenior and Steve Sidwell will have no contracts once the season ends, and are likely to be moved on. Same might go for Niki Maenpaa and Uwe Hunemeier.

Burnley

There’s the big Burnley conundrum in terms of who’ll be in goal next season. Tom Heaton is arguably the best English goalkeeper in the league, but having been side-lined for most of this season, his deputy in Nick Pope hasn’t done too badly, even managing to force his way into World Cup contention. Both are good for number one spots at club level, and come next term, it’s likely one would move in search of it. Stephen Ward and Dean Marney are out of contract soon, while Scott Arfield has already agreed to join Rangers (no, not the one in Enugu).

Chelsea

It’s not Chelsea if there’s no forthcoming change for a new season once an old one is coming to a close, and this term looks to be no different.  Antonio Conte looks as likely to stay at Stamford Bridge next season as pigs are to fly, Chelsea are reportedly in talks with other managers already, and this- coupled with the fact that Champions League football for the next campaign is unlikely, means changes to the playing staff as well. David Luiz has spent most of this season- injury or otherwise- out of the team, Danny Drinkwater’s time at the club looks to be coming to an end, and it remains to be seen whether Tiemoue Bakayoko would get another season to get into shape, while backup goalkeepers Willy Caballero and Eduardo are out of contract in the summer. The big question is whether Eden Hazard would stick around for a second season with European elite football in three years. One thing’s for certain, though: there’ll be lots of loanees, as always.

Crystal Palace

Palace’s problematic position for the past couple of years has been in goal, with the men between the sticks having rarely convinced. All three are about to be out of contract, though, as Julian Speroni, Wayne Hennessey and Diego Cavalieri are bound to be free agents by the end of the season (although Vicente Guaita is due to join from Getafe). There’s also bound to be a hairy transfer window for the Eagles, with Wilfred Zaha likely to be subject of speculation, while there’s uncertainty surrounding Christian Benteke- even if he has said he intends to stay. Joel Ward, James McArthur, Bakary Sako, Lee Chung-Yong, Damien Delaney, Yohan Cabaye and Martin Kelly are also out of contract soon (I know right, too long).

Everton

There’s bound to be another busy summer for the Toffees, not least in terms of the exit door, likely starting with manager Sam Allardyce himself. The likes of Sandro Ramirez, Davy Klaassen and Cuco Martina are likely to be moved on after just a season, while fans would pay to drive Ashley Williams away. Joel Robles becomes a free agent once the season ends.

Huddersfield

Errr…. Not much to talk about here. Dean Whitehead and Rob Green are soon to become free agents, but (not to sound mean) who’d really miss them? Aaron Mooy might attract clubs in the summer. 

Leicester

Goalkeeper Ben Hamer runs out of contract at the end of the season, as does Robert Huth, who’s been out of the side this season thanks to a combination of injury and Harry Maguire. Riyad Mahrez has reportedly revoked his transfer request, but his case is still tagged under ‘remains to be seen’. Currently out on loan players Leo Ulloa, Islam Slimani, and long-serving Andy King are likely to also move on. As is customary at the time of the season, Claude Puel is reportedly likely to be dismissed.

Liverpool

The big transfer issue for Liverpool, since Philippe Coutinho said bye, has been Emre Can, who runs out of contract in the summer. The injured German is under Juventus’ radar, and there have been reports of a deal being signed with the Italian club. The right-back position looks rather clogged, and one of Nathaniel Clyne, Joe Gomez, and Trent Alexander-Arnold might well move on, something Daniel Sturridge would also be considering. James Milner and Alberto Moreno can also leave on a free at the end.

Manchester City

Who’d wanna leave? Okay, Yaya Toure has confirmed his departure at the end of the season, while loanee Eliaquim Mangala’s contract runs out. Joe Hart would also return from his temporary stint at West Ham, but surely be on the way out again.

Manchester United

Luke Shaw, Luke Shaw, Luke Shaw, Luke Shaw, Luke Shaw. The young left-back has been subject of some finger-pointing by manager Jose Mourinho, and there wouldn’t be a shortage of clubs coming in for English defender, who’s departure from Old Trafford seems inevitable. Michael Carrick retires at the end of the season, Anthony Martial remains linked with the exit door, while Marouane Fellaini’s contract issue remains unresolved. Matteo Darmian and Daley Blind are also bound to leave. Have I mentioned Luke Shaw?

Newcastle

Most of the Magpies’ squad is still comprised of their Championship side, even if some of them don’t appear on the pitch. Much depends on whether or not players arrive, although the likes of fringe players in Jesus Gamez, Curtis Good and Massadio Haidara, as well as loanee Tim Krul, are all out of contract at the season’s close.

Southampton

The future of a few players, and perhaps the manager, depends on whether the Saints can avoid the drop (which is likely), while Sofiane Boufal is likely to move after his exile by Mark Hughes. Jeremy Pied and Stuart Taylor are soon to no longer have contracts.

Stoke City

With relegation having been confirmed, clear-outs are not unlikely. Xherdan Shaqiri is unlikely to follow the club to the Championship, same goes for Joe Allen (picture Brendan Rodgers in Glasgow with open arms). Glenn Johnson, Jakob Haugaard, Stephen Ireland and Charlie Adam all run out of contracts soon, but dropping them a tier might make the team reconsider.

Swansea City

Another side whose players’ futures might hinge on whether or not they go down, although Alfie Mawson is likely to have a busy summer no matter what. The likes of Martin Olsson and especially Lukasz Fabianski are bound to move on should relegation be the case, while Ki Sung-Yeung is out of contract and has been linked with AC Milan, while long-serving veterans Leon Britton and Angel Rangel are also soon to be free agents.

Tottenham

It’s the stuff of mini-battles at Tottenham, with the likes of Danny Rose and Toby Alderweireld seemingly on the losing side of off-the-pitch tussles with manager Mauricio Pochettino. Both have a fair amount of suitors, and both are likely to be moved on. There are also rumours of Mousa Dembele and Victor Wanyama leaving, while Fernando Llorente might consider the exit door considering the (lack of) playing he has had. Backup goalie Michel Vorm is soon to be out of contract.

Watford

It’s not Watford if you don’t expect change at the end of the season. Manager Javi Gracia only arrived in January (on an 18-month contract), yet there are more than a few suggestions that he might be shown the door once the season reaches its close, especially with their usual end-of-season form. Any potential managerial change is always likely to lead to changes in the playing staff as well, so expect departures as well as arrivals- some Hornets fans might bite your hand off for the opportunity to drive away the inconsistent Etienne Capoue. Miguel Britos is out of contract at the end of the campaign.

West Brom

With relegation now sealed, there’s going to be changes at the Hawthorns, beginning with the managerial post. Ben Foster has declared his intention to stay even in the Championship, but clubs are surely going to come for defender Johnny Evans; Salomon Rondon has done his reputation little harm, and will lure admirers, while the likes of Nacer Chadli and Jay Rodriguez might remain in the top-flight with someone else. Chris Brunt might stick around, but his contract is currently due to expire at the season’s end, same goes for Gareth Barry, James Morrison, Gareth McAuley, Claudio Yacob and Boaz Myhill.

West Ham

If the fans had their way, the changes would begin from the boardroom. They might well settle for the departure of manager David Moyes, whose short-term contract runs out at the end of the season. Same applies for James Collins and Patrice Evra, the latter of whom is unlikely to get any renewal. Expect Robert Snodgrass to depart almost as soon as he returns from his loan at Aston Villa.

Published in International Watch

Garry Neville believes Antonio Conte will not be the one in Chelsea’s dugout next season, saying The Blues thrives on short-termism.

The last year’s league champions are currently sitting fifth on the league standing, with the hope of Champions League football next season out of sight as they are eight points behind fourth place, Spurs.

The Italian and former Juventus boss has been vocal – hitting out at Chelsea board regularly over their transfer dealings.

But Neville has said while he would have love to see Conte in the league next season, he believed the Italian would quit his job at Chelsea at the end of the season.

Neville as quoted by Skysports, “I don’t think he’s going to be here next season. We’ve thought it for six or seven months.

“And that’s not because we don’t want him here, or we don’t think he’s done great job, it’s just the nature of the job here. It’s such that when you have a season slightly worse than before you go.

“It ends up becoming a bitty, press conferences become the boardroom versus the manager, it’s happened here many, many times.

“It has been a successful club over 10 or so years, but in the second seasons, it’s never been great. In terms of the outcome, you can’t complain about what they’ve here. But the managers who come here know they’ve got a short period of time.”

The former United captain adds that though he believes Conte is a good manager, his regular complaints over transfer dealings are unfounded.

He said managers saw complaining about transfer dealings as the perfect excuse when their clubs are not doing well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published in International Watch

Peter Shreeves. Doug Livermore. Ray Clemence. Osvaldo Ardiles. Steve Perryman. Gerry Francis. Chris Hughton. Christian Gross. David Pleat. Glenn Hoddle. Jacques Santini. Martin Jol. Juande Ramos. Harry Redknapp. Andre Villas-Boas. Tim Sherwood. Even Mauricio Pochettino had had three previous tries and failed. But he’s the one who finally broke that jinx, it’s in his tenure that the ghost has been laid to rest. That Tottenham finally came to Stamford Bridge and left with all three points. That the Spurs fans were able to look in delirious disbelief as Dele Alli raced away celebrating the side’s third goal, that they could out-sing the home crowd.

‘It was very good’ said Pochettino. ‘For our fans it was fantastic to feel again the victory after 28 years’. And the fans certainly felt it- why wouldn’t they? They had felt a fair bit when it comes to playing against Chelsea. Before November 2006, they went on a drought of beating Chelsea- either home or away- and it was a feeling of relief mixed with joy when Michael Dawson and Aaron Lennon scored the goals to beat the Blues back then. It was Chelsea who confirmed that the title would slip away with that draw in 2016, Chelsea who were the only side to finish above them in the league last season, and knocked them out of the FA Cup, Chelsea who denied them League Cup glory in 2015, Chelsea whose Champions League triumph in 2012 rendered their fourth place that year to be irrelevant. Even at times when they managed a draw at the Bridge, it seemed like worse, so this was always going to taste gloriously in their mouths.

The story for the Lilywhites against Chelsea had been a little routine lately, Spurs would dominate and be on the front foot, then the Blues would snatch the lead, and it was little different here, as Alvaro Morata capitalised on some poor judgment from Hugo Lloris to head home Victor Moses’ cross and put the hosts in front. That sinking feeling at the Bridge seemed to be rearing its cruel head, but on the stroke of halftime Christian Eriksen would restore parity, a superb dipping shot that had Willy Caballero stranded in goal. ‘I wasn’t always confident of scoring from that range but I was definitely going for it and trying to hit it’ said the Dane, whose goal wouldn’t have happened had Alli not shown persistent to chase a seemingly lost ball.

Alli was particularly impressive on the day, and his display came at the right time, when they had been questions over his form and whether h would be a starter in the World Cup. ‘It’s great’ said the midfielder ‘It’s always nice to win so I’m feeling good’. He certainly felt good in the 63rd minute, when he raced onto a delightful Eric Dier pass and saw his shot go in off the post. Then it got better three minutes after, after Caballero had denied Son Heung-Min twice in succession, Alli was quick enough to get the ball under his feet and find the net for his second, for another big win this season.

The victory also puts them eight points clear of the Blues in the top four race, with seven games left, just about granting a third successive top four spot. Trophies or no trophies, it highlights Spurs’ development once more, big wins have come this term, over Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Real Madrid, Dortmund (twice), and now this. Mental blocks are being broken, and steel is being formed at the heart of this side, plus they still have a cup semi-final to look ahead to. Not that Poch is ready to relax. ‘For me it’s not enough’ he said. ‘We need to be focused and fight to the end, trying to win games’

At the moment they are winning them, and they are winning them big.

Blues on the rack

That result now means Chelsea have a mountain to climb in terms of getting into the top four this season. Antonio Conte has said he’ not worried about his future, and the club will keep fighting, but there wasn’t much fight in them today, especially in defence. That FA Cup tie in two weeks is starting to look more and more important.

Elsewhere:

  • They were boos at the London Stadium, but this time it was from the away fans, as West Ham made light work of Southampton. A brace from Marko Arnautovic clearly meant a big deal to him on the day, especially with Mark Hughes as the opposing manager. For Sparky, it was a torrid start to Premier League life with the Saints. They are in danger of being cut adrift.
  • It was the kind of game where Liverpool would fail to win in the past, as they would try but would have to settle for a point, and questions would be asked over their mettle. But who needs grit when you have Mo Salah.
  • 0, 0, 0, 0, 2, 4, 0, 0, 0, 1, 0, 0, 1. That’s the sequence of goals for Huddersfield in their last 13 league games. Eight scored, in four games, including Saturday’s loss at Newcastle where they barely threatened. With the kind of run-in they finish the season with, this may well cost them.
  • Manchester City win a game. Manchester City win a game comfortably. Manchester City dominate the opposition to the near state of submission. Is that now starting to sound… boring? It was a first win for Pep Guardiola over Everton. Another victory in the league confirms the title. It’s derby day next weekend.
  • And if you think Eriksen’s goal was good (which you do), check out Ashley Barnes’ for Burnley against West Brom as well. Wow!

Results

Chelsea 1-2 Tottenham

Newcastle 1-0 Huddersfield

West Brom 1-2 Burnley

West Ham 3-0 Southampton

Brighton 0-2 Leicester

Arsenal 3-0 Stoke

Manchester United 2-0 Swansea

Watford 2-2 Bournemouth

Everton 1-3 Manchester City

Crystal Palace 1-2 Liverpool

Published in International Watch

10 Potential Managerial Changes Next Season

Wednesday, 28 March 2018 15:07

This be the final quarter of the season, mateys; where leagues are won, cups are taken, relegations are suffered, and end of season awards are doled out. But not many things say the end of a season like when a manager leaves his post, either having earlier stated that he would leave when the season ends, or having made the sudden, but inevitable departure, or having been courted by bigger fish.

So what are the potential managerial changes that are foreseeable once the final whistle of the season goes? We have a look at 10…

Paris Saint-Germain

Without a shred of a doubt, it’s the first potential managerial change that many people are foreseeing, and not without reason. After last season’s early UEFA Champions League exit at the hands, alongside only second place in the domestic league, PSG went big in the market, shattering the world transfer record (for Neymar) and the second-world-transfer-record-in-form-of-a-loan (Kylian Mbappe), only to suffer another early exit. They may be coasting to the Ligue 1 title, but after Laurent Blanc was sacked following three consecutive league titles, one league crown and insipid European exits won’t cut it for Unai Emery, especially considering he was hired because of his continental previous with Sevilla. It’s hard to fashion a way to see the Spaniard remaining as manager next season, not least because his contract expires at the end of this campaign, and the French club already contacting Antonio Conte’s representatives. Which brings us nicely to….

Chelsea

It’s little gain pointing out the mood of Conte at Stamford Bridge this term, the Italian has gone from title-winning mastermind to sulky maverick in less than 12 months. Chelsea are currently lingering outside the top four, have won three league games from nine in 2018, and have their fate well out of their own hands, and Conte has spent time questioning the Blues hierarchy on several occasions, from not getting his players, to the board not fully committing to him. All the elements of an inevitable divorce.

Real Madrid

W…W...Wa…Wait!! Before you aim the stones and bring out the clubs, hear ye out. Zinedine Zidane’s success at Real Madrid so far is as much of a mean feat as it is a secret, but there’s no question Los Blancos have floundered this season. They were out of the title race as early as December, they’ve suffered more defeats than the whole of last season already and were bundled out of the Spanish Cup in their own backyard. It’s hard to ignore their resurgence since the start of the year, though, the goals have started to come in (yes, Cristiano Ronaldo) and they made light work of PSG in the Champions League last 16, but it’s in Europe where their only hope lies, and a quarter-final exit at the hands of Juventus might well spell the end for Zizou.

Bayern Munich

Another almost sure-fire change ahead of next season. Bayern have been transformed since Jupp Heynckes returned in September, and are at most two wins away from a sixth successive Bundesliga title, as well as going well in Europe. But despite the smiles on the pitch, and the appeals from chairman Karl Heinz-Rummenigge, Heynckes, 72, still remains intent on stepping down. There have been rumours of Thomas Tuchel (who is by no means done here), as well as Julian Nagelsmann, as potential replacements.

Arsenal

Call it bold, or foolhardy if you like; and perhaps it is. After all, many have had the gusto to predict the time by which Arsene Wenger would have left the Emirates, and all of them have been proved wrong. But the pressure seems unyielding and the discontent louder as each game of the season grows by, and you sense that should the Gunners lift the Europa League, Le Professeur might just finally walk off into the sunset. There have been endless rumours of Italians Max Allegri and Carlo Ancelotti as potential dugout replacements, while Thomas Tuchel’s name has come up in recent days. This might well be Wenger’s final hurrah. Just don’t bet on it yet, though.

Everton

It’s been a season of complete discomfort at the Blue end of Merseyside, despite the wave of optimism that swept it in the summer. After spending big at the start of the season, Everton were primed for a charge against the top six, even with the loss of Romelu Lukaku, while FourFourTwo even talked about them probably being among one of the potential outside challengers for the title. So, surely the fans wouldn’t have expected the Toffees to be spending most of its time trying to stave off relegation trouble, after a torrid start to the season saw Ronald Koeman sacked and Sam Allardyce replacing the Dutchman. Big Sam has just about guaranteed safety already, but there’s little for appreciation or optimism under his stewardship so far, Everton have had at least four games this season where they haven’t managed a shot on target, the performances have been laboured, and they’ve only won once away from Goodison since December. The fans have made no secret of their discontent, surely a side that was the sixth biggest spender in Europe in the summer and winter windows combined ought to play with ambition when away to Watford and West Brom, at the very least. Stranger things than Big Sam staying on next season have happened, but it’s hard to see Big Sam staying on next season.

Borussia Dortmund

Another side where the ship has steadied but the comfort isn’t quite there. Since the sacking of Peter Bosz, Peter Stoger has come in and kept things together nicely at Dortmund, Die Schwarzgelben haven’t lost in the league under his stewardship and are in a Champions League place. But there have been complaints over the football ever since the former Koln arrived, Dortmund have become harder to beat but hard to watch, and they did get beaten, in the Europa League at the hands of Red Bull Salzburg. Stoger’s exploits will have no doubt interested other sides, and done his stock no harm. Perhaps Dortmund would be glad to have someone take him off their hands.

Olympique Lyon

Exciting. That’s been the word associated with Olympique Lyonnais this campaign, the youthful exuberance of a youthful and exuberant side has been pleasing on the eye. But no doubt there would be bumps in the road, as there have been this season, recently as well. After a late win over PSG in February, Lyon were eight points behind the capital side, and seemed like outsiders for a title race. But the form nosedived after that, no wins in their next five domestic games. They were compensating for their drop in the league with a steady run in the Europa League, but at the last 16 stage they were bundled out by CSKA Moscow, denied a home final in the process, and that seemed like the boiling point. First, Benjamin Marcal didn’t take too well being substituted in that defeat at home to CSKA, a discontent he didn’t hide from coach Bruno Genesio. A verbal confrontation immediately followed, and Marcal has been exiled from the team ever since. Then there was chairman Jean Michel-Aulas denying reports that Genesio had offered his resignation before the Marseille game. A win in that encounter has kept them in the hunt for Champions League next season, and pushed the unease inside the club aside for the moment, but it’s not hard to sense that all is far from well at Lyon. Rumours of Claudio Ranieri being touted as a replacement are of little help to the issue.

West Ham

It’s fair to say that move to the London Stadium hasn’t quite had the desired effect that it was supposed to. After that impressive seventh place finish in 2015/16, better things were expected as the club moved away from the Boleyn Ground. Or perhaps following the impressive campaign of 2015/16, expectations became rather unrealistically high. Nevertheless, much was expected after the Hammers moved to the future, the seemingly next level, but little has been delivered. An underwhelming season last time out and a bad start to this one saw the axe swing on Slaven Bilic, and David Moyes was brought in as a replacement, despite the sneers from the fans. Moyes did start well, rejuvenating a previously forlorn Marko Arnautovic, but form has tailed off. Three defeats in three, with 11 goals conceded, are hardly any cause for optimism, and though most of the fans’ distaste has been spat at the direction of the owners, it’s not hard to foresee another managerial change at the East End.

West Brom

Duh!

Okay fine: Three league wins all season, one win since Alan Pardew replaced Tony Pulis in December, those aren’t the kind of stats West Brom were expecting this campaign. It’s been one mishap to another for the Baggies, from the sacking of the club directors to the oh-so-famous taxi-gate incident involving four of their players. It’s no wild guess to say that a lack of options is what’s keeping Pardew in the job; relegation is just about a certainty now. Pards surely won’t be around after.

Published in International Watch

 

Image via Sky Sports 

 

It’s hard to fathom a game where so much anticipation and focus will be on what happens on the side-lines as well as the pitch like this one. A grudge match like none other, where Antonio Conte and Jose Mourinho would be keen, almost to a state of desperation on getting one over each other.

Right from Conte’s celebrations, seen as ‘histrionic’ by Mourinho, when Chelsea put four past Manchester United in October of 2016, the meeting in November last year that finished with no handshake between the two, right down to Mou’s comments over not celebrating like a clown, Conte’s jibes about ‘demenzia senile’, and the match-fixing pot shot as well, the mutual displeasure looks to have been brewing, and on Sunday, when Chelsea take to Old Trafford, it might be seen as a chance for either manager to laud a victory over the other, even if they’ll naturally play it down.

‘In the past both of us have said things’, says Conte. ‘For me it’s okay and I’m not interested in speaking about this topic’. The fight for UEFA Champions League football for next season, though, is a topic worth discussing, as amidst the tumult between both managers, there are still targets to be met. ‘We have to look ourselves and understand that from now until the end of the season every game is very important’, Conte adds. ‘To get three points will be important for ourselves and United. The fight for the Champions League is open, there are many great teams and someone has to miss out’.

And it seemed like Chelsea would be a side that would miss out after their torrid start to the year, capped by three-goal defeats at home to Bournemouth and at Watford, between the end of January and the end of February. But the Blues look to have recovered, a 3-0 win over West Brom in the league, a 4-0 FA Cup victory over Hull City, and that draw with Barcelona in Europe in midweek has given them as much-needed results as it has done confidence, and they’ll certainly approach this Old Trafford game in good stead. They haven’t won at the Theatre of Dreams, however, in five years, and last season’s outcome, a 2-0 win for United, was probably the best performance of the campaign from the Red Devils.

‘Last season, they were fighting to be champions and we were not even fighting to be in the top four but it was still a big game’ Mourinho says when recalling that encounter last April. This term, it’s the same fight from both sides, securing a Champions League spot.

And for the managers, the fight might well be the same as well, to score bragging rights. Not that they would admit it, though.

Elsewhere

  • It hasn’t been the best season to be associated with West Brom, and it definitely hasn’t been the best week to be, from their taxi-gate incident in Barcelona, to the FA Cup exit at home to Southampton, and now they return to league action, where they are seven points from safety, and talk of this game being win or bust for Alan Pardew seems to be building. Opponents Huddersfield were knocked out of the cup by United last weekend, but more importantly, they registered a 4-1 win over Bournemouth a week earlier. A similar kind of league result for the Terriers and it might just be taxi for Pardew (I mean, that expression was sitting right there).
  • It’s a different Swansea side Brighton face, to the one they beat at the Liberty in November, the side that barely looked like scoring once they went behind. The Swans have had it good under Carlos Carvalhal so far, and are still in the domestic cup as well. A win for either side here is a big step towards survival.
  • Speaking of survival, Stoke still have a fair bit of work to do on that part. Despite beginning the Paul Lambert era with a win, the Potters haven’t won any of the next three games since, and lie in the relegation zone. They go to Leicester, a ground where they haven’t even scored in in any of the past three campaigns.
  • It’s a shift to Thursday for Arsenal and Manchester City, as the league clash at the Emirates between both sides makes way for the League Cup final this weekend. For Arsenal, it’s the only domestic trophy to have evaded Arsene Wenger in his time in the country. For City, it’s a chance to get up and running under Pep Guardiola, in terms of silverware. Thursday night can wait.

Fixtures

Manchester United v Chelsea

Leicester v Stoke

Liverpool v West Ham

West Brom v Huddersfield

Brighton v Swansea

Southampton v Burnley

Crystal Palace v Tottenham

Watford v Everton

Bournemouth v Newcastle

Published in International Watch

The Blues has suffered back to back defeat to both Bournemouth and Watford respectively – conceding three in the former and four in the latter, and that has made Rooney to suggest that the reigning league champions are in crisis.

The Blues manager though has adduced in recent times that he wanted to stay in Chelsea for the more years has been at loggerheads with the Chelsea Boards over failed transfers last summers.

The transfer melee at the club led to Michael Emenalo, the former Football to resign from his position at the club

And with Conte coming out on numerous occasions to critise the Chelsea Boards, Rooney posited that Conte’s antics might be a conduit to step down from his position at Chelsea.

Rooney believes that there seems to be a ‘big problem’ at the Stamford Bridge as things Conte do say openly are indoors’ discussion.

“Any problem that a team have should be kept behind closed doors,” Rooney said on Monday Night Football.

“It seems like Conte is putting a lot out there. Whether that is because he wants to find a way out because he isn’t getting what he wants, we don’t know.

“There seems to be big problem.”

Also Read: Nistelrooy the best finisher in EPL’s history, Tevez my favourite partner – Rooney

Meanwhile, fellow English International and former Liverpool defender, Jamie Carragher said Chelsea’s display against Watford was the Worst performance from the club in 15 years.

Chelsea’s cause to bounce back from 3-0 defeat to Bornemouth was shattered when Tiemoue Bakayoko received his marching orders for his second bookable offence inside half an hour.

Troy Deeney’s opener from the penalty spot was cancelled by Eden Hazard but goals from Daryl Janmaat, Gerard Deulofeu, and Robert Pereyra respectively in the dying minutes of the game ensured Chelsea were well pounded at the Vicarage Road.

Carragher, who also believed that Chelsea made things looked so easy for Watford said, “I do not think I have seen Chelsea play like this for 15 years.

“Tonight was a bad performance I have seen from a Chelsea team in a long time. Something isn’t right. Maybe they need a change.

“You would like to think that the problems he {Conte} has got with the board are not affecting the players, but as you have seen in the past few games, that was not Chelsea.

“I do not identify that kind of performance with Chelsea.”

Up next for Conte and his boys to redeem themselves will be a league meeting with West Brom next Monday at the Stamford Bridge

Published in International Watch

 

The unbending focus, the resistance to side tracking or distractions, the constant momentum generation; all factors that steered Chelsea towards their cantering league success last season, alongside the mixture of flair and resilience on the pitch, of course. Every game felt like the most important, aside from the opening two months of the season, no defeat felt like a cause for concern, more like mere blips in their inevitable journey to coast to the title.

This season, though, things have been rather different. Sure, Chelsea had no European commitments last term, and the Blues always seem one title challenge away from tumultuous ennui, but that invincibility, as well the feeling that Antonio Conte was building a long-lasting empire that was present last May has vanished. Right from the start of the season, it hasn’t quite been right, from Conte lamenting over the seeming shortage of players, to the disastrous opening day against Burnley, the transfer discomfort that led to the departure of Michael Emenalo, all down to the managerial media spat with Jose Mourinho; that high-level concentration from the Blues, that Oliver Wood-like obsession as in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the rather maniacal level of focus that was so apparent last season, has seemingly vanished.

Conte seems to have gotten his focus pulled by the media war of words between him and Mourinho, current Manchester United and former Chelsea gaffer of course, and the constant speculation of Chelsea being linked with every striker that is just about tall enough has barely helped matters, form has been affected on the pitch, just as their main man up front. The midweek penalty shootout win over Norwich in the FA Cup Third Round Replay was their first victory of 2018, and that was still met with a fair bit of dissatisfaction, they’ve failed to score in three of their five games this year.

Which might just about be a prophesy of a rather dull showing when they visit Brighton on Saturday, the Seagulls haven’t found the net in seven of their last 10 games, but with the Blues missing a few names- Alvaro Morata and Pedro are both suspended after red cards on Wednesday, while Cesc Fabregas and Gary Cahill are out injured-, the hosts might sense a chance to pounce on the unease at the club and claim a big scalp, a result Conte can ill-afford, not just in terms of growing speculation over his future, but also in terms his side’s top four spot.

At the end of a week where Chelsea launched their ‘Say no to Anti-Semitism’ awareness campaign off the pitch, they have some fighting to do on it as well. Conte has claimed he doesn’t care much for the happiness of the players, but they could all do with a smile.

Elsewhere:

  • From the tethers of European football to being just five points above relegation, Watford have rather taken quite the slump. The Hornets have one win in 10 games, and lost a fair share points late in games. ‘Of course I am concerned (about the form)’ said manager Marco Silva. ‘This is not what we work for’. The Hornets travel to Leicester this weekend, although the Foxes were only side Watford have beaten in their last 10 league matches, demonstrating resolve to come from behind on Boxing Day, the kind of resolve they showed in snatching a point last weekend against Southampton, even though there was a touch of fortune about it. They could do with some more luck here as well.
  • By the time Arsenal step onto the pitch to play Crystal Palace, Alexis Sanchez might well have officially left the club. They didn’t fare quite well without the Chilean at Bournemouth, and Palace have lost only once in 12 games, although that was against the Gunners three weeks ago (where Sanchez scored twice). With Mesut Ozil likely to be unavailable for the hosts as well, alongside the Eagles’ new-found sturdiness and their potency on the counter, this could make for some uncomfortable viewing for the Gunners. Expect the Emirates crowd to get antsy if things don’t go well early on.
  • On the one hand, the game at Anfield last weekend showed Manchester City aren’t impenetrable after all, the league leaders might be under pressure to bounce back, and Newcastle are a better prospect away from St. James Park these days. On the other, City are likely to be wounded and vengeful Lions at the Etihad this weekend, Newcastle’s will-it-won’t-it takeover talks still haven’t abated, and the Magpies haven’t beaten City in the league since Christian Bale began his three-movie venture in the Batman franchise. Good luck, Rafa.
  • With news of Alexis Sanchez’s impending arrival, and Jose Mourinho having signed a new contract, things seem in a rather bright mood at Manchester United, as they travel to Turf Moor to take on Burnley. The Clarets lie in seventh, to the surprise of many, but haven’t won in seven outings. Stop that rot here, and the team grabbing headlines by not grabbing headlines will have pulled off another shock.
  • Oh, and after Everton were manhandled last time out against Spurs, manager Sam Allardyce says he’ll set out to make his side more boring. They host West Brom this weekend. If ever there was a screaming ‘DON’T WATCH IT!!’ sign on a game…

Fixtures

Brighton v Chelsea

West Ham v Bournemouth

Swansea v Liverpool

Burnley v Manchester United

Southampton v Tottenham

Everton v West Brom

Arsenal v Crystal Palace

Stoke v Huddersfield

Manchester City v Newcastle

Leicester v Watford

Published in International Watch

Ross Barkley has undergone a medical ahead of his move to Chelsea and the deal could be confirmed by the Premier League champions on Friday, according to Sky sources.

Sky Sports News understand the Everton midfielder and his representatives are at Stamford Bridge finalising the transfer.

Barkley, who has not featured for Everton this season despite recently returning to first-team training following hamstring surgery, had less than six months remaining on his contract at Goodison Park.

The England international came close to joining Chelsea in the summer transfer window after the clubs agreed a £35m fee, but ultimately opted against the move.

Tottenham were also interested in signing Barkley last summer, but Sky Sports News understands they decided against reigniting their interest in the 24-year-old with Mauricio Pochettino focusing on other targets.

Everton manager Sam Allardyce admitted on Thursday that he was expecting to receive bids for Barkley before the close of the January window.

"I would expect there would be sometime in this window if there is going to be any interest from some of the big boys," he said.

Barkley, an Everton academy graduate, has scored 27 goals in 179 appearances since making his debut for the club in August 2011.

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte is close to securing his first signing of the January transfer window

He was rewarded with a new four-year deal in July 2014 by then-manager Roberto Martinez after featuring for England at the World Cup in Brazil.

Barkley, capped 22 times by England, has previously expressed a desire to play Champions League football and will be eligible to play for Chelsea in their last-16 clash against Barcelona in February

(Sky Sports News)

 

 

Published in Transfer Rumors

The working one" Fidelis Ilechukwu has revealed that he took a leaf each from the books of Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola and Antonio Conte as he helped steer the performance of MFM FC from relegation strugglers to title challengers in their second NPFL season. 

MFM FC struggled in the regressive water of relegation in their debut NPFL season, barely escaping the drop only for Heartland's indiscipline away at Wikki Tourists on the final game of the season. But the following season, fortunes turned for the 'Olukoya Boys' as they rose from the humbling grass of relegation battle to the grace of title challenge, although they eventually lost the title to Plateau United, Ilechukwu's tweak on this team was mind-blowing. 

Also Read: I want to be the next George Weah: Stephen Odey

In an Interview with Goal.com, the tactician highlighted the influence of big three of EPL had on his title challenge campaign. 

"I also adopted Guardiola's style of keeping the possession no matter the pressure during the match - the ball must be on the ground and the team must dominate.

"While Conte's philosophy of having fewer defenders and more players in the midfield and the attack was another tactic I used. So when things change, I can change to any of them.

"When I started early last season taking the risk and implementing those philosophies I adopted in our away games, we concede up to four goals. That's one result is different from the other, especially when we play away from home.

"For example in one of our home game against Gombe United, if not for the adoption of Mourinho's style of packing the box, we won't have survived the match because they gave us problems as they were fighting against relegation." He revealed. 

 

 

 

 

Published in Awa Football

 

No one really does victory in the face of adversity like Chelsea. Written off by a few before they made the trip to Wembley on Sunday, some had even boldly suggested that a defeat against Spurs would see them struggle to make the top four, let alone retain the title. But like they did to effect most times last season, the Blues never let their heads drop, and left the national stadium with the spoils, despite facing a barrage from their hosts.

This has become a key feature that Chelsea possess under Antonio Conte- who returned to wearing a suit on Sunday-; that ability to get the job done, win ugly, scrap their way to three points where just one looked like the best-case scenario, never resigning to settle; almost reminiscent of Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United. They have only suffered back-to-back league defeats on one occasion under the Italian, and on Sunday showed that their loss to Burnley the previous weekend was more of a blip, and less of a sign of decline.

The biggest headlines at the club going into that home defeat to the Clarets were Conte’s displeasure at a lack of new additions and the constant malaise surrounding the issue of Diego Costa; and while they haven’t quite disappeared, the manager did his best to deflect the attention away from all that before this weekend, having a laugh when the Costa case was brought up at his pre-match conference; and his players responded on the pitch by defending every ball, clearing every cross, and eventually nicking a winner at the other end. You’d have expected them to lick their wounds after conceding that late equaliser, but instead they rolled up their sleeves and found a way to claim all three points.

The tumult surrounding the club’s supposed transfer inactivity hasn’t been eradicated by any means, but it has been eased, and the focus seems to have returned to things happening on the pitch.

On Sunday they showed, not just why they’re champions, but also how difficult it will be for anyone attempting to wrest the title from their grasp.

Published in International Watch

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