Chelsea Break Away

Chelsea’s season just went from good to even better. The Blues did not even have to defeat Liverpool last night to extend their lead over their rivals. A 1-1 draw was more than enough to keep Arsenal and Spurs away. In fact, the Blues afforded missing a penalty late on in the game and it probably won’t come back to haunt Antonio Conte.

twitter

Arsenal had the chance to make use of Chelsea’s draw but instead they trembled. The Gunners saw themselves two goals down before pulling back a consolidation goal to end the game with a 2-1 loss at home to Watford. Elsewhere, Tottenham failed to make use of both results as they themselves were stuck in a 0-0 draw against struggling Sunderland. Arsenal should have done better on several occasions and they were lucky to scrap results against the Premier League’s small sides: scraping a 2-1 home win against Burnley last week with a penalty seven minutes into injury time, a last-gasp 3-3 draw away to Bournemouth after trailing 3-0 and an 86th minute winner against West Bromwich Albion meant that a loss to a small side was inevitable.

While Chelsea continue to fly at the top of the table, a new battle is about to emerge. The fight for the Champions League spots will probably go down to the very last week. Only a single point separates second placed Tottenham from 5th placed Manchester City while Manchester United are just four points away from the fourth spot. The battle for the top four will be an interesting one. It will be interesting to see how Arsenal and Manchester City will cope with the pressure of having to play Champions League football without compromising their performance domestically.

Chelsea are nine points clear from their closest rival after just 23 games. The Blues are not having a great season at Stamford Bridge, they aren’t playing their best football. However, they have shown their resilience and strength by doing what is needed to win consistently. The title race is far from over but we have all the reasons to believe that Chelsea will hold on to their lead until summer. The real questions is, will Conte guide Chelsea to European success or is the league title enough?

13 Teams Broke Their Transfer Records This Summer

The news is no longer a novelty; over £1 billion has been spent in the Premier League only in this transfer window. However, many other teams across Europe have spent heavily on new players. In total, 13 European clubs have broken their own transfer record. Ideally, that could mean that 13 clubs signed the best player in the history of their club this season. Nevertheless, it doesn’t work like that. The market has been inflated and so huge transfer fees do not mean that the signed players are going to be the best out there. In fact, some may feel the pressure and end up being a flop.

123

Schalke 04 signed a 19-year-old striker, Breel Embolo. The player is yet to be tested on a big stage. His performance in Euro 16 was average yet the German side had no problem breaking the bank for the young man. Borussia Moenchengladbach sold Granit Xhaka to Arsenal for a huge fee and that set them up to break their own record to make Christoph Kramer’s move permanent. Elsewhere in Italy, Ante Budimir joined Crotone for a club-record £850k. The same player was sold just four days later for £1.53m to Sampdoria.  Staying in Italy, Torino signed former Roma, Inter and Fiorentina forward Adem Ljajic and even Pescara broke their club record twice by signing former Roma midfielder Valerio Verre and Cristiano Biraghi. Even in Spain, newly promoted Deportivo Alaves and Leganes signed Daniel Torres and  Gabriel respectively. In France Angers broke their own record by signing Famara Diedhiou and finally of course, Juventus and Manchester United did the same by signing Gonzalo Higuain and Paul Pogba respectively.

This isn’t going to be an easy season at all. Small and big teams alike were forced to spend in order to improve the quality of their teams and this means that the risk is even higher for all teams. Surprisingly, Real Madrid did very little business this summer while teams like Juventus, Manchester City, Manchester United and Barcelona are under pressure to justify the money they spent but they surely improved their teams significantly. The Premier League title is definitely returning to Manchester this year, whether to the blue side or to the red one. Meanwhile Juventus and Barcelona will be hoping to replicate last season’s success domestically and go one step further in Europe. A big season awaits us, we’ve already seen glimpses of what is waiting for us and it is quite promising.

Transfer Madness: €1.4 billion on 42 players

“We can’t afford to outgun competitors that have far more money. We have to be very careful, very selective.” Ivan Gazidis, Arsenal’s chief executive, knows well that his club have not been as active as they should have been in the summer transfer window. However, the fact that huge inflated sums are being paid for players left and right helps us understand the logic behind Arsenal’s transfer policy.

Money is being spent everywhere and in any possible way, Arsenal were said to be following Riyad Mahrez and Alexandre Lacazette but as things stand, both players seem to be staying at their respective clubs and even keeping such players is a costly activity. Lyon offered Lacazette the biggest contract in the club’s history to convince him to stay.

123

Many believe that Arsenal need to spend if they are to win the Premier League or at least remain in the top four. Nevertheless, recent history has told us otherwise, Manchester Untied spent big in the past two seasons and got little in return whereas Leicester City built a considerably cheap squad and managed to win the Premier League title. Football is no longer about the team that spends the most. Nevertheless, spending money helps a lot.  Arsenal’s current squad cannot win the Premier League, the Gunners need two more players to be able to compete throughout the whole season. Wenger has taken his sweet time in considering the options at hand but he has to make a move quickly before the end of the window, or else he will end up paying inflated prices just like his opponents.

Opponents Chelsea spent €76m on only two players and now are trying to sell players before they can add anyone to their team. While Antonio Conte’s preseason preparation shows positive signs, the Blues have wasted all their transfer money on only two players. There is no doubt that more players are needed if the London-based club is to win the Premier League this season. Their former star, Romelu Lukaku is a big target but would they spend over €70m on the striker that they once sold for much less? The two London clubs seem to be slightly behind their two rivals from Manchester. Both City and United spent big this summer as they are trying to dominate English football. Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola were the first two additions, and then big players followed on both sides. The pressure to perform is big on the two and that could turn against them.

The new Premier League TV deal has turned the tide. Following a few years of losing stars such as Gareth Bale and Luis Suarez, now the Premier League teams are attracting them. Manchester United were set out on regaining their lost status as the Premier League’s best clubs and paying a record fee for a player they let go for free was no hindrance. Manchester City have won the Premier League on two occasions recently but their aim is to become a dominant European force, something they have failed to do ever since their takeover by the Abu Dhabi-based group. On the other hand, the spending hasn’t been restricted to the Premier League. Gonzalo Higuain, Hulk and Andre Gomes are three of the four most expensive transfers this summer and they moved to teams playing in Serie A, Chinese Super League and La Liga respectively. Juventus, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid, PSG, Borussia Dortmund and even Schalke 04 have spent big this summer. All in all, the 42 most expensive transfers of this summer have cost football clubs almost €1.4 billion!

Spending power is not directly proportional to football success. However, it will be interesting to see how this season will end up after huge amounts were spent. Perhaps, some learn from the story of Leicester City while others aim to do it the Real Madrid and Manchester City way. Below is the complete list of the most expensive 42 players in this transfer window so far and more are yet to come, who do you think is worth his transfer fee and who is not?

 

Paul Pogba €110m (Juventus to Manchester United)

Gonzalo Higuain €90m (Napoli to Juventus)

Hulk €55.8m (Zenit to Shanghai SIPG)

Andre Gomes  €50m (Valencia to Barcelona)

John Stones €49m (Everton to Manchester City)

Granit Xhaka €45m (Borussia Moenchengladbach to Arsenal)

Leroy Sane €43.7m (Schalke 04 to Manchester City)

Michy Batshuayi €40m (Marseille to Chelsea)

Eric Bailly €38 (Villarreal to Manchester United)

Mats Hummels €38 (Borussia Dortmund to Bayern Munich)

N’Golo Kante  €36m (Leicester City to Chelsea)

Sadio Mane €36m (Southampton to Liverpool)

Renato Sanches €35m (Benfica to Bayern Munich)

Arkadiusz Milik €35m (Ajax to Napoli)

Kevin Gameiro €32m (Sevilla to Atletico Madrid)

Gabriel Jesus €32m (Palmeiras to Manchester City)

Miralem Pjanic €32m (Roma to Juventus)

Alvaro Morata €30m (Juventus to Real Madrid)

Andre Schurrle  €30m (Wolfsburg to Borussia Dortmund)

Henrikh Mkhitaryan €30m (Borussia Dortmund to Manchester United)

Ilkay Gundogan €28 (Borussia Dortmund to Manchester City)

Georginio Wijnaldum  €27.5m (Newcastle to Liverpool)

Mario Gotze  €26m (Bayern Munich to Borussia Dortmund)

Grzegorz Krychowiak €26m (Sevilla to PSG)

Breel Embolo €25m (Basel to Schalke 04)

Jese €25m (Real Madrid to PSG)

Samuel Umtiti  €25m (Lyon to Barcelona)

Nicolas Gaitan €25m (Benfica to Atletico Madrid)

Andre Ayew €24m (Swansea City to West Ham United)

Marko Pjaca  €23m (Dinamo Zagreb to Juventus)

Vincent Janssen  €22m (AZ Alkmaar to Tottenham Hotspurs)

Antonio Candreva €22m (Lazio to Inter)

Kevin Volland €20 (Hoffenheim to Bayer Leverkusen)

Ahmed Musa  €18.75m (CSKA Moscow to Leicester City)

Lucas Digne  €16.5m (PSG to Barcelona)

Nolito €16.5m (Celta Vigo to Manchester City)

Sime Vrsajlko €16m (Sassuolo to Atletico Madrid)

Nampalys Mendy €15.5m (Nice to Leicester City)

Graziano Pelle €15.2m (Southampton to Shandong Luneng)

Ashley Williams €14m (Swansea City to Everton)

Victor Wanyama €13.5m (Southampton to Tottenham Hotspurs)

Raphael Guerreiro €12m (Lorient to Borussia Dortmund)

PSG: The Season Starts Now

PSG thrashed Troyes 9-0 in the weekend to seal the Ligue 1 title in March. Besides the fact that it was the biggest away win in the history of Ligue 1. The Parisians wrapped up the French league title on March 13, with the previous best April 15. In fact, even on a European level, they wrapped up the league with eight games to play compared to Pep Guardiola’s historic win with Bayern Munich seven games before the end. As a bonus, Zlatan Ibrahimovic reached 102 goals in only 115 games but he looks set to leave by the end of the season. Now that PSG are the French champions, their true season begins. Will they go after the Champions League title?

arsenal

PSG have now won 28 domestic title, on par with Marseille but that is no longer a major achievement. The club is expected to become one of the world’s best and failure in Europe will not help their cause at all. Their most important victory came just one week before, when they defeated Chelsea at Stamford Bridge to proceed to the quarter-finals of the Champions League. It was PSG’s first win in England and it reflects how the power balance has shifted and continues to shift with Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea missing out on Champions League football next season.

Their win at Stamford Bridge wasn’t a fluke. They dominated possession and played quite well. Zlatan was the star of the show just like he was in the game against Troyes but his time is running up and with his contract running out in the summer, he may want to win the Champions League to cement himself as a legend in Paris. PSG will be hoping to play one of Benfica, Wolfsburg, Manchester City or even Atletico Madrid. The only real threats to them are going to be Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Real Madrid. In case they evade them in the upcoming round then anything is possible in the semi-finals and it could be their first chance at making it to the final.

The luck of the draw could very much determine the fate of any team and their road to the final. Zlatan is in his final season at the club and this is his last chance at winning the Champions League. He has nothing else to focus on at the moment but do they have what it takes to eliminate Bayern Munich or Barcelona?

Is Conte the Man for Chelsea?

It looks like former Juventus coach Antonio Conte will be handed the tough task of managing Chelsea next season. The Blues are looking for a manager who can deliver from the first season and Italy’s boss could be the man. He enjoyed great success in Italy both as a player and manager. He brought Juventus back to where they belonged, the top of Serie A but with no experience outside Italy, is he the right man for Chelsea?

Conte is a strong hard-headed man. He knows how to manage his dressing rooms, particularly the big heads and how to get them to perform week in week out. He managed to turn things around at Juventus in his first season by winning the league and he did so two more times in the two seasons that followed. He decided to leave Juve due to a lack of ambition and  funds. At the bridge, he will definitely not face that problem. Club owner Roman Abramovich will gladly open his wallet and splash money in hopes of returning to the summit of the Premier League and competing on a European level.

Italia-Olanda amichevole

Italia-Olanda amichevole

One of the first signings of Conte at Juventus was the free transfer of French midfielder Paul Pogba. Under Conte, Pogba was able to become one of the best midfielders around the world and it would not be a surprise if the player decided to follow his manager back o the Premier League. Besides Pogba, Conte has a big list of names that can strengthen the Blues including Roma midfielders Miralem Pjanic and Radja Nainggolan and his former player Arturo Vidal. The Italian will definitely focus on bolstering his midfield if he is to bring the 3-5-2 to Stamford Bridge. In this case, Nemanja Matic and Eden Hazard may have to start looking for jobs elsewhere.

Chelsea could also go after PSG striker Edinson Cavani to bolster their attacking line and at the back Milan’s 21-year-old defender Alessio Romagnoli is also on Conte’s shortlist as John Terry sets to leave. Another name for the back-line could be former Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen. The budget is definitely not a problem as Conte will be handed £150m to spend on new names.

Chelsea are still assessing their options, they could stick to Guus Hiddink or sign one of Jorge Sampaoli, Max Allergi or Diego Simeone but Conte remains their best option especially since his character allows him to stand in the way of Rowan Abramovich’s interference in the team. With Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool, Conte at Chelsea and potentially a new manager at Manchester United, the Premier League is likely to return to its good old days.