EPL 2018-2019 Matchday 1, Part 3

This is the third part of a five-part series, to start from the beginning click here.
Disclaimer: This series is examining the games days prior to matchday, there is always the possibility for injuries, coach selections, etc. They may be updated to reflect most accurate starting lineup.
Huddersfield v. Chelsea
Location: John Smith’s Stadium, Huddersfield
Chelsea are clear favorites in this against relegation-candidates in Huddersfield, who are are expected to ship a lot of goals to a far superior side. The expected goals scored are about 3, and they are expected to go heavily towards Chelsea.
Chelsea finished 5th in the league last year and shouldn’t have any concerns with taking care of business against last year’s 16th-place side Huddersfield. The sides split games last year, but I don’t expect a repeat; Chelsea had a particularly poor showing last year in a number of games and have bolstered their side with the signing of Jorginho whom I expect to contribute. I also think that given the hype about Eden Hazard, he’ll want to show teams that he’s worth what Chelsea is demanding and I think he’ll put on a show. The Courtois situation does concern me some, and depending on who is in goal probably determines how many goals they conceed as I think there’s a pretty substantial dip in quality.

Read moreEPL 2018-2019 Matchday 1, Part 3

Vecino (Chelsea Target)

Matías Vecino Vecino is a 26 year old Uruguayan midfielder coming off some good performances for them at the World Cup. The deal reported to be under discussion is for about $42M. Sarri is keen on adding Vecino, who he worked with at a prior club  (Empoli) to work alongside Jorginho in midfield. His favored … Read moreVecino (Chelsea Target)

Chelsea 2018-2019 Transfer Review, Part 2

For an in-depth look at the Arsenal roster in advance of the 2018-2019 season, click here to read Part 1. This post will be updated throughout the season with notable transfers and other additions to the club.
Ins:

  • Kepa ($88M from Athletic Bilbao) – The numbers don’t look awesome on Kepa, but I think that is only telling part of the story. Athletic Bilbao finished 16th in the league, but they also scored the 5th fewest goals in the league. He made 31 appearances for the side in total and allowed 44 goals with 7 clean sheets, averaging ~1.4 goals per game. However, as I mentioned above, I’m not really convinced that’s the keepers fault because the prior year he started 23 games and only allowed 22 goals with 8 clean sheets. There were a lot of changes in the side between the 6th and 16th place finish, including centerback Aymeric Laporte‘s $72M transfer to Manchester City. Members of his new Chelsea team have already talked about his awesome communication and nerves of steel in the first game of the season. Kepa replaced Alisson as the most expensive goalkeeper transfer (2 weeks after the Alisson signing).
  • Jorginho ($63M from SSC Napoli) – Jorginho has been a key part of SSC Napoli’s team playing defensive midfielder (at a very, very high level). With all rumors swirling about members of the team departing, I can’t help but think this is — at minimum — some extra assurance for the season, though I think the talent is certainly available for Jorginho to find his way into a consistent first team role. In his Serie A games last year, Jorginho averaged nearly two tackles, two interceptions and two players dribbled past per match. That’s in addition to adding 1.5 key passes per game and maintaining a nearly 90% pass completion rate on almost 100 passes per game. He contributes in all phases of the game and I expect his time at Chelsea to be no different.
  • Robert Green (Free Transfer from Huddersfield) – I think Green is some additional support in the case that they lose Courtois or Caballero, he’s a former regular international and as long as he can keep pace with the game, I think he’ll make a few appearances and probably some good saves.
  • Mateo Kovacic (loan from Real Madrid) – Kovacic was part of the deal to get Courtois to Real Madrid, but he should be a great addition for Chelsea, too. He provides an ample amount of flexibility by being able to play an attacking, defensive, or pure midfielder role. He’s managed to accrue 43 caps for croatia and put up good performances in the World Cup — he’s also proven that he can help create. I’m anticipating him filling some of the void left by Nemanja Matic’s move to United last season. He plays best as a ball-winning midfielder focused on recovering possession and driving the counter, and I think that this will fit in well with what Sarri is aiming for in his Chelsea side.

Read moreChelsea 2018-2019 Transfer Review, Part 2

Chelsea 2018-2019 Transfer Review, Part 1

Note: As we cover more of the top teams in the Premier League – especially the “Big Six,” the individual transfer write-ups will feature a look at the overall roster (as Part 1), followed by a separate post that will contain the individual transfers to/from the team, which will be updated as appropriate (as Part 2). 
Chelsea has gone through a lot since winning the Premier League in 2016-2017, they had a falling out with some big name players, which caused a rift between the manager and the management, which ultimately would cost Antonio Conte his job. By no means was this a record fall (that honor belongs to Leicester City who won the league in 2015-2016 but only managed 12th the following year), but for Chelsea fans not making the Champions League is a bitter pill to swallow.
Chelsea is a bit of an interesting animal, looking from a statistical standpoint — I really don’t find any areas that concern me. Their goals allowed (Tied for 4th in the league), goals scored (6th) are more than serviceable, and their goal difference puts them right at where they finished the season (5th). I do think that there is room for discussion on the points dropped from losses, which is the reason they dropped from Champions League contention. Chelsea lost double (10) the games that the 4th-placed Liverpool team did (5) and even mere draws would put them on the cusp of the top 4. Now, for last season — even if they had tied those 5 additional games they still would have lost out on Champions League soccer because of the massive goal difference between Liverpool (+46) and Chelsea (+24).
The frustrating part about this is that it’s not any of the normal culprits; allowing goals late game, dropping points from winning positions away from home, falling off in the second half, etc. I think really it just has to be chalked up to poor form or the players not coming to the games ready to close them out. They also had a lot of 0-0 draws, which is definitely worth consideration also; although, honestly, Chelsea just didn’t play like Chelsea last year, I expect them to come back with a vengeance for 2018-2019.

Read moreChelsea 2018-2019 Transfer Review, Part 1

Where World Cup Award Winners Will Be Playing

Now that World Cup 2018 has been over for some time, with France coming out on top against an upstart Croatia team, you might be wondering where you can find all the stars from the tournament across the various football associations.
You’ve come to the right place!
FIFA doesn’t announce a Best XI from the tournament, which made this a little more difficult to complete. They did, however, give out four individual awards to seven individuals:

  • Golden Ball (best overall player) (gold, silver, and bronze)
  • Golden Ball (top scorer) (gold, silver, bronze)
  • Golden Glove (best goalkeeper)
  • Best Young Player

We’ll cover these seven players first, and most of these players have shown up on the various “best of the tournament” lists that I’ve seen floating around the internet.

Read moreWhere World Cup Award Winners Will Be Playing

Premier League Club Primer: 2018-2019 Edition

Ever had questions about clubs that you were afraid to ask? Here’s the rundown on the 20 Soccer teams competing in the top tier of English Soccer. Some historical facts, some questions to be answered, and some serious takeaways. Here is everything you wanted to know about the clubs but didn’t want (or know) to ask.
During the next couple weeks, we’ll be exploring each teams transfer business (In and Out) to see how well teams have addressed their needs!

Arsenal

Nickname: The Gunners
Founded: 1886 (Under a different name)
Location: London
Team Colors: Red/White
Kit Manufacturer: Puma (2014-present)
Kit Sponsor: Emirates Airlines
Ground: Emirates Stadium (2006-present)
Capacity:  59,862
Manager: Unai Emery (first season) replacing Arsene Wenger (1996-2018)
Website: www.arsenal.com
17/18 Season: 6th in English Premier League

Arsenal are a perennial Premier League team, with their only stint in lower-tier football occurring prior to World War I (as part of their progression to the Premier League). Since then, they’ve been a stalwart and are considered part of English soccer’s royalty, the “Big Six”.  While placed in this royalty, Arsenal’s recent form have had them finishing outside of the top-4 which is a perquisite for the UEFA Champions League.  Missing out on the Champions League is a big financial hit for the club, and has been a voiced concern amongst the players; some of whom have run out their contracts or joined rival clubs for the opportunity to compete at the highest level. One of these situations led to a winter transfer window swap for one of Arsenal’s top players, Alexis Sanchez, getting swapped for a Henrik Mkhitaryan who was in poor form for Manchester United so that they didn’t lose him to a free transfer deal.

Arsenal are on their first season Post-Wenger who’s been at Arsenal almost as long as I’ve been alive. So far, Unai Emery, has shown a couple of positives: he’s managed to get some top-tier talent for reasonable prices (by EPL standards) and one particular transfer, Sokratis, was able to overcome reported interest by other Big Six clubs. Arsenal is not a bad side, and I fully expect them to continue in continental competition. Arsenal’s Achilles heel last year was their propensity to give up losses, whereas their EPL opponents could fight for draws. If only a few of those losses were draws, they likely would have been in Champions League competition instead of Europa League.

I think the prospects for Arsenal will be good enough for Champions League this year. Arsenal has also had a larger squad than many teams which has caused some strife for its players (Olivier Giroud –last year, and Jack Wilshere – this year) which eventually have led them elsewhere. I think that clarified expectations under Emery could tighten up the rotation a little and keep continuity (especially in the back) which will allow them to hold on in tight contests.

Click here for an in-depth look at Arsenal’s transfers in advance of the 2018-19 season.

Read morePremier League Club Primer: 2018-2019 Edition