London is Blue is a soccer fancast created by Chelsea FC fans from America and covers all things Chelsea. Hosts are @BBBusbee, @DanDormer and @NickVerlaney.

London is Blue is proud to be presented by WorldSoccerShop. Visit them at www.WorldSoccerShop.com to find the best Chelsea FC gear!

Part 1: Everton Review

Chelsea 2-0 Everton, Premier League

Sunday, August 27th | Stamford Bridge

 

Part 2: Social Media Questions

 

Part 3:  Rivals Review

How are Manchester United, City, Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham doing? We cover where the “title challengers” are at right now.

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Music Produced by Layird Music: https://layirdmusic.beatstars.com/

London is Blue is a soccer fancast created by Chelsea FC fans from America and covers all things Chelsea. Hosts are @BBBusbee, @DanDormer and @NickVerlaney.

London is Blue is proud to be presented by WorldSoccerShop. Visit them at www.WorldSoccerShop.com to find the best Chelsea FC gear!

GUEST: Joe Tweeds, @JoeTweedie

Part 1: Tottenham Hotspur Review

Chelsea 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur, Premier League

Sunday, August 20 | Wembley Stadium

 

Part 2: Social Media Questions

 

Part 3: Everton F.C. Preview

Chelsea vs. Everton F.C., Premier League

Saturday, August 26  | Stamford Bridge

 

Contact Us

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Website: http://londonisbluepodcast.com

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/london-is-blue-chelsea-fc/

Music Produced by Layird Music: https://layirdmusic.beatstars.com/

London is Blue is a soccer fancast created by Chelsea FC fans from America and covers all things Chelsea. Hosts are @BBBusbee, @DanDormer and @NickVerlaney.

London is Blue is proud to be presented by WorldSoccerShop. Visit them at www.WorldSoccerShop.com to find the best Chelsea FC gear!

Part 1: Burnley FC Review

Chelsea 2-3 Burnley FC, Premier League

Saturday, August 12th | Stamford Bridge

 

Part 2: Social Media Questions

 

Part 3: Tottenham Hotspur Preview

Chelsea at Tottenham Hotspur, Premier League

Sunday, August 20th | Wembley Stadium

 

Contact Us

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LondonBluePod

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Facebook: https://facebook.com/LondonBluePod

Website: http://londonisbluepodcast.com

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/london-is-blue-chelsea-fc/

Music Produced by Layird Music: https://layirdmusic.beatstars.com/

These are emails exchanged between a fan of the pod and one of our hosts. Enjoy these unfiltered thoughts from two fans.

Hey Brandon,

I hope all is well, at least as well as it could be after today’s shit show.  The thing that stood out to me most, was how Cesc is not a serviceable player as a holding midfielder, unless we got to 3,5,2 with Bakayoko-Cesc-Kante, Cesc looked slow and out of sorts.  I don’t want to bash him, it just isn’t the position for him as he isn’t good enough defensively.
Lampard called out the board that we need more signings, I don’t see anyway we can be successful on any of the 4 fronts without another holding midfielder and a wing back.  Do you guys think we will make deadline day signings like last year (Alonso/Luiz?)
Not sure about getting VVD from Southampton, but I think we will get Drinkwater for better or worse and I am hoping we get a serviceable wingback (just not Candreva in a swap for Christensen!)
Anyway looking forward to the pod, sure you will discuss the harshness of the ref, 3 yellows and a red… which I’m not sure about straight red.  Hopefully my question about signing will make it to the pod if you get a chance, really curious about your guys take.
Later

Hey Erik!

Can’t remember if I replied to your last email about the summer update, so apologies if not. We all took a little break from the Pod in June to recharge for the upcoming season – hopefully you understand!

I personally didn’t watch the game as I’m currently responding on my phone from a beach at a cabin in rural Minnesota 🙃 but watched Twitter enough to feel like I have a decent idea on how things went.

Even without this match we all know Cesc can’t play in a 2-man midfield. We lose too much of what he’s good at and force him to defend an uncomfortable amount over 90 minutes. Another true box-to-box or holding mid is 100% required.

Wing backs, wingback, wing backs. Has to be the number one priority even over a CM. Zero depth in that position is a recipe for disaster. If Sandro and Candreva don’t come in sooner than later, I fully expect at least one wingback we’ve never heard of (a la Alonso last season) to arrive on deadline day for £25-30 million. Only way Christensen leaves is if we pick up VVD and I don’t think that’s needed at this point, but he wouldn’t hurt us, that’s for sure.

Obviously we’ve been talking about signings all summer during the transfer window so I’m sure it’ll come up again.

KTBFFH,
Brandon


Hey Brandon,

Very wise of you not to watch the game today, as we just haven’t played up to our capabilities the last two matches at Wembley.  Today’s performance have me concerned about the game against Burnley and especially against Tottenham on 8/20.  It is clear the only defensive mid we have right now is Kante (with the sales of Chalobah and Matic) until Bakayoko is healthy.  This may sound crazy, I would like to play Luiz as a holding midfielder next to Kante, and we give Christensen a chance on defense.  More recently we have seen it done with Zouma, but years ago Luiz played holding mid under Rafa and it was the best he looked at Chelsea until Conte took over.  He is able to spring players (notably Hazard and Mata) with long balls and was able to make smart interceptions – cover a lot of ground defensively.  Again, is it risky to pull him from the role of leading our defense?  Yes, but we have no one else to play with Kante, Cesc cannot handle the defensive responsibility (it stunts his playmaking ability and defense has never been his forte), so either Bakayoko is ready, we purchase Drinkwater or someone capable of playing as a true defensive mid or I say we insert Luiz.  Here is a video of him in that role in 2012:
Sadly I don’t think we will get Sandro… which means as far as I am concerned we should never loan or sell a player to Juve again.  I would like to sign Candreva, he is a bit up there in age and cost will be an issue for the board.  I would really prefer we get Bertrand, proper Chels and boosts our English player total, plus he is younger so I would be willing to pay more.

By, Thomas Wheaton (Twitter: @tj_wheaton)


Ah, the seemingly never ending saga to obtain the signature of Alex Sandro continues. Juventus continues to play hard ball and rejected a €60 million bid from Chelsea for the Brazilian left-back. Should Chelsea meet Juventus’ demand of upwards of €70 million? Let’s discuss.

First and foremost, while this is a technicality and doesn’t really need to be reiterated… money is not an issue as long as Roman Abramovich owns our beloved Blues. It is simply something that we don’t need to be worried about. Frivolous spending on players simply for the reason of buying them on the other hand, that could raise some concern, but buying Sandro would not be waste of Abramovich’s money.

Last season, Chelsea brought in Marcos Alonso on the day before the deadline in what many pegged as a last-ditch response to not making any real big acquisitions aside from N’Golo Kante. As it turned out, Marcos Alonso fit in beautifully with Antonio Conte’s patented 3-4-3 formation. Alonso got the job done, and excelled in the left wing-back position, but can he do it again this season?

I, for one, believed Alonso would be a decent central midfielder playing more on the left side of the pitch. It never really seemed to me like he enjoyed playing defense. He was often up, overlapping with Hazard and/or sending nice crosses into the box. He did have six goals in 35 appearances for the club, which by all means, is not bad for a so-called defensive player. Yet still, I am not a believer in Alonso’s defensive ability. And during the preseason tour, he did himself no favors.

Alonso was caught up the pitch multiple times and the opponents punished him for it. Specifically, the Bayern game was truly atrocious for Alonso as he was almost single handedly responsible for Thomas Muller’s first goal. But Alonso isn’t the focus here, Sandro is.

There is no denying that Sandro would be an upgrade over the incumbent, Alonso. He is faster, better on the ball, and more defensively responsible than Alonso. Also, he has played in bigger games (Champions League for example) than Alonso, so he is undoubtedly more experienced than the Spaniard. There really is not a case for Alonso instead of Sandro at that left wing-back position for Chelsea. Oh, except the part where he is not yet a Blue.

Sandro is a physical specimen. A tall, powerful defender who is also capable of controlling the ball at his feet. Sounds familiar right? Maybe you’re thinking about his future teammates like David Luiz or even Caesar Azpilicueta? Sandro would fit in extremely well in Conte’s 3-4-3 as he is capable of coming forward and engaging in interplay with the likes of Eden Hazard and Alvaro Morata. But, is also capable of holding his own on the defensive side of the ball. Better yet, with his pace it is highly unlikely that he gets completely caught out on the left flank, unless he is on the ground or the play is too quick.

While €70 million would be a lot of money, and a world-record for a defender, it is the logical move for Chelsea. They need the depth, because it is unknown whether Alonso can really maintain last year’s performances. Sandro is an elite player who can play in both the left-back role (if Conte moves to a 4-3-3) and the wing-back role (if Conte continues the 3-4-3 or 3-5-2 formations).

Chelsea whiffed on sending Matic to Juventus to sweeten the offer as he was claimed by Manchester United this week. Despite the setbacks and Juve standing firm on their demands, Chelsea need to end their hesitant approach to transfers and bring Sandro to Stamford Bridge.

 

Thumbnail Image Courtesy of: The Sun

 

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By, Jordan Harbin


Sharpen those pencils, grab your notebooks, and lace up those new Payless sneaks….’cuz school’s back in session! (BOOM)

With Chelsea finishing up it’s pre-season jollies in Asia, it is time to gear up and focus in on a very important role in this Premier League season. Everyone wants them, few clubs truly have them, and all the money is being splashed out to get them…you guessed it….WING-BACKS! Here we will take a look at the three most important reasons why this Premier League season and seasons to come will be heavily influenced by these positions.

Positional Versatility

These feisty defenders bring an exceptional depth to their game that not many other positions can hold. Their ability to defend is just as vital as their ability to attack. This positional versatility gives teams a multi-faceted quality to their playing style. Not only can they stop an attack, but they can also be the first instruments that shift momentum to attack. This is important for Chelsea because of their desire to hit teams on the counter and hit them fast. The wingback provides this flexibility in keeping a defensive player, who has the ability to strategically attack, to be higher up the pitch without sacrificing the space left in behind him. This role requires these players to be in the absolute best shape that they can be in. Because they are the catalysts of the counter-attack, they must be able to press high up the pitch and turn on a dime to get back in the same ferocity.

Teams are looking to splash the cash on these players because they provide such a different form of attack to defenses. In the Premier League, this is such an important role in taking other back lines by surprise when the defender who just made a crunching tackle is now steaming ahead of two, three, or four players up the pitch to put in a lovely cross. They give an added relentlessness to an already grueling competition. However, it is important to find these wing-backs who have a balance on both technique in attack and in defense. A lot of these wing-backs are converted midfielders who lack the defensive know-how, and others are defenders who have no idea what they are doing past the half-way line (wait…how did I get here?) Oh this balance, my friends, is absolutely everything!

Squawka
Source: Squawka

 

Attacking Variety

The option to have a defender that attacks is like seeing those fries that have slithered to the bottom of the bag after a completely unashamed late night jaunt that gave you the rumbly tumblies this morning…You didn’t expect them to be there at all, but wow do they taste delicious! They don’t conform to the normal expectations traditional football laid out for them. They jumped out of that greasy fry box and became something great, something special. Managers have chomped at the bit to slap their paws at these pacy predators. Why you may ask? It is because they have the chameleon-like tendencies to be whatever the coach needs them to be. They provide the other attackers with more options. Oh sweet and glorious variety! Watching wing-backs like Moses and Alonso (who do still need experience/competition) carve up defenses and cross a lovely ball onto the path of a prolific Blue attack was a true spectacle to behold. It was, however, clearly evident to see when there was an injury, or an apt attack that sought our fledgling wing-backs out. That is why we need to not only buy these wing-back wonders but more importantly, buy smart.

Fansided.jpg
Source: Fansided

Pressure Consistency

One of the most vital reasons wing-backs are important is fact that they consistently exert pressure on the opposition. When a wing-back provides constant movement and maintains the same distance covered from behind and in front of them it allows teams to find more space untouched farther up the pitch. These guys are holding up and winning crucial canvas space for our masterfully creative midfield to paint with. It allows the midfield to concentrate on purposeful flow in stead of constantly marking the next attack and trying to rebuild after each blow from the opposition. If pressured correctly, defenses will find themselves flustered and most often numerically outnumbered in their defensive third.

Woah, easy….hold it right there partner! I am not saying to buy every player that is listed as a wing-back with some signs of promise on FIFA potential. That’d be crazy…(or Man City). Either way, we do have to be smart. Consistency and balance truly are the keys to a great wing-back. Just because a wing-back has uncontrollable swagger, or exceptionally good hair (…I’m looking at you Marcos Alonso) doesn’t mean we have to buy them all up! We, more importantly the club, need to buy smart. These players don’t come by that often. Some may be listed as wing-backs, but in order to truly be considered one you must have all three qualities and have them perfectly balanced.

Tuttosport
Source: TuttoSport

While our deputized wing-backs are still plying their trade on the training pitch, we must be patient. Patient to find just the right balance. Patient to find the next perfect fit for the club. Patient to hold onto this wonderful blue dream of ours. Whether that means us buying one world class wing-back, or three pretty good wing-backs (cough…Man City), we must trust the Godfather. Forza Chelsea!!! KTBFFH

 

Thumbnail Image Courtesy of: Daily Mail

 

Would you like to be a contributor for the London is Blue (LIB) team? Click on the “Be A Contributor” link contained in the menu bar, fill out a short form, and we can get started!

London is Blue is a soccer fancast created by Chelsea FC fans from America and covers all things Chelsea. Hosts are @BBBusbee, @DanDormer and @NickVerlaney.

London is Blue is proud to be presented by WorldSoccerShop. Visit them at www.WorldSoccerShop.com to find the best Chelsea FC gear!

GUEST: David Pasztor, editor of We Ain’t Got No History
@D_Peezy, @WAGNH_CFC

Part 1: Arsenal Review

Chelsea 1-1 (1-4 on penalties) Arsenal, Premier League

Sunday, August 6th | Wembley Stadium

Part 2: Social Media Questions

Part 3: Burnley FC Preview

Chelsea vs. Burnley FC, Premier League

Saturday, August 12th | Stamford Bridge

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Music Produced by Layird Music: https://layirdmusic.beatstars.com/

By, Ugo Nwogwugwu


Arsenal 1-1 Chelsea (Arsenal win the penalty shootout 4-1)

In the weeks leading up to the 2017 Community Shield clash between Arsenal and Chelsea, the media focus had not been on the clubs’ pre-season preparations, but on one of the craziest transfer windows in football history. Both this fixture’s competitors broke their transfer records this window, to make strikers Alexander Lacazette (£52m) and Alvaro Morata (£58m potentially going up to 70m) the most expensive Arsenal and Chelsea players ever.

Both clubs had also experienced problems holding on to key players. Chelsea top scorer Diego Costa and midfield linchpin Nemanja Matic were out of the squad, one waiting to be sold the other transferred to a direct rival. The club had also sold and loaned out eighteen other squad and youth players, but with only four replacements signed by kick off for this game. Arsenal had their own problems getting top players Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil to commit to new contracts.

Arsenal started without Sanchez, Ozil, Laurent Koscielny and Aaron Ramsey for the Community Shield, while Chelsea were without Eden Hazard and Tiemoue Bakayoko, recovering from injury and surgery respectively. Arsene Wenger picked new man Lacazette to start up top, but Chelsea manager Antonio Conte continued to show an ability to make the hard choices, leaving Alvaro Morata on the bench for the first significant tie of the season.

Arsenal Team

Cech, Bellerin, Holding, Mertesacker (Kolasinac), Monreal, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Elneny, Xhaka, Welbeck, Iwobi (Walcott), Lacazette (Giroud)

Subs Ospina, Kolasinac, Maitland-Niles, Willock, Nelson, Walcott, Giroud

Chelsea Team

Courtois, Moses, Azpilicueta, Luiz, Cahill, Alonso (Rudiger), Fabregas, Kante, Willian (Musonda), Pedro, Batshuayi (Morata)

Subs Caballero, Christensen, Rudiger, Boga, Scott, Musonda, Morata

Big Moments

Arsenal tested Chelsea’s defence quite a few times early on in the game. New man Lacazette narrowly missed a low Iwobi pass just across the face of goal. Danny Welbeck headed another great cross straight at Chelsea keeper Courtois. Cesar Azpilicueta got caught in possession by Welbeck, who then went down under pressure from the full back, earning Azpilicueta a yellow card on thirteen minutes. Bellerin was also booked shortly after for a late, studs up challenge on Marcos Alonso.

Chelsea weathered the storm though, and began to make a few opportunities themselves – Pedro, Batshuayi and Willian getting into good positions but being crowded out by Arsenal’s defence, not quite getting their shots off. Arsenal then hit back on the counter, creating their best chance of the first half. Bellerin found Welbeck out on the left with a cross-field pass. Welbeck advanced and should have cut in and taken a shot himself, but unselfishly laid up the ball for Lacazette, who curled a shot round Cahill and Courtois, but only struck the post.

During a Chelsea corner about halfway through the opening period, Gary Cahill unintentionally caught Mertesacker in the face with an elbow. After some treatment for a bad cut above his eye, Mertesacker came off the pitch for new signing Sead Kolasinac.

On 35 minutes Chelsea almost caught the Arsenal defence off guard, Willian finding “lone ranger” Pedro unmarked out wide on the left. Rather than squaring for Batshuayi though, Pedro decided to try for goal himself, but only forced a save from Petr Cech. In the next exchange Willian intercepted the ball twice in Arsenal’s last third but got booked for simulation after appearing to trip over his own feet in the box.

After one final counterattack from Arsenal, Iwobi’s shot well saved and held by Courtois, both teams went in goalless at the break. It had been a good first half of football, but both sides were quite clearly suffering the absence of their best players. Overall, Arsenal had edged the first half of play, mostly negating Chelsea’s efforts by crowding the box when out of possession, then breaking forward at speed.

Arsenal 0 – 1 Chelsea

Knowing Antonio Conte though, the Chelsea players would come out of the break with a flea in their ear. And so it was that they blazed into the lead just 49 seconds after the restart. Sead Kolasinac had put the ball out, and Arsenal thought they had cleared the resulting corner. The ball fell to Gary Cahill however, who headed it back into the box. Victor Moses then got to the ball first, beating Arsenal’s offside trap, and rounding former teammate Cech to make it 1 – 0.

Just two minutes later, Chelsea threatened again off another corner. Fabregas put the ball over Cech from the by-line, but there were no Chelsea players at the far post to finish. Arsenal cleared to Batshuayi, but was obstructed by Welbeck and could only hook a weak shot straight at the keeper.

On fifty-five minutes the medical team were called on again, this time after a worrying clash of heads between Chelsea defenders Cahill and Luiz, off a Granit Xhaka corner. Both players were cleared to play a couple of minutes later though. Soon afterwards, Courtois made his first major save of the second half. Mohammed Elneny crossed from the right for Welbeck, but the ball curled dangerously inward towards the net. The Chelsea keeper had to make an acrobatic save to knock it over the bar. On sixty minutes, Elneny was involved again. This time he threaded a through ball past Chelsea’s defenders to Lacazette, but nothing came of his effort as the French striker was offside.

As play went back and forth, both Rob Holding and David Luiz did well to cut out crosses from Willian and Welbeck at either end. Azpilicueta also intercepted to divert another Arsenal cross towards Courtois, and the Belgian keeper had to make a hurried clearance to prevent Welbeck from taking advantage.

With twenty-five minutes of normal time left, Arsenal made a double substitution, Giroud and Walcott coming on for Lacazette and Iwobi respectively. Lacazette had played well to that point, but frankly Arsenal’s play had been crying out for Giroud’s height and finishing. Eight minutes later, Alvaro Morata made his competitive Chelsea debut, replacing Michy Batshuayi as central striker.

Arsenal continued to press hard, with Walcott making an early cross in from the right. The ball evaded Welbeck and almost made it all the way across to a waiting Giroud, but Moses cut it out to prevent a certain goal. Xhaka also forced another superb Courtois save with a thirty-yard howitzer. Chelsea got forward themselves on the break, Willian haring down the middle of the pitch, before making an outside-foot curler of a cross to Morata wide right. The ball was just slightly ahead of the Spanish striker though, and he could not keep his volley down and on target.

On 78 minutes Conte made another change, Antonio Rudiger on for Marcos Alonso. Rudiger slotted in at right center back, with Azpilicueta taking over from Alonso at left wing-back.

Arsenal 1 – 1 Chelsea

It looked like the game was winding down to a straightforward Chelsea 1 – 0 win, when Pedro made a late challenge from behind on Elneny, making contact with the back of the Arsenal player’s leg. The referee chose to show a red rather than a yellow, and Chelsea were down to ten men. As if that wasn’t enough drama though, Chelsea’s defence went completely to sleep on the resulting free kick. Granit Xhaka crossed for Kolasinac, who lost Rudiger on the right, then raced through to head in an 82nd minute equalizer.

Shortly afterwards, Hector Bellerin escaped being sent off as well. He had been dispossessed by Azpilicueta, before hauling the Chelsea left back down to prevent a counter. Up to that point the refereeing from Bobby Madley had been tough but fair, but it was difficult to understand how Bellerin was not sent off. Especially as the Pedro tackle got the strictest interpretation, and Azpilicueta was booked for a much lighter pull-back on Welbeck earlier in the game. Even with ten men though, Chelsea still managed to create one more good opportunity, from a Fabregas free kick in injury time, but Morata’s header was wrongly ruled offside.

And so it went to penalties. Arsenal took their penalties coolly and well, Walcott, Monreal and Oxlade-Chamberlain all placing their goals perfectly. Chelsea struggled badly though. Team captain Gary Cahill scored their first penalty, but Thibaut Courtois blazed over, and Morata sent his own attempt wide. Arsenal were 3 – 1 up and only needed one more goal to win it. The decider fell to Olivier Giroud, who made no mistake, scoring to his right as Courtois went in the opposite direction.

 

Thumbnail image courtesy of: Barrington Coombs/EMPICS Sport

 

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By, Ayodeji Itasanmi (Twitter: @Aryhorblueblood)


Wembley Stadium/August 6, 2017

After being involved in the last game of the 2016/2017 Premier League season, it’s only fitting that Arsenal vs. Chelsea gets the honour to usher us into the 2017/2018 Premier League season. The Community Shield is the traditional curtain-raiser for the English season and this year pits Chelsea against Arsenal, the League and FA Cup winners respectively from the previous campaign. The FA has announced that should the game go into a shootout the ABBA shootout system would be introduced for the first time so I guess we might see how that plays out. These two locked horns recently, albeit in a preseason friendly, that took place at China’s Bird Nest Stadium with Chelsea running out comfortable 3-0 winners; Willian and Batshuayi (2) with the goals. The Community Shield represents the last opportunity for both Antonio Conte and Arsene Wenger to drill their squads into shape in readiness for the new season with as many as six substitutions allowed.

History

This fixture has come about just twice before, first in 2005 and the last just two years ago in 2015, with both teams having a victory apiece. In August 2005, after Chelsea’s first League title for fifty years and Arsenal’s triumph in the FA Cup against Manchester United, Chelsea faced Arsenal at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff with Mourinho’s Chelsea coming out tops through two poacher’s goal from the scourge of Arsenal, Didier Drogba, with Cesc Fabregas getting what proved to be a mere consolation for Arsenal . Arsene Wenger got a measure of revenge back from Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea in the 2015 edition with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain getting the match winner in the second half of an uninspiring game for the neutrals. The only thing of note in that match at Wembley was that it was the first time Chelsea Legend, Petr Cech lined up against the Blues.

Team Breakdowns

 Chelsea

Antonio Conte will surely be having a rethink about some of our loan contingent that was in the squad that traveled to Asia for our preseason tour, because I think some of them have played themselves into contention. Jeremie Boga, Lewis Baker and Charly Musonda surely took their chances in Asia and I wouldn’t be surprised if the trio were to stay on with the squad for the season and not go out on loans. Pedro was back in training, albeit with a protective mask, after his multiple fractures against Arsenal in China and might get a run out against Arsenal on Sunday. However this game will come too soon for the duo of Eden Hazard and Timoue Bakayoko who are still on the road to full fitness. With Conte stating that Alvaro Morata needs to improve his fitness he might decide to give Michy Batshuayi the chance to continue his hot streak in front of goal with support from Willian and one of Morata/Pedro/Boga and Musonda. The rest of the team should be straight forward enough with the only exception being where and how Antonio Rudiger fits in. With Victor Moses set to miss our first Premier League game against Burnley, Rudiger might get the chance to replace him at wingback while Azpilicueta keeps his place at RCB or maybe Dave will deputise at wingback with Rudiger coming in at RCB/LCB.

Injuries: Eden Hazard (Ankle) – Out; Timoue Bakayoko (Knee) – Out; Pedro (Facial Fracture) – Doubt.

Last 5 matches: LLWLW

 Arsenal

Arsene Wenger will surely welcome the chance to play Laurent Koscielny even if he won’t be able to call on his best CB for the first two Premier League games. Shokdran Mustafi will also be in contention for a place in the team even though he’ll be short on match fitness having been given an extended leave after his involvement in Germany’s Confederations’ Cup triumph. Arsene Wenger seem very confident about Alexis Sanchez remaining at the Emirates Stadium by the close of the transfer window but I’m sure he won’t be as confident about starting him against Chelsea on Sunday, the Chilean having only retuned to training on Wednesday following his involvement in the Confederations’ Cup and a bout of flu. With record signing Alexander Lacazette sidelined, Wenger will be forced to turn to one of Olivier Giroud, Theo Walcott and soon-to-be former Arsenal striker Lucas Perez. Wenger has stated he’ll continue with the three at the back set up with which he finished last season, whether he has the team to sustain that system over the course of a full season is yet to be seen.

Injuries: Santi Cazorla (Ankle) – Out; Gabriel Paulista (MCL) – Out; Jack Wilshere (Ankle) – Out; Francis Coquelin (Muscle Strain) – Doubtful; Mesut Ozil (Thigh) – Doubtful; Aaron Ramsey (Muscle) – Doubtful.

 Last 5 matches: LWLDW

3 Matchups to Watch

Cesc Fabregas vs. Granit Xhaka

Fabregas has been involved from the start in all of our four preseason games so far and will likely continue to partner N’Golo Kante in midfield, and if that’s the case he’s going to be up against the tough-tackling Swiss. Cesc always has an assist in him if given the chance and space to pick his passes but Xhaka will be looking to deny him the space needed to operate. This should be an interesting duel.

Victor Moses vs. Mesut Ozil

Victor Moses will have one of the most difficult tasks of the Chelsea players on Sunday which is limiting the impact of the German maestro. Wenger usually plays Ozil at the left of his front three in his new found 3-4-2-1 formation. Ozil is not the fastest player around but he’s one of the most dangerous with the ball at his feet. Moses will have to pay close attention to him because Ozil has been known to drift in-field to wreak havoc if it becomes necessary and he has a killer pass in him every game.

David Luiz vs. Olivier Giroud

With Lacazette side-lined Wenger will be looking up to Giroud for goals on Sunday and David Luiz must be at the top of his game because the Frenchman is out to prove to his coach that he still deserve a place in the team in spite of the addition of his record-signing countryman.

Conclusion

If the FA Cup final is anything to go by, then Arsene Wenger might decide again to cede possession to Chelsea and look to catch us on the counter but I trust Antonio Conte would have learned one or two lessons of his own from that game in May. I expect this to be an open but tactical game with it coming so close to the beginning of the season. Fringe players will see this as an opportunity to impress ahead of the new season while established players will be looking to avoid any injuries that might disrupt their seasons. In all, this should be an exciting and interesting game of football for the neutrals which. I think Chelsea will have enough in them to get the piece. The first piece of silverware of the season is coming to Stamford Bridge! Until next week, Keep The Blue Flag Flying High Blues!

 

Thumbnail image courtesy of: Pinnacle Sports

 

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By, Ugo Nwogwugwu


Fourteen goals scored. Seven goals conceded. Two good wins for Chelsea this pre-season, but also two humbling defeats. They say pre-season doesn’t matter and it’s probably true, but there were a few interesting points to note amid all the experimentation:

  • Chelsea scored lots of goals and comfortably won their first two games against English opposition. They then conceded five goals themselves, on the way to losing both games against European teams.
  • The one goal margin in both losses masked the fact that Chelsea were badly exposed against both Inter and Bayern. They could have lost by two or three more goals each game.
  • Two of Chelsea’s top scorers the last three seasons, Eden Hazard and Diego Costa were not available – injured and on their way out of the team respectively. The Matic-Kante combo, formed of the two best defensive midfielders from the last three title winning EPL teams, has also been broken up.
  • The alternate midfield partnership of Kante and Fabregas looked great against weaker opposition (sorry Arsenal). Fabregas was especially brilliant, quarterbacking like nobody’s business to set up his teammates. Against tougher teams though, they lacked the required speed and defensive presence to control the opposition.
  • Chelsea looked extremely vulnerable on the counter, particularly in the defensive areas vacated by their attacking wing backs. Again and again, Bayern and Inter used their central attackers to narrow Chelsea’s center backs, or pull them out of shape on the break, so other players could attack the posts or the center unhindered. Mr. Conte will need to look at the positioning of his full backs very closely, and find a solution for the upcoming season.
  • Players were recovering fitness, young players were tried out in key positions, new partnerships were being tested, new players were still finding their place in the team – but that was true for Chelsea’s opponents as well. If you’re league champions with European ambitions, you’re still expected to show a level of strategy, depth and quality, even when you don’t win.
  • Yes, the team travelled over fifteen thousand kilometres, and played three big games in the space of just seven days. But if tiredness was a factor in the last two losses – and it sometimes looked the case against Bayern and Inter – then that’s a worry. Those will be the conditions for a lot of next season, because Chelsea are back in the Champions League now.
  • Morata needs games to gel with the team. He might labour a little bit under his 70m price tag, but he should do OK at Chelsea. Batshuayi is ready to play now though, if the manager will trust him. 5 goals and 4 assists in just four games must put him in contention to start, even if they were just pre-season goals.
  • This pre-season may see Pedro out injured or below his best for a few weeks, as he recovers from facial fractures sustained v. Arsenal. Brazilian full back Kenedy also went home early, and might even see his time at the club cut short, due to some major mistakes on social media while on tour. Which would be a shame – he could be a real prospect at LWB / LW.

The Games

Eight Past Fulham

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The first game of pre-season was played behind closed doors, and saw the Premier League champions crush neighbours Fulham FC. The separation between these two teams was one football division and twenty-five league places at the end of last season. The difference showed in the result.

Basically, the score was 5-1 in the first half and 3-1 in the second. Willian scored a double off two unselfish Batshuayi assists, before an Azpilicueta own goal gave Fulham some hope. It wasn’t to be though. Batshuayi scored two goals himself, then Willian cut in from the right to complete his hat trick.

Kenedy conceded a penalty in the second half, from which Fulham scored. He then remedied his error with an interception and tenacious dribbling down the left, before giving Loic Remy an easy tap in for goal number six.

Jeremie Boga, who’s been one of Chelsea’s most promising young players this series of games, then won a penalty, from which Azpilicueta converted to remedy his earlier O.G. Remy then won and converted a penalty of his own to wind it up.

Final Score: Chelsea 8 – 2 Fulham

Blitzing Arsenal

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The next game was against Arsenal at the Bird’s Nest stadium in Beijing. Arsenal chose to start a couple of their younger players, but paid the price as Chelsea were not in the mood to reciprocate. Conte named the strongest line-up at his disposal, and they blew Arsenal away in a furious first half.

It was counter after counter, Ospina somehow managing to keep the scores level for most of the first period, saving shots from Batshuayi, Willian and Moses. Michy then had a legitimate goal ruled out for offside on thirty-five minutes. Four minutes later though, he rolled a sliding tackle and passed to Willian, who curled in off the right post for the opener.

Within a couple of minutes they were two up. Arsenal’s Bramall was dispossessed, before Batshuayi took advantage of a bit too much space from Per Mertesacker, to score a curler of his own in the opposite corner.

Early on in the second half, Marcos Alonso sold Oxlade-Chamberlain a vicious dummy, putting him on his backside in the grass. Alonso then teed Batshuayi off perfectly, who scored with a rising shot from outside the area. There were a few half chances from Ramsey, Coquelin, Giroud and a few others, but it just wasn’t going to be Arsenal’s day.

This game was something like the revenge win Chelsea fans were looking for against the Gunners, but at the end it’s a non-competitive game. The real thing’s coming up on Sunday.

Final Score: Arsenal 0 – 3 Chelsea

Ancelotti’s Bayern

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On to Singapore and Bayern Munich! The National Stadium in Kallang was packed to the rafters, providing a great atmosphere for Chelsea’s second International Champions Cup fixture.

The manager started Willian on the right, with Boga on the left wing in place of the injured Pedro. He also started Andreas Christensen at the center of the back three. The choice might have been made based on Christensen’s Bundesliga experience with Borussia Monchengladbach, but Bayern Munich did seem a big challenge for a young player’s first start in a new squad.

In fact looking at all the starters player for player, Chelsea seemed a little outmatched in some positions, at least on paper. Christensen vs Lewandowski. Kante & Fabregas vs Tolisso, Sanches & Muller. Alonso & Moses vs James & Ribery. All the same, the first goal for Bayern came from a long distance, speculative shot from right back Rafinha. Courtois might have been positioned better, but shot was a bit tricky the way it bounced off the pitch.

From that point though, Bayern just sat back and took advantage of Chelsea’s high line to hit them on the break. For Bayern’s second goal, their front men countered in a four on three overload against Chelsea’s center backs. Chelsea’s full backs were out of sight high up the pitch, so Ribery easily made it to byline to cross for Muller, who volleyed in unmarked at the far post.

Their third came on 25 minutes and showed unbelievable quality from Muller. He was given too much space by four retreating Chelsea defenders, and he used it to whip an audacious twenty-five yard curler around Thibaut Courtois.

Chelsea started to pressure Bayern more after that, and Alonso pulled one back just before half time with a diagonal strike off a Moses cross. Both teams continued to create opportunities in the second half, with Bayern still slightly edging it overall. David Luiz struck the post off a deflection, then on 84 minutes new boy Alvaro Morata headed a Fabregas corner to Batshuayi’s feet. Michy side-footed in for a more respectable scoreline, and 3 – 2 was how it ended.

Final Score: Bayern Munich 3 – 2 Chelsea

An Own Goal vs. Inter

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The final pre-season game was against Inter Milan, and was also played in Singapore. Typically, Conte’s Chelsea show a strong positive reactions after a loss. And you’d expect they would have been able to do so against Inter, who had three different managers in a twelve-month period, and finished seventh in Serie A last season.

Chelsea started with their strongest available team, injuries and transfers considered. In fact, they played the eleven you’d expect to start against Arsenal in the Community Shield next Sunday: Courtois, Moses, Cahill, Luiz, Azpilicueta, Alonso, Kante, Fabregas, Willian, Morata, Batshuayi. Yet they lost without scoring a single direct goal, against an Inter team that included quite a few backups and young new signings themselves.

Early on, Inter caused panic with a fast break down Chelsea’s left flank. It took a number of saves and last ditch tackles to stop an early goal. Just before the break though, another long Inter pass down Chelsea’s left caused confusion in the box, and although Azpilicueta cleanly got the ball off Jovetic, he was considered by the ref to have fouled him. Courtois saved the initial penalty, but Jovetic converted off the rebound for Inter’s first goal.

Straight off Inter’s kick off for the second half, Chelsea intercepted, but then gave the ball away again on the edge of their area. Jovetic scored, but the goal was ruled out for offside. Inter still got their second eventually, off one of many counter-attacks in the second half. Perisic rounded Azpilicueta with too much ease, and put the ball across Courtois into the far corner.

Chelsea later got one goal back, off a crazy 40-yard backpass from Kondogbia into his own goal. Michy Batshuayi also had what would have been the equalizer and his sixth goal in four games wrongly disallowed for offside, but I have to admit Inter deserved the win. They simply showed more desire, and the tactical ability to exploit every weakness Chelsea had exposed against Bayern Munich.

Final Score: Inter Milan 2 – 1 Chelsea

Pre-season might not matter in terms of results, but there were definitely some lessons to be learned here. If Chelsea are lucky they’ll learn them quickly, and make improvements before other teams use similar tactics against them. In actual competitive matches.

 

Thumbnail Image courtesy of: ESPN FC

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