Premier League Preview and Prediction: Chelsea vs West Ham United

Competition: Premier League – Chelsea FC vs. West Ham United

Venue: Stamford Bridge – Monday, August 15 – 20:00 BST (15:00 ET) 

Match Odds: Chelsea 4/6 – Draw 29/10 – West Ham 4/1

Match Preview

Chelsea open their Premier League campaign and new era under Antonio Conte against West Ham United at Stamford Bridge on Monday evening.

The Blues have a lot to improve upon from their dismal 2015/16 campaign and Roman Abramovic has entrusted the experienced Conte to be the man to take them back to the top. He has a huge task on his hands here and a very tricky opener against a West Ham side who had a very impressive 15/16 season.

One of the first things Conte will need to change is Chelsea’s home form. Throughout many of the recent Premier League years they have turned Stamford Bridge into a fortress. But they have drawn eight of their last ten home league matches and need to get off the mark with a win here to show they are heading back to their best.

In what has been a relatively quiet transfer window, in terms of new signings for Chelsea, there is a lot of making up to do on the players behalf. Conte will not accept anyone not pulling their weight or not giving their all for the side. It will be an interesting opening few games for the Blues and they have to show their intent right from the off here.

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West Ham United come into their opener with nothing to lose. They enjoyed a strong 15/16 campaign, where they ended up 7th on 62 points. Slaven Bilic has been moulding this West Ham side into exactly what he wants and they could even push for a higher place this season.

If West Ham can get off to a flyer and take all three points here they will be sending out a message to the rest of the league that they mean business yet again.

Worryingly for The Hammers, their form at the tail end of the season showed their vulnerabilities, as they conceded at least two goals in eight of their last ten league games. Bilic has been working hard to address this through preseason and we could see an even more resolute West Ham side this campaign.

West Ham haven’t won at ‘The Bridge’ in their last 11 attempts, a run stretching back to 2002. If they can bring that run to an end here; not only will their confidence be sky high, but they’ll have the added bragging rights of spoiling the party for Conte’s first home league game against their London rivals.

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Team News

Chelsea have just two players expected to miss the start the season. Mikel John Obi is on international duty with Nigeria at the Olympics, while Kurt Zouma is still undergoing a lay off for his knee injury suffered in February last season. Antonio Conte has made just two signings as we head towards the tail end of the transfer window. N’Golo Kante will be expected to make his debut here. The summer saga of will-he-won’t-he leave regarding Diego Costa seems to have come to an end, which will more than likely see him as Conte’s first choice centre forward, so Michi Batsuayi will more than likely start on the bench. Many expected Conte to put his preferred 3-5-2 formation into practise throughout preseason but he opted for the similar 4-2-3-1 lineup in a number of their games, so it would be surprising to see him change to another formation for his first league game in charge.

West Ham United have had a relatively quiet summer transfer window. Manuel Lanzini made his loan move permanent and Bilic has bought in Sofiane Feghouli from Valencia as another notable addition to his squad. The standout signing of the summer for West Ham was Andre Ayew, joining for a club-record transfer fee from Swansea. He has history with causing the Chelsea defence a headache, so will be hoping to repeat that in this fixture and get off to a flyer with his new club. Lanzini is set be out for around five weeks, while Diafra Sakho and Aaron Creswell are also both out with injuries. Another addition to Bilic’s squad was former Chelsea player Gokhan Tore, but he is a doubt for this tie.

Key Points

Chelsea’s last five: N/A

West Ham United’s last five: N/A

Key Stat: Chelsea are undefeated against West Ham United in 19 of their last 21 games in all competitions.

Key Player: Eden Hazard – This is a huge season for Eden Hazard given how he underperformed throughout the 15/16 campaign. The Belgian had a good Euro 2016 on a personal level but was part of a national team who arguably should have done more. The former PFA Player of the Year needs to get off to a strong start to prove that last season was just a blip and show his worth and importance to this Chelsea squad.

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Score Prediction

Chelsea 2-2 West Ham United – Another strongly-contested fixture between these two sides is expected. Chelsea will be eager to start this season with a bang, but West Ham will have other ideas and they have a squad capable of causing the very best sides problems.

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The Dugout: Why Antonio Conte can restore Chelsea’s reputation

The 2016/17 Premier League season is fast approaching and a number of clubs will start the campaign with new managers. Fans will be expecting more from their team and here, ‘The Dugout‘ will explain why Antonio Conte can restore Chelsea’s reputation…

Chelsea fans will be itching for the new season to start after a dismal 2015/16 campaign which saw them finish in their lowest Premier League position since 1996. Antonio Conte’s debut season looks set to be a tough task, he took on the role with the knowledge he needed to reignite a side full of under-performing world-class players.

For the first time since 2003 Chelsea will not be playing in the Champions League, although a tough one for the fans to take, there should be no excuses for a lack of focus domestically. Chelsea should be able to compete to their full potential in the new campaign and under a manager with a fierce reputation it is going to be a interesting one to watch.

Chelsea may have only won the Premier League just two seasons ago and still have many players from that squad for the new season, but this is a completely difference experience for them, fighting back to the top is an extremely difficult task as Manchester United have found in recent seasons. The appointment of Conte looks to be very astute and given how his Italy side performed at the European Championships, a squad regarded to be one of their weakest for many years, we can expect elements of the unexpected this season.

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So why will Antonio Conte restore Chelsea’s reputation?

Passion: 

It is no secret how passionate Conte is as a coach. His emphatic celebrations and reactions on the touchline at Euro 2016 spoke volumes for how much winning means to him. He is a manager with a winning mentality and a reputation to be feared. If someone is not pulling their weight and giving everything for the team, they will know about it.

The Italian is renowned for being respected by his players and his philosophy is simple. “I always give education and respect but I demand the same, for all the people that work with me. I give them this and I demand this.”

The former Juventus coach added: “This was taught to me by my family, to give education and respect to all people. If I don’t have this, you are asking for trouble, for a problem.

“I love to be with my players, to speak with them, to help them to understand my philosophy, my methods and my thoughts. I love this. Hopefully when the players understand this we have a fantastic relationship.”

Conte’s vision is clear for all to see, work hard and show respect and in return there will be no issues.

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Winning mentality: 

Conte is a winner, it is as simple as that. In his playing days at Juventus he won Serie A five times and then as a manager he famously guided them to three consecutive titles between 2011-2014.

The 46 year old also has an impressive European track record, winning the Champions League, UEFA Cup and UEFA Super Cup all as a player with Juventus. He has already spoken of his disappointment not to be managing Chelsea in Europe’s top competition this season and expects his side to return to the highest level.

Defensive Focus: 

Chelsea’s defence of their Premier League crown last season was nothing short of embarrassing. They conceded 53 goals in their 38 games and this is something Conte will no doubt be looking to improve upon.

Conte’s preferred formation of 3-5-2 served him well during Euro 2016, but he is by no means scared to use differing tactics. Chelsea have been using a 4-2-3-1 formation for a number of seasons now and players have got used to this style.

The Italian means business, he has already strengthened the squad with the signing of N’Golo Kante and rumours are continually flying around that he is looking to sign another central defender.

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Chelsea have had a managerial carousel in the Roman Abramovic era, and whether or not the fans like that, it has bought continued silverware. Conte will be aware he will need to get things right quickly or he could just be another one struck off the list.

After losing his opening friendly as manager Conte found a lot of positives and it is very early days for both the players and the man himself. He has the character and confidence in his ability to get Chelsea back to competing at the highest level but this is by no means an easy task.

Will Conte restore Chelsea’s reputation? Has he got his work cut out with this job?

Why Chelsea should be doing everything possible to sign Kante

It goes without saying Leicester’s N’golo Kante was one of the standout performers in the Premier League last season and it is unsurprising to see him being linked with a number of Europe’s elite clubs. Chelsea are rumoured to have begun negotiations to secure the Frenchman and Lewis Addley explores why they should be doing everything possible to get a deal done…

In the summer transfer window 13 years ago, Chelsea secured the signing of one Claude Makelele from Real Madrid for a fee of around £17 million. His success in the Premier League led to his position being referred to as the ‘Makelele role’ and many have drawn comparisons to his playing style since.

In the 2015/16 season, Leicester City’s N’golo Kante emerged as arguably the best holding midfielder in Europe and it seemed only a matter of time before some of Europe’s elite came calling for his services.

The Frenchman has received heaps of praise from pundits and fans alike. Makelele himself has tipped him for a move to a ‘big club’ and with all due respect to Leicester, it looks like that is going to happen.

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Kante has already turned down a £100,000-a-week improved contract from Leicester, arguably making his intentions to leave the club clear. Antonio Conte is hoping to bring in another holding midfielder to bolster his options at Chelsea. A hard-working player will be essential if his preferred 3-5-2 formation is to be successful in the Premier League.

Having already failed in attempts to sign AS Roma’s Radja Naaingolan, Kante appears to be at the top of Conte’s wish list.

So why should Chelsea be doing everything to get a deal done?

Competition:

Leicester City have already been offered £35m for Kante by Chinese club, Shanghai SIPG – £15 million higher than his buy-out clause. While money may not be the motivation for the player himself, nobody would blame Claudio Ranieri for cashing in at the highest amount possible. Although he will be hard pushed to find a replacement of equal quality to Kante.

The Frenchman is well in the shop window and clubs from across Europe have been monitoring his current situation at Leicester, the longer any potential deal takes to complete, the more competition Chelsea are likely to face to secure his services. Real Madrid are also watching the situation closely.

Consistency: 

The 25-year-old midfielder featured in 37 of 38 league games last season on his way to winning the title, barely putting a foot wrong and he even managed to pick up four assists and find the back of the net once.

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Better by comparison: 

While it has to be clear this is not suggesting Nemanja Matic is a worse player, Kante bettered the Chelsea man in a number of key areas last term.

Matic was just one of Chelsea’s key performances from their title winning side of 2014/15 who really appeared to struggle to reach the same heights last season. As the current first-choice holding midfielder at the club, his position could well come under threat with the potential arrival of Kante.

Kante vs Matic

Statistics provided by Squawka

 

 

 

 

As we can see Kante bettered Matic’s output in all of the areas highlighted above. However, Matic did manage more successful passes than the Frenchman, more forward passes and netted one more goal.

Age:

Kante is only 25, giving him the potential for at least seven years at the top level, barring any injuries. He would be an infectious player for up and coming talent to learn from and is far from his peak.

Given how well he embedded himself in the French squad for the European Championships, it appears he will thrive off of playing alongside some of the highest regarded players in Europe.

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If reports are to be believed Kante could become a Chelsea player in the very near future. He frustrated practically every opposition side in the Premier League last season and could play an integral role in Conte’s Chelsea revolution if he completes a move to West London.

Is Kante the holding midfielder Chelsea need? Should they be doing everything they can to sign him?

Would Graziano Pelle improve Chelsea’s attacking options?

Since the appointment of Antonio Conte, Chelsea have been linked with a number of players and transfer rumours are only further increasing since Italy were knocked out of the European Championship. Graziano Pelle, a surprise package at the tournament, has been linked with a move to the West London club to continue working under Conte, but would he improve Chelsea’s attacking options? Lewis Addley explores…

Graziano Pelle enjoyed a productive Euro 2016, if only for his personal reputation. The first-choice Italian forward netted two goals in his four games and, like the rest of his teammates, was bitterly disappointed to have fallen to Germany in the quarterfinal on penalties.

A widely held view is that Conte exceeded expectations with an Italian squad who were labelled as weaker than previous Italian teams. Pelle has been reported to be a target for Conte from a number of sources.

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Chelsea’s current frontline for the new season boasts Diego Costa, who is ‘100% staying‘ to be part of Conte’s revolution, new signing Michy Batshuayi, Loic Remy and Bertrand Traore.

Diego Costa netted just 12 Premier League goals last season, while Batshuayi’s 17 Ligue 1 goals earned him the £33 million move to the Blues last week. Remy, scoring just once, was used sparingly last season and many have expected him to be on the move ahead of the 2016/17 campaign, while Bertrand Traore’s development continues as he is seen as one for the future.

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So would Graziano Pelle improve Chelsea’s attacking options?

The Southampton striker boasted a strike rate of just better than one in three in the 2015/16 Premier League season, with 11 goals in his 30 appearances. He created 37 chances for his teammates, ten more than Batshuayi’s 27, and substantially beating Costa’s nine and Remy’s four.

Pelle registered six assists, only Batshuayi bettered that with ten, while Costa provided one and Remy none.

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Diego Costa had the best shot accuracy out of the four players with 79%, while Pelle came in at 39% – the lowest percentage of those compared. Batshuayi managed 56% and Remy was the second lowest on 50%.

With these stats in mind it wouldn’t be wrong to suggest Pelle could be a good squad addition, but with Costa looking set to stay put and with Batshuayi eager to develop into one of the world’s most deadly strikers, the Italian would be joining Chelsea with the knowledge he wouldn’t be a guaranteed starter.

Is Pelle a good fit for Chelsea? Will they go in for the 30-year-old striker?

Three players Conte should bring to Chelsea this summer

Chelsea’s Premier League struggles in the 2015/16 season were well documented. Their defence of the title was shambolic and incoming boss Antonio Conte has a huge task on his hands to rebuild the side. Lewis Addley explores three top performers from Serie A who would improve the current Chelsea squad…

Strengthening the Chelsea squad is going to be the first area for Conte to address this summer after so many lapsed performances from the title winning side of just 12 months ago.

Chelsea have been renowned for a strong core through the middle of the pitch during their successful seasons and this is something they lacked in the 2015/16 campaign.

With Conte’s Serie A experience in mind let’s have a look at three potential suitors from the league who could stabilise Chelsea and become the new generation of core players.

Kostas Manolas 

The Roma centre-back had an impressive 2015/16 season and strikes a number of qualities which arguably make him a good suitor for the Premier League. He is a hard tackler who can play out from the back, something clubs are looking for in modern-day defenders.

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So let’s have a look at how the 24-year-old Greek international performed in the 15/16 season. He won’t come cheap and a number of clubs may be more tempting for Manolas, who will want to be playing Champions League football.

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Key stats from Manolas in the 2015/16 Serie A season

As we can see Manolas played all but one game, averaging more than one tackle per game, nearly two interceptions per game, 4.3 clearances per game and he won 76% of his aerial duels. The Roma defender’s stats show how often he was in the right position

Radja Nainggolan 

The Chelsea midfield lacked its industrial side through 15/16 and left its defence vulnerable to oncoming attacks in practically every game. Again from Roma, Nainggolan possesses the ability to break up play, move the ball quickly and keep things simple. He’s performance levels have alerted a number of the top clubs in Europe and he would surely come with a hefty price tag.

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Nainggolan is 28, so he is in his prime and fitness providing, he could potentially offer six more years at the highest level. Let’s have a look at his key stats in Serie A from the 15/16 season.

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Nainggolan’s key stats in the 15/16 Serie A season

The standout stat for Nainggolan is his pass accuracy, coming in at 85%. He averaged 1.4 tackles won per game and 1.3 interceptions per game. Nainggolan also adds the occasional goal and creates chances for teammates, both of which aren’t the main focus of his game, so he clearly has the all-round quality to be a success in the Premier League.

Gonzalo Higuain 

Chelsea lacked quality in depth in striking options last season and the mixed bag of Radamel Falcao, Loic Remy and Alexandre Pato were insufficient support for Diego Costa, who too had a quiet campaign in front of goal.

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Napoli’s Gonzalo Higuain had far from a quiet season, he netted 36 times and broke the 66-year long standing record of 35 goals. The Argentine forward has a wealth of experience and at 28 he would be an ideal striker for just about any club in Europe.

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As we can see, Higuain scored more than one goal a game, an incredible stat every striker strives to achieve. He set up two goals along the way and created 51 chances for teammates. His shot accuracy and pass accuracy may look a little low, but when you’ve scored as many as he did they are not concerning stats.

If Conte was to sign Higuain and play him alongside Costa he would have one of the most physical and deadly strike partnerships in the Premier League. Problems could well arise if Costa remains at Chelsea and Conte only opts for a lone striker, as neither of the two will be happy sitting on the bench.

While these signings are hypothetical at this stage it is worth mentioning the potential newcomers at Chelsea would be in for a tougher challenge in a more competitive Premier League.

However, as the stats mentioned suggest all three of these players are top performers and would be expected to improve the four-time Premier League champions and fire them back into a side capable of challenging on all fronts.

Would the Chelsea squad improve with these potential signings? Will Conte be given the funding needed to revamp Chelsea?

Chelsea step up hunt for new manager – talks set for Thursday

Chelsea are understood to be meeting their potential new manager, Antonio Conte, on Thursday for the second time as they don’t want to miss out on another target.

The Guardian reports the Italian national team coach and Chelsea have a reached a key phase in a deal that could see him paid a staggering £6.3 million a year before tax.

The Italian boss has a proven track record – winning Serie A three times on the bounce with Juventus before taking up the role of the national team head coach in 2014.

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Conte could be the ideal candidate for Roman Abramovic as his Italy side qualified for this summer’s European Champions without losing a game.

Chelsea are expected to have a clear out of their underperforming stars this summer and Conte could potentially persuade some of his former players to make the move to the capital and join him in what could be his new challenge.

Would the appointment of Antonio Conte be a good move for Chelsea?