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 Mourinho will bring instant success to Manchester United

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 this time around, ‘The Dugout‘ will assess why Jose Mourinho will bring instant success to Manchester United…

The appointment of Jose Mourinho has excited Manchester United fans on the whole and he has already started his usual antics with the press. The new United manager means business, he has signed some world class players already and more are being linked to the club on a daily basis.

It has always seemed a matter of when rather than if, in terms of Mourinho managing Manchester United, and it looks to have come at the perfect time for the club and the man himself.

In Mourinho’s unveiling as United boss he made a number of bold statements and signalled his intent, saying all the things the fans wanted to hear: “I want everything. I want to win matches, I want to play well, I want to play young players. I want our fans to cheer us defending a lead rather than chasing a lead.”

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So let’s have a look at why United fans can expect instant success with Mourinho

First season silverware…

Mourinho has a brilliant track record of bringing silverware in his first season at clubs.

Porto 2002/03: Primera Liga, UEFA Cup, Taça de Portugal
Chelsea 2004/05: Premier League, League Cup
Inter Milan 2008/09: Serie A, Supercoppa Italianna
Real Madrid 2010/11: Copa del Ray 

Squad revamp… 

Manchester United fans don’t need telling that new signings are a feature of Mourinho’s first season as they have already signed Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Eric Bailly. Negotiations are also underway for a reported world-record £100 million fee for Paul Pogba.

Porto 2002/03: £6.8m – 15 players signed
Chelsea 2004/05: £99.3m – ten players signed 

Inter Milan 2008/09: £43.6m – seven players signed
Real Madrid 2010/11: £62.25m – six players signed

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Consistency…

Mourinho’s consistent ability to win trophies has seen him win at least one trophy each calendar year from 2003-2012. He also retained league titles at Porto (02/03 & 03/04), Chelsea (04/05 & 05/06) and Inter (08/09 & 09/10), while dethroning what has been labelled as one of the best FC Barcelona sides in history with Real Madrid in 2011/12.

The Treble…

Manchester United fans will dream of winning the treble once again and Mourinho has a proven track record of bringing three trophies in a single season. At Porto in the 2002/03 as mentioned above, he won three trophies and in his second season as Inter boss, the historic treble of Serie A, UEFA Champions League and Coppa Italia saw him sign off in style.

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Premier League experience…

Not that United fans will need reminding – Mourinho has won the Premier League three times. He holds the record for the fewest matches taken to rack up 400 points – just 174 games – bettering Sir Alex Ferguson’s 191 and Arsene Wengers 208 games, respectively.

Manchester United fans will be eager for Mourinho to beat the Premier League highest points tally of 95 – a record he achieved in the 04/05 season with Chelsea as he won the league losing just once.

Despite Mourinho’s sour half season with Chelsea in 2015/16, he still boasts the best Premier League win rate of 66% (win rate stats count after 20 or more league games managed).

His current Premier League record stands at 212 games, 140 wins, 44 draws and 28 losses and his overall experience has seen him rack up 513 league games managed with six clubs.

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While there is a huge amount of work for Mourinho to do to bring instant success to United, it is clear enough that he has the ability to return the club to the highest level in his first season. He will be eager to lift his fourth Premier League trophy and bring the Premier League trophy back to Old Trafford for the first time since the 2012/13 season.

Will Mourinho be an instant success at United? Can he win the Premier League?

Do Manchester United actually need this PSG star?

Manchester United have already been busy in the transfer window and the amount of rumours surrounding players in and out is as high as always. According to reports, Blaise Matuidi is a player on their radar but do United actually need the Paris Saint Germain midfield maestro? Lewis Addley explores

Blaise Matuidi has impressed so far during the European Championship and had yet another consistent season for Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint Germain last term.

The 29-year-old midfielder has been linked with a move away from the French capital and Manchester United appear to be frontrunners the Frenchman.

Jose Mourinho is keen to get his business done early in the window and prepare his squad to challenge on all fronts from the first whistle and there are no doubts about the qualities Matuidi could bring to their midfield.

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In Ligue 1 last season Matuidi had a pass completion of 92%, he won 54 tackles, played 20 key passes, made 46 interceptions and 18 clearances.

Used in a predominately holding role, Matuidi also impressively created 26 chances for teammates, while he registered six assists and scored four goals. With all those stats in mind you could be forgiven for referring to him as the ‘complete’ midfielder.

But do Manchester United actually need Matuidi?

Problems and weaknesses across the pitch were well documented last season for United and they looked vulnerable when opposition teams were counter-attacking. A solid midfield is something football fans have become accustomed to from Mourinho and Matuidi’s stats scream out solidity.

To assess whether United actually need Matuidi we have to look at their current players who could and have played in the same holding role. Three players who are suited to playing in that position in the current United squad are Michael Carrick, Ander Herrera and Daley Blind.

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At this stage of the window it appears only Carrick’s future is secure, with speculation about Herrera and Blind refusing to go away. If all three are in Mourinho’s plans he would have a healthy selection of players to choose from and the possibility of Matuidi as a fourth option would arguably lead to some selection headaches for the United boss.

So let’s have a look to see how the three players mentioned compare to Matuidi… 
(Statistics provided by Squawka).

Last season, Blind bettered Matuidi’s key passes with 24, while Herrera totalled 19 and Carrick managed ten. The PSG midfielder’s 92% pass completion was highest, although the lowest percentage was still impressive, coming from Blind and Herrera with 84%.

Matuidi scored and assisted more than any of the United midfielders, whose combined goals and assists came in at just seven compared to his ten.

Blind made the most successful tackles with 67, interceptions with 80 and clearances with 127, bettering all three of the other players in question.

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Finally Matuidi created the most chances, managing one more than Blind’s 25, while Herrera came in with 21 and Carrick only managing ten.

With these stats in mind it wouldn’t be wrong to suggest Blind is currently the strongest candidate in the United squad in comparison to Matuidi. It would appear United would benefit from signing the Frenchman and there is no doubting his experience and quality, but whether or not they are in desperate need for him is questionable.

Do United need to sign Matuidi or are their current options good enough? Should Mourinho prioritise strengthening his squad elsewhere?

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?

Are City right to be chasing this £72m trio of Premier League stars?

Manchester City look set to spend big once again this summer as incoming manager Pep Guardiola is looking to overhaul the squad ahead of his first season in the Premier League.

There are a number of high-profile names across Europe being linked with summer moves to the Etihad, with the latest reports suggesting three Premier League stars are being targeted.

A report in the Sun claims City will splash the cash to try and bring Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez, Tottenham’s Danny Rose and Everton’s John Stones to the club in the coming months.

That trio of top flight talent is worth around £72 million, according to Transfermarkt’s valuations of each player.

But would those three players improve City ahead of next season’s title charge?

Alexis Sanchez – Arsenal – Estimated value: £41.25 million

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Sanchez has been a real hit at Arsenal since moving to the Premier League from Barcelona in July 2014. He ended the last campaign with 13 goals and five assists in 30 league appearances and also performed remarkably well in the Champions League, contributing to eight goals in seven outings. Guardiola signed Sanchez from Udinese while managing Barcelona in 2011 and would love to be reunited with the pacey Chilean at City.

Verdict: Arsenal would do everything in their power to stop their star man leaving for City but it could ultimately come down to where Sanchez himself would prefer to be playing football next season. A move looks unlikely but City won’t be afraid of splashing the cash to land a player as good as Alexis Sanchez. Pairing him with Sergio Aguero in attack would give City one of the most devastating attacks in world football and Guardiola knows how to get the best out of the 27-year-old winger.

Danny Rose – Tottenham – Estimated value: £8.25 million

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Danny Rose is once again being linked with a move to the Etihad. The England left-back was reportedly a target for the club last summer but no formal offer was made and he continued to develop at White Hart Lane under Mauricio Pochettino instead. He looks to be a key part of the Spurs team and they would not be prepared to sell to a Premier League rivals. He will travel to Euro 2016 this summer with England and could see his stock rise further if he starts for Roy Hodgson.

Verdict: His estimated value of £8.25 million seems far too low for an England international who is set to be playing Champions League football next term. City might look to table an offer, with Aleksandar Kolarov and Gael Clichy both potentially leaving, but Rose is still not that sound defensively, with his main contributions coming on the attacking side of the ball. If Guardiola wants a bombarding fullback, then Rose could be the man. But if not, they should probably look elsewhere.

John Stones – Everton – Estimated value: £22.5 million

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John Stones looks increasingly likely to leave Goodison Park this summer, with several clubs reportedly interested in his services. He will be 22 by the time the new season starts and is still extremely young for a centre-back. He has shown promise and is a confident ball-playing defender, but now needs the right guidance to help him reach his potential. He will be with England at Euro 2016 and his stock will only rise if he impresses at the tournament.

Verdict: City are in need of another central defender, with Eliaquim Mangala and Martin Demichelis both failing to inspire over the past two seasons. Vincent Kompany has ongoing injury troubles, while Nicolas Otamendi was inconsistent, so bringing in a young player like Stones makes sense as Guardiola could mould him to perfectly fit his possession-based style of play. He won’t come cheap but would surely be worth the investment.

Do you think Manchester City should be chasing the trio mentioned above? Which of the three should be the main target?

Did Cech make an impact in his first Premier League season at Arsenal?

Petr Cech is undoubtedly one of the finest goalkeepers to grace the game. The Czech Republic international already boasts the record for all-time Premier League clean sheets and has just swooped the golden glove for the 2015/16 season. Lewis Addley investigates how much of an impact the former Chelsea man has made at Arsenal…

Arsenal fans were filled with euphoria when the news broke that they had signed Petr Cech from London rivals Chelsea ahead of the 2015/16 Premier League season. Cech kept 162 clean sheets in 333 games in his 11 Premier League seasons at Chelsea – an average of 0.48 per game, almost one clean sheet every two games.

Now first choice at Arsenal, Cech kept 16 clean sheets in his 34 appearances in his league debut season, enough to win him the golden glove and record an average of 0.47 per game, again very close to one clean sheet in every two appearances. With these stats in mind it is evident of the presence and consistency Cech brings to a side regardless of the defence in front of him.

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Arsenal finished the 2015/16 Premier League runners-up, one place better off than their 2014/15 finish of 3rd. So lets have a look at how their league performances differ between the two seasons.

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Arsenal’s 14/15 and 15/16 Premier League seasons compared

Arsenal won more games, drew less, scored more goals, had a better goal difference and tallied more points in the 14/15 Premier League season but finished third. It is worth mentioning that a direct comparison won’t give completely accurate readings on position in the table as no two Premier League campaigns are the same.

In the 15/16 season Arsenal drew more games, lost the same amount, scored less, conceded the same number, had a worse goal difference and tallied less points. But with all these statistics compared, the one factor which matters most is the final position of the club come the end of the season. So in Cech’s first season at the club, Arsenal finished higher in the table.

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Here’s how Cech shapes up against Arsenal’s goalkeepers from 14/15 and his teammate David Ospina who featured four times in 15/16 in his absence.

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Arsenal Premier League ‘keepers stats 14/15 and 15/16 compared 

In the 2014/15 campaign Arsenal used three goalkeepers, David Ospina, Wojciech Szczesny and Emiliano Martinez. The three made 39 appearances between them (*note one game more than regulation due to substitution meaning two ‘keepers featuring in one game).

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The key statistic to look at in the comparison is clean sheets. In the 15/16 campaign Cech made more clean sheets alone than the ‘keepers in 14/15, more saves, more saves-per-goal and more punches, all of which came in four appearances less.

Now it does have to be mentioned if Cech had played all 38 games he could have conceded four more goals at his rate of 1.09 goals conceded per game – but by this rule of average he would have conceded 35, still one less than the Arsenal ‘keepers of 14/15.

Cech and Ospina combined in 15/16 bettered the three ‘keepers of 14/15 in every department apart from catches. This arguably shows the positive impact Cech made on his teammates and provides further statistics of the impact he made in his first Premier League season with the Gunners.

While Cech and his teammates were unsuccessful in delivering silverware this campaign compared to Arsenal’s previous two seasons, he looks set to be part of the squad in the long-term and his experience of consistently winning trophies can surely only have a positive impact on the club.

Has Cech made a positive impact for Arsenal? Could he be key to Arsenal winning the Premier League?

Premier League Preview and Prediction: Manchester United vs Bournemouth

Competition: Premier League – Manchester United vs. AFC Bournemouth

Venue: Old Trafford – Tuesday, May 17 – 20:00 BST (15:00 ET)

Match Odds: Man Utd 4/7 – Draw 16/5 – Bournemouth 17/4

Match Preview

Manchester United host Bournemouth on Tuesday evening in a postponed fixture from Sunday’s final day. A bomb scare at Old Trafford ahead of kickoff saw the match abandoned so the 2015/16 campaign has been extended by a couple of days until this game is concluded.

United came into the final weekend needing a win to stand a chance of qualifying for the Champions League. But local rivals Manchester City sealed a 1-1 draw at Swansea and have subsequently secured a top-four finish.

That will come as a major blow to United, who now need to focus on trying to secure fifth place. They are level on points with Southampton, who occupy fifth spot, but are behind on goal difference.

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A draw on Tuesday would guarantee European football for the Red Devils, although they will have to settle for the Europa League.

Bournemouth have nothing to play for other than pride here and will hope the disruptions surrounding this game don’t affect their chances too much.

Eddie Howe’s men have not won in four but have only lost three of their last 12 away games in the Premier League (W5 D4).

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A win at Old Trafford would cap off a solid season for the Cherries, who will be looking to kick on and improve further for next season.

The reverse fixture saw Bournemouth beat United 2-1 in one of the season’s shock results, although a repeat result looks unlikely here, given their contrasting end-of-season form.

Team News

Manchester United will be without Marouane Fellaini as he serves the final game of his suspension here, while Luke Shaw is not fit enough to return here. Matteo Darmian, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Will Keane all remain injured and won’t be involved. With a top four place no longer available, Louis Van Gaal may rest a number of first-team players ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup final.

Several members of the Bournemouth team were set to go on holiday on Monday, but those plans have had to be changed as this postponed fixture needs to be played. Eddie Howe can name his strongest side available, but Tyrone Mings, Adam Smith and Sylvain Distin are all still out injured.

Key Points

Manchester United’s last five: W/W/D/W/L

Bournemouth’s last five: W/L/L/L/D

Key Stat: Bournemouth have yet to ever score a goal at Old Trafford in four previous attempts. They have lost all four games by an aggregate score of 12-0.

Key Player: Marcus Rashford – The young United striker has been called up to Roy Hodgson’s preliminary Euro 2016 squad and will look to sign off his whirlwind Premier League season with a goal here. He hasn’t scored in over a month but could end that mini-drought here, so long as he starts in attack.

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Score Prediction

Manchester United 1-0 Bournemouth – The drama from Sunday means that United now know ahead of kickoff that they cannot qualify for next season’s Champions League. That might affect Louis Van Gaal’s approach to the game, as Saturday’s FA Cup final is now the club’s biggest game of the year. That said, the Red Devils will want to end their league campaign on a high in front of the home fans and a narrow victory is expected. United have only conceded one goal in their last five home league games so Bournemouth are unlikely to walk away with three points.

Are Spurs and West Ham right to be chasing this £40m-rated star?

London rivals Tottenham and West Ham look set for a transfer tug of war this summer, with young Marseille striker Michy Batshuayi the subject of strong interest from both Premier League clubs.

The 22-year-old Belgian striker has scored 22 goals with 10 assists in 49 appearances in all competitions for Marseille this season but is looking set to leave the French club this summer.

He may have signed a contract extension as recently as January, but Marseille coach Franck Passi has confirmed that it looks highly likely that Batshuayi will be plying his trade for new club by the time the new season begins.

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“Everyone knows he’s leaving,” Passi has said. “I think it’s included in the budget that Michy will probably be transferred this summer.”

Marseille president Vincent Labrune spoke last summer about the striker’s value and said clubs would have to pay in the region of €50 million (£40 million) to secure his services.

“There is not a single top-15 world club that is not interested in Batshuayi, Labrune said a year ago.

“He is one of the most wanted players on the market. There were a lot of offers for him this summer, but he didn’t want to leave. He’s proving himself on the pitch, and if clubs want him then they are going to have to pay around €50m.”

But should West Ham or Tottenham be looking to break their transfer records to sign him?

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In short, the answer is probably no. But that doesn’t mean he should be avoided either. While he has yet to shine on the biggest stages in football, Batshuayi’s potential cannot be questioned at this stage of his career.

The former Standard Liege forward netted 44 goals in 120 games during his time in Belgium before making the move to Marseille in 2014 – an average of 0.37 goals per game.

He has scored 32 in 77 matches since moving to France, netting an improved average of 0.42 goals per game over the past two seasons and has relished in the role of lone striker with L’OM this term.

A move to either Spurs or West Ham would not guarantee Batshuayi a spot as the team’s first-choice striker, with Harry Kane the main forward at White Hart Lane and Andy Carroll the Hammers’ current lead frontman.

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But that won’t necessarily affect Batshuayi. He has only enjoyed one season as the main forward at any club to this point, while he is far from first choice on the international scene with fellow Belgian forwards Christian Benteke, Romelu Lukaku and Divock Origi all fighting for minutes too.

He patiently played second fiddle to Andre-Pierre Gignac to great effect last season, netting nine goals in 897 minutes of league play – an average of a goal every 99 minutes – and used his reduced playing time to adapt to a new league.

Batshuayi would need to do something similar if he does indeed move to the fast-paced Premier League in the next couple of months, rather than being thrust in as a club’s star striker from the word ‘go’.

Spurs appear to be frontrunners for his signature at this stage, with the lure of Champions League football and Mauricio Pochettino’s reputation for developing young talent both huge positives for the player.

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Though a move to West Ham as they prepare for life in the Olympic Stadium will also excite the youngster, who would be able to link back up with former teammate Dimitri Payet with a move to Slaven Bilic’s side.

He has been Marseille’s shining light in what has been a disappointing season but being surrounded by better players would surely see his goalscoring talents continue to evolve – something he would get with a move to either London club.

In today’s market, £40 million is not quite as staggering a fee as it probably should be. But it would still be a huge amount for either Spurs or West Ham to invest in a young striker who has no Premier League experience.

WATCH: Michy Batshuayi’s highlights (via ScoutNationHD on YouTube):

There are several upsides to Batshuayi’s game, with his potential seemingly huge. But if Marseille demand anything in excess of £30 million, there will be an enormous amount of pressure instantly thrust onto the young Belgian’s shoulders, as well as the football club that signs him.

The striker looks set to play his final game for Marseille in the French Cup final against PSG next weekend but where he will be next season remains to be seen.

Do you think Michy Batshuayi is worth £40 million? Which club would he suit better – West Ham or Tottenham?

Premier League Preview and Prediction: Arsenal vs Aston Villa

Competition: Premier League – Arsenal vs. Aston Villa

Venue: Emirates Stadium – Sunday, May 15 – 15:00 BST (10:00 ET) 

Match Odds: Arsenal 1/7 – Draw 7/1 – Aston Villa 16/1

Match Preview

Arsenal welcome already relegated Aston Villa to Emirates Stadium for the final game of one of the most unpredictable Premier League season’s in history.

While unpredictable on the whole, there is something very predictable about how the Gunners’ season has panned out, as securing a top-four finish has once again become the priority in the last few weeks – an objective they have now achieved.

A battling 2-2 draw away at Manchester City last Sunday means Arsene Wenger’s side now only need one more point to secure third.

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However, Arsenal will be desperate to potentially leapfrog their bitter rivals Tottenham on the last day and finish second, although that relies on their neighbours losing away at relegated Newcastle and the Gunners winning.

If Spurs draw, Arsenal would need a most unlikely 13-goal margin of victory over Villa in order to finish second, so the main aim will just be to win the game and put on a show for the fans in what has ultimately been a season of underachievement and disappointment for Wenger’s men.

Aston Villa probably wanted this season to end about six months ago – it has been nothing short of completely disastrous – and you can’t help but feel for the fans.

Last weekend’s goalless draw at home to Newcastle did end a run of 11 straight defeats and avoid a club record of most consecutive losses (12).

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This will be the last time we see Villa participating in a Premier League game after 28 years in the top flight, as they look to prepare for life in the increasingly difficult Championship, and look to bounce straight back up.

The reverse fixture saw Arsenal win 2-0 at Villa Park back in December, while the last clash at the Emirates was a resounding 5-0 victory for the Gunners in February 2015.

Team News

Arsene Wenger may hand playing time to midfielders Tomas Rosicky, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini who are retiring after this match – whether any of them start remains to be seen. Santi Cazorla could play for the first time since November following his recovery from a knee injury. Mesut Ozil has returned to training and could feauture after missing the Man City game with a hip injury, while Danny Welbeck is out for nine months after knee surgery. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Carl Jenkinson (both knee) remain long-term absentees, while Per Mertesacker is a doubt with a hamstring injury.

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Aston Villa’s Aly Cissokho is available again following a ban, while Rudy Gestede could return from a groin injury. Alan Hutton (calf), Ciaran Clark (ankle), Kieran Richardson (calf), Jordan Veretout (pelvis), Gabriel Agbonlahor (fitness) and Libor Kozak (fitness) are all doubtful. Jordan Amavi is out with a knee injury and Jores Okore will not feature because of an internal issue at the club.

Key Points

Arsenal’s last five: D/W/D/W/D

Aston Villa’s last five: L/L/L/L/D

Key Stat: Aston Villa have failed to win any of their 17 away games in the Premier League this season since a 1-0 opening day victory at Bournemouth (D3, L14).

Key Player: Jack Wilshere – Arsenal will have been delighted to see Wilshere pull through 70 minutes of an intense game away at Man City unscathed. Keeping him fit could be crucial next season and hopefully we will see a glimpse of his undoubted natural ability on Sunday.

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Score Prediction

Arsenal 2-0 Aston Villa – The Gunners should seal a comfortable victory on the final day against an Aston Villa side who will be turning their attentions to the prospect of Championship football next season.

How does Ranieri’s Leicester side compare with his final Chelsea team?

The final round of fixtures from the 2015/16 Premier League season are to be played on Sunday. Chelsea welcome newly crowned champions Leicester City to Stamford Bridge in what will be an emotional return for Claudio Ranieri. Lewis Addley explores how Ranieri’s final Chelsea side of 2003/04 compares to his current Leicester team… 

Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester City proved to be the surprise package of the season and went on to become champions despite starting the campaign as 5000/1 outsiders. Leicester beat Chelsea earlier in the season and now visit the 2014/15 champions in what looks set to be an emotional day for Ranieri against his former club.

‘The Tinkerman’ departed Chelsea after the 2003/04 season, in which his team finished runners-up in the Premier League and were Champions League semifinalists.

So how do Ranieri’s Chelsea side from 12 years ago compare to his championship-winning Leicester team?

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Ranieri’s 2003/04 Chelsea runners-up compared to his 2015/16 Leicester champions

As we can see in the table above, there are some statistical similarities between the sides albeit one game in difference as we head into the final round of fixtures.

Ranieri’s Leicester have scored exactly the same amount of goals as his Chelsea side did but have conceded five more.

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He won one more as Chelsea manager in the 03/04 season, which he could equal on Sunday, but his Leicester team have converted four less losses into draws. As a result Leicester have picked up an extra point when compared to Chelsea’s tally of 79.

The league tables have some similarities but what about the squads?

It’s no secret that Chelsea have spent hundreds of millions in the Premier League era, a trend that all started back in 2003/04 when Roman Abramovich bought the club and at that time it was Ranieri’s duty or opportunity, whichever way you look at it, to invest money into the side.

So how much money did Ranieri spend at Chelsea in his final season compared to the summer transfer window ahead of the current Premier League campaign?

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Ranieri’s signings compared: Chelsea 03/04 – Leicester 15/16

As we can see the money spent at Chelsea exceeds the money spent at Leicester by a staggering £86,050,000 – arguably unsurprising given the purchasing power difference between the clubs.

Leicester City’s current squad value will have no doubt increased since the start of the season given their performance levels, so how much would a typical starting XI be valued at?

Leicester XI market value

Typical Leicester starting XI market value according to transfermarkt.co.uk

The complete value of this starting XI costs less than Ranieri’s top four most expensive Chelsea signings from the 03/04 season.

There are a few similarities between Ranieri’s teams as he regularly deployed his favoured 4-4-2 formation with both clubs.

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Typical Chelsea XI 2003/04 created using lineupbuilder.com

The importance of a consistent ‘keeper and backline supported by a holding midfielder is apparent from both of the two sides in question.

The one player who has drawn the most comparison by fans and pundits alike this season is N’Golo Kante, who’s playing style is highly similar to Claude Makelele, with both having an integral role to play in their respective sides. They allowed for their central midfield partner to be free to roam and influence the game, something both Frank Lampard and Danny Drinkwater evidently did well.

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Both Chelsea’s and Leicester’s backlines were rarely breached throughout their respective seasons, mainly down to solidarity and consistency. Both of Ranieri’s teams had two centre-backs with a presence in the air and on the ground, as well as pacy fullbacks who assisted their wingers.

Then we can look into the final third of the field, as skilful wingers had the ability to cut open opposition defences, while the strikers were renowned for confidence in their ability to finish.

Riyad Mahrez’s partnership with Jamie Vardy differs slightly from Ranieri’s Chelsea team, who did use the flanks but relied on goals from Lampard in the middle of the park.

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Ranieri’s Chelsea side were the nearly men. He failed to win a trophy with the club despite coming close on a few occasions, but fans will argue he played a huge role in setting them on the path to glory. In his first season as Leicester manager he has delivered the goods and will be looking forward to a welcomed return to ‘The Bridge’ this weekend.

How similar are Ranieri’s Chelsea side from 03/04 to this season’s champions? Has ‘The Tinkerman’ become a better manager since his first spell in England?