Is this striker the perfect answer to Chelsea’s Costa crisis?

Much has been made in a short period of time over the reports that Diego Costa had a bust up with fitness staff and manager Antonio Conte after an apparent £30 million-a-year offer came in from Chinese Super League side Tianjin Quanjian. It would be a huge blow for the Premier League leaders if they were to lose their top goalscorer, but could Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann be the answer for Chelsea? Lewis Addley explores…

Given how the transfer news surrounding Diego Costa’s future is intensifying with each passing day, it would not be a surprise to see the Spaniard depart from the capital and become the third player in the last few months to leave Chelsea for the Chinese Super League.

The purchasing power of the CSL has been well documented and the money being spent by clubs in the league is providing some of the most astonishing transfer fees and wages the game has ever seen.

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So if Chelsea were to lose Costa, they may well revisit one of their favourite shopping destinations in the form of Atletico Madrid. Chelsea and Atletico have a strong link with the likes of Thibaut Courtois, Filipe Luis, Tiago Mendes, Fernando Torres and Costa himself having all played for both clubs.

So why would Griezmann consider a move?

It’s no secret that Antoine Griezmann is a man in high demand. He could potentially be swayed with the appeal of playing in the Premier League and the wages Chelsea could offer him for his services. The Frenchman is one of the deadliest strikers in Europe and he would certainly fit the bill to fill a potential void if Costa departs.

The 25-year-old forward netted an impressive 32 goals in 54 games in all competitions last season and he could be tempted away from the Spanish capital considering Atleti are underperforming. He has only netted seven goals this season and a fresh start may suit Griezmann, while also providing Chelsea with a world-class replacement for Costa.

Griezmann’s national teammate N’Golo Kante could also play a part in a potential move. Kante was one of the most sought after midfielders after Euro 2016 and he chose Chelsea ahead of many of Europe’s elite clubs. While wages always seem to play a big part in any high-profile transfer, an appeal for many to join Chelsea is the lifestyle and factor of living in London.

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Chelsea are being tipped to win the Premier League this season and are sitting in a comfortable position at the top of the table, however if Costa is to depart the balance of the side could well be rocked. It could play into Griezmann’s hands to come in as a replacement and, providing he hit the ground running, he could continue where Costa left off and fire the Blues to the title.

Why could a January move for Griezmann be unlikely?

January is a difficult time of the year for a player to make a high-profile move. It is the halfway point in the season and it can be tough to settle in, especially without a preseason, getting to know teammates properly and coming into a seemingly settled dressing room.

Chelsea have previous with January transfers not having the desired effect. Though Fernando Torres was a success at the club in terms of the trophy haul, his goalscoring form never hit the dizzy heights from earlier in his career. The burden of carrying a hefty price-tag of £50 million was something Torres struggled to shake off and given the current state of the market, Griezmann would almost certainly be upwards of that figure.

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Griezmann has said as recently as this month that he is happy at Atleti. He has Champions League football to look forward to upon it’s return and there is still plenty for him to prove in Madrid.

Costa is yet to leave Chelsea. No official comment has been made from Costa or his agent, so he may well stay at the club at least until the end of the season, when a move for Chelsea to find a replacement would be more favourable.

Do you think Costa will leave Chelsea and is Griezmann the sort of striker who could replace him?

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Premier League Preview and Prediction: Manchester City vs Chelsea

Competition: Premier League – Manchester City vs. Chelsea

Venue: Etihad Stadium – Saturday, December 3 – 12:30 GMT (07:30 ET)

Match Odds: Manchester City 11/10 – Draw 5/2 – Chelsea 12/5

Match Preview

Manchester City welcome Chelsea to the Etihad Stadium on Saturday lunchtime in a mouthwatering fixture in the race for the Premier League title.

Pep Guardiola’s side trail league leaders Chelsea by just one point ahead of this tie and just three points separate the top four. This is a crunch game for City, who need to make sure they win and put an end to Chelsea’s winning run.

City come into the game having come from behind to beat Burnley in a scrappy game that showed their resilience to win, something they’ll need to show once again here.

While many are saying it is too early for results to impact the race for the title, a loss for City here could be disastrous for the squad mentally. Guardiola has experience coaching against Chelsea and will know his side are up against a team that never know when they’re beat.

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Chelsea are the inform team in the Premier League. They have won seven in row, conceding just once and scoring 19.

Antonio Conte is pleased with his side, especially the spirit they showed to come from behind to beat Spurs last weekend. Many have questioned whether or not going behind would upset the balance for Chelsea in their unbeaten run, but they proved they are capable of turning a game in their favour.

Chelsea have struggled at the Etihad, they have won just once in their last eight visits in all competitions and, like practically every Premier League club, have constantly been on the receiving end of a Sergio Aguero masterclass.

This a game Chelsea have to avoid defeat in. It will put them in a really good position for their upcoming December fixtures, while no league game is easy, they have some favourable games over the Christmas period and could capitalise on that to give themselves some cushioning at the top.

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Team News

Vincent Kompany remains out for Manchester City, while there are concerns about Fabian Delph and Raheem Sterling, who are both doubts.

Chelsea are expected to remain unchanged for the eighth game in a row. John Terry will be out, while Kurt Zouma and Marco van Ginkel are not yet ready to be considered for selection. Diego Costa is one yellow card away from a one-game ban, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he picks that up here given the intensity of this tie.

Key Points

Manchester City’s form: D/W/D/W/W

Chelsea’s form: W/W/W/W/W

Key Stat: Chelsea have conceded just once in their seven-game winning streak.

Key Player: Thibaut Courtois – This is easily the biggest challenge of the season for the Chelsea backline. They have been performing very well but face a completely different opponent with the way City will press them on the ball. Courtois will have to be at his best to ensure his side can come away with a win.

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Score Prediction

Manchester City 2-0 Chelsea – Manchester City are going to give Chelsea a different style of game that no other side has done this season. Their pressing and ball retention will make this a difficult afternoon for Conte’s men. Historically, it is not a happy hunting ground for Chelsea and Aguero & co will make it another to forget for The Blues.

Will this be Conte’s best Chelsea lineup this season?

Chelsea left it late again to take all three points at the weekend in a performance that showed they lacked creativity in the final third and weaknesses in defence. While Antonio Conte’s men have got six points from a possible six, they are yet to show any real cutting edge, but as we know, winning games in the style they have is exactly what potential champions do.

While their early form doesn’t suggest Chelsea will win the title this season, they are already grinding out results when needing to. If they can improve performances they will be in a great position to challenge for silverware this term.

It’s obvious there is still work to be done at Chelsea for them to improve. Conte has made it clear he wants another defender and rightly so, as there have been the same defensive issues troubling them in the early stages of this season that were apparent throughout the disappointing 2015/16 campaign.

Conte has been making game-changing substitutions that have without question won Chelsea both of their matches so far. So let’s have a look at their potential best starting lineup and how a formation change could be needed to improve their performances from here on out.

Potential starting XI via lineupbuilder.com

Potential starting XI via lineupbuilder.com

As we can see above, the 4-1-3-2 is a less common formation but something that has a lot of potential to work for Chelsea. Regardless of who has been in charge at the club, 4-2-3-1 has been the preferred Chelsea formation, but it has become predictable and is showing signs of weakness.

The 4-1-3-2 formation allows a completely different dynamic to the setup. While the apparent strength of attacking wingers – who both play high up the pitch and drop in for defensive play – is still a key theme, the option of two strikers will provide a headache for opposition defenders.

Forward play:

Michy Batshuayi has to be starting alongside Diego Costa. The two have played less than a half of football together this season and already appear to have a telepathic relationship brewing. Batshuayi’s knockdown to Costa allowed the Spaniard to net the winner in their opening game against West Ham and both strikers were on the scoresheet at the weekend, with the goals finally coming while they were both on the pitch.

Having a striker next to him affords Costa more room to manoeuvre, get in behind and go unnoticed as he is not up against both centre-backs at the same time.

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In the middle: 

Chelsea lacked creativity throughout their game against Watford at the weekend and it was only when Cesc Fabregas came on that they looked threatening. Fabregas creates so much room for his teammates both on and off the ball, as opponents know they cannot afford to give him space. As soon as the Spaniard gets on the ball he is looking for a defence-splitting pass or to bring a winger into play.

Having Fabregas come in for Matic also allows Kante to drop into the deeper anchoring role on his own, where he is at his best. Kante can then break up play and continually feed Fabregas with the ball rather than having to try and be a creator himself.

Service to the wingers and forwards was evidently weak in the game against Watford, while the partnership of Matic and Kante is excellent defensively, the pair offer little creativity going forward.

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At the back:

Chelsea still look lacklustre at the back. The positioning of their defenders was to blame for going behind to a screamer of a strike at the weekend, while an inability to clear the ball properly under-pressure in their first game saw their backline breached.

In an ideal starting lineup, Kurt Zouma would play for Chelsea but as we know, he is still a long way off playing. Zouma’s pace and strength make him a great option at right-back, a position where Branislav Ivanovic appears to be struggling.

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Playing this XI also leaves an incredibly strong bench to change things if they aren’t going well for Conte, although many would argue the likes of Oscar, Matic, Ivanovic, Pedro and Victor Moses should be getting a look in to start games.

Moses has made a great impact in both his appearances off the bench this season, while the likes of Matic, Pedro and Ivanovic have somewhat struggled to show their class in the early stages.

Playing a 4-1-3-2 formation would also be beneficial for Oscar, as although he may not start every game ahead of Fabregas he still has the ability to take up other positions such as on the wing or rotate throughout the season in the number ten role.

While we aren’t suggesting Conte will opt for this style of play it is something that could potentially work for Chelsea and make them less predictable going forward. It is going to be interesting to see if the Italian makes any further signings before the window closes and how they will continue to lineup in the coming weeks.

Should Chelsea opt for a different formation? Does Batshuayi need to be starting alongside Costa from now on?

Blues legend tips Conte for Chelsea success after advise from MLS teammate

Chelsea‘s all-time leading goalscorer Frank Lampard has tipped his former side for success under Antonio Conte after speaking with teammate Andrea Pirlo.

Lampard, who is enjoying a strong Major League Soccer regular season with New York City FC, told BBC Radio 5 Live last week he was impressed with Conte’s Italy in Euro 2016: “Seeing him at the Euros I loved his passion, I loved how he was on the touchline, how he had his team together with a real fighting spirit.”

The 38-year-old midfield goal machine thinks Conte’s passion is only going to help Chelsea’s quest to reach the top once again: “That will all help Chelsea and I look forward to that. The players will need to buy into that and respect that, then you’ll see an improvement from last year.”

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Lampard spoke with Pirlo, his fellow New York City midfield teammate, about Conte. Pirlo played under the Italian manager at Juventus and Lampard revealed he has nothing but good things to say about Chelsea’s new man: “I spoke to Pirlo about Conte and he had nothing but great things to say. He works the lads very hard in training with his fitness work and with organisation on the pitch.”

Chelsea get their new campaign and era underway on Monday evening against West Ham United and Lampard hopes for the West London club to go on and win the Premier League this season: “Being at Chelsea for such a long time, I have an allegiance, so I would obviously like Chelsea to win the league and I think they’ll be back challenging.”

Will Conte take Chelsea back to the top? Can Chelsea win the Premier League this season?

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?

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.

Nainggolan

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?