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?

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Spurs make contact with PSG over World Cup finalist

Tottenham Hotspur have made contact with Paris Saint Germain over a potential move for World Cup finalist Ezequiel Lavezzi according to talkSPORT.

Lavezzi could make way for the potential signing of Angel Di Maria from Manchester United, who has been on PSG’s radar for the last couple of years.

Spurs head coach, Mauricio Pochettino, is expected to add to his forward line and Lavezzi is an ideal serviceman for any striker.

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The Argentine winger has netted nine times this season in 45 appearances and his experience could play a pivotal role to help Spurs break back into the Champions League for the first time since 2011.

Lavezzi could come in as a cheap option as he has just one year remaining on his current contract. Transfermarkt.co.uk value the winger at £14 million.

The 30 year old hasn’t quite hit the high levels which earned him a move from Napoli to PSG in 2012 and it seems now would be a good time for him to move on.

Will Spurs sign Lavezzi and do they need him?

Louis Van Gaal sends assistant to Italy to watch multiple targets

Manchester United boss Louis Van Gaal sent an assistant to Napoli to watch the Serie A side’s Coppa Italia semi-final with Lazio tonight, with at least three players being monitored ahead of possible summer moves, according to Gianluca Di Marzio.

The Italian duo faced off at the San Paolo, with Lazio coming out on top in a tight 1-0 win to seal a place in the final against Juventus, and United took the opportunity to watch some of their transfer targets up close.

Lazio duo Felipe Anderson and Lucas Biglia were both being scouted, as was Napoli’s star man Gonzalo Higuain.

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Biglia is an experienced defensive midfielder, and was also a target for United in January but could be signed this summer for around £8 million.

His Lazio teammate Felipe Anderson is an exciting left-winger, who can play across the front line, and is also a target for Premier League leaders Chelsea.

The 21-year-old Brazilian forward has scored 10 goals with eight assists in 26 games across Serie A and the Coppa Italia this season and has already been watched by United scouts on a couple of occasions this year.

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While Higuain is also being watched, despite being linked with a summer move to Arsenal. Van Gaal is going to need to strengthen his attack this summer as Radamel Falcao and Robin Van Persie are both likely to depart.

Edinson Cavani has been strongly linked with a £60 million switch to Old Trafford but Higuain is also an exciting option and has scored 23 goals in all competitions for Napoli this season.

Should Manchester United make a move for any of the three players reportedly being watched in Napoli? Who should be a priority?

Arsenal given boost in chase for £35m-rated former Real Madrid star

Arsenal‘s transfer links have been taking off over the last few weeks and the North London club are now favourites to sign former Real Madrid forward Gonzalo Higuain, according to the Telegraph.

Higuain reportedly isn’t interested in another season without Champions League football with Napoli, giving Arsenal the green light to make a move for the Argentine should the Serie A side fail to finish in the top three.

Napoli’s push for Europe’s top competition is looking bleak after their loss to rivals Roma and Higuain has a wealth of experience in the Champions League, having scored 13 goals in 53 games.

The Argentine striker boasts an impressive goalscoring record throughout his European career. For Real Madrid he netted 122 goals in 264 games and at Napoli, a ratio better than one in two with 47 goals in 90 games.

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Arsenal’s inability to win the Premier League since 2003/04 has often been linked with their lack of an out-and-out goalscorer. Higuain could certainly bring that to the side and could be part of a frightening duo with fan-favourite, Alexis Sanchez in attack.

Olivier Giroud has performed well this season since returning from injury but Wenger still needs a world-class finisher if the Gunners are to consistently challenge for the title.

The Gunners were interested in signing Higuain back in the summer of 2013 but the player eventually joined Napoli in a £34.5 million deal.

He is currently valued at £35.2 million on transfermarkt.co.uk but Arsenal would have to offer more than that to bring Higuain to the Premier League as he still has three years left on his Napoli deal.

Should Arsenal make a move for Gonzalo Higuain this summer?

Is Rafa Benitez the man Liverpool could turn to if Brendan Rodgers is sacked?

Brendan Rodgers is a man under real pressure at Liverpool, and his recruitment of players this summer following the departure of Luis Suarez hasn’t gone down too well with fans.

Replacing the Uruguayan superstar with players like Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Dejan Lovren from Southampton, Alberto Moreno from Sevilla, Lazar Markovic from Benfica and the controversial Mario Balotelli from AC Milan all failing to live up to expectations.

Fans seem to be unhappy with the Northern Irishman’s third season in charge, with the club currently in 11th position in the Premier League after 16 games.

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The large influx of players not performing, the club crashing out of the Champions League at the group stage after a poor showing and injuries to key players have made it a tough few months so far. It’s no surprise that the fans are going to be irate.

A defeat to English Championship high flyers Bournemouth in the League Cup on Wednesday night could be the last nail in the coffin for Rodgers.

Should Liverpool ditch their manager there is plenty of choice with managers who could come in like Borussia Dortmund’s Jurgen Klopp, Ajax’s Frank De Boer and also in the frame is former Reds manager and current manager of Serie A side Napoli, Rafa Benitez.

With Benitez’s current Napoli side underachieving similarly to Liverpool in Serie A, Napoli are reportedly ready to let him go after their less than impressive league run. They again at the weekend, this time to AC Milan.

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It was reported owner Aurelio De Laurentiis criticised his own players in the dressing room after the game.

Benitez took charge of the Naples-based club in June last year after a short spell with Chelsea and won the Coppa Italia in his first season.

But failure to make the Group Stages of the UEFA Champions League after a playoff defeat to Athletic Bilbao this season have seen things go downhill for the Spanish coach.

Italian publication Gazzetta dello Sport claims that “the possibilities that Benitez will stay are close to zero”.

The Spaniard worked wonders whilst at Anfield, winning the Champions League in his debut season in 2005 and winning the FA Cup in 2006, but trophies dried up after that. It wasn’t until 2012 that the Reds would lift another trophy as Kenny Dalglish guided the team to a League Cup title.

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Benitez is still regarded highly by the Anfield faithful for what he did in his six years in charge, as well as the kind gestures he made on the Hillsborough anniversary date – donating £96,000 to the Hillsborough charity.

The fact that his family are still based in England could be a deciding factor in him possibly coming back to the Premier League. Liverpool need a change of fortunes. Benitez could be the man to come in and change things if Rodgers is axed.

Could Rafa Benitez be a saviour for Liverpool if Brendan Rodgers is sacked?

Crystal Palace eyeing up Michu move in January

Michu could be ready to terminate his loan at Napoli and return to England with Crystal Palace, according to the Daily Mail.

Crystal Palace manager Neil Warnock has made no secret that he is looking to bring a fresh striker to the club in January to add to the firepower already at his disposal. And Michu could be the man to keep Palace in the Premier League.

After the Stoke draw on Saturday, Warnock was quoted as saying “options up front are limited” with Marouane Chamakh out injured and Fraizer Campbell and Dwight Gayle failing to get goals.

Michu could be the man that Warnock turns to, with the Swansea City loanee reportedly unhappy in Italy after making only five appearances for Napoli. Palace could offer the Spaniard a fresh start and although he is currently recovering from ankle surgery, he is expected to be fit for the latter part of the season.

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Michu is no stranger to finding the goals that Palace would need to maintain their league status. A £2million signing who was little known when plying his trade at Spanish club Rayo Vallecano, Michu got his break when then-Swansea City manager Michael Laudrup was in charge at the Liberty Stadium.

The Swans brought him to the Premier League and he became an instant hit with the fans with his impressive goalscoring record. He netted 18 league goals in his debut season with the club, which culminated in a League Cup triumph over Bradford City in February 2013.

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The move could be a huge boost for Palace and Michu could fit in beautifully alongside wingers Yannick Bolasie and Jason Puncheon in what could be a devastating attack.

But Swansea could yet bring Michu back to the club to fill the void while Wilfried Bony is away on African Cup of Nations duty with the Ivory Coast.

Michu is certainly in demand again, while Crystal Palace could also make a move for Peter Crouch of Stoke City who is out of contract next summer.

Would Michu be a good signing for Crystal Palace?