STATS: Chelsea projected to battle relegation based on recent history

Chelsea’s problems so far this season have been documented far and wide. Jose Mourinho is under enormous pressure to turn things around after watching his side lose six of their first 11 games in the Premier League.

The Portuguese manager’s job is under threat, according to multiple reports, and there is little wonder when you look at the fate of other Premier League sides that have started with identical records in recent years.

Five sides have started the season with the same record as Chelsea (W3 D2 L6) over the past four campaigns, with three of those going on to suffer relegation by the end of the season.

Table: The last five sides to start with identical league records to Chelsea after 11 games.

Table: The last five sides to start with identical league records to Chelsea after 11 games.

West Bromwich Albion managed to turn their season around despite a poor start in the 2011/12 season as they ended up finishing 10th with 47 points unde Roy Hodgson’s guidance.

However, Wolves struggled badly after an identical start, going on to finish bottom of the table and suffering relegation to the Championship.

Wigan (2012/13) and Norwich (2013/14) also suffered relegation after picking up 11 points from 11 games and so using the word crisis to describe Chelsea’s start is hardly an overreaction.

Table: Finishing position of last five sides to start season with same record as Chelsea

Table: Finishing position of last five sides to start season with same record as Chelsea.

Using these statistics as a guide, it appears as though Chelsea’s problems will only worsen.

Although that’s not accounting for the fact that they’ve got a squad of elite professionals, many of whom lifted the title just six months ago.

Table: Chelsea's projected league finish based on recent history of sides with same starting record.

Table: Chelsea’s projected league finish based on recent history of sides with same starting record.

As the projection above shows, Chelsea look set to end the year in a relegation battle. That’s based on the last five teams’ finishes after starting with the same 11-point record through 11 games.

Finishing on that projected 36-point tally would be Chelsea’s lowest amount accrued in the Premier League era. The last time they picked up fewer points was back in the Football League First Division in the 1978/79 season (20).

Mourinho is in the middle of the biggest challenge of his managerial career and the spotlight is fully fixed on the Blues.

Their next Premier League game comes away at Stoke. Chelsea were eliminated from the League Cup last Wednesday after losing on penalties away at Stoke and so it’s difficult to see them picking up three points.

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Red Bulls to pay £1.2m to beat Leeds and Newcastle to Irish winger – report

New York Red Bulls are prepared to pay £1.2 million ($1.8 million) to land Wigan Athletic winger James McClean this summer, according to the Belfast Telegraph.

McClean is a man in demand. The Irishman is set to leave the club following relegation to League One and could be on his way stateside after already meeting with the Red Bulls early last month.

Orlando City are also being linked with a move for the former Sunderland man but the Red Bulls look to be in the driving seat if he decides to become the latest Irishman to make the move to MLS.

Robbie Keane has been in America for a few years, while Kevin Doyle recently joined the Colorado Rapids and Sean St Ledger is with Orlando.

McClean’s only worry with a move to MLS is believed to be that he may limit his chances with the Republic of Ireland national team, but Keane has proved that you can still get international call-ups while playing across the pond.

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Newcastle and Leeds are also being linked with the 26-year-old attacker, with the Premier League the player’s preferred choice.

The Magpies could move for him if Steve McClaren is appointed as the new manager this summer, according to the Daily Star, and so it seems McClean is going to have a tough choice to make.

He still has one year left on his current Wigan deal and so a transfer fee will be required, though the Red Bulls look set to offer the Latics the same amount of money they paid to sign McClean from Sunderland in 2013.

Would James McClean be a good signing for the New York Red Bulls? 

Is this former Sunderland man on his way to MLS?

Wigan Athletic‘s James McClean has attracted interest from a number of clubs, including New York Red Bulls, and a move away from the Latics is looking likely after their relegation from The Championship.

McClean caught the eye of Sunderland fans in 2011/12 and his performances saw him named Young Player of the Season during his first season with the Premier League club.

The 26-year-old winger picked up Wigan’s player of the year but is reportedly looking for a new challenge and Major League Soccer is a possibility. Rumours of a move have been ignited once again by onceuponametro.com.

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A fresh start for McClean could be exactly what he needs as he has affiliations with attitude problems earlier in his career.

McClean is naturally a left-winger and a move to NYRB would see him come up against Republic of Ireland counterpart, Robbie Keane.

Is MLS a possibility for James McClean?

Liam Ridgewell returns to Portland Timbers excited for new season

Liam Ridgewell is returning to America to join back up with his Portland Timbers teammates ahead of the new season after spending the last six weeks with Wigan Athletic in the Championship.

The English defender joined Wigan at the start of January but was unable to help the Latics get out of the relegation zone in England’s second-tier despite making six appearances with five of those as starts.

He was unable to win a game with Wigan and although he is disappointed that he couldn’t help during his short stay back in England, the 30-year-old is now looking forward to his first full season in MLS with the Timbers.

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“I’d just like to wish the boys [at Wigan] all the best and hopefully they’re still in this division come the end of the season,” he told the Wigan Evening Post.

“I’ve got a lot to improve on and learn from, and take into my new season [with the Timbers]. It’s a big season ahead, and we’re looking to do really well this season and build on last year.

“We’re hoping to reach the playoffs this time and there’s some really exciting times ahead.”

Ridgewell made 15 appearances for the Portland Timbers after joining the club as a Designated Player last June, scoring two goals with one assist from defence.

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He has reiterated his delight with the decision to move to America last year and has spoken glowingly about the league and it’s continuous growth.

“I’m very glad I decided to go out there,” Ridgewell added. “It’s been very refreshing for my career, and I’m looking forward to going back.

“The league is getting better all the time, and more and more British players are seeing it as a good career move, which is great.”

Will Liam Ridgewell taste success with the Portland Timbers in 2015?

Shaun Maloney completes Chicago Fire switch, set to be unveiled today

The Chicago Fire have completed the capture of Scottish midfielder Shaun Maloney from Wigan Athletic, as expected, and the 32-year-old joins the Men In Red as their third Designated Player.

Maloney leaves Championship strugglers Wigan after three-and-a-half successful years with the club, in a spell that saw him win the FA Cup in 2013.

The Scotland International made 91 appearances for Wigan, scoring 15 goals and adding 17 assists for the Latics, and he can’t wait to be a part of a new-look Chicago Fire team in 2015.

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“I’m very happy to be joining the Fire,” Maloney said after sealing the move stateside. “I owe a lot to the manager Frank Yallop and the owner Andrew Hauptman for getting this done.

“I certainly didn’t expect it to get done this quickly, so I appreciate the faith that they’ve shown in me. It’s a brilliant league and I’m really hopeful that I’m going to enjoy Chicago and be a big part of what the club is building.”

Maloney is the third Designated Player signing the Fire have made during the offseason as the Eastern Conference club look to bounce back in 2015 after a poor campaign last year.

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International strikers Kennedy Igboananike and David Accam have both been added as DP’s and Maloney will hope to be the man to give those two service.

Harry Shipp was the Fire’s most influential player last season and he will be able to learn a lot from the experienced Maloney, who will add another dimension to Chicago’s attacking play.

Maloney will be unveiled as a Chicago Fire player today at Toyota Park during a press conference set to begin at 3:15PM GMT.

Is Shaun Maloney a good signing for the Chicago Fire?

Shaun Maloney set to join Chicago Fire as agreement reached with Wigan

Wigan Athletic midfielder Shaun Maloney is set to join Chicago Fire in the next few days after the MLS club reached an agreement with Wigan for his transfer.

Maloney’s current contract at Wigan is set to expire at the end of the season, but Chicago want him to join up with the squad in time for the start of the new season in March, and have made a move to sign the 31-year-old.

The Fire have been linked with a move for the Scottish midfielder for some time, but any move looked to have been doomed when Wigan accepted an offer from Premier League side Leicester City.

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However, Maloney could not agree personal terms with Leicester, and he is now set to become the latest British talent to make the move stateside to play in Major League Soccer.

“We’ve agreed terms with Chicago Fire for Shaun to leave imminently, so that is something that is going to be happening in the next day or so,” Wigan boss Malky Mackay told BBC Radio Manchester.

“There’s a deal been struck as to why Shaun’s not going to be waiting until the summer.

“There’s a financial situation and I’m respectful of the club’s position – I’ve got to be prudent in terms of the saving that we will make on Shaun’s wages and the transfer fee that can then be put to other things.”

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The Chicago Fire have made numerous changes this offseason and have already added two international strikers on Designated Player contracts in David Accam and Kennedy Igboananike.

Shaun Maloney will add so much creativity to the side and will undoubtedly help the development of Harry Shipp.

Maloney has scored two goals and picked up three assists in 20 games for Wigan this season.

Is Shaun Maloney a good signing for the Chicago Fire?

Liam Ridgewell “dying to get back on the field” after completing loan switch to Wigan

Portland Timbers defender Liam Ridgewell has completed a short-term loan move to English Championship side Wigan Athletic and will train and play with the team for about six weeks.

The 30-year-old moved to MLS with Portland last summer as a Designated Player and made 15 appearances, scoring twice with one assist in his debut campaign as the Timbers narrowly missed out on the playoffs.

He is looking forward to playing in England once again but is fully focused on getting fit in time for the start of the new MLS season in March.

“I have loved my time out in Portland and I can’t wait to get back,” he said after completing the switch to Wigan earlier today.

“But I have had a lot of time off over Christmas and I’m dying to get back on the football field and start training and I’m very glad I’ll be able to do that with Wigan.”

Liam Ridgewell on loan move to Wigan (via Wigan Athletic on YouTube):

The Latics sit second from bottom in the Championship and have only won one of their last ten league games so Ridgewell will hope to help turn things around for the 2013 FA Cup winners.

They have kept just one clean sheet in their last 11 league matches so the Timbers centre-back will need to come in and shore up the backline as he did when moving to MLS last summer.

Gavin Wilkinson, Timbers general manager, revealed they had plenty of interest in the English defender but said the move to Wigan suited the Timbers best as he will back in time for the 2015 Simple Invitational on February 22.

Liam Ridgewell Portland Timbers Thumbs Up

“Liam expressed an interest in staying in the UK on a short-term loan as this offseason is longer than any he has encountered in his professional career,” Wilkinson said.

“He wants to start the 2015 MLS season on the right foot. Several clubs had contacted us in regards to taking him on loan, however with us dictating the terms and timing of this deal it was not viable for all concerned.

“We feel that this deal works well for both the player and the club. Liam will return to Portland in time to prepare for the season with the Timbers and be match fit and sharp.”

Is a short-term loan move to Wigan a good thing for Liam Ridgewell and the Portland Timbers?

Sporting Kansas City officially announce the return of Roger Espinoza

By Ryan Wright

Earlier today, Sporting Kansas City officially announced the signing of 28 year old midfielder Roger Espinoza.

Espinoza began his professional career with Sporting KC in 2008 when he was drafted in the first round of the 2008 MLS superdraft. He joined Wigan Athletic in England after he left Sporting KC in 2012.

“This summer, my contract was coming to an end and I had a year left. I had to think about what I wanted to do,” Espinoza said during today’s press conference.

“I already had the experience of playing in Europe, I wanted to know what it was like to play there. I had a year left and I looked for somewhere to go. I spoke to Peter about coming back and to see if there was room at the club, and he wanted me back.”

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In 2012 – Espinoza’s last season with Sporting KC during his four-year spell at the club, he was named a MLS All-Star. During his original stint with Sporting KC, he made 130 appearances with two goals and 12 assists across all competitions.

After moving to Wigan, Espinoza helped the club upset Manchester City in the 2012-13 FA Cup final. In the following season, he helped defend the club’s FA Cup title by once again upsetting Manchester City.

He also led Wigan to a semi-final appearance against the eventual champions, Arsenal. Espinoza made 57 appearances during his time in England with Wigan.

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“It’s changed me a lot. Obviously [I left] two years ago to play in the Premier League. While I was there, I had the opportunity to win the FA Cup,” said Espinoza.

“Honestly, that changed my career. You win that type of game, in that type of atmosphere with all the media, it changes you as a player, it gives you more responsibility.

“I had experience in the Premier League and the League Championship, which was a very tough league. It wasn’t easy for me but I learned a lot from the managers, and I think that helps you as a player.”

Espinoza has not only been a successful player on the club level but he’s also an established international player. Espinoza has made 45 appearances for Honduras and has scored four goals.

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He’s represented his country at the 2010 World Cup, the 2012 Summer Olympics and the 2014 World Cup.

At today’s press conference, Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said: “Roger was a big part of us establishing ourselves in Kansas City and Major League Soccer.

“Now Roger returns to a club that has continued its evolution and he has the ability to help take us to the next level. It is rare for a player to leave a club and then come back, but this situation from day one has been great and we are very happy for Roger to don the Sporting Kansas City jersey again.”

Espinoza also spoke of his delight on his return to Kansas City: “I’m thrilled to be back in Kansas City. I always knew I would come back some day and I could not be more excited to re-join this club. I’m ready to get back to work and help this team win another championship.”

Espinoza will be added to Sporting Kansas City’s 2015 roster pending receipt of his International Transfer Certificate.

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This is yet another signing in a busy offseason for Sporting Kansas City. So far, the club has signed defender Jalil Anibaba, midfielder James Marcelin, and forward Krisztian Nemeth. They have also signed Dom Dwyer to a contract extension.

Sporting KC isn’t done adding new players to the roster. Vermes told media: “This isn’t the final piece. The roster is fluid. It’s always breathing; it has to have new opportunity; it has to have new life in it; it has to have fresh bodies in it.”

The front office at Sporting Kansas City seem to be doing everything they can during the offseason to put themselves in prime position for another MLS Cup title and the return of Roger Espinoza could be a vital addition.

Will Roger Espinoza help Sporting Kansas City get back to the MLS Cup Final in 2015?

Liam Ridgewell nearing Wigan switch on short-term loan deal – report

Portland Timbers defender Liam Ridgewell could be set for a return to English football in a short-term loan switch to Wigan Athletic, according to a report in The Oregonian.

The former Aston Villa, Birmingham City and West Brom defender joined the Timbers as a designated player in July last year and made an immediate impact in Major League Soccer by scoring twice and picking up one assist in 15 appearances.

He helped fix Portland’s defensive woes by shoring up the backline halfway through the season and the Timbers only narrowly missed out on the playoffs come the end of the regular season.

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And he could be returning to England to play in the Championship with Wigan Athletic now, though Crystal Palace have also reportedly shown an interest.

Ridgewell will need to be back in Portland for the start of the Timbers’ annual preseason tournament, which starts on February 22.

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A move back to England will keep Ridgewell sharp and ready for the new season, but it will mean that he misses the start of preseason training with the Timbers as well as the first two preseason games.

It will also mean that he will be unable to build up a solid partnership with new signing Nat Borchers until the final two weeks of preseason training.

The Timbers kickoff the new season against Real Salt Lake on March 7 and will hope the partnership of Ridgewell and Borchers can see them challenge for the MLS Cup in 2015.

Would a return to England on loan be a good move for Liam Ridgewell?

Chicago Fire looking to bring in Shaun Maloney to MLS as designated player

Chicago Fire‘s search for talent is ongoing and the club appear to have identified Wigan Athletic midfielder Shaun Maloney as a man worthy of a designated player contract.

The Scotland star netted a sensational winner in last week’s Euro 2016 qualifier against the Republic of Ireland, and is reportedly being offered a big-money contract if he chooses to join Chicago Fire this offseason.

The 31-year-old’s contract with Wigan is set to expire next summer, and that means the Latics may have to cash in now if the Fire come calling.

New boss Malky Mackay is keen to keep Maloney at the club as he looks to guide Wigan out of the Championship relegation-zone, but the player has reportedly expressed a desire to play in MLS.

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Chicago endured a poor season in 2014 and won the tied-lowest number of games with just six wins. A player of Maloney’s calibre would inject so much life into an attack that only scored 41 goals this year.

The former Celtic star won 13 trophies during his time in Scotland and then won the FA Cup with Wigan in 2013 as they beat Manchester City against all odds. His experience will undoubtedly help the side.

He would be a great addition to Frank Yallop’s side and would be able to help the development of players such as MLS Rookie of the Year candidate Harry Shipp.

The Fire are expected to make numerous changes to their roster this winter, and bringing in Shaun Maloney would certainly be a good bit of business.

Would you like to see Shaun Maloney make the move to MLS?