Loftus Cheek

Loftus-Cheek could thrive under Sarri at Chelsea

Chelsea midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek is back after his excursions with the England national team at the 2018 World Cup in Russia and is looking to get himself in the first-team ahead of the new campaign. The 22-year-old impressed during his loan spell with Crystal Palace last season and carried on his form on the international stage.

Loftus-Cheek could be a key player under new manager Maurizio Sarri given the alignment of his playing style and the head coach’s philosophy, but he still has plenty of work to do. Fans are hoping the England international will be in and around the first-team this season as they believe he could become a mainstay if given the chance.

Playing style perfectly in line with Sarri’s philosophy

Sarri wants Chelsea being snappier in transition, getting the ball from back to front in under 10 seconds. Loftus-Cheek has the ability to carry the ball long distances without relinquishing possession. At Palace last season, he made 73 successful dribbles in 24 league games. He also created 26 chances, showcasing that he has an end product which could benefit Chelsea greatly in the final third.

Another staple of a Sarri side is them keeping high levels of possession. On the ball, Loftus-Cheek is comfortable. He completes more than 80% of his passes and will only improve the more he trains in the manager’s system. One-touch football will soon be a familiar sight at Stamford Bridge in addition to playing out of the back. Loftus-Cheek is certainly a talented player who has a lot of qualities that Sarri will like, but there is a lot of competition for a starting place.

Chelsea overstocked in midfield

Chelsea’s acquisition of former Napoli playmaker Jorginho could hamper Loftus-Cheek’s chances of first-team football. In addition to the Italian international, the Blues also have N’Golo Kante, Tiémoué Bakayoko, Cesc Fabregas, Ross Barkley and Danny Drinkwater vying for a spot in the engine room.

Having risen through the youth ranks to the fringes of the senior squad, Loftus-Cheek has still only made 13 starts for Chelsea. This season could be the making of him, but he has a lot of obstacles to overcome to get in Sarri’s starting eleven.

His England performances should hold him in good stead, as he proved he can go toe to toe with the best players. Last season’s loan move to Palace has helped to develop his abilities too and now he’s eyeing a lengthy career at Chelsea.

mauricio pochettino tottenham

Pochettino admits Tottenham may not make a summer signing

Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino admitted the London outfit might not make a summer signing before the transfer window closes. Spurs are known for leaving their transfer business late under chairman Daniel Levy, but there has been a real lack of progress on the recruitment front, drawing the ire from supporters. Pochettino was forced to bear the bad news to fans.

“Last season I told you some numbers, but this season we don’t know. I don’t know if we are going to sign or not. We’re working on that. I cannot tell you if we’re going to sign one, zero or two or three or four. We’re working,” he said.

“It’s true that it’s so close, the transfer window is so close, but the club’s doing everything to help the team and add some players, more quality, and try to help us in the season to achieve what we want.”

The 46-year-old is also frustrated with the decision to bring transfer deadline day forward a number of weeks. Clubs voted 17-3 to move the summer transfer window from the end of August to Thursday, August 9 instead, days before the new season starts.

He said: “If you compare with Europe I think you are in complete disadvantage and sure it does not help the clubs in the Premier League. We are all in the same situation in England. It’s clear that today I don’t know if the rest of the teams are happy with that decision.

“Personally, I think it’s not right. I think it’s right if you agree with all of Europe and all the different countries. In that situation I think it didn’t help or it’s not going to help the Premier League clubs or the clubs in England to have the same possibility to another contender.

 “We are going to compete in the Champions League and to have 20 days less is I think not a thing that is going to help us. But it wasn’t my decision. I never gave my opinion on that.”

Tottenham have yet to make a signing in this window and they’re running out of time. The Lilywhites finished third in the Premier League last season, four points adrift of second-placed Manchester United.

They’ve secured new deals for Pochettino and England centre-forward Harry Kane among others, so this summer hasn’t been an entire waste for Tottenham. There just isn’t anyone popping up on their radar that will improve the squad, and the club will be keen to avoid the panic-buy situation that led to them overpaying for ex-Newcastle midfielder Moussa Sissoko.

Tottenham have a strong squad and look to have held onto key players who had uncertain futures -Toby Alderweireld, Mousa Dembele and Kane – so this summer could have been worse. They have nine more days to try and get a deal over the line.

Mourinho Martial

Is Martial on his way out of Manchester United?

Anthony Martial’s Manchester United future is up in the air again after the French international drew criticism from manager Jose Mourinho after leaving the pre-season camp to witness the birth of his child. Mourinho was expecting Martial to return after the birth, but the former Monaco forward has so far avoided coming back.

The United boss wasn’t pleased, recently telling the media: “Anthony Martial has the baby and after the baby is born – beautiful baby, full of health, thank God – he should be here and he is not here.”

The pair haven’t been on the same page ever since Mourinho replace Louis van Gaal as manager and it could mean Martial departs Old Trafford before the summer transfer window shuts. United won’t want to lose the attacker without replacing him, but reports suggest they are actively pushing him out the door before the new season starts.

Mourinho and Martial still aren’t seeing eye to eye

Mourinho and Martial haven’t had a good relationship from the off. In the former’s debut season, the latter made only 18 Premier League starts and was either substituted on or substituted off in 18 on his 25 appearances. The following campaign was hardly any better, with Martial making just 18 league starts once more and only playing a full 90 minutes in five of his 30 appearances.

He has been called out on a number of occasions by Mourinho to perform better if he wants to regularly feature in the first-team, but it’s hard to see the pair working together for another campaign. Supporters will be distraught to see the 22-year-old leave the club, but it’s clear he isn’t happy. It’s also clear that United have identified his replacement and have made enquiries.

Mourinho targeting Willian as a potential replacement

The Red Devils have been linked with a Willian-Martial swap deal this summer, with Mourinho being a big fan of Chelsea’s Brazilian international that he managed in his second stint at Stamford Bridge. The proposed deal raises a lot of questions, as Willian is seven years Martial’s senior and may have already peaked in his career.

According to Paris United, Paris Saint-Germain were informed they could sign Martial for £70m. Despite possessing explosive pace, being able to beat his opponent with ease and having a fantastic eye for goal, Martial has struggled for consistency under Mourinho. The relationship between the pair doesn’t appear healthy and it wouldn’t be a surprise if they parted company this summer as a result.

Jurgen Klopp Liverpool

Are Liverpool finally ready to challenge for the Premier League title?

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has been in charge of the Reds since 2015 and has built a squad this summer that should challenge on all fronts. The Merseysiders reached the Champions League with their outstanding attacking trio (Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino) largely to thank, but their performances in the Premier League weren’t as impressive – fourth with 75 points.

But after signing one of the best central defenders (Virgil van Dijk from Southampton) in the Premier League last season, two outstanding central midfielders (Fabinho from AS Monaco, Naby Keita from RB Leipzig) this summer, procuring the signature of one of the best goalkeepers (Alisson from AS Roma) in Europe and signing back-up (Xherdan Shaqiri from Stoke City) for the attack, are Liverpool finally ready for a tilt at the title?

Manchester City won the Premier League crown last season with 100 points from 38 games, winning 32 of their matches and scoring 106 goals. Pep Guardiola’s men set the benchmark domestically, but Liverpool beat them over two legs in the Champions League quarter-finals so they aren’t to be underestimated.

Liverpool’s potential starting XI next season: Alisson; Trent Alexander-Arnold, Dejan Lovren, Virgil van Dijk, Andrew Robertson; Naby Keita, Fabinho, Jordan Henderson; Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah.

Given Liverpool’s three prolific attackers scored 57 league goals between them last season, Klopp only need to sign players to stop the Reds conceding so many at the other end. He’s spent a lot of money to do exactly that and Liverpool should have their best domestic campaign since his appointment as a result.

Liverpool’s best run of form last season came after December 2017. They had a strong 2018 under Klopp and will hope to maintain such momentum when the new campaign begins on August 12 against West Ham United. Given the former Borussia Dortmund coach has strengthened the weakest elements of the squad, there’s no reason why they can’t start fast.

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has already put pressure on the Reds, insisting Klopp has to deliver silverware after so much spending in the last six months. He said: “Maybe this season finally you demand that they win. I think you have to be fair and now you have to demand (they win the league). A team that was a finalist in the Champions League, you have to say you are a big candidate, you have to win.”

Under Klopp, Liverpool have finished eight with 60 points (2015/16), fourth with 76 points (2016/17) and fourth with 75 points (2017/18) in the league. Will 2018/19 finally see them win the title?

gareth-southgate-england

Were Southgate’s England all they were cracked up to be?

England were eliminated by Croatia in the semi-finals of the World Cup. The Three Lions’ dream was over, but their journey to the final four captured the imagination of a nation. On reflection, however, did England perform as expected given their opposition? Was their run to the semi-final as impressive as first made out?

Manager Gareth Southgate took the plaudits for the part he played in getting England further than they’ve been since 1990, but should a side gain so much credit for winning just three of their seven games in the World Cup? The Three Lions only beat Sweden, Tunisia and Panama and failed to see past Colombia, Belgium (twice) and Croatia in normal time. It’s nothing special, is it?

Game-by-game analysis

England struck late in their opening group game with Tunisia, with Harry Kane sealing a 2-1 win at the death. While in control for the majority of the match, England couldn’t hold onto their early lead and were taken the distance by a side deemed considerably inferior.

They were more convincing against Panama, but the North America side were big underdogs to register a point on the board. Beating them wouldn’t earn England too many plaudits, even if Kane came away with a hat-trick. Southgate’s men were expected to win. Their first big test would always be against Belgium in the final group game.

Roberto Martinez’s men were fancied to go far at the World Cup and got the better of England when the two sides met – 1-0. Southgate had made changes to the first-team, but his side underperformed against Belgium. Qualification was already confirmed but going through in second place would have mean avoiding the pre-tournament favourites.

A Colombia side missing James Rodriguez awaited England in the last-16 and they still took the Three Lions to penalties. The South American side started strong, faded at the mid-point and ended strongly, scoring in the last minute after giving away a penalty in the 53rd minute. It took a penalty shootout to separate the sides, but things were easier in the quarter-final.

Sweden were no match for England and Southgate’s men won 2-0 without much trouble. Goals either side of half-time saw England into the semi-finals of the World Cup for the first time in 28 years, but Croatia proved to be no slouches.

Player-for-player, many will argue England are the better side, but Croatia were certain better coached. Despite falling behind minutes into the game, Zlatko Dalić’s men were calm and believed in their ability to get back into the match with a patient style of build-up play. They scored to take the game to extra time and found the net midway through the second-half of extra time to book their place in the final.

England’s tournament ended on a further sour note after losing to Belgium again without scoring in the third-place playoff – reminding supporters that the Three Lions may have finished fourth, but they aren’t the fourth-best nation.

There’s a trend with the games England won in normal time and the matches they didn’t. Getting to the semis is an achievement in itself, but was their journey so impressive given the results? Would England sides of the past also fall short?