Premier League Playback: Title in the bag, can Chelsea now create a dynasty?

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CAN CHELSEA CREATE A DYNASTY?

You can bet your bottom dollar that no sooner than the blue and white confetti had finished falling onto the pitch at Stamford Bridge on Sunday that Jose Mourinho was already making plans to repeat this success next season.

[ RELATED: Seven moments that defined Chelsea’s title win ]

Chelsea clinched the Premier League title by beating Crystal Palace and will be handed the trophy on May 24 following their final home game. It is their first PL title since 2010 and it was Mourinho’s third title in five seasons in charge of the English club. However his mind will now be focused on creating a club capable of replicating success year after year at home and abroad. A dynasty, if you will.

[ RELATED: Chelsea claim title in record breaking style ]

Since Manchester United won three-straight PL crowns in 2006-07, 2007-08 and 2008-09, no club has successfully defended its PL crown as Chelsea, Manchester City and United have all prospered but then failed to build on their single-season dominance. No dynasty has been created in the PL. Now, Chelsea and Mourinho has a chance to build one but unlike his first spell with the Blues when he delivered two back-to-back titles, the makeup and challenges the PL now possesses make it a vastly different landscape and Mourinho knows it. He has been lambasted by many this season for a cautious approach down the stretch and chants of “boring, boring Chelsea” from opposition fans are filled with both jealousy that their own team can’t grind out wins ruthlessly and a hint of truth about Chelsea’s cautiousness.

[ RELATED: How did Chelsea’s players grade? | Defending Chelsea ]

However, there’s no denying that the Blues were the best team in the league this season from start to finish. At the end of the season they will have lead the PL for a record number of days during the season, 274. Here’s a few factors which will determine if Mourinho can build on the domestic success of 2014-15:

  • Fending off rivals – This is a challenge Mourinho will relish. Manchester City will buy big over the summer as Financial Fair Play sanctions will have been lifted. Manchester United have the ability to sign the  est players in the world under Louis van Gaal and then there’s Arsenal. The Gunners are a few players away from being serious title contenders and all three teams will do plenty over the summer to try and claw their way back to the top of the table and usurp Chelsea. When Chelsea won back-to-back titles under Mourinho from 2004-06, United were their only serious rivals but the Blues will likely have three more next season.
  • Financial Fair Play – One of the biggest disadvantages Chelsea has is that the money it can spend on players is restricted compared to its rivals. The capacity of Stamford Bridge, among other things, impacts their spending and even though their one in, one out transfer policy in recent seasons has been managed wonderfully (remember, Juan Mata, David Luiz and Romelu Lukaku have been replaced with Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa plus a hefty profit) but soon Mourinho will run out of bargaining chips to cash in. Despite Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich’s incredible wealth, he cannot match the billions Sheikh Mansour is pouring into Man City and the financial juggernauts of Manchester United and now Arsenal after their debt has been whipped away. Superior spending power doesn’t always mean success but it certainly helps close the gap and will hinder Chelsea’s hopes to win championships consistently.
  • Emerging youth – John Terry, Didier Drogba and Petr Cech were dancing around at the Bridge on Sunday, celebrating their fourth PL title as Chelsea players. The latter two have played supporting roles this season but Terry has been superb. The 34-year-old captain has been the best defender in the PL and has signed a new deal for next season but Kurt Zouma is waiting in the wings. Despite the presence and importance of veterans on this title winning squad, youngsters are coming. Chelsea has won the FA Youth Cup in the past two seasons as well as UEFA’s U-19 title. Expect to see talents like Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Patrick Bamford, Dominic Solanke, Nathan Ake, Lewis Baker and others in action next season. It may be a few years before any of those names become commonplace in Mourinho’s starting lineup but that’s because he still has Eden Hazard (24), Cesc Fabregas (28) and Diego Costa (26) with plenty of years ahead of them. Those three each sprinkle the stardust to offset Chelsea’s robust defense and they are all either entering their prime or have it to come. Good news for Chelsea fans.
  • Mourinho’s longevity – Due to his brash and explosive nature, Mourinho doesn’t stick around too often wherever he manages. He stayed at Porto for two years, Chelsea for three, two at Inter and three at Real Madrid before heading “home” to Chelsea. Over the past two seasons we have seen a more mellow Mourinho, with odd flashes of the exuberant egotist which makes him such a polarizing figure. Mourinho has spoken of his desire to remain at Chelsea for as long as owner Roman Abramovich wants him. If Mourinho remains at Chelsea for the next 10 years, it will have meant he has delivered English soccer’s next great dynasty. The only other challenge left for him is to manage his home country, Portugal. But at the age of 52, he has plenty of years left in him in club management before that arrives.
  • European glory – Now that Mourinho has proved he can rebuild a side and lead it to PL glory, he most now switch his attention to the one trophy he covets most but has not won as Chelsea boss: the UEFA Champions League. He has won it for both FC Porto and Inter Milan but has fallen at the semifinal hurdle on three occasions as Chelsea boss. The Blues won the UCL trophy in Mourinho’s absence after their fairytale run to the title under interim boss Roberto Di Matteo in 2012. Their Portuguese boss will now set his sights on matching that achievement.

So, we had the great Liverpool side of the 1980s, the superb Manchester United squad of the 1990s and then a lot of back and forth over the past 15 years as United threatened to create another dynasty but never quite sustained it as Chelsea and Man City muscled in. Now, can Chelsea finally deliver a dominant side which will be the champions of England for an elongated period?

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

It is a tough challenge but if anyone can deliver trophies, find a way to win that best suits the strength of the players at his disposal and deliver sustained success, it’s Mourinho.

NEWCASTLE’S “SITUATION”

Premier League Schedule – Week 35

Result Recap & Highlights
Aston Villa 3-2 Everton Recap and watch here
Chelsea 1-0 Crystal Palace Recap and watch here
Hull City 1-3 Arsenal Recap and watch here
Leicester 3-0 Newcastle Recap and watch here
Liverpool 2-1 QPR Recap and watch here
Man United 0-1 West Brom Recap and watch here
Sunderland 2-1 Saints Recap and watch here
Swansea 2-0 Stoke Recap and watch here
Tottenham 0-1 Man City Recap and watch here
West Ham 1-0 Burnley Recap and watch here

Deary me. What is going on up at St James’ Park? Every season at least one club in the Premier League turns into a soap opera and the 2014-15 campaign has seen Newcastle United become the main attraction. In previous seasons the anger of locals towards owner Mike Ashley and former manager Alan Pardew made the headlines. Now it is caretaker boss John Carver who is the main protagonist.

[ RELATED: Watch full match replays ]

Carver “lost the plot” following Newcastle’s 3-0 defeat at Leicester City on Saturday, as he insinuated that central defender Mike Williamson got himself sent off on purpose and questioned the commitment of the players at his disposal. That prompted a statement to be released by the club on Monday claiming that “frank dialogue” with Carver, the club and senior players has been had over the past few days.

The long-time assistant coach and local lad has been thrust into the spotlight as Newcastle’s season goes from bad to worse. Since Carver took charge in January the Magpies have picked up just nine points from a possible 48 and the players seemed to have downed tools as uncertainty around the direction the club is heading in goes on.

The buck stops at the owner and Ashley’s insistence to almost write this season off when Pardew walked out of the door to join Crystal Palace in January says it all. The players are coasting and they will probably just stay up despite a collapse unlike any seen in PL history. Empty seats and protests from fans are warning signs that this lack of investment in players from Ashley can’t go on but will he ever change? Unless he sells the club, Newcastle’s fans will be unhappy for a very long time.

In the video below our analysts break down Newcastle’s demise and wonder if they might be the club who slips into the bottom three after eight-straight defeats heading into the final match of the season. They also touch on the sticky situation Newcastle’s north east rivals, Sunderland, find themselves in.

RACE FOR FOURTH

Well, the top four race is back on. With Manchester United losing to West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, suffering three-straight defeats in the Premier League for the first time since 2001 in the process, Louis van Gaal’s men have reignited hopes of finishing in the top four for Liverpool.

[ RELATED: Latest PL standings ]

Brendan Rodgers’ side are four points behind United with three games to go but seem to have a more favorable schedule than the Red Devils. Here are the remaining games for both sides:

Man United

  • Crystal Palace (Away)
  • Arsenal (Home)
  • Hull City (Away)

Liverpool

  • Chelsea (Away)
  • Crystal Palace (Home)
  • Stoke City (Away)

If United lose to Arsenal on May 17 and succumb to the cauldron of Selhurst Park this weekend, this race for fourth place could go down to the final game of the season. Liverpool will likely need to pick something up at Stamford Bridge against the champions but if they can do that and United slip up then they could sneak into the the Champions League via the backdoor at the expense of their bitter rivals.

Below are the highlights from Week 35 in the PL, just in case you missed anything.

WAVE GOODBYE TO QPR, BURNLEY

Mathematically, Burnley and Queens Park Rangers are both still Premier League clubs but in reality their days in the top-flight are over.

Burnley is eight points off safety with three games to go, QPR seven. There’s no saving themselves now. A miraculous escape would result in them winning all three of their final matches and the likes of Sunderland, Leicester City, Hull City, Newcastle and Aston Villa not picking up any more points. Stranger things have happened, but a quick return straight back to the Championship awaits. Burnley have been frugal and their downfall has been a lack of goals as Sean Dyche’s side have battled beyond their means and the PL is set to lose its smallest town. As for QPR, well, severe mismanagement from both former boss Harry Redknapp and at the director level has seen them spend extortionate amounts of money on players who have under performed. Interim boss Chris Ramsey is a good manager and has added belief in recent weeks that the R’s could get out of danger but they will come up short. The bigger issue is Financial Fair Play and whether or not they will be allowed to compete in the Football League next season due to the rash over-spending of owner and chairman Tony Fernandes. That story will rumble on this summer.

As for the rest, it seems like one from five will join QPR and Burnley in being relegated. Wins for Sunderland, Leicester City and Aston Villa at the weekend were much-needed, while West Brom’s shock victory away at Man United all but secured their survival. With Newcastle’s season spiraling out of control and Sunderland’s final two games of the season away at Arsenal and Chelsea, the two north east clubs look the most vulnerable to go down as Villa and Leicester has hit form at the perfect time of the season.

Here’s how things stand with three games to go as the race against relegation will take center stage in the final weeks of the PL season.

source:

Premier League Playback comes out every Monday as PST’s Lead Writer and Editor takes an alternative look at all the action from the weekend. Read the full archive, here

Infantino says closing stadiums only a short-term coronavirus solution

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FIFA president Gianni Infantino has stated that he does not support playing closed-door games as a long-term solution to avoiding the threat of coronavirus.

Serie A will play games behind closed doors for the second straight weekend thanks to the rapid spread of the disease that has infected over 800 people in Italy. Most notably, the game between title contenders Inter and Juventus will be played in front of an empty Allianz Stadium in Turin.

“I don’t think it is sustainable in the long term to play behind closed doors,” Infantino said before a meeting in Northern Ireland. “Every competition organizer ultimately has to decide what is best for him. Obviously, on the short term it can be a solution [to play without fans] in order to move on. But you cannot imagine a few months of a competition being played, several matches being played, behind closed doors.”

Infantino went on to say he “wouldn’t exclude anything” when asked about possible solutions for international fixtures coming up in March, but admitted “I hope we will never have to get into this direction. We cannot underestimate and say it’s nothing but we don’t have to overreact and panic.”

Meanwhile, English tabloids reported Friday that the Premier League could close up shop early, costing Liverpool its league title should it take place before Liverpool is mathematically crowned champions. However, the Liverpool Echo reported that the Premier League is still considering all possibilities as solutions for coronavirus prevention and that scenarios like that are at this point considered “still at a hypothetical stage.”

Some Premier League clubs confirmed they are banning handshakes around the training ground, while others have told players to tone down fan interaction for the time being. Other leagues around Europe have taken more drastic measures, such as the Swiss league which has completely shut down until at least mid-March on instruction from the government.

French goalkeeper throws ball into own net

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There’s own-goals, and then there’s own-goals. French goalkeeper Brice Maubleu scored an own-goal.

The Grenoble goalkeeper, taking on fellow Ligue 2 side Caen on Friday, threw the ball into his own net in the 18th minute to give the hosts a 2-0 lead they would not relinquish.

It appeared that Maubleu was attempting to distribute the ball to one of his defenders only to pull back at the last minute, and upon his attempt to halt the throw, he instead tossed it back towards his own net. The 30-year-old captain attempted to scramble back and stop the ball, and he very well may have, but the referee gave the goal and replays were inconclusive.

You can watch video of the brutal own-goal here.

Maubleu confirmed that was his intention after the fact. “There are dark evenings and this is one of them,” the Grenoble captain said after the match. “On the goal, I wanted to quickly set Jerome (Mombris) away, but I saw that he was not looking at me so I revised my decision and then the ball left my hands”

Maubleu recalled when French goalkeeper Steve Mandanda did something similar while playing for Marseille in 2012, throwing the ball right to an opposition attacker who easily buried the ball into the empty net. “This happens sometimes and people think that it can’t possibly happen to others. In the end, I play the ball thinking that all was still ok but apparently the ball had already gone in,” Maubleu said.

“I am disappointed because it gave our opponent a two-goal lead. I will have to quickly get back working and move on, because it will likely do the rounds on social media. The goalkeeper position is exposed and there are risks. After that, I was back in my match and made saves even though those won’t be remembered.”

The 30-year-old Maubleu has played for just Tours FC and Grenoble in his career, making two Ligue 1 appearances in 2009 before spending the rest of his time in Ligue 2.

Arsenal posts loss as Champions League absence felt

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Arsenal announced Friday a loss of £27.1 million ($34.6 million) for the most recent fiscal year, citing the combination of high player wages and a lengthy absence from the UEFA Champions League competition as the main contributing factor for the poor financial performance.

The loss is the club’s first since 2002, according to Chairman Sir Chips Keswick.

Arsenal Holdings plc released the after tax total for the fiscal year ending May 31 2019, down from a $72.1 million profit the previous year. Commercial revenues were up significantly, increasing profits from $495.6 million to $504 million. Still, operating profits rocketed to $295.8 million thanks to what the club called “continued investments in player wages.”

“Our player trading profit for this financial year was limited and this combined with a second consecutive season of Europa League football has meant the club recorded its first overall loss since 2002,” Keswick said in a club statement. “For 2019-20 we will see increased commercial revenues from Adidas and our renewed deal with Emirates, but another season outside the Champions League will continue to apply pressure to our financial results.”

The Gunners were shockingly eliminated from the Europa League on Thursday at the hands of Olympiakos in extra-time, meaning the only way they end the Champions League drought will be to charge into the Premier League top four. Currently Arsenal sits ninth in the table, six points off fourth-placed Chelsea.

Back in July, Arsenal director Josh Kroenke – son of owner Stan Kroenke – warned that the club “had a Champions League wage bill on a Europa League budget.”

3 things to know about Inter Miami and Nashville S.C.

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The Major League Soccer gets under way this weekend, and for those fans who would like to get a better feel for the league as a whole, a good place to start is the two new clubs.

[ MORE: MLS Week 1 preview ]

Inter Miami and Nashville S.C. will both get a difficult welcome to the U.S. top flight this weekend, with Nashville hosting Atlanta United on Saturday while Miami travels to LAFC on Sunday. Neither clubs are expected to be immediate playoff contenders, but as both their debut opponents will tell them, there doesn’t always have to be a learning curve for new introductions.

[ MORE: 2020 MLS season predictions ]

So, with that in mind, let’s learn more about the two expansion clubs that take the MLS total to 26.

INTER MIAMI

Seven years after David Beckham retired from Major League Soccer franchise and began pursuit of club ownership, his team finally takes the field. It has been a brutally long journey for the South Florida side, but the beginning is finally here. The roster looks solid and the coaching staff is well built, so don’t be surprised if they put up a fight in the playoff race.

1. The team is stocked with MLS veterans

Inter Miami had a clear strategy while building its initial squad – hoard experience. The team acquired USMNT midfielders Lee Nguyen and Wil Trapp, former champions AJ DeLaGarza and Alvas Powell, longtime NYRB goalkeeper Luis Robles, journeyman Juan Agudelo, and former NYCFC defender Ben Sweat. The players may or may not click together, but if one thing is for certain with Inter Miami, the club doesn’t feel as brand new when looking at the roster.

2. Matias Pellegrini will lead the way

While the squad is loaded with domestic experience, the club looked abroad for its first two Designated Players. 26-year-old Mexican international Rodolfo Pizarro joined from Monterrey for a hefty fee, and he will be critically important moving forward in midfield. Young striker Julian Carranza is injured for the first month but will be a major factor up front as well. However, 19-year-old Matias Pellegrini will likely be the club’s most important player. The Argentine is an electric player, and how he integrates with a squad full of veterans will make Inter Miami an intriguing watch early in the campaign; if he doesn’t hit the ground running, the Inter Miami attack will sputter.

3. Depth is a strength

This team may need time to gel, but it is a well-constructed roster that is built to weather a storm. The only position that looks thin is center-back where Powell and Nicolas Figal are backed up by just inexperienced Grant Lillard, 19-year-old Christian Makoun, and 20-year-old Andres Reyes. Everywhere else is covered by experience. DeLaGarza provides excellent cover for Sweat and recent college graduate Dylan Nealis. Nguyen may not be an everyday starter any more but he is as good as bench options come. Robbie Robinson will likely begin the season up front but eventually take a back seat to Carranza and be a solid option off the bench, while Jerome Kiesewetter brings European experience as well.

NASHVILLE S.C.

Making less of a splash than Inter Miami is new Western Conference members Nashville S.C. Unlike Inter Miami, Nashville isn’t starting completely from scratch, having two years in USL under their belt. Still, there are plenty of questions to be asked about how Nashville can compete on a consistent basis this season.

1. This team is strong defensively, and not so much up front

This squad is clearly built for one thing – defensive strength. Nashville brought in USMNT veteran Walker Zimmerman from LAFC who will be partnered with 26-year-old former LA Galaxy defender Dave Romney. Dax McCarty provides good cover in midfield, and while Daniel Lovitz can get forward, the full-back group doesn’t exactly scream “attack attack attack.”

On that sense, going forward may be an issue. Nashville scored nine goals in preseason, but playing against other sides’ backups for much of the time it’s hard not to take that with a grain of salt. Dominique Badji’s MLS numbers with Colorado and FC Dallas are mediocre at best and Hany Mukhtar’s production abroad doesn’t jump off the page either. David Accam can create for himself but only has 17 assists in 124 career MLS appearances, so while goalscoring can be there, the creativity is lacking greatly. Abu Danladi hasn’t quite lived up to his expectations thus far and will be hoping a change of scenery can unlock a new level, but it’s hard to see the season-long consistency there.

2. The roster is full of scrappy players

A number of guys on the fringe of the Nashville S.C. roster may actually end up contributing more than expected. Randall Leal is an exciting player who could find himself a fan favorite with his swashbuckling style of play. With the expected inconsistency up front, Daniel Rios could get a look if he can translate his USL goalscoring numbers (40 goals in 62 games) to the MLS level – obviously a major question, but also one deserving the time of day. McCarty is a well-liked player who puts in a shift in midfield, and his partner Anibal Godoy plays the crunching style expected of a Central American defensive midfielder. This team will be a grind to break down.

3. Nashville probably needs to look for a few more pieces

With only Mukhtar signed on as a Designated Player, Nashville is probably a few more key contributors away from a playoff spot. Should they hold down a respectable start to the campaign, a summer signing could push this team into contention, but as it stands the cohesion brought on by two years in USL likely won’t be enough to see them keep pace with the stronger teams in the West. With an opening trio of games against Atlanta United, Portland, and Toronto FC, it will be difficult for the new boys to hit the ground running this season, and at times it could feel like a slog.