Three things we learned from Chelsea’s 1-1 draw with PSG

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CHARLOTTE,  NC — The Blues struggled through a tough 90 minutes in Charlotte, largely dominated by a PSG side that looked more than ready to get the Ligue 1 season under way.

While we remember this is still just preseason – and like in nearly every sport on the planet, preseason play often foreshadows little about the coming season – there are still things we can take with us from Bank of America Stadium that could teach us what will come in the nearing Premier League season.

1. Chelsea remain dominant on set-pieces

One of the strengths of the Blues last year remains the same with a largely unchanged squad: don’t foul the Premier League champions. They can beat you on set-pieces, and in so many different ways. They nearly scored on a short free-kick pulled off the training ground in the opening 10 minutes, and proved dangerous on numerous corners throughout the match.

This day and age, it’s easy to tell when a team is playing for free-kicks and when they’re not. It was simple to see PSG was not. They had most of the possession in the first half, but very few tangible set-piece opportunities. They knew it was Chelsea’s strength, and elected to attempt to break down the Blues in open play instead.

There were few set-piece opportunities throughout the game as a result, but looking at the Chelsea goal, it too was eerily similar. A Cesc Fabregas flick from a stationary position played Victor Moses in at the back post, and it proved Chelsea’s movement is dangerous.

2. Their defensive shape is incredible, but still beatable

Zlatan tapped and slid the ball all around. Lucas Moura dribbled. Marco Verratti dodged and weaved. Serge Aurier bombed forward. None of it worked for PSG in the first 20 minutes as John Terry, Gary Cahill, and the rest of the Chelsea players held firm on defensive duty. If you want to teach young players about rigidity and organization, put on a tape of a Jose Mourinho-led Chelsea match. It’s wonderful to watch.

PSG tried so hard to flow through the middle, using Ibrahimovic in almost a box-to-box midfielder role and cutting Lucas Moura directly at defenders on the ball, but every time the attack was swallowed up. It looked as if it was going take a moment of brilliance for the French champions to break through. Instead, it took Zlatan.

With Chelsea suddenly under siege, they seemed as meek as a mid-table side, but weathered the storm until halftime without giving up another. They showed weaknesses against the New York Red Bulls as well, but the idea is clearly there. If the team gets back to top shape by the start of the Premier League season, good luck to the rest of England.

3. Gary Cahill and John Obi Mikel may be on a decline

We saw glimpses of this last season with Cahill, and he seemed to make the Premier League Team of the Season on name rather than performance. Today, he continued to show a possible decline. Cahill was slow to recover on numerous PSG breaks, and he left Branislav Ivanovic on an island against Jean-Kevin Augustin in the first half, leading to the Serbian getting worked by the young French attacker.

Should Cahill continue to struggle, it could see the end of a storied central defensive partnership between he and John Terry, and in turn would mean added playing time for 20-year-old Kurt Zouma, who looks as ready as ever to become and every-day central defender.

Meanwhile, Mikel was at fault for the goal and struggled to place a long-ball anywhere close to Diego Costa and the Chelsea attackers. For a player who is used to coming in and locking down a game late, his usefulness is clearly limited outside that role.

Season restart preview: Brighton and Hove Albion

Brighton season restart
Photo by Gareth Fuller/PA Images via Getty Images
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With the 2019-20 Premier League season soon to restart, let’s focus on all 20 clubs and see where they stand ahead of the final nine matches of the season.

Brighton is next.

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

Let’s take a closer look at all things Seagulls when it comes to the season restart.

Outlook: If there’s a team whose results don’t show the way they’ve played, it’s Brighton. Graham Potter’s Seagulls have the sixth-best possession percentage in the league, are a tidy seventh in passing, and are mid-table in tackles per game, interceptions per game, and shots per game.

[ MORE: Ranking every Brighton player in 2019-20 ]

The expected goals stats show even less reward for good work, with Brighton scoring 8.35 goals less than expected in open play and 4.38 less from corner kicks.

Despite all these good things, Brighton is two points clear of the drop zone with nine matches to play and has a terribly challenging schedule especially at the Amex Stadium.

Tactical analysis: Graham Potter has put the Seagulls in myriad formations this season, though he’s been utilizing at least four at the back since the calendar turned to 2020. He’s ready to attack but pragmatic given the club’s hopes of staving off the teams below it in the fight for PL survival.

[ MORE: The 2 Robbies assess Brighton’s chances ]

Possible XI (4-2-3-1) 

—– Ryan —–

— Montoya — Webster — Dunk — Burn —

—– Propper —– Mooy —–

— Trossard — Gross — Alzate —

—– Maupay—–

Glenn Murray and Alireza Jahanbakhsh are excellent weapons to have on the bench, and Brighton’s also got a very good center back in reserve in the form of Shame Duffy and an underrated center mid in Dale Stephens who will see playing time, too. On paper, this team is too good to go down.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

Remaining schedule
Home: Arsenal, Man City, Liverpool, Manchester United, Newcastle
Away: Leicester, Norwich, Southampton, Burnley

Predicted finish: They’ll do enough to get by, though that home fixture list is simply brutal. Safe before the final weekend.

Social media wrap: All 20 Premier League clubs, many players stand against racism

Premier League social media
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The protests in the United States have inspired anti-racism statements from around the world, including all gestures from all 20 Premier League clubs and many players and managers.

There have been ongoing protests and horrible violence in the U.S. since the May 25 killing of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who died after a white police officer pressed his knee into his neck for nearly nine minutes even after he stopped moving and pleaded for air in Minnesota.

Newcastle United’s American defender DeAndre Yedlin issued an emotional thread (below) as one of a great deal of players to express hopes for change and solidarity, while Schalke’s Weston McKennie explained his wearing a black armband reading “Justice For George” in the Bundesliga this weekend.

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

From Ancelotti to Zaha, Antonio to Yedlin, Arsenal to Wolves, we’ve collected many of their sentiments below in what we hope serves as universal disdain for racial prejudice.

Some players like Leicester City’s Wes Morgan and even entire clubs (Arsenal) changed their online identity photos to reflect these troubled times.

All PL clubs issued messages of solidarity, many using the Black Lives Matter hashtag and making no bones about where they stand.

And we’ll start with a longtime PL club currently in the Championship, who blasted a season ticket holder’s rejection of their unifying Tweet.

Here are some other clubs and players worldwide to have noticed what’s happening in the United States.


Season restart preview: Bournemouth

Bournemouth season restart
Photo by Robin Jones - AFC Bournemouth/AFC Bournemouth via Getty Images
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With the 2019-20 Premier League season soon to restart, let’s focus on all 20 clubs and see where they stand ahead of the final nine matches of the season.

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

Let’s take a closer look at all things Bournemouth when it comes to the season restart.

Outlook: Tough sledding for the Cherries, who face zero of their fellow bottom-six sides (though 13th place Newcastle and 14th place Saints both visit the Vitality Stadium).

There’s been an element of bad luck to Bournemouth’s woes, with its expected goals stats showing Ryan Fraser, Joshua King, and Callum Wilson have deserved better end product and that the Cherries’ 14 goals from open play should be closer to 22. The defense has been bad and xG says it could’ve been worse, too. Injuries had hit Bournemouth’s defense corps in a big way, too. How much better will they be after the break?

[ MORE: Ranking every Cherries player in 2019-20 ]

Tactical analysis: Eddie Howe utilized a 4-4-2 with two defensive midfielders for much of the early season, but has gone between a lone striker with a packed-in midfielder and a 4-3-3 when he thinks an opponent is exploitable.

Howe started a 4-4-2 against almost all of the Cherries’ remaining opponents, choosing a 5-4-1 against Wolves and Man City. There’s no guarantee he’ll continue that, especially when some matches may dictate a draw or limited goal differential damage over wins.

Possible XI (4-3-3) 

—– Ramsdale —–

— Smith — S. Cook — Ake — Rico —

—– Lerma —– Billing — L. Cook —

— Fraser —– C. Wilson —– King —–

Howe prefers to attack when at all possible, but the points will be at a premium against some very challenging opponents. It’s a safe bet that he’ll ask a lot from his forwards while trying to deploy his three relentless midfielders together whenever possible. The question here is whether Aaron Ramsdale returns quickly from his COVID-19 positive test, or if it’ll be Artur Boruc or someone else between the sticks.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

Remaining schedule
Home: Crystal Palace, Newcastle, Spurs, Leicester City, Southampton
Away: Wolves, Manchester United, Man City, Everton

Predicted finish: The Cherries stay up, just, as King and Callum Wilson deliver the goods in front of a determined and improved midfield.

Premier League clubs will reportedly be allowed preseason friendlies

Premier League return
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Premier League clubs will be allowed to play preseason matches ahead of the 2019-20’s restart season later this month.

There will be strict protocols due to the coronavirus pandemic, however, and the matches will likely be officiated by club coaching staffs (We have so many Jose Mourinho as ref quips to make here, but let’s keep going anyway).

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

Sky Sports says clubs will be limited to opponents within 90 minutes of their venue, and that players will have to drive themselves to the stadiums and go directly to the field in uniform.

With the League One and League Two seasons still hanging in the balance, it’s likely PL sides will be limited to each other and Championship sides. Presumably clubs will not want to meet others still on their fixture list.

We assume some players will get dressed in their vehicles outside the ground, but allow yourself some levity in these challenging times and imagine a fully kitted-up Virgil van Dijk driving the roads from Liverpool to Wigan Athletic.