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Cahill could leave Chelsea in January

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On the outside looking in, Gary Cahill could be forced to leave Chelsea in January to find regular playing time.

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The veteran England centerback has been a key member for the Blues since joining from Bolton midway through the 2011-2012 season, going on to make 189 Premier League appearances for Chelsea in the years since. This season, however, Cahill has yet to appear in a Premier League match, finding him outside of manager Maurizio Sarri‘s plans. In an interview with several English newspapers, Cahill admitted that he may have to leave Stamford Bridge this winter to get back on the field.

“I don’t want to jump the gun, but as things stand at this time, probably, yes,” Cahill said. “I’m not a guy who is willing to accept not playing. It’s all about playing. Your career’s short enough as it is. I’ve got maximum respect for everybody here at the football club, for the fans and all the players. But sometimes you have to make tough decisions to keep your career going forward.”

Cahill has been a bit of an enigma with Chelsea since he joined. He never truly lived up to the billing, being consistent enough to play at John Terry‘s level during their years together. While he did have some brilliant matches, he also had a few blunders over the years that cost Chelsea points.

That being said, in recent years, managers have looked towards other, younger defenders. Antonio Conte at times selected Antonio Rudiger over Cahill in his back three, and this season , Sarri has gone with David Luiz again in center defense. Ultimately, it leaves Cahill with very little chance of getting back on the field, unless there is a serious injury.

Having semi-retired from the England National Team, Cahill needs to find a club that is committed to him playing every week, knowing that he can focus entirely on the success of the team and not have thoughts in the back of his mind on his international chances.

So who are the 6-7 names on Earnie Stewart’s USMNT list?

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As reported Thursday, United States men’s national team general manager Earnie Stewart plans to speak with at least 6-7 candidates before hiring a manager some time before the end of the year.

Plenty has changed since Bruce Arena left the USMNT following a deplorable loss to Trinidad and Tobago and the failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, so the bookmakers’ favorites of a year ago are not quite the same.

[ MORE: Liverpool deny Rabiot contact ]

Peter Vermes, David Wagner, and Patrick Vieira have all either committed to their former club or taken on a new and significant adventure. That’s also pretty much true for Jesse Marsch, who is assisting at RB Leipzig and likely wouldn’t have left New York Red Bulls midseason if he truly wanted or felt he was in the running for the gig.

Juan Carlos Osorio’s time has come and gone as a favorite with his new employment at Paraguay.

So who would you guess is on the 6-7 presumably male list now? Let’s give it a go, assuming that Arsene Wenger, Antonio Conte, and Zinedine Zidane await bigger club challenges.

  1. Tata Martino — The Argentine has yet to commit his future to Atlanta United, and the Five Stripes have been linked with David Moyes should Martino go. It’s easy to connect the dots and make him the favorite.
  2. Gregg Berhalter — Stewart’s former USMNT teammate has won at Columbus with several different styles of play (and degrees of talent).
  3. Caleb Porter — On the original list, Porter has had success at MLS and in the NCAA, the lone blemish his failure to qualify the U.S. U-23 men for the Olympics.
  4. Tab Ramos — The longtime U.S. U-20 coach has the faith of the federation, and it would follow the Gareth Southgate model.
  5. Dave Sarachan — Makes sense to include the interim boss, whether serious about hiring him or not.
  6. Laurent Blanc — The outsider’s name won’t go away, and the former Bordeaux, France, and Paris Saint-Germain boss could be in the running.

The other names that don’t seem fit to join the above list but could be in the discussion: Jason Kries could be a wild card after leaving Orlando City; David Moyes, who’s reportedly put his name in the ring; Dick Advocaat, who is 70 but has worked with Stewart and has loads of club and country experience.

Kante adjusting to more attacking role under Sarri

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Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri inherited possibly the best defensive midfielder in the world when he took over the team in the offseason.

[ MORE: Pogba’s agent hits back at critics, dares Man United to sell Pogba ]

N'Golo Kante has been one of the most influential players in English soccer’s recent history, capturing back-to-back Premier League titles with Leicester (2016) and Chelsea (2017), and was the rock in the midfield of France’s World Cup-winning team in Russia.

So what has Sarri done with Kante upon arriving at Stamford Bridge? Change his position, of course.

Among the most notable aspects of the opening two weeks of the Premier League season has been the attacking role that Kante has taken up for Chelsea in its wins over Huddersfield and Arsenal.

With Italy international Jorginho having followed Sarri to Chelsea from Napoli and become the anchorman in the team’s three-man midfield, many wondered how this would impact on Kante – a diminutive and dynamic player who has mastered the role of shielding a defense with his timely tackling and positional play.

Well, Kante has instead switched to being one of the two more attack-minded center midfielders in front of Jorginho. He scored against Huddersfield on the opening weekend – only his third league goal for Chelsea in a little over two years at the London club – and frequently found himself in the opposition penalty area in an open game against Arsenal that Chelsea won 3-2 on Saturday.

[ MORE: Klopp: “Nobody thinks about” $100-million Van Dijk fee anymore ]

“I play a little bit more forward,” the 27-year-old Kante said. “I try to find the striker, to be more offensive, to cause problems for the opponents. I need to adapt in this role.”

So does Chelsea.

From playing a 3-4-3 formation under previous manager Antonio Conte, Chelsea is now deploying in a 4-3-3 formation under Sarri. Crucially, the defense is now protected by an artist in Jorginho instead of a workhorse in Kante. It showed against Arsenal, which poured forward in the first half and created a string of chances.

With Marcos Alonso still charging forward from left back and the occasionally error-prone David Luiz back in favor under Sarri and one of the two center backs, there are likely to be goals at both ends of the field when Chelsea plays this season.

This is a gamble from Sarri, removing a player who is the best in his position in the Premier League – teammates have repeatedly said Kante does the work of two men as a defensive midfielder – and fielding him in an unusual role. Especially since Kante lacks the composure, accuracy and long-range shot of a typical attacking midfielder in front of goal.

But it is clear Sarri wants more of an on-the-ball player to begin the team’s attacks at the base of the midfield. Jorginho has settled quickly and he has looked good in possession, but he was overrun at times against Arsenal and in the 2-0 loss to Manchester City in the season-opening Community Shield.

It remains to be seen if Sarri’s tactical switch will help propel Chelsea into a genuine title contender again.

Morata admits difficult adapting to Conte’s system last season

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Alvaro Morata, coming off one of the worst 12 months of his career, is off to a fast start.

If you ask the Spanish striker, it’s thanks to the manager.

Speaking to Chelsea TV, Morata described how he struggled during the 2017-2018 season thanks to former manager Antonio Conte‘s more direct style of play, which forced Morata to play more with his back to goal and control long balls in the air.

[READ: Bale powers Real Madrid to win]

“I think for me the most important thing is the mode we play,” Morata said, praising the 4-3-3 formation the Blues play now under Maurizio Sarri. “Last year it was direct, I had to protect the ball in the air and that’s not my best quality. Now I can attack the spaces, play one-touch and go into the area for the crosses which is better for me.

“The last year was very hard for me, not just with confidence. The injury [last season] was very bad for me and my head, but when the ball goes into the net everything changes. Your mind isn’t blocked anymore and I hope now I can score a lot of goals.”

Morata provided a cool turn and finish for Chelsea in its 3-2 win over Arsenal on Saturday, a classic touch after a season in which Morata didn’t look like himself. It kept Morata home for the summer, having missed out on Spain’s World Cup campaign, which ended in defeat on penalties in the Round of 16 to Russia. Perhaps a Morata high on confidence could have helped them.

With Olivier Giroud more suited to play a game in the air or a hold-up game, it appears that Morata is in position to take advantage of the change of playing style, and we could see his best this season for Chelsea.

Hazard ‘won’t go’ this year; Chelsea title threat?

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Chelsea star Eden Hazard is in line with manager’s Maurizio Sarri’s expectation that the Belgian will not be sold this month or in January.

Leaving just a sliver of thought that he could leave, Hazard says he’s prepared to honor his contract at Stamford Bridge if it comes to that.

[ MORE: Recap | JPW’s 3 things from Stamford Bridge ]

And he’s not going anywhere unless Chelsea does something unexpected. From Sky Sports:

“Everybody knows what I have said after the World Cup. But I’m happy here. I don’t want to talk about it yet. A lot has been said, but at the moment I’m happy. I have two years left on my contract and we’ll see what happens. Leaving this year? I won’t go.

“The transfer market in England is closed. Clubs can still sell players, but not sign new ones anymore. It would be a bit strange that they would sell me now while they can’t sign a replacement. Today we have seen that the fans quite like me. I’m good where I am now. Let’s see what happens in one or two years.”

This is perhaps best case scenario for Chelsea, who we may qualify as a contender for the PL crown along with Liverpool and Manchester City (leaving room for United and Spurs, of course).

The Blues have Europa League football this season but can use their deep corps to navigate the early days of that while their title rivals worry about what could be an unusually difficult Champions League group stage (Liverpool is currently set to be a Pool 3 side and could lead to a group, for example, of Barcelona, Napoli, Liverpool, and Inter Milan!).

Of course, Chelsea will need to quickly adapt to Maurizio Sarri’s system and avoid miserable periods like the end of the first half at Arsenal — JPW deals with all of that here — but they have a four-game run of Newcastle away, Bournemouth home, Cardiff home, West Ham away, before meeting another Top Six rival (Liverpool at Stamford Bridge).

Injuries are going to happen, but this could be Chelsea’s two-deep with Hazard staying and a healthy crop of center backs left over from Antonio Conte‘s three at the back needs.

Kepa/Caballero

Azpilicueta/Zappacosta — Rudiger/Cahill — Luiz/Christensen — Alonso/Emerson

Jorginho/Fabregas — Kante/Drinkwater — Kovacic/Loftus-Cheek

Willian/Barkley — Morata/Giroud — Hazard/Pedro

Bench: Green, Moses, Abraham, Hudson-Odoi, Ampadu