Henrikh Mkhitaryan

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Lampard: Chelsea kids getting chance is ‘long time coming’

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While Chelsea winger Christian Pulisic was detailing his frustrations to our Joe Prince-Wright near the pitch at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, his manager was unwittingly showcasing why the American 21-year-old is up against it.

An unused sub for fourth time in five matches, Pulisic told NBC Sports Soccer, “It is not going to be easy here, but it was never going to be easy.”

It never was, but it sure has grown even more difficult than anticipated due to Lampard’s unique position.

[ MORE: Chelsea dominates Brighton ]

Taking over a club on a transfer ban and with a wealth of young English players in the fold, the legendary England midfielder is being lauded at every turn for using those young bucks on the Premier League pitch.

Remember, this has been amongst the top talking points in English football circles for some time, on a much bigger scale than it is in the United States, where analysts and USMNT supporters beg MLS clubs to “play their kids.” Just as New York Red Bulls having success with Academy talent is celebrated here, Chelsea is now challenging for a Top Four place with its youngsters on a globally-lauded scale.

This is a buffet dinner for pro-England pundits who’ve long declared the league a bit too foreign.

For Lampard, one of these youngsters is Mason Mount, who was at his side at Derby County last season as the first-year manager nearly led his team to the Premier League. Mount’s incandescent start to life at Chelsea has Lampard grinning ear-to-ear, likely validating years of, “Well, if I ever manage Chelsea.”

“It is great for the club and a long time coming,” Lampard said after Chelsea beat Brighton 2-0 on Saturday. “The work is done in the academy. The mentality is great. They want to play for this club. At the moment they are earning it and setting a level for others. I have complete confidence in the lads. They are there on merit. Whatever game they take it on board and long may it continue.”

Remember that Lampard’s time with the Three Lions was also a major source of controversy, as managers struggled to find the right fit between him and fellow generational midfielder Steven Gerrard.

Lampard knows what nurturing English talent means to individual clubs as well as the national team. He’s seen rivals Manchester United hailed for always having an Academy graduate in the 18, and heard the criticism of his beloved Chelsea for sending so many young English players on loan. It also probably didn’t help things when he came to MLS and was often criticized for his performances despite metrics saying he was well above average, but that’s a minor qualm.

Then, there’s this:

Not great, Bob. Not great.

Not only is Pulisic behind Mount and wonder boy Callum Hudson-Odoi, he’s also contending with two club heroes. Willian is one appearance away from 300 in a Chelsea shirt, more than a handful of those coming when he was a teammate of his now manager. Pedro was never Lampard’s teammate, but is closing in on 200 appearances in the shirt and has won the league and Europa League.

And here’s the thing, Lampard does rate Pulisic. He just thinks he’s not in the mix yet. The problem is that he sees two other youngsters as very much in the thick of his present and his future.

Lampard has called Mount “the cataylst for us getting in front with his sharpness. He was brilliant for me at Derby. I did not expect this level but he he is improving daily.”

He’s said Hudson-Odoi “can be central to this team and for England.”

Leaving aside Hudson-Odoi, who has just returned from a long-term injury, here are what the numbers say when comparing the other four wingers.

Whoscored.com/PlayerComparison

In this small sample size, Lampard is choosing the best producing player in Mount. He has more trust in Willian than Pedro which, while debatable, is at least understandable. And Chelsea is in the midst of an easy stretch of fixtures which won’t demand much chopping and changing if the current first-choice players handle their business.

Pulisic’s career resume and production are far superior to Mount and a notch above Hudson-Odoi, but he’s also the stranger in town and you’d be foolish to say that doesn’t matter. Look at the Chelsea stints of Andre Schurrle and Kevin De Bruyne, the latter of which lasted exactly a half season before a loan to Wolfsburg saw him immediately start to redeliver the goods.

That’s a possibility here, if we’re honest. This could just be a place of good club, decent move, wrong time. If Pulisic had gone to Manchester United, for example, he might’ve seen the same path as Daniel James: An injury to Anthony Martial and non-performing Jesse Lingard opened the door wide for the youngster. At Chelsea he’s in a young team with a lot of good wingers. The good news is that there are a lot of matches through Cups and Europe for him to showcase himself to both Lampard and the world. There could be a quick loan, and it wouldn’t be the end of the world. He’s still the player we’ve seen torture CONCACAF and he’s only going to improve.

Here’s the other thing, though: It’s only been a dozen games and this could simply be down to form. Look at the above stats again; What’s bringing Pulisic down is his giveaways (times dispossessed) and bad controls per game. In the case of the latter, he’s even or better than Pedro and Mount. The difference is that Mount is producing goals.

The other thing is that Lille on Wednesday and Saints next Sunday. His chances will come, though they just won’t be in the quantity or quality (See: Town, Grimsby) as American fans would like. C’est la vie.

It’s also something to keep in mind from those quick to obliterate Pulisic’s move to Chelsea, which came when there was a different manager in charge of the team to boot. This is what happens at top clubs, and is why plenty of magnificent players take time to adapt to a new league, and that’s if they ever do; Henrikh Mkhitaryan had 23 goals and 32 assists in his final season at Dortmund, and combined for 22 and 24 between Arsenal and Manchester United. Just one example, but you get it.

The kid is going to be fine, and there’s a good chance he’ll be fine at Chelsea. But nothing that happens over the next three months is going to stop Pulisic from shining at the USMNT level. Heck, it may lead to a fresh, inspired Pulisic running all over CONCACAF in the Nations League and beyond.

But right now, he needs to weather a storm which is going to blow stronger and harder as a storyline one nation has always wanted runs straight into the one our nation has desperately sought for the United States’ best product yet.

Serie A roundup: Roma’s Mkhitaryan scores on debut, Milan edges Verona

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Roma’s first win of the season headlines Sunday’s Serie A action.

Roma 4-2 Sassuolo

Henrikh Mkhitaryan‘s stint with Roma is off to a brilliant start.

The former Arsenal attacker, scored a blistering goal in his debut with the Italian giants, who won their first game of the season in the 4-2 thumping of Sassuolo.

The Armenian’s goal was only one of the four that Roma put together in the first 45 minutes of the game. With a headed goal off of a corner kick, Bryan Cristante gave the home side an early lead. Seven minutes later, Edin Dzeko tallied his second goal of a young season.

By the 33rd minute, Justin Kluivert’s calm finish inside the box had Roma up by four goals. I Giallorossi kept pushing, dismantling the visiting with their frenetic pace down the wings, but came up short, striking the bar post in three different occasions.

Despite being outclassed in the first half, Sassuolo’s silver lining showed up in the final 45 minutes: Domenico Berardi. A wonder free-kick opened the scoring for the 24-year-old, who eventually sealed his brace in 72nd minute. The captain has scored five goals in two league matches this season.

With confidence under their belt, Roma travel to Bologna next, while Sassuolo host SPAL.

Verona 0-1 AC Milan

Milan aren’t doing it in convincing fashion, but they’re winning.

A game that saw both teams end up with 10 players, also saw Milan walk away with a 1-0 victory in Verona. The win has Marco Giampaolo’s side sixth in the table only three points behind leaders and rivals Inter Milan.
Despite playing a player down early on, Verona had a pair of chances in the first half. A half-effort bicycle was no match for a well-positioned Roma defense and Gianluigi Donnarumma. The clearest chance of them all came right before the first 45 minutes came to a close, however. In motion, with his back turned on the ball, Valerio Verre’s first touch and subsequent strike would just go inches high of the bar.
As the second half went on, Milan proved to be too much for the home side, controlling the ball and taking a plethora of shots on goal. Eventually, it took a tool on I Gialloblu. In the 68th minute, Hakan Çalhanoğlu shot struck Verona’s Koray Gunter hand, resulting in a penalty that Krzysztof Piątek put away.

Now in sixth place, Milan face rivals Inter Milan next. On the hand, Verona travel to Turin to take on a mighty Juventus.

Elsewhere in Serie A

SPAL 2- 1 Lazio

Brescia 3-4 Bologna

Parma 1-3 Cagliari

Mkhitaryan: Premier League struggles down to happiness

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Sometimes, a footballer’s lack of success can come down to happiness.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan says that’s the case with his tumultuous time with Arsenal and Manchester United following a high profile transfer from Borussia Dortmund in 2016.

[ MORE: Spurs’ Lo Celso injured ]

Mkhitaryan, now 30, arrived on the heels of 23-goal, 32-assist season (!!!), and failed to reach those totals over three seasons between Old Trafford and the Emirates.

The Armenian captain is hoping that a loan to Roma changes his fortunes, because he simply hasn’t felt home in the Premier League.

From Sky Sports:

“I have to enjoy playing football, no matter the place. In England, I no longer felt happy,” he said. “I got a call from my agent and I wanted to come, because it was a great opportunity for me. I didn’t even have a discussion with my agent about money. Maybe I was not fitting so well in English football, so I think a change was good.”

Mkhitaryan is branding his time in Roma “an opportunity to be seized.”

Transfer Deadline Day in Europe: Deals galore

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Transfer Deadline Day has arrived across Europe, and plenty of deals are being wrapped up in Spain, Italy, France and elsewhere ahead of the summer window closing.

[ MORE: Latest transfer news

Plenty of Premier League clubs are moving players on to trim their squads after the first few weeks of the season.

Below we look at the top deals developing, as the clock ticks down we roundup the transactions.


Mauro Icardi (Inter Milan to Paris Saint-Germain)
The Argentine striker is close to a loan move to PSG, as his wife and agent, Wanda Nara, has been seen in discussions with Les Parisiens officials in the French capital. Sky in Italy are reporting that Icardi, 26, will actually sign a new deal at Inter Milan before heading to PSG. A lethal finisher, Icardi is a totally different option up top and will compliment Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani well. His character is often questioned but his goalscoring record speaks for itself with 124 goals in 219 appearances for Inter.


Javier ‘Chicharito‘ Hernandez (West Ham to Sevilla)
Hernandez, 31, has joined Sevilla on a three-year contract, as the La Liga side paid $9.6 million for Mexico’s all-time leading goalscorer. This is a great move for Chicharito, who never settled down at West Ham. Sevilla are in the Europa League and will pushing for Champions League qualification once again.


Matteo Darmian (Man United to Parma)
The Italian defender has finally left Man United. After four years at Old Trafford, Darmian returns to Italy for a transfer fee of $4.5 million. The 29-year-old arrived at United in the summer of 2015 and won the FA Cup and Europa League with the Red Devils. He made 92 appearances in all competitions for United and heads back to Italy to play for Parma, as he struggled to hold down a regular spot at United.


Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Arsenal to AS Roma)
A season-long loan move for Mkhitaryan who is a bit-part player at Arsenal. After Ceballos’ arrival this summer, the writing was on the wall, and the emergence of several youngsters and Mesut Ozil hanging around also pushed him towards the Emirates exit door. A chance to regain his confidence after a rough few years.


Keylor Navas (Real Madrid to PSG) & Alphonse Areola (PSG to Real Madrid)
The Costa Rican goalkeeper is no longer the starter at Real and he is heading to Paris Saint-Germain. Navas, 32, still has plenty of good years ahead of him and performed well for Real when Thibaut Courtois was out injured last season. After five years and 11 trophies at Real, Navas is set to be the starter at PSG and has signed a four-year deal. Alphonse Areola, 26, moves in the opposite direction to challenge Courtois at Real Madrid. Areola arrives on a season-long loan deal.


Ryan Kent (Liverpool to Glasgow Rangers)
Liverpool want $8.4 million for the young midfielder who excelled on loan at Steven Gerrard‘s side last season. Kent, 22, has been a Liverpool player his entire career but just can’t break into Jurgen Klopp‘s first team. Now is the right time for him to move on a permanent basis and Gerrard will get the best out of him. Kent will be key in Rangers pushing Celtic all the way for the Scottish title.


Fernando Llorente (Free agent, Napoli)
He finally announced his move on deadline day, as the veteran striker was out of contract after being at Tottenham Hotspur. Napoli is a great landing spot for him, as he will continue to play in the UEFA Champions League and his experience off the bench in tight situations was crucial for Spurs last season. At 34, he continues to age like a fine wine…


Asmir Begovic (Bournemouth to Qarabag)
A shock move for out of favor Bournemouth goalkeeper Asmir Begovic, as he sealed a loan move to Azerbaijani champions Qarabag until January. Begovic, 32, has yet to play in the Premier League this season after losing his place in the Bournemouth lineup late last season. He will play in the Europa League for Qarabag.


Florin Andone (Brighton to Galatasaray)
His last act as a Brighton player, at least for this season, was getting a silly red card against Southampton. Andone has joined Galatasaray and the Romanian forward joins Falcao and several others in sealing late move to the Turkish giants. Andone, 26, scored for Brighton on the opening day in their win at Watford, but his tackle against Saints was a straight red card and cost his team dear. They have a few attacking options, but this is a bit of a strange move for the Seagulls.


Mario Lemina (Southampton to Galatasaray)
The Gabonese midfielder is leaving Saints for Turkey, with Galatasaray confirming they are in talks over a season-long loan move. The former Juventus midfielder has been frozen out by Southampton this summer after saying he wants to leave and although the Premier League side wanted a permanent deal, Lemina will initially leave on loan.


Wesley Hoedt (Southampton Royal Antwerp)
Another Saints player will be heading out on loan, as Dutch defender Hoedt is heading to Belgium. Antwerp will initially sign Hoedt on loan and have an option to buy him permanently. Hoedt, 25, is not part of Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s plans and after being signed as a replacement for Virgil Van Dijk he just hasn’t settled at Saints.


Marcus Edwards (Tottenham to Vitoria)
The Spurs youngster has left on a permanent deal and many at Tottenham will be disappointed by this. Edwards, 20, has been on the fringes of Spurs’ first team under Mauricio Pochettino but the winger failed to kick on after loan moves at Norwich and Excelsior. The England youth international will now play for Vitoria who are in the Europa League, and has signed a four-year deal.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan moves to Roma

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Henrikh Mkhitaryan will get a fresh start at AS Roma.

Mkhitaryan, 30, has agreed to a season-long loan move to Italy, as he will join Roma on deadline day in Europe.

Per reports, Roma have an option to buy Mkhitaryan from Arsenal at the end of the 2019-20 season.

He has a contract with the Gunners until the summer of 2021 and has played in three of Arsenal’s four Premier League games so far, but Unai Emery obviously believes he isn’t needed this season.

The Armenian international arrived at Arsenal from Man United in January 2018 in an outrageous swap deal for Alexis Sanchez. That swap hasn’t worked out for either club, as Mkhitaryan scored six goals and added four assists in 25 Premier League appearances last season. Previously he’d won the League Cup and Europa League with Man United, but he just hasn’t taken to life in the PL and often drifts in and out of games. After starring for Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga, Mkhitaryan couldn’t replicate that form in England.

With Dani Ceballos and Nicolas Pepe arriving this summer, youngsters Reiss Nelson and Joe Willock breaking through, plus Mesut Ozil still around and returning to fitness, it was unlikely Mkhitaryan would have played much for the Gunners this season.

Roma have reshaped their squad this summer after failing to reach the UEFA Champions League and Mkhitaryan joins Chris Smalling as a loanee from the Premier League.

Paulo Fonseca’s side will be up there in the top four battle in Serie A and Mkhitaryan is likely to get plenty of minutes, at the very least in the UEFA Europa League, for Roma.