Kepa Arrizabalaga

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Report: Maurizio Sarri never fit in at Chelsea

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According to a report by English tabloid The Daily Mail, Maurizio Sarri never truly fit in at Chelsea, with his smoking habits, training sessions, and distaste for media obligations all contributing to his lack of acceptance by both supporters and club officials alike.

The report details a number of smaller issues with his personality and mannerisms that combined to create an air of distaste that surrounded the Italian at Stamford Bridge. The report made sure to note that Sarri was not exactly disliked at the club, and his sense of humor was one of his strongest personality traits, but ultimately the two parties were clearly a world apart.

Most notable is Sarri’s constant smoking habit that was jarring when placed at a venue full of professional athletes hoping to keep their bodies in perfect health and shape. While other Italian managers recently to take charge of the Blues were known smokers, Sarri lit up far more frequent than his countrymates such as Roberto Di Matteo and Gianluca Vialli.

Also a source of frustration for club officials was Sarri’s distaste for media opportunities and promotional events. The reports Sarri’s absence from team visits to public appearances and tourist destinations, as well as his desire not to attend charity events or commercial obligations.

Sarri was apparently superstitious enough that he avoided stepping onto the playing field at all costs, even to the point where it kept him from applauding the fans during road matches. He apparently had to be convinced to walk the team out for his first match in charge at the Community Shield.

Finally, his drab training sessions were another point of contention, also not something that alone would have turned heads but in conjunction with everything else added to the separation. Italian training sessions are often heavy in focus on team shape and tactical theories, something Antonio Conte also brought with him to the Blues, but Conte was a far more mercurial character who endeared himself to fans far more than the less emotionally exuberant Sarri. His training tantrum prior to the Europa League final seemed to encapsulate his behind-the-scenes personality, unable to control his frustrations with the players and booting his hat captured in video that went public before the start of the big match.

In addition, his superstition apparently bled into training sessions to the point where he insisted on playing training matches with the same 16 players each week, leaving fringe players to do their own work on the sidelines again and again, something which made those not in his plans feel completely cast aside.

With constant reports of Sarri’s imminent departure to Juventus, the report lists the Kepa Arrizabalaga episode as the final straw for the Italian, frustrated by the club’s failure to back the manager in fear of another Diego Costa incident that cost the club financially in the open market. While nothing listed here by itself is a serious issue to cause a rift between club and manager, everything combined seems to have pushed the former Napoli boss back to his home country soon after arriving.

Kepa replaces De Gea as Spain starting goalkeeper

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There’s a clear new starting goalkeeper for the Spanish National Team.

After three straight starts, Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga has taken the mantle of Spain’s No. 1 goalkeeper from Manchester United’s David De Gea. According to Spanish publication Marca, the decision likely came from both assistant and interim coach Robert Moreno and Spain head coach Luis Enrique, through mobile correspondence over the past few weeks.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]

Kepa started at the Faroe Islands in a 4-1 win last Friday for Spain on the road and he’s followed that with a start at home against Sweden. Kepa had made his first start in this run in a 2-0 win at Malta. All three matches have been for Euro 2020 qualification.

The move away from de Gea comes after a number of factors. De Gea has had, by all accounts, a rough season with Man United, especially as the team struggled through the last two months of the Premier League season. In April alone, his three errors in four games cost his team victories, and were so out of character compared with how he had played in the past. It’s as if all the pressure he had absorbed over the years had finally caused the dam to break.

At the same time, de Gea was in goal as Spain finished second in their UEFA Nations League group in 2018, including defeats to both England and Croatia.

At the same time, Kepa has had a very strong season in his first campaign at Chelsea, leading the side to third place in the league and stepping into goal for the UEFA Europa League final. It’s a deserved promotion for Kepa, even if it’s a tough demotion for de Gea.

The Man United goalkeeper, at 28-years old, could still have a future at the national team level. However, he’ll have to be happy to play second fiddle yet again after three years as the Spain No. 1.

Rob Green retires after Europa League victory

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Chelsea reserve goalkeeper Robert Green announced his retirement on Friday, two days after the club lifted the Europa League title.

The 39-year-old did not make a single appearance for Chelsea this season, playing third-string behind Kepa Arrizabalaga and Willy Caballero the entire way.

Green, an England international with 12 caps to his name, came up through the Norwich City academy and played eight professional seasons with the Canaries before moving to West Ham, Queens Park Rangers, Leeds United, and Huddersfield Town before ending his career with the Blues. In total, Green amassed 267 Premier League appearances, keeping 55 clean sheets.

“Following an incredible evening in Baku on Wednesday and after a 23-year career spanning three decades, I’ve decided that now is the right time to announce my retirement from professional football,” Green said in a statement via Chelsea’s official website.

“Being part of the group and celebrations with such a special squad of players after winning the Europa League seems a fitting way to end what’s been an amazing journey for me in the game. I’ve loved every moment and feel privileged to have enjoyed the career I have. I’ve played with, and against, some of the best players in the world and have experienced so much that professional football has to offer.”

The Three Lions veteran was most well known in the United States for making an error in the 2010 World Cup against the USMNT, allowing Clint Dempsey‘s weak, speculative shot to clatter off his hands and into the back of the net. He was benched after that and did not make another World Cup appearance in his career.

Hazard, Kepa, Giroud train with Chelsea at Harvard

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Chelsea has brought a strong squad to the Boston, Massachusetts area to take part in a friendly match to raise awareness and funds to fight antisemitism and hate around the world.

Chelsea is in the U.S. as part of a charity match titled the “Final Whistle on Hate,” which was set up by Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich and New England Revolution owner Robert Kraft. Both owners are Jewish and the game was set up shortly after the terrorist attack on a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Proceeds from the match will be donated to 15 different anti-hate organizations, including the Anti Defamation League, Kick it Out, and the Holocaust Education Trust. Both Kraft and Abramovich have pledged to donate $1 million each.

Ahead of the match, Chelsea is spending time training at Harvard University’s facilities, meeting with fans both at training and at a Boston Chelsea fan club event on Monday evening.

Here’s Chelsea’s squad for the match against the New England Revolution, set for Wednesday at Gillette Stadium. Chelsea still has two weeks before heading to Baku, Azerbaijan for the Europa League final against London rival Arsenal.

Kepa Arrizabalaga, Willy Caballero, Rob Green, Marcos Alonso, Jorginho, Ross Barkley, Gonzalo Higuain, Eden Hazard, Pedro, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Mateo Kovacic, Olivier Giroud, Davide Zappacosta, Willian, Andreas Christensen, Cesar Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Emerson Palmieri, Marc Guehi, Reece James, Ike Ugbo, Trevoh Chalobah, Conor Gallagher.

Top 10 Premier League goals of the 2018-19 season

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The 2018/19 Premier League season has come to a conclusion, and what a thrill ride it was. Manchester City won the title on the last day of the season, but there was so much more that this campaign brought to the table.

What’s the one thing everyone wants to see when the season is over? The best goals of course! So here they are, the top 10 goals of the season, ranked. What do you think should be higher on the list, and what was left off?

10. Andre Schurrle vs. Burnley

It was a tough season for Fulham, but they will have the January Goal of the Month to savor. On-loan Andre Schurrle delivered a thrilling volley that opened the scoring for the Whites just two minutes into the match.

9. Gylfi Sigurdsson vs. Leicester City

It was a season of ups and downs for Everton, perfectly encapsulated by this looping strike from Gylfi Sigurdsson who blasted it from way outside the box and somehow got the ball to hook from top to bottom, burying into the upper-left corner giving the Toffees a lead on the road.

8. Daniel Sturridge vs. Chelsea

If you want a combination of great goal and big, late moment, this is the goal for you. With Liverpool looking to stay unbeaten in the seventh match of the season, Daniel Sturridge came through this this massive moment.

7. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang vs. Leicester City

A wonderful team goal that featured 15 passes saw Arsenal through against Leicester City at the Emirates. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang tapped home for one of his league-leading 22 on the season, but it was the buildup that made it so fantastic.

6. Mohamed Salah vs. Chelsea

An utterly sensational strike that put Liverpool 2-0 up on Chelsea and took out the frustration of a difficult three-month stretch for the Egyptian. It would be higher on this list if it weren’t for the huge amount of outrageous strikes this season. One thing is for sure…it’s better than the one he won the Puskas Award for!

5. Aaron Ramsey vs. Fulham

A backheel goal is fifth on the list? That’s how good the goals were this season. Ramsey had three different touches in the buildup all while sprinting two-thirds of the pitch to be in position at the end of make the final, brilliant touch.

4. Heung-Min Son vs. Chelsea

With an absolutely blistering run down the right-hand side, Heung-Min Son roasted multiple defenders before finding his way to the penalty spot and blasting a strike past Kepa Arrizabalaga to put Spurs 3-0 up over Chelsea in late November, securing a third successive win for Spurs.

3. Eden Hazard vs. West Ham

It’s looking like Eden Hazard will play his last game for Chelsea in the Europa League final this summer before moving to Real Madrid, but Blues fans will always have moments like this to savor from the Belgian’s time at Stamford Bridge. Hazard weaved and meandered through defenders leaving baffled Hammers players in his wake.

2. Andros Townsend vs. Manchester City

The unquestioned Goal of the Season for months before Vincent Kompany happened, Townsend’s strike was an absolute blast that featured just enough curl to find its way into the top corner from miles away. It left Man City stunned in a famous win over the eventual champions as part of their mid-season slump.

1. Vincent Kompany vs. Leicester City

Every kid dreams of this moment: your team struggling to put the ball in the back of the net, not much time on the clock, your title chase on the line. Vincent Kompany, Manchester City’s captain who had battled injuries and form to even find his way onto the field, blasted a howitzer to savor that not only inched Manchester City one win away from securing the Premier League title, but also left mouths agape all across the globe. A stunner that will be remembered for years to come – a goal that finds itself on par with Sergio Aguero’s last-gasp title winner in Manchester City lore.

Honorable mention: Anthony Knockaert vs. Crystal Palace, Fabian Schar vs. Burnley, Jean-Michael Seri vs. Burnley, Andre Schurrle vs. Cardiff City, Sergio Aguero vs. Chelsea.