Mateo Kovacic

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Transfer Rumor Roundup: Europa League fallout for Arsenal, Chelsea

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With the Europa League final complete and Chelsea reigning supreme, there is plenty of fallout to come with the Blues back in the Champions League and Arsenal failing to seal the deal.

For Arsenal, the blow could be heavy. The club is strapped for cash now headed for its third straight season in the Europa League, and they allowed 28-year-old Aaron Ramsey to depart this summer for free, a financial failure that could have serious consequences.

According to a report by The Mirror, manager Unai Emery is hoping to overhaul the squad this summer, but his job will be difficult given the financial constraints of failing to reach the Champions League. He could be forced to sell assets to generate cash, and while Arsenal fans may be happy to see the likes of Shkodran Mustafi and Mesut Ozil on the list of players who could depart this summer, Henrikh Mkhitaryan could reportedly also be sacrificed in the process. The report states that the wage bill may actually be a bigger obstacle to the club’s acquisition power than transfer funds, yet still there may only be around $50 million for Emery to play with this summer.

Players like Ozil and Mustafi could generate a decent cash flow, but they have underperformed the last few seasons, and Ozil especially has wages that could limit the club’s ability to shop him. The report states that Inter Milan could be a possible destination with possible new manager Antonio Conte hoping to boost the attack.


For Chelsea, their summer is also in question, despite securing Champions League play. The Blues have a potential transfer ban hanging over their heads, and the impending decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport will have an enormous impact on their proceedings over the next few months.

Regardless of the decision, however, it looks as if Eden Hazard has played his final game in Chelsea blue, and the rumors continue to churn of his departure for Real Madrid. English tabloids have stated that Hazard is off to Real Madrid for an enormous $145 million fee, although that seems unlikely as reports consistently stated over the last few weeks that Los Blancos were holding firm to their $125 million ceiling and that Chelsea would likely concede to that amount due to Hazard’s contract situation.

Should Chelsea be able to replace Hazard this summer and the ban is lifted or delayed, the Blues could look to a former Premier League star to take over. Philippe Coutinho has had a horrible first year at Barcelona, and it seems the club is shopping him to various interested parties. Chelsea could be a perfect landing spot for Coutinho and they could secure him far below market value after his disastrous season at the Camp Nou. Spanish publication Mundo Deportivo claims that Chelsea would be in pole position to secure Coutinho should the CAS allow the club to sign players this summer, and while Manchester United is interested, their lack of Champions League play this season sees them at a serious disadvantage.

Chelsea could also secure the permanent signatures of current loanees Mateo Kovacic and Gonzalo Higuain whether the club is banned from transfer acquisitions or not, as they are both already registered with the club. Kovacic, a Real Madrid player out on loan, could likely be secured on a permanent deal separate from the Hazard negotiation. Higuain, meanwhile, may wait to see if Maurizio Sarri is confirmed as the Chelsea manager next season before he commits his future to Stamford Bridge.


According to Mundo Deportivo in a report that corroborates earlier reporting in the English tabloids, Manchester United is seriously considering a massive offer to free agent midfielder Adrien Rabiot. The Red Devils are reportedly set to offer Rabiot an $12.5 million signing bonus and wages of around $220,000 a week or about $11.5 million a season, which would match the demands he’s stuck to in negotiations over the past few months.

The report states that with other top clubs like Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Juventus unwilling to meet his high financial demands, Rabiot could find United’s offer intriguing. Rabiot, a 24-year-old French midfielder, has had major character issues in the past at both the club and country levels, but his play on the field as a top box-to-box midfielder is helping offset the questions about his personality. Should Manchester United bring Rabiot on, he could directly challenge Paul Pogba for a spot in the team, or even serve as a Pogba replacement should he depart this summer as rumors have suggested over the past few months.


24-year-old Lille attacker Nicolas Pepe is a wanted man this summer, and while he has been linked with a move to Manchester United in recent weeks, Liverpool has also entered the fray, according to Sunday Times reporter Duncan Castles on the Team Talk podcast. Castles said that Liverpool “has been in contact” with Lille still waiting on anything official to come through. Castles says that Lille has been quite public about an asking price in the range of $89 million for the Ivory Coast international who just appears to be entering his prime.

Pepe scored 22 Ligue 1 goals this season which put him second on the campaign behind PSG superstar Kylian Mbappe. He helped Lille finish a stunning second in the league table, qualifying the club for Champions League play for the first time since 2012. Manchester United is in desperate need of reinforcements all over the pitch, but could miss out if Champions League play is a priority to Pepe who has never played in the competition. Still, Liverpool may pass on any players that cost such a hefty amount, as their squad is already one of the strongest in Europe and may not require such a massive cost to add missing pieces.

LIVE – Europa League final: Arsenal v. Chelsea

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The first of two European finals consisting of Premier League clubs begins as Chelsea take on Arsenal in the UEFA Europa League final.

Both teams will have to battle some rustiness, with Chelsea and Arsenal both having not played (official) matches since May 12. Chelsea played the New England Revolution two weeks ago in a match for charity in the U.S.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: Europa League final ]

Despite picking up a knee injury in training and being given a 50/50 chance to play, Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri has gone with N'Golo Kante in his midfield, alongside Mateo Kovacic and Jorginho. Olivier Giroud starts up top instead of Gonzalo Higuain, and Pedro takes the spot of Willian.

[READ: Europa League Final Preview: Arsenal v. Chelsea]

Interestingly, per Opta, Chelsea is the first team to not have a player from the club’s home nation in its starting lineup for a European final since Jose Mourinho and Inter Milan faced Bayern Munich in the 2010 Champions League final.

For Arsenal, manager Unai Emery has allowed Petr Cech to have a chance to go out a winner, starting him in the final game of the season. Emery also included Mesut Ozil in the squad, and he’ll likely combine with fellow attackers Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette in an imposing Arsenal attack. Lucas Torreira and Granit Xhaka start in midfield as well.

LINEUPS

Chelsea: Arrizabalaga; Azpilicueta, Christensen, David Luiz, Emerson; Kovacic, Jorginho, Kante; Pedro, Giroud, Hazard.
Bench: Caballero, Alonso, Cahill, Zappacosta, Barkley, William, Higuain, Cumming, Ampadu, McEachran, Gallagher.

Arsenal: Cech; Sokratis, Koscielny, Monreal; Maitland-Niles, Torreira, Xhaka, Kolasinac; Ozil, Aubameyang, Lacazette.
Bench: Leno, Lichsteiner, Mustafi, Jenkinson, Elneny, Guendouzi, Willock, Saka, Iliev, Iwoke, Nketiah, Welbeck

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.

Man United announces Bailly out for season, AFCON with knee injury

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Manchester United confirmed Monday that defender Eric Bailly will miss the final two games of the season and the Africa Cup of Nations this summer with a knee injury he suffered during Sunday’s match against Chelsea.

The injury, however, could have been much worse.

Bailly looked in serious pain as he clutched his knee after an awkward and crunching collision with Chelsea midfielder Mateo Kovacic. After lengthy treatment which brought the stretcher out, Bailly hobbled off with the assistance of two trainers, refusing the stretcher and instead hopping on one foot all the way down the tunnel.

The scenes Sunday was cause for serious concern, but those were somewhat relieved with Manchester United’s announcement that Bailly suffered MCL damage, not the ACL that was feared. Bailly will miss the final two games of the season but should – according to typical MCL recovery time of around six weeks – be ready for preseason this summer.

“He will need a scan, but I don’t think it is the worst knee injury you can have,” Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said after the Chelsea match before the extent of the injury was fully confirmed. “He will be out for the rest of the season. But he is a warrior, he played well today, it was just unfortunate that he had to come off.”

Bailly will be a big miss not only for Manchester United as it fights for a Champions League place with remaining matches against Huddersfield Town and Cardiff City, but also for the Ivory Coast at this summer’s Africa Cup of Nations. The country has been drawn into a group with Morocco, South Africa, and Namibia and will be without the 32-cap defender for the whole tournament. Tottenham defender Serge Aurier is also injured, picking up a hamstring injury when last on duty for the Ivory Coast, but should return in time for this summer’s tournament.

Comparing Sarri’s first Premier League campaign to Guardiola

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The prevailing narrative surrounding Chelsea this season is that Maurizio Sarri is in over his head, and he appears one or two more defeats away from losing his job.

But in this case, the narrative may not really align with the facts. According to Opta, Maurizio Sarri’s record through 43 competitive games in England is actually better than Pep Guardiola‘s was in that time span. Due to Manchester City’s utter dominance last season and pretty dominant play overall this season, Guardiola’s been discussed as one of the world’s greatest living coaches.

[READ: Arsenal, Chelsea advance in Europa League]

Chelsea had hired the Italian former banker to help the Blues get back into the top four. Sarri’s legend grew over the past few years, after he led Napoli back into the elite echelon in Italy before coming to London this summer. Sarri’s arrival at Stamford Bridge came with his star playmaker Jorginho making the move to England as well.

However, things haven’t exactly gone as planned for Chelsea this season. While it appeared this season could be a transition year, with Thibaut Courtois gone and other players learning new roles – hello, N'Golo Kante – the team’s results have not been up to par for the fans. In addition, it appears that Sarri’s tactical inflexibility has only ratcheted up the narrative that he is on the hot seat. Playing Kante as a box-to-box midfielder and not providing more protection for Jorginho, who is defensively challenged in a key place on the field, is at times head scratching. So is sticking with the 4-3-3 formation, and using many of the same substitutions regardless of the result. Mateo Kovacic for Ross Barkley or vice versa. Pedro for Willian, or vice versa.

And yet, Sarri’s record to this point is still better than Guardiola’s was during his first 43 games in Manchester. It’s easy to forget now, after a record-setting season for Manchester City, but Guardiola had to work his way through some early troubles at the Etihad Stadium. Manchester City actually went about a month without a win:

  • Draw with Celtic
  • Defeat to Tottenham
  • Draw with Everton
  • Defeat to Barcelona
  • Draw with Southampton
  • Defeat to Manchester United

Since then, Guardiola’s experienced defeats or draws here or there, but he’s proved that his team can respond after a disappointing result.

Chelsea’s form meanwhile includes five demoralizing defeats this calendar year, including an inexplicable 4-0 defeat to Bournemouth.

Luckily for Sarri, he may have a few more weeks on the job, if not more. With Chelsea’s 3-0 (5-1 on aggregate) win over Malmo, Sarri’s job is safe for now, until Chelsea finds out its next European opponent. If Sarri can win the Europa League and get Chelsea back into the Premier League, he’ll surely keep his job for at least another season. And perhaps, with some perspective, people will see that Sarri’s actually been pretty decent this season. Maybe, it just not up to sky-high expectations.