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Chelsea

Five reasons why Chelsea should be optimistic following their start to the season

Jake Jackman

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Chelsea

Chelsea have had a couple of disappointing results, but the general feeling around Stamford Bridge will be one of optimism during the second international break of the season. The Blues are currently in fourth position and are six points behind the two Manchester clubs. Although they will be slightly disappointed by that, they showed last season that they can go on a winning run and it is way too early for that deficit to be considered terminal. Here are five reasons for supporters to be optimistic during the international break:

They have two in-form strikers

Alvaro Morata has had a great start to life in the Premier League with six goals from his first seven matches, including a hat-trick against Stoke City. His dribbling ability and link-up play make him a much better fit for the Chelsea system than Diego Costa was last season. There were initial concerns regarding the decision to sell the striker, but the impact of his replacement suggests it was a good call.

The news that he will be missing for more than a month with a hamstring injury is a blow, but Michy Batshuayi has been excellent when he has been given an opportunity. The Blues’ back-up striker will be keen to make the most of his chance during the following weeks. The 24-year-old has scored five already this season in the cup competitions and should prove to be an able deputy whenever he is called upon.

They are back in the Champions League

It was weird for the Blues to be out of Europe completely last season and supporters will be delighted that their club are once again competing in the Champions League. The competition has only just started, but they have already secured one of the best results so far with a disciplined performance against Atletico Madrid. They managed to win away from home and that will give them confidence that they can be contenders this year.

The result was by no means a fluke as they had more possession and more shots than the La Liga side. Antonio Conte has never won the Champions League, but he has a tactical mind that suits knock-out football. His game-plan for the Atletico game was spot on and it will serve as a reminder to the rest of Europe’s elite that they are a force to be reckoned with under the Italian.

Eden Hazard is back from injury

The club have had to be careful with the Belgian attacker during the last few weeks as it was important to build his match fitness slowly. Hazard hadn’t taken part in pre-season at all and was far behind his team-mates in terms of preparation. However, he was the star performer of the side’s win over Atletico Madrid and started the match against Manchester City just days later.

These were his second and third starts of the season. The fact that they were in quick succession suggests that he is reaching full fitness and he will be raring to go after the international break. At the age of 26, the next two seasons will be his chance to establish himself as one of the leading players in Europe. There has been a steady improvement since Conte was appointed and he will be desperate to continue that upwards trajectory. Once he reaches his peak fitness level, Chelsea will be a lot better as a result.

Their loan policy is finally proving to be a success

Last season, Victor Moses underlined the worth of Chelsea’s loan policy as he broke into the first-team and played a key role in the title victory. Unlike previous managers, Conte is open to giving fringe players an opportunity in the first-team and that is an encouraging precedent for the future, as those out on loan can see a path to being a regular at Stamford Bridge.

Their lack of squad depth this seasons that they will need a few to step up and the early signs are that they will. Andreas Christensen has been very impressive during the opening few weeks, while Charly Musonda and Kenedy both have roles to play across all competitions. If they all enjoy successful seasons, the likes of Tammy Abraham, Lewis Baker and Kurt Zouma will all be more likely to commit themselves to the club for their immediate futures.

Their upcoming fixtures

The schedule for October offers them with a good opportunity to build momentum ahead of a key fixture against Manchester United at the beginning of November. They have Premier League matches against Crystal Palace, Watford and Bournemouth; a Champions League double-header against AS Roma and an EFL Cup tie against Everton. Conte’s men will be the favourites for every match and six wins will make their rivals sit up and take notice.

Chelsea must recover from their narrow home defeat against Manchester City as they came up against a team at the top of their game. There is more to come from the Blues, especially based on their start last season. They didn’t have a quick start and went on to win the title. It is early days and anybody ruling Chelsea out is speaking too soon.

Jake is a student based in the South East. He is a Newcastle fan and has a keen interest in Dutch football. Jake can be found on Twitter here - @jakejackmann.

Arsenal

Who is best-placed to challenge Manchester City next season?

Pep Guardiola’s side will be looking to defend their title during the 2018/19 campaign.

Martyn Cooke

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Photo: Getty Images

Manchester City were crowned as Premier League champions on Sunday afternoon after Manchester United suffered a surprise defeat at the hands of struggling West Bromwich Albion.

Pep Guardiola’s team have ripped apart the top-flight of English football this season with a devastatingly effective style of play that has left their rivals struggling to hold on to their coattails.

City are currently 16 points clear of second place with five games still to play and now have the opportunity to break the 100-point barrier as the season comes to a conclusion.

Here, The Boot Room evaluate which top-six team is best placed to challenge Manchester City’s dominance next year.

(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Manchester United

There are currently mixed feelings around Old Trafford regarding how Manchester United have performed this season and the long-term direction of the club under the stewardship of Jose Mourinho.

A failure to maintain the astonishing pace set by Manchester City has left supporters having to be content with a top-four finish and FA Cup semi-final whilst there has been a deluge of criticism aimed at the pragmatic style of play utilised.

Mourinho remains one of the best managers in world football and he is still in the process of moulding a team in his own image.

The Portuguese maestro has already spent big in the transfer market, as demonstrated by the arrivals of Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku over the past two years, and the club are expected to make further significant investments in the summer.

He needs to find the missing piece to the Manchester United jigsaw and that will mean addressing the lop-sided defence, demonstrated by Ashley Young’s emergence as first-choice left-back.

Mourinho has overcome Guardiola in the past but there will be no room for excuses next season if, after two years of building a team, Manchester United are unable to challenge their cross-city rivals.

(Photo by Glyn Kirk/Getty Images)

Tottenham Hotspur

Tottenham Hotspur have continuously improved year-on-year under the stewardship of Mauricio Pochettino but you still feel that the club is some way behind their rivals in terms of winning the Premier League.

Spurs have a young, dynamic squad of players that play fast, attacking football and, in Harry Kane, they possess one of the best strikers in the world right now. However, something is still missing and it is hard to put your finger on exactly what it is.

Perhaps it is simply a mental issue? Tottenham have not won a league title since 1960 and last secured silverware of any kind almost a decade ago – do the current group of players have the right mentality or experience to enable them to maintain performances over the course of a full campaign? Their upcoming FA Cup semi-final may provide an insight later this month.

Whilst you feel that Tottenham will always be in and around the top spots next season, it is difficult to see them overcoming Manchester City without significant investment or Pochettino uncovering the magic formula.

(Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Chelsea

Chelsea have offered a feeble and limp defence of their title this year and still face a scramble to secure a place in the top-four.

Things have clearly not been right behind the scenes at Stamford Bridge and Antonio Conte is expected to depart the club in the summer after spending much of the season snipping at the Chelsea hierarchy.

Regardless of who the Italian’s successor is, it is widely expected that the club will bounce back.

Under the ownership of Roman Abramovich, the Blues have continuously maintained their standing as one of the leading side’s in the country and you would imagine that the Russian oligarch will be keen to reclaim their crown next season.

Chelsea will spend big in the summer to ensure that they build a squad capable of challenging Manchester City and a striker will be top of the new manager’s wish list. Alvaro Morata made a positive start to the campaign but has struggled for form and fitness in the second half of the season.

If the Blues can make the right appointment in the dugout and strengthen significantly on the pitch then history suggests they will be in and around the top spots.

(Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Liverpool

Since arriving at Anfield in October 2015 Jurgen Klopp thrown himself into the task of restoring Liverpool’s status as one of the leading club’s in Europe.

Each transfer window has seen the squad steadily improve and you now feel that the German has built a team that is capable of challenging for both domestic and European silverware.

Liverpool have a reputation for producing attacking, dynamic and exciting football and the attacking trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino possess an abundance of pace, power and creativity.

Under the stewardship of Klopp, the team have always looked capable of scoring goals but have regularly been criticised for being undermined by defensive fragile and frail.

However, the signing of Virgil Van Dijk in January, the emergence of John Robertson and the new-found confidence of Loris Karius appears to have put some of those concerns to bed – Liverpool have kept eight clean sheets in their last 12 matches in all competitions.

Klopp will continue to develop the squad during the summer and, as proven by their historic victory over Manchester City, the Reds are certainly heading in the right direction.

(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Arsenal

There has continued to be a degree of frustration and dissatisfaction around the Emirates Stadium this season as Arsenal have continued to fall behind their rivals on the pitch.

The Gunners are currently 33 points behind Manchester City in the Premier League are relying on winning the Europa League in order to qualify for the Champions League next year.

The club under-performed last season, failing to qualify for Europe’s premier competition, and the decline has continued over the following twelve months with supporters becoming increasingly frustrated with Arsene Wenger’s failure to consistently secure positive results.

The same old problems persist – there is a lack of leaders, a lack of quality in central defence and no commanding midfield player.

Wenger has brought together an exciting forward line that possesses pace, power and experience with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan arriving in January to complement the likes of Mesut Ozil, Alexandre Lacazette and a fit-again Danny Welbeck.

However, Arsenal continue to be undermined by prevalent weaknesses throughout the remainder of the team and there are currently a world away from competing with Manchester City.

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Championship

Fulham fans would hate it, but Chelsea should chase Slavisa Jokanovic and Ryan Sessegnon

Chelsea may need a new manager in the summer and Fulham offer a perfect solution.

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Fulham are flying this season yet again. For the second season in a row Slavisa Jokanovic is leading the club to a promotion push and Cottagers fans will no doubt be hoping the Serbian can take them all the way this time.

He is a massively important part of the reason why Fulham find themselves where they are right now, but so is left-sided phenomenon Ryan Sessegnon. The Championship star has most of Europe tracking his progress as he continues to exceed expectations at such a young age in the Championship.

Fulham are flying and excitement is high at Craven Cottage.

But, success attracts attention and plenty of teams have been linked with Sessegnon. Jokanovic, however, is also a name that is being linked with other clubs.

Fulham’s West London rivals Chelsea are looking likely to need a new manager this season. The general consensus is that Antonio Conte will be on his way out of Stamford Bridge this summer and whilst plenty of names are being linked with the job, a surprise option appears to be the Fulham boss.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Back in March, his name emerged as a surprise candidate for the position, as reported by the Daily Mail.

Whilst he has no managerial credentials in the Premier League he still has fantastic form as a head coach.

After leading Partizan Belgrade to back-to-back promotions he guided Muangthong United to an undefeated season and the Thai Premier League title.

Short-lived spells at Levski Sofia and Hercules followed before getting Watford promoted to the Premier League in 2015.

Before Fulham lured him back to England, the Serbian had guided Maccabi Tel-Aviv to the Champions League group stage, by knocking out perennial entrants FC Basel.

Jokanovic is rightly a highly rated manager. Chelsea would be making a smart move by bringing him in this summer. Of course, he is also a former player, although there are few highlights of his time at Stamford Bridge.

(28 Oct 2001: Slavisa Jokanovic of Chelsea gets away from Darryl Powell of Derby during the match between Derby County and Chelsea in the FA Barclaycard Premiership at Pride Park, Derby. Mandatory Credit: Mark Thompson/ALLSPORT

Bringing in Jokanovic could also give Chelsea the upper-hand in any fight to sign Sessegnon this summer.

The Blues are just one of many teams to have been linked with the young talent this summer. If Jokanovic was present at Stamford Bridge, they would have a massive advantage in the hunt for the impressive teenager.

Fulham fans would, of course, hate to see their excellent manager and young starlet head to their biggest rivals, but Chelsea would be making a smart move by making it happen.

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Chelsea

Tottenham Hotspur’s Ben Davies must be disappointed at PFA Team of the Year

The Welshman has been in fine form for Spurs this season, but Chelsea’s Spanish wing-back got the nod.

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The PFA Team of the Year has been announced for the Premier League and, all in all, there were not many surprises.

Kevin De Bruyne, Harry Kane and Mohamed Salah were present and a lot of the other positions were filled as expected. The absence of Raheem Sterling aside, not much instantly stood out.

But when taking a closer look, Marcos Alonso’s name suddenly jumps out in the left-back role.

The Spaniard is an excellent player and has been a great player since joining Chelsea.

However, many Blues fans have not been overly impressed with Alonso’s performances this season as Chelsea dipped compared to their title-winning form of last season.

(Photo by Henry Browne/Getty Images)

One Tottenham Hotspur player who can certainly be disappointed in the decision is Ben Davies.

The Welshman has undoubtedly been Tottenham’s most improved player this season.

After playing second fiddle to Danny Rose for most of his time in North London he has risen to the challenge of replacing him when injured, and taken the first-team spot permanently.

His overall improvement is a massive testament to the work Mauricio Pochettino does with the players day-in and day-out.

The pair have similar attacking attributes, with Alonso scoring six goals and assisting two. Davies has scored two and assisted six but there is no doubting who the better defender of the pair.

Alonso has been criticised by Chelsea fans for some of his defending this season, whilst Davies has been solid at the back for most of the campaign at Wembley.

(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Davies has been in tremendous form for Tottenham this season and it is a surprise to see his name omitted with Alonso ahead of him.

In fact, Liverpool’s Andrew Robertson and Burnley’s Stephen Ward can even be a little disappointed at the decision.

But the Tottenham Hotspur star, who has come on leaps and bounds this season, should be the man at left-back in the PFA Premier League Team of the Year.

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