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How Tiemoue Bakayoko showed that he can replace Nemanja Matic on his Chelsea debut against Tottenham

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Bakayoko

Tiemoue Bakayoko was not expected to make his Chelsea debut until mid-September after a knee operation at the end of the 2016/17 campaign, but Blues fans were in for a nice surprise when Antonio Conte named his team on Sunday afternoon.

The former Monaco man was picked in midfield alongside N’Golo Kante in the role occupied by Nemanja Matic last season, and showed what he can bring to the Chelsea side. The key difference between the two players is the dynamic runs and dribbling of the Frenchman.

His powerful strides through the middle of the park saw him shrugging off Tottenham challenges as he waltzed through their midfield like a knife through butter, then looking to pick out Alvaro Morata in the box only for the move to collapse.

That was a clear indication of the kind of game that the 23-year-old will bring to the Premier League as his energy and dynamism caused problems every time he looked to move forwards and didn’t allow Tottenham a moment’s peace when they were in possession.

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However, there were signs of where he can improve too. His foolish and needless challenge on Dele Alli was one of six fouls conceded and led to Michy Batshuayi’s own goal which pulled Spurs back level late in the game. That kind of naivety reflected where Bakayoko will have to learn and improve his game.

Being fair to Bakayoko, that did come late in the game as he played 90 minutes despite not having had a pre-season. Having gone under the knife for a knee operation in May at the end of the 2016/17 campaign, this was his first run out in a match scenario and it came as a surprise to see him play the full 90 minutes given the situation.

It may not have been a perfect debut for Chelsea’s summer signing, but it was a clear sign of things to come. If Chelsea can get the best out of a fit Bakayoko, he could add a whole other dimension to their game with his runs forward. His defensive contribution showed that Nemanja Matic will not be missed, but his experience may be, in the short term at the least.

Sam is a football journalist focusing on English football at all levels and Spanish football. He also writes for Spain's biggest daily sports newspaper, MARCA, as well as The Boot Room. Find Sam on Twitter at @samleveridge.

Arsenal

Arsenal and Chelsea receive huge boost in pursuit of Aleksandr Golovin

The London rivals have been given an edge over Juventus in the pursuit it seems.

Jamie Watts

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London rivals Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea have recieved a huge boost in their pursuit of Russian maestro Aleksandr Golovin, after the play-maker’s father revealed he is currently learning English, in quotes via Russian outlet Komsomolskaya Pravda.

Italian giants Juventus are said to be courting the CSKA Moscow midfielder closely, with some reports even claiming a deal had been agreed between the two clubs (Calciomercato). However, the new revelation from the player’s father suggests the move is anything but a formality, and Chelsea and Arsenal remain in the race.

“He [Golovin] now has one thing on his mind: the Russian team. But if such proposals are made, I believe that he will go abroad, play abroad,” the Russian international’s father claimed.

“Their football is of a different level, there is nowhere to hide. Speeds are different. I’m sure my son will be able to play at a new level. It will be more difficult with a foreign language. But I know that he has already started learning English.”

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Arsenal have no plans of slowing down in the transfer window after agreeing a deal for 34-year-old Stephan Lichtsteiner and closing in on Lucas Torreira. SportBILD claims that a deal for Bernd Leno is also close to being completed, as personal terms have been agreed. And now it would appear Unai Emery is keen on continuing the pursuit for Golovin.

However, they will face stern competition from west London, as Chelsea have expressed an interest in signing the 22-year-old, with the Express claiming that the club are looking to quickly encore the managerial appointment of Maurizio Sarri with the Italian’s long-spanning target.

CSKA are said to want £22 million before they would be willing to do business for a player they regard as one of the most influential in their squad, while they also assert that a sell-on clause will be part of any deal, to ensure they dont miss out should the player’s market value drastically increase in the future, according to The Sun.

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Chelsea

Willian could hold key to Tottenham landing Anthony Martial

If Manchester United land the Brazilian it would undoubtedly improve Tottenham’s chances.

Jamie Watts

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Manchester United are reportedly preparing a £60 million bid to bring Chelsea winger Willian to Old Trafford this summer, according to reports from the Daily Mail, with manager Jose Mourinho having been linked with an approach for his former star for some time.

Chelsea were unwilling to sell at that time, but it is possible that Willian could be interested in a new challenge after apparently growing frustrated with life at Stamford Bridge, according to recent reports from Sky Sports. He managed a combined 25 goals and assists in 55 appearances in 2017/18, but only 20 of his 37 Premier League outings actually came as a starter.

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Tottenham meanwhile, have become frustrated at United’s assertion that Anthony Martial will not be sold this summer (Sky Sports), after Mauricio Pochettino made the Frenchman his priority target last month (the Sun), as he looks to bolster the supply line to Harry Kane next term.

However, Martial’s revelation that he wants to leave the club could be vital for Spurs, as Mourinho has previously stated that he would never stop a player from moving if they really want the move and the money is right. And he’s backed up his words, selling two-time Chelsea Player of the Year Juan Mata to his current club in 2014.

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The Red Devils are currently stacked in terms of depth for the left wing, with Marcus Rashford struggling to start games over January signing Alexis Sanchez, but wide-right is somewhat scarce and Willian would undoubtedly improve United’s balance for the better.

Although the manager would prefer the Frenchman went abroad, if he asked for the move to north London, Willian’s transfer to United would undoubtedly improve Pochettino’s chances of securing his key man. United will also be buoyed by their recent business with the west Londoners, having surprisingly secured the signing of Nemanja Matic from Stamford Bridge last summer.

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Atletico Madrid

Rafa Benitez should plot Fernando Torres reunion at Newcastle United

Rafa Benitez should plot a reunion with his former superstar.

Jamie Watts

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Newcastle United are reportedly in the market for new forwards this summer, with Rafa Benitez identifying the Magpies’ attacking output as a key weakness last term, despite their impressive 10th place finish.

The Spaniard is calling for the club to back him in pursuit of a “10 to 15 goals a season” striker this summer, with the likes of Salomon Rondon (Northern Echo) and Bas Dost (the Sun) circulating around the Newcastle rumour mill.

However, both would likely break the Magpies current club-record of £16 million – for Michael Owen from Real Madrid in 2005 – and perhaps Benitez would be better served going for a former favourite.

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Fernando Torres is a free-agent having left Atletico Madrid, following last month’s Europa League triumph and Newcastle should offer the 34-year-old a route back to England’s top flight this summer.

Under Benitez’s tutelage at Liverpool, Torres was widely recognised as one of the most formidable forwards in world football, and though his impact has diminished over the years, there’s no doubting the World Cup winner’s quality in front of goal.

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The prospect of an elite level striker arriving at St James’ Park on a free transfer is a no brainier if the player can be convinced and the club should make it happen.  He knows the league inside-out, having made 212 appearances for Chelsea – where he won the Champions League – and with Benitez at Anfield, and he could instantly propel Newcastle’s attack to higher levels.

Becoming a crucial part of a new project on Tyneside would be enticing for Torres, as his unwavering desire and tenacity on a football pitch is something that cannot be questioned. And he doesn’t seem the type to move to the States or China in pursuit of one last pay-cheque.

He has all the attributes to become a cult-hero at Newcastle, and the club should act now.

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