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Chelsea

“Morata could eclipse Costa” – Three things learnt from Stoke City 0-4 Chelsea

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Chelsea made it three consecutive away victories to start the Premier League season as Alvaro Morata’s hat-trick inspired Antonio Conte’s side to a comfortable win over an injury-hit Stoke City.

Mark Hughes went into Saturday’s clash at the bet365 Stadium without four recognised central defenders and it took all of 83 seconds for Morata to force a way through the makeshift back-line.

The £60 million summer signing from Real Madrid ran on to a ball over the top to slot home before the visitors doubled their lead on the half-hour when Pedro capitalised on Darren Fletcher’s mistake.

Morata sealed all three points – and his hat-trick – late on, first lofting the ball over Stoke goalkeeper Jack Butland and minutes later being on hand to poke home a shot from close-range.

The result sees Chelsea rise back above Tottenham into third in the Premier League, three points behind the Manchester sides at the top, whilst a first home defeat sees Stoke fall down to 15th place.

Who needs Diego Costa?

Whilst Saturday’s newspaper headlines were full of Diego Costa’s return to Atletico Madrid, Chelsea’s summer signing Alvaro Morata continued his fine start to life in the Premier League.

It took all of 83 seconds for the Spaniard to breach Stoke City’s resilience and slot the visitors in front, latching on to a long-ball over the top of the defence to seamlessly finish past Jack Butland.

In doing so it signalled his fourth goal of the Premier League season in six matches – and the first with his feet – before he added a sublime lofted effort and a close-range strike to earn his hat-trick.

It takes Morata’s direct involvement to eight goals in six matches, and there’s only one man in Chelsea history that has been involved in as many in their first six – surprise, surprise, it’s Costa.

The Atletico man went on to find the net 58 times in 120 games in west London, including 20 in the title triumph last year, and it’d be a brave man to bet against Morata eclipsing this tally in the future.

Stoke’s defensive crisis exploited by rampant Blues

The hosts were always likely to be up against it from the opening whistle on Saturday afternoon though, with Mark Hughes’ defensive resources heavily stretched heading into the Chelsea clash.

Ryan Shawcross, Geoff Cameron and Kevin Wimmer were all ruled out due to respective injuries whilst Kurt Zouma, so influential in the opening five games, was ineligible against his parent club.

This meant that Hughes had to ring the changes and bring in Glen Johnson for his first Premier League start of the season, maintaining a 3-4-3 system and shifting Erik Pieters into a central role.

However, they simply had no answer to a rampant Chelsea side, sometimes being the architects of their own downfall, and Hughes will be grateful that Zouma will become available again for Southampton.

Crouch still has his place in the Premier League

With the likes of Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, Xherdan Shaqiri and Jese Rodriguez all gracing the bet365 Stadium pitch with their presence, Saturday showed there’s still a place for Peter Crouch.

What the ‘new guard’ of Stoke City attackers can offer in flair, creativity and pace is more than matched in Crouch’s old-fashioned threat as a target-man and he caused Chelsea a few problems.

Much like Andy Carroll for West Ham, the 36-year-old’s mere physical presence offers Stoke a different dynamic in attack and when needing a ‘Plan B’ – like they were against the Blues – it’s a real asset.

On another day one of his knock-downs would have ended up in the path of a team-mate and find the back of the net but, whilst it perhaps didn’t quite come together against Chelsea, it just served to prove that Crouch will have a vital role in this Stoke side as the Premier League season rumbles on.

Will is a Multimedia Journalism graduate from the University of Salford, specialising in the art of sports. Long-time suffering Northampton Town fan who once saw us win a league title. Find him on Twitter - @96PearsonW.

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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