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Chelsea

Pedro is in the process of cementing his legacy at Chelsea

Jake Jackman

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Pedro

Chelsea were not at their best on Saturday, but they did manage to come from behind to take all three points against Watford. Pedro was one of their key players last season and he showed why he should be a regular starter with an impressive attacking performance at Stamford Bridge. The Spaniard was started alongside Eden Hazard and Alvaro Morata in a front three after an encouraging display against AS Roma during the week.

It didn’t take long for the 30-year-old to make his mark on the game as he scored the opening goal with a superb finish at the beginning of the first half. The reason why Pedro has become a prominent figure under Antonio Conte is his movement and quality in the final third. There are few better finishers at the club and his ability to make the most of his opportunities makes him a good player to have alongside the two higher-profile attacking options.

During the match, he attempted three shots and offered good support to Morata and Hazard. Opposition defenders are often focused on those two, which means that there is space for the third attacker to exploit if he is on his game. Pedro is excellent at making intelligent runs to threaten the opposition defence.

Aside from his direct goal threat, Pedro made three key passes during the match against Watford and contributed the assist for the equalising goal. It was a good cross in to find Michy Batshuayi and the former Barcelona man displayed a calmness that was alluding many other at the time. Chelsea were up against it and the pressure was on to avoid a third successive Premier League defeat. This is why his assist was so impressive and serves as another indication that he is a player for the big occasion.

Work rate isn’t a trait often linked to players that have come up through La Masia and broken through at Barcelona, but Pedro possesses it in spades. For this system to work, Conte needs every player to run himself into the ground for the team and Pedro did that on Saturday. His effort and commitment didn’t drop, even when the team went 2-1 down and he should be commended for that. His defensive contribution can be shown by the two ball recoveries that he completed during the match.

Has he cemented his legacy at Chelsea?

The 30-year-old is often forgotten about in discussions of Chelsea’s most important players. There are a lot of good players in the Blues’ squad and their first eleven is filled with talent. However, there is nobody that possesses the winning mentality that Pedro has. The only other player that rivals him in this area is compatriot Cesc Fabregas.

During his career, Pedro has won 14 major trophies, including five La Ligas, three Champions Leagues, a World Cup and a European Championships. The attacker has been to the very top of the European game and established himself as a key player at two of the continent’s best clubs. At Barcelona, he was a vital part of the team built by Pep Guardiola and it was the legendary Spanish manager that brought him into senior football.

His time at the Nou Camp was filled with trophies and he showed his attacking quality by contributing goals and assists to a star-studded Barcelona team. However, there were always doubts regarding his ability, as he had only played for dominant Barcelona and Spain teams. His critics argued that it was an easy environment to star in and that Pedro had yet to prove he was a top European player in his own right.

Although he had been excellent for Barcelona since breaking through from the academy, there was no longer a guaranteed place for him in 2015. Los Cules had a world-class front three of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar. Pedro’s opportunities were limited and at the age of 28, it was important that he was playing regularly. Chelsea, who were champions of England at the time, came in for him and signed the attacker for £21 million. BBC Sport reported the following quotes when the deal was announced:

“I am very happy to be here. I am very excited to start my adventure at Chelsea and I am here to keep winning titles,”

He saw it as a chance to keep winning titles, but there will have been a private motivation to prove his ability outside of the Barcelona bubble. It wasn’t an easy first campaign as Chelsea were in a state of civil war as the players took on Jose Mourinho. Despite winning the Premier League in the previous season, the Blues were a shadow of their former selves and finished in a lowly 10th position. Pedro arrived at a poor time, but seven goals and two assists with a goal involvement every 227.1 offered a little encouragement.

This wasn’t an elite level of attacking contribution, but given the circumstances, it showed that Pedro could be a success in England. After Antonio Conte arrived in the summer of 2016, the Spaniard was forgotten and few expected him to play a prominent role under the Italian, but he has become an important player during the last 12 months.

Since the appointment of Conte, Pedro has featured in 43 of the 47 Premier League matches, starting the majority of them. He has contributed 11 goals and 11 assists, with a goal involvement every 116 minutes. This is excellent and underlines the quality that Pedro does possess in the final third. He isn’t the star of the current Chelsea team, but he is a reliable supporting actor.

The move to Stamford Bridge was a huge risk for Pedro as he was leaving Barcelona for the first time in his career and there were no guarantees that he would find success. Although the struggles that Chelsea were going through at the time weren’t helpful to him making the transition, the fact that he made it through those underlines his ability and character.

His publicly-stated goal was to win more trophies and he has added the Premier League to his vast array of honours. Pedro played a huge role in that success and operated in a similar spot to the one he had at Barcelona. He operates out of the spotlight and quietly goes about providing goals and assists on a consistent basis. At Barcelona, Lionel Messi was the star and at Chelsea, Eden Hazard is the centre of attention.

That won’t bother Pedro. Now at 30-years-old, he is approaching an interesting time in his career. His performance against Watford showed that he can still make a difference for Chelsea and consolidated his position as a first-team regular. The Spaniard has achieved nearly everything there is to do in European football, but he remains hungry and that is what makes him a great player. His spell at Barcelona brought him to the world’s attention, but it will be his time with Chelsea that brings him respect.

 

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

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.

Photo: Getty Images

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.

Photo: Getty Images

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.

Photo: Getty Images

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.

Photo: Getty Images

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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Arsenal

Arsenal fans call for Aleksandr Golovin signing after dazzling World Cup display

Arsenal fans are calling for an impulse signing after the World Cup opener yesterday.

Jamie Watts

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Arsenal already possess any array of creative forwards, but Gooners are extremely keen on CSKA Moscow maestro Aleksandr Golovin, after seeing the midfielder dazzle in Russia’s World Cup debut againt Saudi Arabia yesterday evening.

The 22-year-old already had links to north London spanning back to January (the Sun), with Arsene Wenger revealing his admiration for the player’s talent ahead of the Europa League quarter-final clash against the Russian heavyweights in March.

And Golovin highlighted his obvious ability last night, as Russia routed Saudi Arabia 5-1 in Moscow, creating two goals for teammates, before rounding an impressive display off with a sumptuous free-kick in added time.

Photo: Getty Images

His vision and technical ability led the hosts to a comfortable victory, with a superbly placed cross finding Denis Cheryshev in the box to open the scoring in the 12th minute. Before he again showed his class to pick-out Artem Dzyuba with a floated cross, which the striker converted comfortably 20 minutes from time.

And Arsenal fans have taken to Twitter to demand that Unai Emery should re-ignite interest in the player this summer.

Here’s the reaction:

Arsenal’s recent focus has been on landing Sampdoria’s industrious midfielder Lucas Torreira, as the manager looks to add balance to the team, according to the Guardian. 

But it seems fans want Emery to keep a close eye on the World Cup this summer, as it has become something of a shop window in recent years. And Golovin could earn himself a high-profile move if he continues performing at such a high level.

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