It was an underwhelming start for Thomas Tuchel in midweek. We look ahead to his tactical battle with Sean Dyche as Chelsea host Burnley…

 

Tactical pattern

Thomas Tuchel will not underestimate Burnley. Sean Dyche’s side held 28% possession in their 1-0 win at Anfield, which turned out to be the first of a three-game winning run heading into this one. Burnely have rediscovered their aggression – and with James Tarkowski in the side, have gone back to blocking almost everything hurled at them.

Chelsea were remarkably possession-centric on Tuchel’s debut, which was partly by design and partly because Wolves simply didn’t come out to confront them. Burnley will have learnt a lot from that game, although ultimately their 4-4-2 formation is more vulnerable to Chelsea’s 3-4-2-1 than Wolves’ three-man defence.

 

 

Key battle zone

The main benefit of a Conte-esque 3-4-2-1 is that the inside forwards create a box-shape midfield, which then dominates the game and sucks the opposition inwards. From here, space opens up for the two wing-backs to burst forward, get to the byline, and create havoc in the penalty area, as exemplified by Callum Hudson-Odoi in midweek.

Burnley are particularly susceptible to this. Their 4-4-2 is already too narrow at times, with Aston Villa scoring from a low cross on Wednesday and almost adding two more from similar build-up play down their left flank. Ben Chilwell and Hudson-Odoi can cause serious damage from the flanks.

Back Chelsea to win with a -1 handicap at 1/1 (Betfair)


Keep an eye on… Tuchel’s formation and line-up

Then again, there is no real reason to assume Tuchel will continue with a 3-4-2-1. After all, the former Paris Saint-Germain and Borussia Dortmund coach is well known for reacting to the opposition and changing formation accordingly, often tweaking with system and personnel before every single game. He probably only picked a 3-4-2-1 for the Wolves game because history has shown Nuno Esperito Santo’s side are weakest when their system is mirrored.

Tuchel will surely change his starting 11, too. Very few coaches in world football use as many players as the new Chelsea manager, and with the games coming thick and fast we might see a completely rotated attack as Tuchel attempts to build knowledge of his squad. Consequently Christian Pulisic, whose reputation was built under Tuchel at Dortmund, should play a key role in this game, as will Mason Mount and Timo Werner.

Back Pulisic to score anytime at 7/5 (Paddy Power)

 

One to watch… Dwight McNeil

After an underwhelming first half of the campaign left winger Dwight McNeil burst into life against Villa, turning the game on its head with a goal and an assist in the second half – his first goal contributions since September. If Burnley are to relieve some pressure after a long spell of Chelsea possession, they will need McNeil to be the outlet, carrying the ball on his own into the opposition half.

Pedro Neto was surprisingly effective at doing this against Chelsea as Wolves’ front three found the occasional opportunity to counter-attack at speed, taking advantage of Chelsea’s inability to cope with defensive transitions – a hangover of the Frank Lampard era that will remain for some time. However, on balance McNeil probably won’t get enough support from his team-mates to cause the Chelsea defence any problems.

Odds correct at the time of publication. 18+ Please Gamble Responsibly. Visit begambleaware.org

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Pundit Peter Crouch has advised Harry Kane against a move to Real Madrid, saying a trophy would mean more to him at Spurs than in the Spanish capital.

Kane has been linked with a move to Real for some time now after becoming one of the best strikers in the world.

He is thought of as a successor to Karim Benzema at the Bernabeu.


READ: Man Utd, Real suffer blow in pursuit of wonderkid Camavinga


A big money move to Real might not be the best thing for his career, however.

Speaking about the transfer rumours, Crouch told the Daily Star: “Sometimes the grass isn’t always greener. I think if you win something at Tottenham, it is going to mean ten times more than going to Real Madrid and winning something.

“He’s a top player and he deserves the best so nobody can begrudge him anything if he wants to move.

“But if there’s a chance of winning something at Tottenham I think it would mean far more to him than if he went somewhere and perhaps won a league title in a different country.

“Whereas at Tottenham if he finishes there or he manages to win something they’ll have a statue built for him, wouldn’t they?”

Crouch trained with Kane during his time at Spurs between 2009 and 2011.

Speaking about the Englishman’s development, Crouch continued: “It has been magnificent to see him evolve.

“I was at Spurs when he was coming through as a kid and he trained with us. I wouldn’t say he burst on the scene and we all went ‘wow’ but he always used to score in every game in training.

“There was definitely something about him. The way he has worked on his game and improved it, he’s like a manager’s dream. Any sort of young player should look up to someone like him.

“He is so two-footed, you can see he has worked on that. He has adapted his game again this year where he is dropping into those little holes and it is almost Teddy Sheringham like.”

Kane has already reached 19 goals in all competitions this campaign. He is also on 14 assists, which shows his growing influence in the buildup to goals.

Spurs are aiming for him to sign a new long term contract this year, which will ward off interest from Real and Man City.

Spurs’ next match is a huge clash against Liverpool this evening.

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Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has explained his absence from the last two matches has been due to his mother suffering from “health issues”.

Aubameyang missed the 1-0 FA Cup defeat at Southampton on Saturday as well as the 3-1 Premier League victory over Saints three days later.

Gunners boss Mikel Arteta dedicated Tuesday’s win to the Gabon striker, with Arsenal’s goalscorers all sending messages of support to Aubameyang with their celebrations.


READ MORE: Loan transfer boosts: Odegaard already in value-added XI


Aubameyang had travelled with the squad for the game on Saturday before leaving just hours before kick-off and he revealed on Wednesday afternoon that he had been supporting his mother.

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A post shared by Aubameyang Pierre-Emerick (@auba)

“Hey guys, thank you so much for all the messages and calls over the last few days,” he wrote on Instagram.

“My mother is going through some health issues and I had to be there for her. She’s already much better now and I will be back home tonight.

“I’m more than grateful to the doctors and nurses helping her get through this.

“And of course, thanks to my Arsenal fam for the love yesterday! I’m more determined than ever to keep our momentum going!

“Thank you all again – I really am beyond blessed to receive this level of support and love from all of you and I can’t wait to be back – PEA.”

The PA news agency understands Arsenal will keep supporting Aubameyang and a decision has yet to be made whether he will return for Saturday’s Premier League visit of Manchester United.

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Thomas Tuchel has been confirmed as Chelsea’s new manager.

The German boss has replaced Frank Lampard at Stamford Bridge, becoming the 15th manager of owner Roman Abramovich’s tenure.

Former Chelsea and England midfielder Lampard was sacked on Monday, with the Blues ninth in the Premier League after five defeats in their last eight league matches. The English media took it well.

Tuchel has signed an initial 18-month contract at Chelsea, and will get to work immediately.


READ MORE: Thomas Tuchel by numbers: the games, the trophies, the signings…


Former Paris St Germain manager Tuchel was due to take his first training session on Tuesday night, before taking charge of Wednesday’s home league clash with Wolves.

“I would like to thank Chelsea for their confidence in me and my staff,” Tuchel told Chelsea’s official club website.

“We all have the greatest respect for Frank Lampard’s work and the legacy he created at Chelsea.

“At the same time I cannot wait to meet my new team and compete in the most exciting league in football.

“I am grateful to now be part of the Chelsea family – it feels amazing!”

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Chelsea defender Thiago Silva has become the first player to react to the sacking of Frank Lampard earlier today.

The Englishman had been under fire at Stamford Bridge following a poor run of form.

The Blues sit ninth in the Premier League table on 29 points, 11 points behind leaders Man Utd.


FEATURE: Top seven managers out of work and available now


Silva has now responded to the sacking of his manager, thanking Lampard for his time at the club.

The Brazilian posted the following statement on social media: “I would like to thank you for everything you and your committee have done for me since the day I arrived. As I told you, it seemed like we had been working together for ten years! Thank you very much for everything legend.”

Chelsea are reportedly lining up Thomas Tuchel as his replacement. The German manager is a free agent after being sacked by PSG in December.

Here’s the statement Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich released to announce the news: “This was a very difficult decision for the club, not least because I have an excellent personal relationship with Frank and I have the utmost respect for him.

“He is a man of great integrity and has the highest of work ethics. However, under current circumstances we believe it is best to change managers.

“On behalf of everyone at the club, the board and personally, I would like to thank Frank for his work as Head Coach and wish him every success in the future.

“He is an important icon of this great club and his status here remains undiminished. He will always be warmly welcomed back at Stamford Bridge.”

Lampard was appointed as Chelsea manager in July 2019 after a season managing Championship side Derby County.

His lack of managing experience was an obvious risk, but most Chelsea fans were happy to have a club legend in charge.

Lampard guided the Blues to fourth in his first and only full season in charge.

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Man United host arch-rivals Liverpool in the game of the weekend of this year’s FA Cup fourth round. Follow it live here.

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Sheff Utd secured just their third win of the season as fans’ favourite Billy Sharp helped Chris Wilder’s men avoid an FA Cup upset against Plymouth.

The Blades have endured a wretched campaign but the Premier League’s bottom side have shown flickers of life recently, making it three wins from four matches in all competitions on Saturday.

Sharp was the key man at Bramall Lane, providing a lovely cross for Chris Basham’s opener before scoring a fine goal in the second half of a 2-1 fourth-round win against Plymouth.


READ: Wolves sign Real Sociedad striker Jose as Jimenez cover


Panutche Camara’s goal made it a nervy final 15 minutes, but the Blades held on to set up a home fifth-round tie against Bristol City.

Sheff Utd dominated the opening period and their pressure told as Sharp, one of two changes made by Wilder, clipped over for Basham to head home.

The 34-year-old found the net himself after impressively rounding the goalkeeper 90 seconds into the second half, which proved enough to see them progress.

The hosts flew out of the blocks, with Rhian Brewster, Wilder’s other alteration, looking determined to open his account, sending a downward header wide before stinging the palms of keeper Michael Cooper.

The ex-Liverpool striker was unable to make clean contact with a low John Fleck cross as the home side dominated proceedings, only for Plymouth to waste a great chance to score against the run of play.

After patient build-up down the left, Luke Jephcott cut the ball back and Camara blazed over from close range, a huge let-off that jolted the Blades into life.

John Lundstram hammered a low effort narrowly wide before the video assistant referee checked Kelland Watts’ block from an Ethan Ampadu strike for handball.

Plymouth avoided conceding a spot-kick but their resistance would be broken in the 39th minute as Sharp sent a lovely cross for Basham to power home at the far post.

Conor Grant fired into the side-netting as Argyle looked to level before half-time, only for hope of an upset to be dented moments after the restart.

Oliver Norwood’s sent an outstanding pass through to Sharp, who kept his cool under pressure and rounded Cooper before directing into an empty net.

United were in control and Brewster saw a fierce half-volley saved before Sharp struck over after showing good strength and composure.

Will Aimson flashed a volley across the face of goal as Plymouth redoubled their efforts towards the end, with Ryan Lowe’s men clawing one back in the 75th minute.

Camara caught Lundstram in possession and burst into the box, where he turned home substitute Byron Moore’s cross to give the visitors hope.

Enda Stevens and Ampadu had efforts to put the tie to bed, with Moore lashing over for Plymouth and United substitute Oliver Burke denied by a superb Cooper save in stoppage time.

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Steve Bruce has defiantly set his sights on matching the “mighty” Rafael Benitez’s top-10 Premier League finish as he attempts to drag Newcastle out of trouble.

The Spaniard, whose departure from St James’ Park 18 months ago is still a source of pain for many fans, secured 10th place in his first season back in the top flight after winning promotion and 13th a year later with 44 and 45 points respectively.

It was Bruce to whom owner Mike Ashley turned after Benitez opted to head for China, with his first season in charge ending with a 13th-place finish on 44 points.


READ MORE: Alan Shearer is a pillar of our footballing existence


But this campaign has seen Bruce’s side slip to the fringes of the relegation battle amid a nine-game winless run.

Asked if any manager could achieve success under Ashley’s tenure, the 60-year-old, who is understood to be keen to add Bournemouth coach Graeme Jones to his staff, said: “I would ask the question what do you gauge as success? I gauge success last year as matching Rafa’s tally of points, of where we finished, because that’s where we are at this particular moment.

“We are in the bottom half of the Premier League and have been there for the best part of 15 years. What’s realistic for where we are? In between 11th and 16th, is that realistic?

“Can we aim towards the top 10? We’re three, four points adrift of that. Would that be an achievement? In my eyes, probably yes.

“Rafa, who I have obviously heard a lot of and have the hugest respect for, like all you have, where did he finish? He was a world-class manager. Where did he finish? Is that success?

“We matched the mighty Rafa last year. We will try to do the best we can again this year.”

Bruce’s cause will be boosted this weekend by the timely return of Allan Saint-Maximin from a two-month lay-off with coronavirus.

The Frenchman is arguably the club’s quickest and most creative player and they have been painfully blunt in his absence.

Asked how Covid-19 had affected the 23-year-old, Bruce, who denied rumours of a fall-out with the player, said: “It’s been really tough. The one thing Allan wants to do is run around and play football.

“That gives him joy and it was good to see him in the last week or so because he’s bounced around the training ground. He’s just delighted to be given the go-ahead, that he’s OK and thankfully this virus hasn’t scarred any of the organs which it attacked.

“Let’s hope he can come and give us a spark because certainly the team needs it and needs that bit of flair, style, arrogance, swagger and pace that we have been missing at the top end of the pitch.”

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West Ham have reportedly ended their interest in Sevilla striker Youssef En-Nesyri after being priced out of a move.

The Hammers submitted a £22.5 million bid for the 23-year-old on Monday.

They are searching for a new striker to replace Sebastien Haller, who joined Ajax earlier this month.


FEATURE: Who would win a Clone Premier League?


According to talkSPORT, West Ham will not follow up on their interest in En-Nesyri.

Sevilla want £35 million for the Morocco international, which the Hammers are refusing to pay.

They don’t want to overpay on another striker after taking a £25 million loss on Haller.

The initial bid for En-Nesyri included a lump sum of £22.5 million plus £4.5 million in add-ons.

It’s easy to see why Sevilla want an improved offer for En-Nesyri. He’s an integral part of their first team, having scored 13 goals in 26 games this term.

That includes four in the Champions League group stage. They eventually qualified behind Chelsea in Group E to reach the knockout phase.

It’s understood West Ham will now pursue other targets. They’ve been linked with a host of strikers, such as Arsenal’s Eddie Nketiah and free agent Graziano Pelle.

Possibly the most likely option is Reims striker Boulaye Dia. The Hammers were first linked with him a week ago.

The Senegalese international offers club officials with a cheaper alternative. Reims want around £10 million for the player so West Ham wouldn’t have to break the bank.

He is a threat in front of goal, too. Dia has bagged 12 goals in 18 Ligue 1 appearances so far.

Manager David Moyes has previously admitted his club is finding it hard to sign recruitments. He does have the full backing of the board, however.

Speaking recently, Moyes said: “The board have backed me greatly since I have been here, anything I have really asked for.

“But I also know I am not someone who is going to go and ask for money in a period of time in football where wages can’t be paid.

“Do I want a top striker? I certainly do, I really do, to help us. But I am also mindful that football clubs, a lot of them are on the verge of going bust and I have got to make sure that I do things correctly.”

Their next match is against Doncaster in the fourth round of the FA Cup this weekend.

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Matt Le Tissier admits talk about Danny Ings’ future is “concerning” but the Southampton great is confident the club will cope if the star striker eventually leaves.

The 28-year-old has flourished since ending an injury-hit spell at Liverpool to join his hometown club in 2018, netting 25 goals in all competitions last season and earning a well-deserved England recall.

Ings has scored seven in 14 appearances this term despite the disruption of injury and a positive coronavirus test, while the striker has been a key talking point off the pitch as Saints look to extend his deal beyond 2022.


MEDIAWATCH: The race to fall over each other defending Lampard is on


The PA news agency understands the frontman has left talks to his agent, with a release clause rather than proposed wages the sticking point amid a report the frontman wants to return to a Champions League club this summer.

Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl has said “life will go on” if Ings does not sign the new and improved contact – a stance echoed by fan favourite Le Tissier.

“I haven’t seen any direct quotes from Danny about it,” the Saints great told the PA news agency. “When there’s no direct quotes from anybody, I tend to take these with a pinch of salt having been in that industry myself!

“I mean, obviously there’s going to be a concern from Saints fans because he has been the talismanic goalscorer for the last couple of seasons and his form has been excellent.

“When somebody is scoring a lot of goals at Southampton then – just like the manager situation – they are going to get interest from bigger clubs who can pay more money.

“The only thing that the fans can hope for is that Danny also has that connection with the football club and he feels the love around the football club, and that hopefully he signs a new deal at our club.

“That’s obviously something that’s out of everybody’s hands apart from the financial people at the club.

“It’s always concerning when there’s rumours that one of your best players is going to be leaving the football club because you wonder how you’re going to replace them.

“But we’ve had these situations many times in the past. You know, how are we going to replace Rickie Lambert?

“But we’ve managed to still go on, stay in the Premier League, establish ourselves after having lost players like Lambert, (Adam) Lallana, the centre-backs that we’ve lost in (Virgil) van Dijk and (Dejan) Lovren.

“It’ll be one of those things but if it happens we just have to move on.

“I think Ralph said the same thing. You know, life goes on. Players come and go, you just have to keep working to find people to replace them.”

Le Tissier is loved by the Saints faithful after an extraordinary one-club career that he has no regrets about, yet he understands the nagging ‘what if’ feeling Ings may feel at this stage of his career.

“It’s a perfectly natural reaction to have but, you know, sometimes the grass isn’t always greener on the other side,” Le Tissier said, speaking as part of his support for Prostate Cancer UK.

“You look at kind of the direction that Rickie Lambert’s career went after he went to Liverpool. That didn’t go the way that he’d hoped it would and I’m sure he probably has second thoughts now.”

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