5 big changes at Chelsea and Arsenal since the FA Cup final
Arsene Wenger’s side won on that occasion in what was an absolutely critical victory for the club in a time of real crisis, with doubts over the future of both the manager and two of their most important players just after missing out on that all-important Champions League place with the lowest final league finish of the Frenchman’s reign.
Neymar’s world-record move to Paris Saint-Germain may be the biggest story of the summer, while the battle for Kylian Mbappe must come pretty close in terms of sheer headlines devoted to the 18-year-old Monaco star, but there’s been plenty going on for these two as well.
Here’s an update of sorts on where Chelsea and Arsenal are as they prepare to usher in the new season in the Community Shield this Sunday…
Arsene Wenger has signed a new contract
It was the story that proved an unwanted distraction for much of the second half of last season as Arsenal’s campaign fell apart right when it mattered most, and in the end Wenger arguably ended up disappointing the majority of the club’s fans by staying after all.
Despite the 67-year-old’s legendary status in north London, he has struggled to deliver anywhere near the same level of success as when he started out at the club, and fans staged numerous protests last season calling for him not to be given a new deal.
Wenger on his new contract
‘I love this club and I am looking forward to the future with optimism and excitement. We are looking at what we do well and how we can be stronger everywhere. This is a strong group of players and with some additions we can be even more successful. We’re committed to mounting a sustained league challenge and that will be our focus this summer and next season.’
After a positive summer so far, can Wenger show he’s changed and finally deliver the Premier League title to the Gunners after a 14-year wait? The result this weekend could give us a decent idea of his side’s credentials.
So has Antonio Conte…kind of
In rather different circumstances, Chelsea manager Conte also signed a new contract after a superbly successful first year in charge at Stamford Bridge.
However, Blues fans were made to sweat over the Italian’s future and may not be altogether too reassured now after his new deal consisted only of a pay rise rather than an extension on the two years he has remaining on it.
Conte was linked with the Inter Milan job earlier in the summer after several reports that he was unhappy with Chelsea’s transfer business this summer, though the club have since brought in more new faces.
Still, Conte’s apparent reluctance to commit to extending his stay in west London could mean this particular saga isn’t over just yet.
Alexis Sanchez looks like he’s staying
There’s no new contract for this man, but in one of the more surprising outcomes of this summer’s transfer window, it doesn’t seem to mean he’ll be going anywhere.
Arsenal have not budged on their stance on Alexis Sanchez, despite months of reports linking him with Manchester City, Bayern Munich and PSG.
The Chile international has been told he will have to leave on a free next year if he wants a move, as Arsenal stand to gain very little from selling him now, with £45-50m really not much in the way of compensation in contrast to keeping him in the side for another season, particularly as Sanchez’s preferred destination is thought to be to rivals City.
It is not yet clear if Sanchez will feature in this weekend’s Community Shield, but having helped Arsenal down Chelsea in the cup final in May, it looks like he’ll be around to do more damage again this year.
Alexis Sanchez’s Premier League season
Games played38Goals scored24Assists10
Arsenal have made promising signings
As well as keeping Sanchez, Arsenal have strengthened well by bringing in Alexandre Lacazette for a club-record £52m, whilst also nicking Sead Kolasinac from Schalke on a free transfer.
Further arrivals could follow, but if Wenger ended the transfer window with just those two he would rightly be quite pleased, with the club surely in a far stronger shape than last season.
Fans are always hungry for signings and there’s no doubt Jean Michael Seri or Thomas Lemar would be very welcome additions, but a front three of Sanchez, Lacazette and Mesut Ozil will be as good as anything in the Premier League this term.
Chelsea have had something of an overhaul
Chelsea have also been busy, but there’s no doubt they’ve had more of a mixed summer than Arsenal so far.
Alvaro Morata, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Antonio Rudiger come in as the club’s major buys, while Willy Caballero joined on a free to play backup to first-choice goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. Aside from that, Chelsea’s summer has consisted mainly of losing players.
No one can yet predict the impact John Terry’s departure will have even if he played a reduced role on the pitch last season, while Diego Costa is expected to follow Nemanja Matic out of the exit door, begging the question if the champions are really any stronger than in 2016/17.
Morata, a club-record signing at around £60m, looks a slightly risky purchase and came only after Conte missed out on his top target Romelu Lukaku, with many casting their doubts over the Spaniard’s suitability to replace Costa.
Is Morata an upgrade on Diego Costa?
‘They have replaced Costa with Morata – maybe less of a goalscorer than Costa but he can create more.’
Joe Cole: ‘I like (Romelu) Lukaku. I’d take Lukaku, he is like for like with Costa … The financial structure of it and the cost… I wouldn’t look outside of Lukaku, (Alexis) Sanchez and (Sergio) Aguero. Morata is another one but he has never played in England so there is a little question mark there. Certainly they would be the players to look at.’
Michael Owen: ‘I have question marks over Morata, he did well in Italy but he was never a starter at Real Madrid. He scored goals off the bench, but I’ve played for them and you’re always going to score in that team given Real score four or five most weeks and you’ve always got the ball unless you’re against Barcelona. There’s no doubt he’s a decent player, but he’s never played in the Premier League before which could be a factor in how well he does.’
Bakayoko and Rudiger are also unproven at this level, and replace some talented youngsters who have once again been sold at the first opportunity by Chelsea, with Nathan Ake and Nathaniel Chalobah being shipped off to Bournemouth and Watford, respectively.
The Blues have let their best young players leave prematurely in the past, and there’s every chance they’ll face a repeat of this summer’s Lukaku saga again in a few years’ time.
Who do you expect to win the Community Shield?
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