Koulibaly: Stats show why age is just a number to Chelsea

Ageing defenders are in vogue for the Stamford Bridge side https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Koulibaly.jpg, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Thiago_Silva,Al_Hilal_SFC_vs_Chelsea_F.C.,_9_February_2022-_02.jpg, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Inside_Stamford_Bridge.jpg

By Alexander Hodgkins-Jones

Chelsea’s transfer policy of only offering players over the age of 30 one-year deals has been part of the footballing discourse for some time.

In the past, the Blues have stuck to their guns and allowed big-name players like Gary Cahill, Nemanja Matic and Cesc Fabregas to all move on once they hit the big three-oh.

Fabregas was probably the biggest miss, opting for a multi-year deal at French side AS Monaco rather than a further year of uncertainty at Stamford Bridge.

It has also cost the club potential transfer targets, players such as Edin Dzeko, a target in 2018, choosing to go elsewhere or stay at their club due to the promise of financial stability.

However, more recently the policy seems to have shifted.

Thiago Silva has been a revelation for Chelsea in defence since arriving as a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed 35-year-old in 2020.

And the imminent arrival of 31-year-old Senegalese defender Kalidou Koulibaly from Napoli on a reported three-year deal, suggests new Chelsea co-owner Todd Boehly has officially scrapped it.

Although Silva has been subject to the same policy, signing two more 12-month deals in subsequent years, his success at such an old age in footballing terms has probably had some bearing on the decision to go for long-time target Koulibaly despite his ‘advanced’ vintage.

Ageing like wine

Like Silva, Koulibaly does not rely solely on pace to defend well. Speed and power may naturally decrease as players age, but this matters less for defenders who can instead rely on experience and intelligence to make a smart block, tackle at the right time or make an important interception.

WhoScored.com, created with Microsoft Excel
WhoScored.com, created with Microsoft Excel

Knowing where to be and when to block is an art for older defenders.

Outgoing centre-back Antonio Rudiger will be a big miss for the team, but last season the elder Koulibaly made three times as many blocks per 90 as the German, while making just as many tackles.

WhoScored.com, created with Microsoft Excel
WhoScored.com, created with Microsoft Excel

A comparison to John Terry is not new for Thiago Silva.

Both he and Koulibaly bore a striking similarity in their 2021-22 defending stats to the then 35-year-old during the title-winning campaign of 2014-15. Koulibaly will be turning 34 before the end of the deal if reports are to be believed.

WhoScored.com, created with Microsoft Excel

Could this mean a title charge for Chelsea? Fans will at least be hoping for an eased transition at the back and a continuation of the downward trend of goals conceded.

Premier Leagoe.com, created with Microsoft Excel

Coventry-based Chelsea fan Kyle Brassington said: “[Thiago] Silva has proved if you’re clever at the back it doesn’t matter how old you are.

“It’s been frustrating getting rid of older players just because they’re past 30. We need some leaders in the team and that only comes with age.

“[Koulibaly] is going to be really good for Chelsea. I was gutted when [Rudiger] left but looks like we’ve found a replacement straight away.”

The Senegal international has been capped 62 times for his country and if the signing goes through, he will join compatriot Édouard Mendy in Chelsea’s defence. 

Although going forward seemed to be the Blues’ biggest issue last season, the departures of stalwart Rudiger to Real Madrid and Danish youth product Andreas Christensen to Barcelona had left many fans worried.

The club have also been linked with Nathan Ake from Manchester City and 22-year-old Dutch captain Matthijs de Ligt, currently playing for Juventus.

It’s unknown if the potential signing of Koulibaly will affect these deals.

Chelsea kick off their 2022-23 campaign away to Everton on August 6.

What’s gone wrong for Leicester City this season?

By Liam Harris

Leicester City fans watched on nervously as their side took on Italian footballing giants AS Roma at the Stadio Olimpico on Thursday night.

A tough test awaited Rodgers and his side who had to try and better footballing genius Jose Mourinho in the second leg.

Leicester’s King Power Stadium

Following a 1-1 draw at the King Power Stadium a week prior, it was always going to be a challenge.

Unfortunately, on what was the Foxes’ first ever European Semi-Final, they came up short when Tammy Abraham headed the Romans into the lead in the 11th minute.

Despite going 2-1 down on aggregate, City looked to fight back with a stronger second half performance but it wasn’t to be. Thus, missing out on the Conference League Final and all but confirming another year without European football for the blues following an underwhelming domestic campaign.

Any cup exit is disappointing, but when you pin all of your hopes onto the only remaining route into it for the next season, going out becomes all the more bitter.

Many Leicester fans can’t help but feel deflated at what they have seen this season with many calling it a ‘write off’. Questions have been asked for many reasons by Foxes fans. So what has gone wrong? Why has it been such a challenging season? Let’s break it down.

Injuries

Ah yes, injuries. Let’s just get this one out of the way. After all, we were all thinking it. One thing we can all agree on is that Leicester may have had one of the most abysmal seasons ever on the injury front.

There have simply been too many to count for City this season with seemingly every matchday squad being plagued with absentees. This crisis seemingly peaked around the turn of the year and has slowly improved since.

However, it has certainly left damaging effects on the side’s league position, sitting 14th at the time of writing this. Re-injuries have been a regular occurrence with players such as Castagne and Maddison falling victim.

Possibly more crucially though, a number of City’s key figures have missed out throughout the campaign with Vardy, Barnes, Fofana and Ndidi all repeatedly being unavailable, among others.

With this sort of constant burden forced upon Rodgers, it has to be said that he’s done the best he can with what he’s had at his disposal.

With the end of the season nearing, many will feel relieved at the chance for some much needed rest for the team.

We can only hope that when the 2022-23 Premier League season kicks off in August, a fully fit squad will be available for the first time in almost 3 years.

Tactics

A common opinion felt by Leicester fans this season has been that at times, perhaps too often, tactical decisions have not paid off.

In fact, many of Rodgers’ decisions have been rather puzzling to some, especially when they have backfired. Strange substitutions and tactical mishaps have happened all too often this season.

Sitting back on a one goal lead and bringing on defenders despite no pressure from the opposition has cost City many points.

One example that comes to mind is substituting on Vestergaard and Bertrand at Liverpool despite a 2 goal lead back in December. As many will remember, Liverpool went on to win on penalties despite a considerably weakened lineup.

That isn’t even the worst example as many will recall Leicester threw away a 2-1 lead against Spurs back in January to lose 3-2 in stoppage time. Something that should never happen when your side is ahead with 2 minutes to play.

Another common criticism from City fans has been the style of football that Rodgers has had his side playing. Many believe the tempo has been too slow and performances have been passive.

November’s 1-1 draw to Leeds, December’s 2-1 loss to Aston Villa and more recently the 2-1 defeat to Everton are just some of the games that many believe City had played with a lacklustre style.

Corners and Stoppage Time

Two of the biggest talking points from Leicester’s season has been their inability to defend set pieces, more so corners.

What began seemingly as bad luck began to be exposed as a bad tactical set up for Rodgers’ side.

Fans picked up that Brendan was assigning zonal marking to his side which left many puzzled. Why were players leaving the opposition’s best headers of the ball free?

Of course, this didn’t work and following Abraham’s winner on Thursday night, the marking came under more scrutiny, with Rodgers seemingly suggesting after the game that he ran out of taller players to mark Abraham and so assigned 5’9 Ricardo to do so.

With one of the worst goals conceded from corners rates in the league, this issue urgently has to be sorted out in pre-season season once and for all.

Finally, stoppage time. Leicester’s other biggest problem has come in the final stages of games, with stoppage time being a nightmare for the Foxes.

In recent weeks Leicester have thrown away points against Everton, Newcastle, Tottenham, Brighton and West Ham in the closing moments of games.

Whether it is down to tactical issues or simply a mental problem is something that can be up for debate but it is clear that hanging onto leads has been a major challenge for City this season.


So what next?

Fear not though Foxes, for the summer is almost upon us. This means a chance for the players to get that well needed rest after a long gruelling campaign. For Rodgers, it is a chance to sort his squad out and get it back to where he wants it to be. He certainly needs to address some issues such as the corners and defending as a whole. That alongside fixing his side’s mentality is a must in the coming months. He will have the summer transfer window to do what he feels he needs to in order to strengthen and one can only assume that Khun Top will allow him to do so following the last 12 months.

A fresh start is something that everyone connected with Leicester City will be keen on and it is certainly needed. A chance to put this campaign in the past and put full focus into the 2022-23 season. A fresh mentality with a fresh squad is to be desired. Rodgers will seemingly look to trim his squad down for the upcoming campaign with the absence of mid-week football for the first time in 2 years. Fresh faces are a must for City come July.

Despite everything though, there have been some positives. The emergence of Dewsbury-Hall in the midfield and Luke Thomas improving spring to mind. This alongside Maddison’s great return on goal contributions has given fans some optimism for the future. Every team goes through bad spells and Leicester are no different. One off season does not define a club. They will bounce back from this and there is no doubt about it. The summer will prove crucial for City, but one thing that won’t change is the belief from the stands. The club prides itself on doing the unimaginable and they will look to do it once more next season. Be optimistic City fans, things will get better. In the words of Jersey Budd, ‘When you’re smiling’.

DMU Rowers bid to recruit new members

by Kas Ellis

The DMU Rowing society is recruiting for more members to join its squad. 

Jack and Alfie training with the rowing machines

Emma Padfield, the second year president of the society, organised a stall on Thursday, March 17, to invite De Montfort University students to try out rowing. 

“You don’t need to know how to row,” Emma said. “You can join even if you’ve never done sports before.” 

The society is looking for women rowers in particular in order to compete in more races. 

With a lot of hard work, the women of DMU are a small but strong team, coming in second in the country in a recent race. 

Emma said that doing about 10 training sessions a week makes you very close with others, and is a fantastic way to form a close bond with other students. She described the society as being like a family. 

“Now’s the time to join,” Emma said. “It’s a great opportunity just to try something new.” 

The society held taster sessions from Wednesday, March 23, through to Wednesday this week (APR6) on select days. 

If you are interested in finding out more, you can contact the team on their Instagram @dmurowing

DMU Women’s Football take on UoL in tough Varsity match

By Liv Messum

De Montfort University (DMU) has been competing in a variety of Varsity competitions throughout this week and last week, and the women’s football match did not disappoint.

Pictured: DMUWFC Committee

On Monday (MAR 28), DMU faced off against University of Leicester (UoL) to see who would win the title of Varsity women’s football champions. 

Coach Neil Butterworth said: “There is good spirit within the team and if we can match that spirit with high work rate and work for each other, then the team will be competitive.”

The team battled hard but suffered an unfortunate loss with an end result of 5-0 to UoL.

Neil said: “I think the team played very well and I’m very proud of each of their performances.

“I think if we had scored when we put UoL under pressure in the first half of the game, then the result may have turned out differently.”

DMU suffered from not being able to maintain consistent team selection due to a lack of numbers in training throughout the year.

Neil said: “The commitment to women’s football has been awful this year, meaning that our better players have been missing for matches and we have suffered heavy defeats.”

Captain Maddy Proctor added: “This year we’ve felt the effects of Covid, so numbers haven’t been as good as they could be.

“Hopefully in a year’s time we get that drive back, that motivation to want to play sport back that we’ve lost thanks to Covid.”

As a result of the lockdowns put in place in previous years, Maddy was the only team member who had previously competed in Varsity.

She said: “We’ve not had Varsity for the past two years so people this year were a bit more unsure of what it is, what it’s like, and what to expect.

“But Varsity is such a good experience, it’s not just your average football game. It’s the entire atmosphere, having the crowd there – you don’t get that with every football game.”

Captain Maddy Proctor showing off her skills

Maddy is currently in her final year at DMU, meaning that Varsity was her last match with the team.

She said: “Being on women’s football is probably the best thing I ever did, purely because it made me meet my friends that I’ve got now. 

“Without having that sport, I don’t think I would’ve made such good friends. 

“It’s also been great to have friends from different backgrounds, different ages, and to meet people from all over the world that I wouldn’t normally have made friends with.”

Even with the Varsity loss, both Maddy and Neil have high expectations for women’s football in upcoming years.

Neil said: “If the balance moves towards good commitment next season, then we can work at progressing players quicker and improving our chances when playing the league matches.

“I certainly hope this happens.

“Either way I will still be looking forward to coaching and improving those footballers joining the 1st Team next season.”

UoL sharpshooter puts on scoring clinic in convincing Varsity netball win

by Ada White

The De Montfort University (DMU) netball team took on Varsity rivals University of Leicester (UoL) and despite a valiant effort were beaten in a hard fought and entertaining game.

Katie Littlewood, 22, holding all three netball trophies

Goal attack and UoL captain Katie Littlewood, 22, a third year Criminology student, led the team in scoring and seemed to have an inability to miss at times, only failing to convert on four shots all game, putting up more than 30 of their 59 points with poise and finesse.

Littlewood began playing netball at the age of 11 and formerly played at regional level, with her experience showing on the court and making it clear why she was made captain.

The rest of the team played terrific offence and defence, moving the ball around quickly as a well-drilled unit, showing the results of clear extensive training.

This game was a part of the week-long Varsity competitions which have returned after two years’ absence due to Covid and the crowd loved every minute of it, cheering both their teams on and showing great support.

It is clear that this was a well missed part of the university calendar and students are glad to see it back.

The UoL half of the crowd erupted into cheers when the final whistle sounded and celebrated with the players as the team lifted the trophy.

This game completed the team’s three wins out of the three games and showed just how dominant they had been in the series of games.

Littlewood expressed pride in her team after the win and said: “It’s a nice way to finish the year.”

Varsity games in many different sports will continue until today (TUE,MARCH29) – details and fixture times and venues can be found on the DMU website.