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’.

Star striker outraged at new drinking ban rule for DMU Women’s football team in Leicester

By Liv Messum

Alicia King on holiday in Spain, doing her favourite thing.

A drinking ban has been put in place for the DMU women’s football team for the next two weeks but star striker Alicia King isn’t happy about it. 

Alicia, 19, said: “I think it’s a good idea if it was more serious but being uni students and having social commitments, it’s hard to not drink around already drunk people.” 

Alicia has been playing for the team for two years and this is the first time a drinking ban has been put in place due to the upcoming Varsity matches against University of Leicester. 

She said: “I understand we need to condition our bodies for Varsity, but I personally don’t think it’s going to make much of a difference in the team’s performance. 

“It’s really only going to affect the day after.” 

Usually, team social events involve drinking games to help everyone loosen up and make friends with their teammates in a more relaxed environment. 

Alicia, who recently returned from playing for the British Virgin Islands women’s international team in World Cup qualifiers in Honduras, said: “Drinking socials are more of a night out and they are fun, but I think there should be more non-drinking ones at other points for those who don’t drink – but on other days. 

“But if this is what we have to do to win, then I’m excited to play the match and train well.”

For more information on the women’s team and fixtures, please visit: www.dmu.ac.uk/current-students/sport/sports-clubs/football.aspx

Fractured foot fails to stop DMU student joining up with British Virgin Islands national team for World Cup bid

By Azim Saiyed

A journalism student went back home last week to the British Virgin Islands (BVI) national football team so she could feature in the upcoming CONCACAF qualifying fixtures despite still recovering from a fractured foot. 

Hopeful: Liv Messum

Liv Messum, 21, said: “I was devastated to find out I could potentially miss out on the fixtures because of my injured foot. 

“It has always been my dream to play in the Women’s World Cup for my country and one day I hope to lift the trophy.” 

The BVI national women’s team will play against Cuba on Saturday(February 19) and then will play Honduras the following Tuesday(February 22) in order to qualify for the CONCACAF women’s championship. 

Liv picked up an injury in December when training with the DMU women’s football team. 

She accidentally slipped on the wet turf and twisted her ankle. Scans showed it was fractured and doctors estimated that she would be out for at least ten weeks. 

She said: “I wasn’t going to let a small foot injury hold me back so I was determined to make a fast comeback.” 

Her cast was taken off in early February which meant that she could start her rehab and slowly begin physiotherapy sessions. 

The second-year journalism student aims to regain match fitness and can be in contention for the away game against Honduras. 

If you would like more information on the team news or fixtures, please visit: www.bvifootball.com 

SOCCER STARS: The BVI women’s football team.

Leicester City defender Kranthove on trial with Sunderland

By Luke Pawley

Leicester City defender Justen Kranthove is on trial with Sunderland, after a number of young players were told they were free to look for another club.

The 19-year-old Dutchman played 60 minutes as Sunderland Under-23s lost 3-2 to Wigan Athletic Under-23s in the Premier League Cup.

Kranthove, who joined Leicester from Dutch amateur side AFC ’34 in July 2018, conceded a penalty and scored a goal in his debut outing as a Sunderland triallist.

“A mixed night for the triallist,” wrote the Sunderland Echo in their player ratings article following last night’s match.

“Was having a decent game until he conceded a penalty. Made an impact at the other end too after scoring Sunderland’s second goal. Subbed around the hour mark. 6/10.”

The Foxes’ youth ranks are strong in central defensive areas, meaning Kranthove has struggled for game time this season due to the form of players such as Darnell Johnson, Calvin Ughelumba and Darragh O’Connor.

Kranthove was a regular for Leicester City’s Under-18 side last season and put in a number of impressive displays, but struggled to make the step up and earn a place in the Under-23 squad.

A source close to Leicester City has confirmed that Kranthove is one of ‘a handful’ of young players who have been told that they are free to look for another club.

Under-18s defender Camron Gbadebo was another of the players in question, and following a trial at Watford earlier this season, the 17-year-old recently announced that he had signed for Manchester City.

Meanwhile, 19-year-old defender Lukáš Hušek and striker Raúl Uche, 22, have both left the club on a permanent basis, joining Sparta Prague and Real Valladolid respectively.