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.

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.

Middlesborough and Leicester fans take the fighting off the pitch


Police intervened on the fighting fans 

By Mark Farmer

Clashes between Leicester City and Middlesbrough fans broke out on the evening of Saturday 26 November after their team’s game at the King Power Stadium.

Fan-recorded videos emerged on social media shortly after the final whistle.

Rival supporters can be seen in a stand-off leading to punches being thrown by both sets of supporters before police intervened.

The match, which ended in a 2-2 draw, saw the home side salvage a point late on through a 94th minute Islam Slimani penalty to cancel out two Alvaro Negredo goals.

Both teams have found themselves embroiled in a relegation battle, despite Leicester’s title winning heroics last season.

This does not excuse the behaviour of the supporters, however, who began fighting inside the stadium before piling together on the terraces outside the ground.

One Leicester City season of ticket holder of 11 years, Vicki Connelly, said: “There were about 50 people fighting inside the stadium and stewards were trying to split them up.”

“There were large groups outside that were trying to get at each other.”

Footage prior to the skirmishes showed Leicester fans chanting, ‘dirty northern b*******’ to antagonise Middlesbrough supporters into fighting.

Scenes like these have threatened to drag the sport back into its dark ages that were more commonplace in the 1980s with hooliganism rife on football’s terraces.

One twitter user Lee Lowery, 20, took to the social media site to voice his concerns.

He said: “Seeing Leicester and Boro fans fighting yesterday after the game and thinking what a disgrace, don’t even call yourselves fans of the sport.”

Vicki reiterated this after she revealed a male Middlesbrough fan threatened to ‘knock her out’ after she was overheard praising his team.

She said: “I don’t think these people represent football fans at all, because most of them don’t know how to behave.

“I get that people are going to be passionate about their team because I am, too.

“I saw fans chanting at each other, and that’s fine because it was all light-hearted, but as soon as it gets physical its gone way too far.”

Leicestershire Police confirmed two men, aged 18 and 33, were arrested following the incidents on Saturday.

They have been released on bail pending further inquiries.

Ulloa scores in 1-0 win over Norwich



Substitute Leonardo Ulloa scored a late winner as Leicester City beat Norwich City 1-0 in the Premier League.

Ulloa tapped in at the back post from a Marc Albrighton cross in front of over 32,000 fans at the King Power Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

The result means Leicester City move 5 points clear at the top of the table with their closest rivals not in action until Sunday.

Leicester made their first team change in 8 matches with Daniel Amartey making his debut for the suspended Danny Simpson while Alex Tettey returned to the visiting midfield.

Both sides started brightly, Cameron Jerome thwarted by Peter Schmeichel before Shinji Okazaki’s back heel flick was blocked on the line.

Norwich began the game tight and deep, keeping ten behind the ball, restricting Leicester to long range chances in the opening quarter including two over the top from Albrighton.

Unable to capitalise on their chances, the Foxes slowly allowed the Canaries into the game as they pressed higher up the pitch.

Further chances fell to Albrighton and Jerome with the Leicester winger glancing a header wide from a free kick with just John Ruddy to beat, matched moments later by Jerome from a rare Norwich corner.

Leicester started the 2nd half on top, Riyad Mahrez drawing a foul from Steven Naismith who earned the first yellow of the match, soon followed by Ryan Bennett for a rash challenge on Jamie Vardy.

Albrighton again injected some life into the game after a slow third quarter, forcing a save from Ruddy with another effort from distance before manager Claudio Ranieri brought on Andy King and Jeffrey Schlupp for Okazki and N’Golo Kante.

The Foxes final subsititution, Ulloa on for Amartey, saw the home side switch to a 3-4-3 as they looked for a late winner.

The gamble nearly back fired after Nathan Redmond’s shot flew narrowly wide with just over 5 minutes remaining but ultimately paid off.

A low cross from the right by Albrighton appeared to fall to no-one before Ulloa pounced at the back post to finish in an unguarded goal.

Mahrez looked lively throughout, constantly switching wings but was rarely a threat for Ruddy or the Canaries defence.

Vardy, looking for his 20th goal of the season, was kept quiet by the packed Norwich defence and struggled to link up with strike partners Okazaki or Mahrez for much of the game.

His best chance came for a 30 yard free kick saved low to the right by Ruddy just before the hour mark.