Friday, July 29, 2022

Community Shield

One weekend before the Premier League begins its new season, the league’s two finest clubs showcase their immense talents when Manchester City and Liverpool face each other in the Community Shield on Saturday. Pep Guardiola’s Citizens edged Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool by a single point last season to capture Manchester City’s fourth league title in five years. The Reds appear in Saturday’s match by virtue of their victory in the FA Cup over Chelsea last season. Liverpool also won last year’s Carabao Cup and came within an eyelash of an unprecedented quadruple of titles, falling just short of Manchester City in the league and Real Madrid in the Champions League final.

The two clubs are expected to vie once again for the Premier League title and European glory. Manchester City is still chasing its elusive first Champions League trophy and has reloaded for the upcoming season. Erling Haaland, the 22-year-old scorer of 62 goals in 67 appearances for Borussia Dortmund, provides Guardiola with the true striker missing from last year’s league champion line up. Argentinian international Julian Alvarez also joins the attacking mix while the Citizens bid farewell to Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus who have joined league rivals Chelsea and Arsenal, respectively. English international and former Leeds player Kalvin Phillips joins the club as a defensive midfielder while Fernandinho departs. Other offseason roster activity for Manchester City included versatile Ukrainian defender/midfielder Oleksandr Zinchenko signing for Arsenal. The key storyline, however, is Haaland’s introduction to the Premier League and whether Jack Grealish can take a step forward in his second season for the club. Grealish’s preseason assist on Haaland’s first goal in a blue jersey is hoped to be a recurring event by Citizen supporters.

There is only one club that can realistically snatch the league title from Manchester City and that is Liverpool. While the two clubs were separated by just a point last season, the next best club in the league was 18 points further down the table. Third place Chelsea has had a tumultuous offseason under new ownership and does not look to be markedly improved despite the Sterling addition. Liverpool’s prospects for a second Premier League title in four years could hinge on the quick acclimation of striker Darwin Nunez to the Premier League. The former Benfica striker flashed his potential while scoring four goals in a preseason friendly versus RB Leipzig. The Uruguayan international’s success can help soften the loss of forward Sadio Mane who has left for Bayern Munich. Liverpool has been evolving its front line with the additions of Diogo Jota and Luis Diaz in recent seasons while longtime striker Bobby Firmino is currently the subject of transfer rumors. Liverpool does things differently from Manchester City. Dynamic fullbacks Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson are integral to the Liverpool attack whereas the creativity for Manchester City lies in a midfield which includes the incomparable Kevin De Bruyne. The competitive balance between the two clubs was further evidenced in identical 2-2 score lines in the two league meetings between the clubs last season.

Saturday’s 100th Community Shield will see the match played away from its traditional Wembley setting as the Women’s Euros final this weekend has moved the charity event to Leicester’s King Power Stadium. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

The Promoted Clubs Familiar Faces and Echoes of the Past

 Joining the Premier League for this upcoming season are two familiar faces and a club returning to the league after more than a 20-year absence. Fulham and Bournemouth return to the league after brief stops in the Championship while Nottingham Forest returns to the league for the first time since the 1998/99 season.

Fulham swept to the Championship title on the strength of 106 goals last season, a staggering 32 goals more than any other club in the division. Manager Marco Silva was the architect of Fulham’s success and returns to the top division where the Portuguese native previously spent undistinguished stints at Hull City, Watford and Everton. Silva did, however, win as many matches as he lost during his time at Everton, a record Everton fans would be much more accepting of today. Striker Aleksandar Mitrovic has thrived in Silva’s system at Fulham and the Serbian national feasted on Championship defenses for 43 goals in 44 matches. Silva’s attacking philosophy and Mitrovic’s production stood in stark contrast to Fulham’s dreadful last appearance in the Premier League. Only one league club scored fewer goals during Fulham’s last Premier League season in 2020/21. Mitrovic played only a bit part under then Fulham Manager Scott Parker, scoring only 3 goals in 27 appearances. Proving his ability to deliver in the top tier will have extra meaning for Mitrovic who is experiencing his third promotion to the Premier League in six years with Fulham. Disappointment and relegation followed the last two promotions for striker and club.

Ironically, former Fulham Manager Parker is also moving up in his capacity as Bournemouth manager. The Cherries return to the league after a two-year absence. The south coast club experienced a five-year run in the league before their 2019/20 relegation. Bournemouth returns after earning automatic promotion with a second-place finish in the second-tier last season. Spearheading the attack was yet another individual with Premier League connections. Former Chelsea and Liverpool forward Dominic Solanke played for the Cherries during their last Premier League season when he managed just 3 goals in 32 appearances during that doomed season. Solanke experienced a breakout season for Manager Scott Parker last season as he led Bournemouth to promotion with 29 goals in 46 league appearances for the club. Solanke will need to be nearly as proficient in his return to the Premier. Parker’s defense is so short of experienced players that striker Kieffer Moore is a candidate to see time as a center back.

Nottingham Forest achieved promotion by courtesy of an own goal in the Championship playoff final with Huddersfield. While long absent from the Premier League, Forest is a legendary club in England from their salad days during the 1970’s and 1980’s. Manager Brian Clough led the club to domestic and European success during his time with the club that spanned 1975-1993. An English First Division title, two European Cups and one European Super Cup were among the accomplishments under Clough. Current Nottingham Forest Manager Steve Cooper will be satisfied with survival in his first Premier League season. Those prospects improved with the recent signing of former Manchester United and England national team member Jesse Lingard. Lingard’s goal scoring capability and Premier League experience will be welcome. Another former Manchester United player, goalkeeper Dean Henderson, has been signed to stop shots on the other end of the pitch for Forest. 

Friday, July 22, 2022

Where to Everton? Barren Transfer Window and Embarrassing US Tour Highlight Problems at Relegation Threatened Club

One of the least active clubs in the current transfer window may be the club most in need of reinforcement. The deficiency of Everton’s current roster has been on full display in two preseason matches in the United States where the Toffees were outscored 6-0 in aggregate. More embarrassingly, four of the goals were conceded to MLS squad Minnesota United, a club currently managed by former Everton player Adrian Heath. One of Minnesota’s goals was deposited in the Everton net by Toffee defender James Tarkowski, Everton’s solitary addition this offseason.

Outgoing activity from Merseyside has included the transfer of Richarlison to Tottenham Hotspur. The Brazilian forward had been Everton’s best player, particularly during the club’s desperate survival stretch run last season. The once proud club has thus responded to last season’s relegation scare, where they survived by a meager four points, by selling their best on-field asset.

A perilous financial situation underpins Everton’s inability to improve a poor roster. Owner Farhad Moshiri felt compelled recently to say the club is not actively for sale though a minority ownership investment could be on the cards. The effect of Everton’s severed financial ties with longtime Moshiri associate and Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov last March, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, may have been understated as the ouster of Chelsea’s Russian ownership dominated the headlines. Everton’s finances are also impacted by costs associated to their future new stadium as well as lavish and misdirected player spending in past windows during Moshiri’s unsuccessful six years of ownership.

The transfer budget this offseason appears threadbare. Veteran defender Tarkowski was able to walk away from relegated Burnley on a free transfer. Additions requiring an immediate outlay of funds by the Toffees have been more problematic to conclude. Deals for Burnley striker Maxwel Cornet and Wolverhampton midfielder Morgan Gibbs-White, have reportedly been hung up by Everton demands to defer the payment of transfer fees. An outlandish rumor this week had Everton considering a move for former Manchester United player Adnan Januzaj. Other than having previously kicked a ball in the Premier League, Januzaj’s principal attraction is that he is a free agent after his release by Real Sociedad. Supporters have been unhappy to not see reinvestment of Richarlison proceeds and were horrified at rumors the club may need to part ways with young fan favorite, Anthony Gordon. Gordon was reported to be a target of Spurs and Manager Antonio Conte but now seems fairly assured of another season of Merseyside misery. Manager Frank Lampard, meanwhile, has decried the lack of investment in his squad, referring to the “void” in his current lineup. Lampard also sounded much like he did when the club was fighting relegation last season as he called for more “fight” from his players after the Minnesota loss. Another relegation battle already seems underway for the Toffees. Lampard, who was under a transfer embargo during his time as Chelsea manger, finds himself in another difficult situation in his young managerial career. Coincidentally, Wayne Rooney’s Major League Soccer season at DC United concludes in the fall. The former Everton and Manchester United legend would be a public relations coup for the club and its unpopular ownership should early season results endanger Lampard’s tenure on the Goodison Park touchline.

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Koulibaly Signing First Step to Rebuilding Chelsea Defense

The rebuilding of the Chelsea defense has begun. Only Manchester City and Liverpool conceded fewer goals than Manager Thomas Tuchel’s impressive defensive last season. The back line was seriously depleted, however, by the defections of center backs Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christiansen. Rudiger has moved on to Real Madrid while Christiansen has joined La Liga rival Barcelona. Rudiger is one of the best center backs in the world, possessing impressive ball skills and a nose for the occasional goal in addition to his defensive tenacity. Chelsea has moved to replace Rudiger with another international class player with the signing of Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly.

The Senegalese teammate of Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy has long been a rumored target for the Blues dating to former manager Antonio Conte’s time at Stamford Bridge. Six years after Chelsea’s initial interest, Koulibaly represents a finished product who benefitted at Napoli from the tutelage of other one-time Chelsea coaches Rafa Benitez and Maurizio Sarri. Like Rudiger, Koulibaly is comfortable going forward and possesses excellent tactical acumen, reading the game well from his center back position. Concerns regarding his game would involve adaptation to the more physical Premier League style of play and Koulibaly’s ability to win aerial duels in the bruising English league. The 31-year-old Koulibaly, however, is an international class plyer representing Chelsea’s best option to provide an immediate fix to the vacancy created by Rudiger.

The Blues are now pursuing additional reinforcements to their defense. A deal for Manchester City center back, and former Chelsea youth player, Nathan Ake collapsed which led to reported talks with PSG regarding French international Presnel Kimpembe. Kimpembe is another center back comfortable with the ball at his feet but has a reputation for the occasional lapse in focus. Chelsea may have greater interest in the services of Sevilla’s Jules Kounde. The 23-year-old Kounde represents a longer-term investment who would pair nicely with the more experienced Koulibaly. Unfortunately, Barcelona is in the hunt for Kounde, and the Catalans have proven to be a brutal competitor in this transfer window despite operating under a cloud of financial concerns. Those concerns have been swept aside as Barcelona has beaten Chelsea to the signature of Leeds winger Raphinha and the La Liga club has now announced the addition of Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski. The German club, meanwhile, appears ready to sign Matthijs de Ligt from Juventus. De Ligt was yet another defender linked to Chelsea but overtures from the London club were rebuffed.

Chelsea could look at internal options to complement Koulibaly. Ethan Ampadu is currently touring with the club in the United States after loan spells with Sheffield United and Venezia. Trevoh Chalobah is another young center back who impressed in spot appearances for Chelsea last  season. Ampadu is 21 years old and Chalobah is 23. 19-year-old Levi Colwill is an even younger center back prospect who is more likely to head out on loan to a club like Everton or Crystal Palace. Meanwhile, Manager Thomas Tuchel could face additional decisions regarding his defense if captain Cesar Azpilicueta joins the growing list of Barcelona bound transfers. Both Azpilicueta and Chelsea wingback Marcos Alonso are rumored to be bound for Spain. Azpilicueta’s transfer is the more active rumor with a reported commitment having been made by former Chelsea ownership to allow the long-term club servant on. The signing of proven veteran Koulibaly was critical for Chelsea as Manager Thomas Tuchel increasingly resembles the Dutch boy with his finger in the dyke as he attempts to piece together another top four defense. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Barcelona Looms Large In Premier League Transfer Dealings

Spanish giant Barcelona has played an outsized role in the current Premier League transfer window. The financially troubled La Liga club are now reported to have reached a fee agreement with Manchester United for midfielder Frenkie de Jong. The transfer of the former Ajax player has been a long running soap opera this window. While the two clubs now have reached agreement, there is still talk that de Jong wants no part of the Red Devil project. Barcelona, in need of funds, wants the player out. Manchester United seeks to reunite the midfielder with former Ajax and current Red Devil manager Eric ten Hag. The player has so far dug his heels in for reasons ranging from dislike of the Manchester weather, an absence of Champions League football, and the cloud of failure and dysfunction that hangs over the Premier League club. De Jong has professed to want to continue with the Barcelona project under Barca Manager Xavi Hernandez.

More likely holding up a deal is resolution of the large amount of money that was deferred and is still owed de Jong by the Spanish club. Barcelona continues to have attraction to players across the globe despite its tattered finances. Rafinha, after his breakout season with Leeds, rejected overtures from Premier League clubs Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, and particularly Chelsea, to sign with Barcelona. Chelsea also had reported interest in Ousmane Dembele who has agreed a large pay reduction to stay in Spain. Barcelona appears ready to sign off on the contract the club offered Dembele after an unusual delay caused by the club negotiating a maze of other personnel changes which included the Rafinha signing. The Blaugrana have finalized the permanent transfer of Philippe Coutinho with Aston Villa. More helpful of course would the large bag of cash which would come from a de Jong transfer. Barca, meanwhile expressed no interest in retaining the loan services of Adama Traore who has returned to Wolverhampton chastened by his lack of success in La Liga during his loan spell last season. Traore, however, could capture the interest of Spurs after the club was rebuffed by Rafinha. Spurs and Manager Antonio Conte were interested in the Wolves’ winger during last January’s window. Memphis Depay is another player who wants to stay in sunny Barcelona despite diminished prospects. Depay is likely to be most disadvantaged by Rafinha’s arrival, but the former Manchester United player has supposedly rebuffed overtures by Arsenal and Spurs. Spurs’ aggressive window has included acquiring Barcelona defender Clement Lenglet on loan. Lenglet’s surplus to requirements status at Barca was helped along by Barcelona’s acquisition of former Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen on a free transfer. Chelsea owner Todd Boehly, meanwhile, was in Barcelona recently to negotiate the transfer of Chelsea players Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcus Alonso to the Catalans with a possible move of Barcelona defender and US national Sergino Dest to Stamford Bridge. The rumor mill even churned out supposed interest by the London club in midfielder de Jong. That unlikely move would be crushing to Manchester United. A de Jong transfer has not only hindered Manchester United’s progress this window but could be holding up one of the larger global moves in soccer. Robert Lewandowski, scorer of 50 goals across all competitions for Bayern Munich last season, wants a move from the Bundesliga to Barcelona. Chelsea Manager Thomas Tuchel also has reported interest in the Polish striker. Lewandowski though seems to want a Barca move or else will stay with Bayern where he has joined preseason training. If he does pack his bags for Barcelona, the extraordinary goal scorer would join Premier League alumni Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal) and Ferran Torres (Manchester City) in a formidable front line for the Blaugrana. If Lewandowski were to reconsider a move to Chelsea, however, it would change the face of Chelsea football as the world class striker would join recently acquired Raheem Sterling in a suddenly explosive Blues attack.

Friday, July 8, 2022

Leeds United States Connections; Arsenal Get Their Man

Marsch Adds American Talent Among Six Leeds Summer Signings

Leeds United announced the signing of United States international Tyler Adams. The signing completes the move of the midfielder from RB Leipzig where Adams once played under current Leeds Manager Jesse Marsch. Adams will be playing for a third time under the American born Marsch with player and manager having also spent time together at New York Red Bull in Major League Soccer (MLS).

Adams will join fellow United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) member Brendan Aaronson who was signed by Leeds earlier in this window from RB Salzburg where the attacker played for a brief six-month period during Marsch’s stint as the manager for that Austrian club. Aaronson also has spent time in MLS with Philadelphia Union. A smooth transition by USMNT members Adams and Aaronson will contribute to the near-term success of Leeds and Marsch but will also improve the prospects for future American managers and players in the Premier League.

The record of US players in the league has been spotty. Tim Howard was a solid goalkeeper in the league, first for Manchester United and later for Everton. Clint Dempsey scored 23 goals in one season for Fulham. Christian Pulisic has provided highlight moments at Chelsea, but injury and inconsistency have kept him from reaching elite status. Nether Adams nor Aaronson will ever be considered elite but if they perform well, it could help the case for more US players in the Premier League. Josh Sargent’s deplorable year at Norwich this past season certainly did not help that cause. American managers have had an even more difficult time gaining a foothold in the league. German born David Wagner managed Huddersfield in the league for a brief time but the pedigree of the best man at Jurgen Klopp’s wedding was formed in the Bundesliga. The tenure of former MLS and USMNT manager Bob Bradley at Swansea in the Premier League was short, unsuccessful and subject to ridicule.

Jesse Marsch has taken the first step to gaining respect for American football managers in Europe by successfully, though narrowly, leading Leeds though a harrowing survival race last season. Leeds escaped relegation by a mere three points, winning their final match of the season to stay in the Premier League. The club looks to be losing two of its best talents from that team in Kalvin Phillips and Rafinha. Adams and Aaronson are lesser players but have the benefit of familiarity with Marsch’s system. Adams is the more accomplished of the two Americans, if not to the level of English international Phillips who was snatched up by Manchester City. Champions League and Europa League appearances for RB Leipzig burnish the resume of Adams. Aaronson, meanwhile, scored but six goals in the Austrian Bundesliga last season and is not a replacement for Rafinha who is rumored for a move to Barcelona or Chelsea. Leeds has made six signings this window including Luis Sinisterra, a 23-goal scorer for Feyenoord the Eredivisie last season. Leeds ownership, which includes the 44% holding by the investment arm of the San Francisco 49ers, is backing its American manager to rebuild a roster capable of beating the drop once again.

Gunners Look to Jesus for Answer

Another Premier League manager reached out for a former player as Arsenal finalized their deal to acquire Manchester City forward Gabriel Jesus. Jesus experienced some of his best runs of play while current Arsenal Manager Mikel Arteta was an assistant to Pep Guardiola for the Citizens.

The relationship between manager and player will be important as the Gunners incorporate Jesus into their scheme. Jesus is on record as being more comfortable on the wing where he plays for his native Brazil. Arsenal, however, needs a center forward. Gabriel has played the position but was unable to declare it his own for a Manchester City club which reverted to using a false nine last season. Midfielders such as Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden played the role for Guardiola last season as the minutes for Jesus were reduced. Manchester City has now moved on to a traditional striker in Erling Haaland. Arteta, meanwhile, needs Jesus to fill the void in the middle of the front-line for the Gunners which was created by the departures of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette. Arsenal already has a young crop of attacking wing players such as Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Emile Smith Rowe. None of Arsenal’s attackers, however, are as dynamic as Jesus. The Brazilian is a two-way player with exceptional dribbling and pressing abilities. Jesus’ goal production while at Manchester City is also underrated. The forward’s rate of one goal every 160 minutes is the seventh best rate of production in the Premier League since Jesus arrived in the league in 2017. Mikel Arteta needs to make his newly acquired talent comfortable and unleash the potential of a player who is entering his prime at 25 years of age. 


Monday, July 4, 2022

Should I Stay or Should I go…Stars Making Different Decisions

Two world superstars made different decisions this past week. Mohamed Salah signed an extension with Liverpool, binding him to the club until 2025. Cristiano Ronaldo, meanwhile, has asked out of the Manchester United morass.

Salah’s agreement puts an end to the months long speculation that he would exit Manager Jurgen Klopp’s side. Instead, it was linemate Sadio Mane who departed, and Salah who will now have the Merseyside spotlight to himself while being ably supported by the likes of Diogo Jota, Luis Diaz, newly acquired Darwin Nunez and possibly, though not assuredly, long-time teammate Bobby Firmino.

Securing their superstar brings relief to a Liverpool fan base that has thrilled to Salah’s 156 goals since joining the club in 2017. Salah’s time at Anfield has seen to club rise to the heights of the football world, winning both a Champions League crown and Premier League title under Manager Jurgen Klopp. Salah was the Premier League’s Player of the Year this past season and scored 31 goals across all competitions for the Reds. Salah’s 23 Premier League goals tied him for the league’s Golden Boot with Spurs’ Son Heung-min.

Salah’s success on the field is matched by an off-field persona marked by charitable contributions, religious devotion and an accessible bonding with club supporters. Salah’s extension and the previous extension of Klopp’s contract until 2026 mean the current golden era of Liverpool football will continue.

A club which is father than ever from its golden era is Manchester United. Drama at the club continued this week with the announcement that Cristiano Ronaldo has requested a transfer. The global superstar rejoined the Premier League club last summer with the expectation of returning the Red Devils to glory. Instead, the club suffered its worst Premier League season ever with Ronaldo often blamed for the collapse despite a club leading 24 goals in all competitions and a Premier League scoring haul which trailed only that of joint Golden Boot leaders Salah and Son. Ronaldo was accused of contributing to a toxic and divided locker room as he criticized the younger players for their effort and performance while his outsized persona on and off the field was believed to inhibit the development of those same players. At the end of the day, Ronaldo wants to compete for trophies, the Champions League in particular, and Manchester United does not present that near term opportunity for the 37-year-old as new manager Erik ten Hag begins a rebuild of the once powerful club.

Ten Hag’s early rebuilding efforts are off to a slow start as the Frenkie de Jong saga drags on. The Barcelona midfielder is ten Hag’s much publicized primary target and yet a deal has not yet happened amid rumblings that the player prefers to remain in Spain. The latest twist to the story was a statement by Barcelona’s president Joan Laporta that the club intended to make every effort to keep the Dutch midfielder.

Ronaldo supporters in Manchester hold out the possibility that the frustrated Ronaldo is threatening his personal departure as a ploy to kick start the transfer widow for Manchester United which has lagged other top clubs in getting deals across the line. United has claimed Ronaldo is not for sale, despite the striker’s public desire, even as the Portuguese legend did not appear for his first day of scheduled training at the club’s Carrington Road facility.


Friday, July 1, 2022

Spurs Acquire Richarlison; Lukaku Seals Inter Return

Tottenham Hotspur added to their transfer window haul with the purchase of Richarlison from Everton. The north London club has been aggressive this transfer window, further evidence that Manager Antonio Conte has commanded the confidence of club ownership after impressively qualifying for Champions League football with a top four finish. Richarlison is Spurs’ fourth acquisition in this current window. Conte made his first impact on the club’s transfer business, however, last winter with the acquisition of Dejan Kulusevski and Rodrigo Bentancur from Juventus. Those players strengthened a roster deemed severely lacking by Conte when he took over the club last season and helped put the club in Champions League position.

Richarlison fits with Conte’s desire for proven players. The Brazilian forward scored 53 goals in 153 appearances across all competitions for the Toffees and his intangibles and timely goals played a leading role in Everton’s late season 2021/22 survival run. Richarlison now becomes part of a reinforced Spurs attacking force. The Brazilian’s ability to play any position across the front line provides an attractive backup for Harry Kane at striker while Richarlison shares and competes for time on the flanks with the likes of Son Heung-min, Kulusevski and recently acquired Ivan Perisic.

With his front-line needs addressed and Brighton’s Yves Bissouma signed to solidify the midfield, Conte now reportedly has his sight set on defensive reinforcement with Barcelona’s Clement Lenglet believed to be in the crosshairs. The departure of Everton’s most valuable player, meanwhile, is a blow for a club which just barely survived relegation. The club’s financial position, however, left little choice. The Toffees have incurred staggering losses in recent years and stand accused of Financial Fair Play violations in a complaint filed by relegated Burnley. Everton owner Farhad Moshiri is reportedly in discussions to sell the struggling Merseyside club. The sale of Richarlison will hopefully spare the sale of homegrown star Anthony Gordon who is coveted by other clubs including Spurs. Toffee Manager Frank Lampard, meanwhile, has limited funds for incoming transfers. Reported interest in the free transfer of former Manchester United player Jesse Lingard thus makes sense as the Toffees try to fill the hole left by Richarlison’s departure.

A heartwarming farewell message from Richarlison to an appreciative Everton fan base was an amicable, if sad, parting compared to the bitter departure of Romelu Lukaku from Chelsea to Inter Milan. Both Richarlison and Lukaku led their clubs in goals across all competitions this past season. Chelsea fans, however, were little impressed with Lukaku’s production and commitment. Chelsea finalized the loan of the Belgian striker to former club Inter Milan this week amid further revelations of the level of discord and unhappiness which clouded Lukaku’s Premier League season. Chelsea Manager Thomas Tuchel now stands accused of making derisive remarks regarding Lukaku’s relationship with former Inter Milan Manager Antonio Conte. Chelsea fans, meanwhile, are angered by the revelation that Lukau was in touch with current Inter Milan Manager Simone Inzaghi throughout last season to set the stage for a return to Italy. Lukau had publicly voiced his unhappiness in London and desire for a return to Milan in a misguided interview last December. Despite the departure of their leading goal scorer, Chelsea supporters are only saddened that this week’s transaction represents only a loan and not a permanent goodbye.