Category: EPL-English Premier League

Antonio Conte: Chelsea manager concedes title after loss to West Ham

Antonio Conte conceded that Chelsea’s title defence “never started” and that his team are out of the Premier League title race after losing to West Ham United.

Marko Arnautovic’s goal earned the Hammers, who are in 18th place, a 1-0 victory over the Blues at London Stadium, while the champions suffered a fourth defeat of the season on Saturday and are 11 points behind leaders Manchester City.

During the start of the Premier League season, Chelsea opened their title defence with a loss against Burnley and had also gone on to lose in back-to-back games against Manchester City and struggling Crystal Palace. West Ham were without a win in eight league games before defeating the Blues last weekend.

Those defeats saw the defending champions dropping 16 points, just five short of the entire number they ceded in 2016-17, and Conte admitted that it is far short of the standard required for a realistic tilt at the top.

“To talk about the title race after a defeat, I think it a bit strange,” the Italian said. “Especially as this is the fourth defeat this season in 16 games. When you have this task it is impossible to think that you are in the title race.”

“My experience is this: if you want to stay in the race for the title, in the first part of the season you can lose once or twice. After 16 games, if you lose four, it means you never started this race.”

Conte also added that the players were tired in the game, rarely threatening despite their 69% possession.

“We created the chances but didn’t take them,” Conte added. “Today, many players were tired. It is normal when you play every few days. We started our pre-season with the same players, a lot are playing almost always, and you have to pay something for this.”

“We  have a lot of reason to justify the result against Manchester City — we played after two days. When you lose against Palace, when they are bottom of the table, and lose again against West Ham when they are in a bad position — if you lose points in these games, you are not in the title race.”

Romelu Lukaku could face retrospective ban for kicking out at player

Romelu Lukaku could be hit with a three-match ban that would rule him out the Manchester derby after appearing to have kicking out at Brighton defender Gaetan Bong.

Referee Neil Swarbrick, in charge of United’s 1-0 win at Old Trafford on Saturday, is due to submit his match report on Monday and after if wgucg the FA would review video footage of the incident.

The incident, which took happened at the Brighton penalty area in the second half when United hosted Brighton during the weekend, took place just moments before Ashley Young’s deflected winner for United and went unpunished at the time.

Video footage appears to show Lukaku aiming two kicks at Bong, the second of which looks to have made contact the Brighton defender.

In such incidents, the FA can look at the video and choose to charge the 24-year-old Belgian with violent conduct even if it is not mentioned in Swarbrick’s officiating report.

Should Lukaku be found guilty of the charge, it would rule him out of United’s next three domestic games — against Watford at Vicarage Road on Tuesday, against Arsenal at the Emirates on Saturday and the first Manchester derby of the season against Manchester City the following weekend.

The latter case could prove to be a vital fixture as it features the two teams currently standing on the summit of the Premier League table.

Lukaku has scored 12 goals in 20 games since his summer switch from Everton but has just one in his last 10 appearances, and should he be suspended United would turn to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who has made three substitute appearances since returning from a seven-month injury lay-off.

Manchester United: Marouane Fellaini could leave on free next summer

Manchester United midfielder Marouane Fellaini could be leaving the club on a free agent next summer after refusing to sign the new contract the club offered him in September.

The Belgian international, who has recovered from injury recently in time to play against Chelsea, have been at the negotiating table since last season on a new deal as he remains unhappy at the terms offered.

Fellaini, 29, is thought to want a marked increase on his terms, despite earning around £120,000 a week after United triggered a one-year extension in January and raised his salary from £80,000 a week.

However, United boss Jose Mourinho has been adamant that he will not sanction his sale in the January window even if the former Everton player has still not agreed a fresh deal by then — something of which could see United face the prospect of a player who turns 30 next week, and so is in his prime, walking away for nothing.

Still, if that comes to pass, since United do not hold any options to trigger an automatic extension he would be free to sign a pre-contract agreement with any club outside the Premier League in January.

This was perfectly legal as player contract regulations stipulates that they can negotiate a transfer six months with another club before their current agreement with their current club expires.

Fellaini has emerged as a key part of Mourinho’s team, after he endured a difficult start when signing for David Moyes for £27.5m in the summer of 2013. 56 of his 142 United appearances have come in the 15 months since Mourinho took charge of the Red Devils.

The Portuguese has also been a staunch supporter of his player amidst heavy criticism against a number of his performances, and despite the protracted discussions and the impasse Mourinho has not given up hope Fellaini will agree to sign on again.