EPL

Werner and Havertz need strong personalities to succeed at Chelsea – Kuranyi

By Sports Desk April 26, 2021

Chelsea duo Timo Werner and Kai Havertz need strong personalities to succeed at Stamford Bridge, according to Kevin Kuranyi.

Germany stars Werner and Havertz both joined Chelsea at the start of the season, from RB Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen respectively, amid high expectations but it has been a challenging start to life for the pair in the Premier League.

After scoring 28 goals in the Bundesliga and 34 across all competitions last season, Werner has found the back of the net on 11 occasions and supplied nine assists for Chelsea this term, including six Premier League goals.

Havertz – who became Chelsea's most expensive outfield player ahead of the 2020-21 campaign – has shown glimpses of his quality with six goals and six assists, though he has largely struggled.

Former Germany striker Kuranyi backed the pair to rediscover their best form in London.

"Of course they were playing a really high level in Germany," 52-time Germany international Kuranyi, who played for Stuttgart and Schalke in the Bundesliga, told Stats Perform News.

"But if you play in a club like Chelsea… I was talking with some friends who play at Chelsea before and there it is very important to have a strong personality to play there.

"They are young players, like Havertz – he is in the first step of his career. He made a big, big step so he needs time to keep his quality at Chelsea.

"I think the first year is very important to learn a lot, to try to do the best, but in the second and third year will be much better."

Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea – fourth in the Premier League – are preparing to face Real Madrid in the opening leg of their Champions League semi-final showdown on Tuesday.

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  • BREAKING NEWS: Milan crowned Serie A champions BREAKING NEWS: Milan crowned Serie A champions

    Milan have been crowned as Serie A champions for the first time since the 2010-11 campaign after beating Sassuolo.

    Stefano Pioli's men went into the final day of the season knowing they simply needed to avoid defeat to clinch their first Scudetto in over a decade.

    The Rossoneri had established a two-point lead over rivals Inter – against whom they also held a head-to-head advantage – at the Serie A summit. 

    And they made sure of their success with a 3-0 defeat of Sassuolo, thanks to goals from Olivier Giroud and Franck Kessie.

    Milan travelled to Sassuolo having made light of a challenging run-in, winning five consecutive games to tee up their historic triumph, as they matched the Nerazzurri's tally of 19 Italian top-flight titles. Only Juventus (36) have more than the two Milanese giants. 

    While Inter avoided handing the title to the Rossoneri following a hard-fought 3-1 win over Cagliari last weekend, their result against Sampdoria on the final day was ultimately immaterial as Milan made their advantage count at the end of an absorbing title race.

    The Rossoneri's last title triumph came under the tutelage of Massimiliano Allegri some 11 seasons ago, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Alexandre Pato, and Robinho each scoring 14 Serie A goals apiece as Milan finished six points clear of Inter.

    Pioli's men have been able to rely on a fantastic defensive record to get them over the line, conceding just eight league goals since the turn of the year.

    Indeed, 11 of Milan's 17 Serie A clean sheets this season have come in 2022, and last week's crucial 2-0 win over Atalanta marked the first time they had kept five consecutive home clean sheets in Serie A since a run of six under Carlo Ancelotti in 2002.

    The Rossoneri's title win also marks the first major trophy of Pioli's coaching career, and the club's first trophy win since the 2016 Supercoppa Italiana.

  • Milan champions 2021-22: Djokovic's first Wimbledon title, the launch of Game of Thrones – how the world looked when Rossoneri last reigned Milan champions 2021-22: Djokovic's first Wimbledon title, the launch of Game of Thrones – how the world looked when Rossoneri last reigned

    Milan are top dogs in Italy for the first time in 11 years after holding off fierce rivals Inter to finish top of Serie A.

    The Rossoneri finished the season with six wins in a row, and no defeat in 16, culminating in a 3-0 victory over Sassuolo on Sunday.

    After falling just short in Stefano Pioli's first campaign at the helm when finishing second, Milan can finally celebrate a first Scudetto since 2010-11.

    While it may only have been a little over a decade since Milan last reigned, a lot has changed both in a sporting and non-sporting sense.

    Here, Stats Perform looks at how the world looked around the time of the club's most recent triumph in 2011.

     

    First of many for Djokovic, McIlroy makes his mark

    Novak Djokovic is favourite to win Wimbledon for a seventh time next month, though he was yet to claim his first crown at SW19 when Milan last lifted the Scudetto.

    The Serbian went on to add the US Open to the Australian Open he also won that year, overtaking Rafael Nadal to become world number one in the process.

    Tiger Woods was the highest-earning sportsman that year – some things never change – yet it was Rory McIlroy's name on everyone's lips after taking the world of golf by storm.

    McIlroy carded a 69 in the final round to break the US Open scoring record with a 268 as he became the youngest winner of the tournament since Bobby Jones in 1923.

    A number of major sporting events took place that year, with New Zealand beating France in the Rugby World Cup final and Japan triumphing in the women's football equivalent.

    India saw off Sri Lanka to celebrate Cricket World Cup success on home soil, meanwhile, and Netherlands beat Cuba in the Baseball World Cup.

    Deposed leaders fall

    In the world of politics, hundreds were killed and thousands more injured during violent clashes in Egypt to protest against government corruption and poverty.

    Fidel Castro resigned as First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba after serving in the party for 45 years. He died in 2016 at the age of 90.

    A 10-year search for Osama bin Laden came to an end when the al-Qaeda founder was killed by special forces in Pakistan.

    Deposed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was captured and killed during the civil war, leading to widespread ramifications.

    A year of world-shifting events culminated in the United States withdrawing its last troops from Iraq, eight years after the war had begun.


    Winter is (almost) coming

    Television has come a long way over the past decade, not least in terms of the countless streaming services and wide array of boxsets to appease anyone and everyone.

    Back when Massimo Ambrosini lifted the Scudetto in 2011, arguably the most popular series of all time, Game of Thrones, was still midway through airing its first season.

    Suits, Homeland and The Killing also premiered that year, while over in Italy, 48-year-old painter Fabrizio Vendramin (us neither) won the second season of Italia's Got Talent.

    Beyond painters, erm, painting to an audience of millions, the big TV talking point that year was Charlie Sheen being fired from Two and a Half Men for "self-destructive conduct".

    Relight My Fire

    The importance of certain technology, not least smartphones, has only grown in the past 11 years.

    Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, played a huge part in that up until his untimely death at the age of 56 in October 2011 after battling pancreatic cancer.

    One of the standout product launches of the year was Amazon's Kindle Fire, which undoubtedly helped chairman Jeff Bezos on his way to becoming the world's richest man.

    Whether Milan's current crop can stand the test of time, unlike the Kindle, remains to be seen.

  • Serie A champions 2021-22: Modern Milan's title win and where to from here? Serie A champions 2021-22: Modern Milan's title win and where to from here?

    For a club like Milan, 11 years make for a long wait.

    Let alone the enormous hierarchical changes that have taken place at Casa Milan over that period, with turbulent changes of ownership and coaches that have impacted various transformations in approach both on and off the pitch, those 11 years in European football have witnessed a seismic tactical shift.

    The Rossoneri's last Serie A title in 2010-11 sits as a stark contrast to this year's title charge that ended in success, glory sealed on Sunday with a 3-0 win at Sassuolo.

    In 2010-11, the Scudetto was like a perfect storm – upon Massimiliano Allegri's hiring as coach, Alexandre Pato was coming into his own before injuries started to take their toll, while Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva were solidifying their respective statuses as world-class footballers in their positions, amid the career tail-ends of Clarence Seedorf and Alessandro Nesta.

    That Milan team was inherently reflective of its time, leaning on the likes of Ibrahimovic, Pato and Robinho to provide goals, moments and the eventual title. Despite Ibrahimovic's added contribution of 12 assists that season, their equal share of 14 league goals each was fitting. But coming into the final game of the season this weekend, Rafael Leao was the only Milan player to have scored over 10 goals.

    Reflecting the totality of role that midfields at the top of European football must now characterise, Milan have effectively challenged for the Scudetto this season – and last season – without a front third it can lean on. Less diplomatically, Milan's front third has been a collection of misfit toys jumbled together as the purse strings have tightened.

    Despite falling away after Christmas, it is what made last season's run so distinct, for it was ultimately volatile in the second half of the season and served as a precursor to this term. Following Ismael Bennacer and Ibrahimovic's injuries against Napoli in November 2020, Milan were performing the proverbial smash and grab on a weekly basis, on the back of Franck Kessie's penalty exploits and Theo Hernandez doing Theo Hernandez things at left-back. Their 3-2 win over Lazio coming into that Christmas was a particularly distinct example.

    How has this Milan team achieved this Serie A title with a largely dysfunctional frontline in possession? How do the Rossoneri build something sustainable from it, given the Scudetto for this project has arguably come ahead of schedule, despite losing Gianluigi Donnarumma to Paris Saint-Germain, along with successive injury spells for Ibrahimovic and Simon Kjaer?

    In contrast to last season, Milan have come home strongly, going undefeated since their loss in mid-January to Spezia. Following the African Cup of Nations as well as a debilitative run of injuries and Covid-19, Bennacer has finally been able to put together a consistent run of games since February. With the arguable exception of Marcelo Brozovic, the 24-year-old has re-established himself as the best midfielder in Serie A.

    Along with the ever-improving Sandro Tonali, the diminutive Algerian gives Milan oxygen while taking it away from the opposition, in both attacking and defensive senses. The latter is a critical aspect for under Stefano Pioli, Milan press high up the pitch more than any team in Serie A. Among players over 500 minutes, Bennacer leads the team for combined tackles and interceptions (4.08) per 90.

    Something that's particularly important is how he can compress the pitch and close off the middle for the opposition through where he wins the ball, not simply how much of it he wins. Bennacer has an innate ability to step onto the opposition's initial pass into Milan's defensive half and come out with the ball, allowing the Rossoneri to spring into transition or maintain territorial superiority.

    His spatial awareness also transfers to the offensive side of the game, as an extension of the simple fact he shows for the ball to feet in areas his team-mates in midfield do not.

    It unlocks his technical aptitude and sense of balance on the ball, with the ability to wriggle out of tight spots and get the team up the pitch. As a result, Bennacer (2.18) dwarfs Tonali (1.05) and Kessie (1.34) for successful dribbles per 90, while seeing more of the ball over the course of a game and in more damaging areas, with 83.9 touches per 90 in comparison to Tonali's 65.51 and Kessie's 66.63.

    Meanwhile, Kessie playing a more advanced role in midfield for periods this season has not translated to a correspondent gap in chances created from open play.

    Kessie - who scored against Sassuolo - leads the three with 1.05 per 90 this term, in comparison to Tonali's 0.84 and Bennacer's 0.98. Kessie's forthcoming departure for Barcelona might actually unlock Milan's best tandem in Pioli's 4-2-3-1.

    With Bennacer, Milan can play through their midfield and not have to rely on the attacking force of nature at left-back that is Hernandez. His open play xG p90 of 0.11 and 1.06 chances created from open play p90 is simply eyewatering from left-back - especially in comparison to Alessandro Florenzi and Pierre Kalulu's respective 0.55 and 0.34 in the latter category.

    Ultimately, amid Ibrahimovic running on fumes at 40, the members of Milan's attack have largely singular skill sets and as a sum of their parts, are still largely inflexible.

    Players like Leao, Alexis Saelemaekers, Olivier Giroud and Junior Messias – and even Ante Rebic when available - are all necessary in some capacity on top of what they provide in defensive pressure up the pitch, but with the ball Milan are a much less flexible team in the absence of that Tonali/Bennacer tandem – something last weekend's win over Atalanta arguably only reinforced despite the result.

    The need to maximise midfield balance in relation to attacking personnel is a distinct dynamic across Serie A, particularly in contrast to Juventus' diminishing power and as the arms race for forwards intensifies across the rest of the top five. Yet in a season where the Italian title winner will not break 90 points, none reflect that dynamic more than the Rossoneri.

    The narrative accompanying Milan's Scudetto triumph this season will be one of a European giant being quote unquote "back". 

    Their ability to maintain this level domestically in coming seasons - as well as challenging on the continent, with meek group stage exits in the Champions League like this season only being tolerable for so long among an ambitious fan base - will ultimately depend on how this relatively young team builds around Tonali and Bennacer.

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