Morata backed to overcome disciplinary concerns at Chelsea

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has blamed Alvaro Morata’s poor disciplinary record on the pressure of being the number one striker at Stamford Bridge.

The 25-year-old Spain international has played bit-part roles at former clubs Real Madrid and Juventus, with his previous highest number of league starts being 16 at Serie A champions Juve in the 2015-16 season.

He is already up to 18 at Chelsea and, after a positive start, his form has dipped alarmingly – Morata has not scored in six games in all competitions.

The player’s frustration was evident on Wednesday against Norwich City in the FA Cup as he received two quickfire yellow cards, the first for alleged simulation and the second for protesting the decision. He will now serve his second suspension of the season at Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday.

Conte said: “For the strikers, this situation can happen. For Alvaro, this is the first season that he’s been having a full season. Maybe, for him, this is the first time to face this type of problem. But he has to overcome this problem because this is a stupid problem.

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“You have to work for the team and not lose confidence. The coach trusts him, his team-mates trust him, the club trusts him, the fans trust him. I don’t see a problem, but this is the first time Morata has faced this situation. Before, if you stay on the bench, you don’t have this type of pressure. So now he has to learn to face this type of situation, move forward and go on.”

Conte expressed sympathy for Morata regarding his sending-off against Norwich.

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He said: “I think the player knows very well his mistake. There was frustration for the first yellow card, because the player didn’t deserve it.

“If the referee doesn’t want to give the penalty, in this situation it’s still not right to book him.

“But, at the same time, you must learn to control yourself. The second yellow card was for dissent. I agree with the player for the first yellow card, but I don’t agree with the player for the second yellow card. He has to check himself in future.”


Conte should replace Wenger at Arsenal – Carragher

Antonio Conte would be the ideal replacement for Arsene Wenger when the veteran Frenchman leaves his post as Arsenal manager, according to Jamie Carragher.

Wenger signed a new two-year deal at the Emirates Stadium in May, but has not won the league title since the 2003-04 season, while the Gunners are on a five-game winless run in all competitions and in danger of missing out on Champions League qualification for the second year running.

Conte – reportedly frustrated with Chelsea’s transfer policy – also penned fresh terms at the end of last season, although they did not extend his tenure and he has consistently been linked with a range of other managerial positions, including the Italian national team and Serie A underachievers AC Milan.

And Carragher believes Arsenal should put Conte at the top of their wishlist for when Wenger eventually decides to end his 21-year reign at the helm.

“If Conte’s situation is precarious – the Chelsea hierarchy ambivalent on his future and Conte increasingly frustrated by the structure of the club – there will be a long queue for his services,” Carragher wrote in a column for the Telegraph.

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“I could imagine Real Madrid considering Conte as a replacement for Zinedine Zidane, whose position looks vulnerable. The Italian national team would beg him to go back after their failure to qualify for the World Cup.

“There is talk of him returning to Italian football but having managed the national team and led Juventus to three Serie A titles in a row, would heading home at this stage of his career be so appealing? He has nothing more to prove in his own country.

“There is one club in particular, much closer to his current home, I feel should be monitoring developments more than others; a club desperately in need of Conte’s persona, who would send a rocket through every department of their institution and instantly change perceptions. That club is Arsenal.

“I can imagine no more suitable replacement for Arsene Wenger than Conte.

“It would be one of the most astute managerial appointments in Premier League history.

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“Arsenal are still stuck in a cycle of mediocrity they have been unable to escape for several years. I will never lose respect for Wenger – his legacy in English football is preserved and he will always be considered one of the all-time greats – but I said last year his time was coming to an end and nothing has changed.

“Conte is too good for Chelsea to let go. They should be desperately trying to keep him, not only because he will bring more success to the club, but to ensure he does not come back to haunt them when he returns with a rival.

“If the Chelsea board cannot see that, Arsenal should do everything in their power to ensure it is a short Tube ride to his next destination.”


Batshuayi and Joao Mario talk curbed by West Ham boss Moyes

David Moyes did not attend Chelsea’s FA Cup replay against Norwich City to scout Michy Batshuayi, while the West Ham boss has dealt a blow to the Blues in their reported chase of Andy Carroll.

Belgium international Batshuayi has been strongly linked with a move away from Stamford Bridge in January after struggling to make an impact at Chelsea in the year-and-a-half since moving from Marseille.

Batshuayi – who scored for Chelsea against Norwich – had been suggested as a potential makeweight in a deal to take Carroll the other way, with Antonio Conte’s side linked with several surprising options, including Stoke City veteran Peter Crouch.

But Moyes attempted to end those rumours in his column for the London Evening Standard, with Carroll unlikely to play again for anyone this month.

“Categorically, I did not go to Stamford Bridge to watch Batshuayi or any other player in particular,” he wrote.

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“I like to get out and watch plenty of matches, I hadn’t seen Norwich this season and there were some players there who had been mentioned to me as having been doing well.

“What may defuse much of the speculation is that the ankle injury Andy picked up against West Brom is sufficiently serious that he will not be able to play again this month anyway and it could even need an operation to put things right, although that has not yet been confirmed.”

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Moyes, meanwhile, has also sought to curb talk suggesting that Inter winger Joao Mario is among those on his January wish list.

The Portugal international, who has also been linked with Manchester United, is a player the Hammers boss admires, but one he is reluctant to speculate on.

The Scot added: “I think he’s a name which has been mentioned but whether he’s from Inter Milan or Chelsea or wherever I’m not talking about players from other clubs,” Moyes added. “He’s an interesting player, he’s a good footballer and certainly very talented.”


Klopp faithful to Karius but warns Liverpool keeper ‘has to deliver’

Jurgen Klopp is not about to go back on his decision to name Loris Karius as Liverpool’s first-choice goalkeeper despite a mistake against Manchester City, but he has warned that the 24-year-old “has to deliver”.

Klopp revealed after the 4-3 defeat of City that Karius – who started the game – was to be his first-choice goalkeeper for the foreseeable future.

That admission should have brought an end to the debate of which goalkeeper was to hold the position regularly for the remainder of the season, but further questions have been asked of Karius after being deemed culpable for Leroy Sane’s goal against City.

Klopp insists he is not so quick to change his mind, however, adamant that he is to remain faithful to Karius so long as he performs, with a trip to Swansea City up next on Monday.

When it was put to Klopp that Simon Mignolet had been dropped in favour of Karius while he was performing well, Klopp said to reporters: “Do you really think that I change my mind that quick?

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“First of all, it’s the first time I heard anything positive about Simon Mignolet. I’m happy about that. I was always positive about him, so maybe you should tell him personally.

“It’s a very difficult job to be a goalkeeper or a centre-half at Liverpool because no one forgives you [after] one mistake. Obviously, since I’m here​,​ it feels like ‘wow’ if our goalkeeper makes a mistake and it’s a disaster.

“If any other goalkeeper makes a mistake then he’s still a fantastic goalkeeper and we should still buy him. I’m really fine with our goalkeeper situation.

“Loris Karius could have made a save around the first goal [against City], even though I think it was a world-class finish in this moment. It always makes sense to say the truth.

“He’s a really good goalkeeper and we brought him in because we wanted him to play. There were a few difficulties, but he’s settled as well. [There are] a lot of really good things in his game — they are natural, I like them, and now he can show them.

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“That’s all. We changed a lot of positions during the year, but only with the goalkeeper it looks like [according to pundits] we have to stick to our opinion for 20 years if we made a decision one time. I changed not my opinion, but the situation. That’s all.

“But of course, Loris has to deliver. He knows that. Now he is the No.1 and that means he can play again and he can concede a goal like he conceded against Manchester [City].

“It’s not like we want that, but it’s still possible. All the good things, I like to see again. I saw a lot of good things in the games he played in the last few weeks. That’s why he’s in.”


Conte quiet on Chelsea links to Dzeko & Llorente but would be ‘happy’ for transfer help

Antonio Conte has refused to discuss the plethora of strikers linked with Chelsea in recent days, but admits he would be “happy” if the club opted to bolster his squad in the January window.

Chelsea have reportedly considered bringing in a traditional target man – Edin Dzeko, Fernando Llorente and even Stoke City veteran Peter Crouch have been mentioned – with Conte seemingly on the look-out for a back-up to the struggling Alvaro Morata.

And while the former Italy boss was not willing to talk about individuals, he did hint some help would be welcomed.

Asked specifically if he was confident the club would see some new players arrive before the end of the month, he said: “I am confident? Confident is a big word, we have to wait.

“I give my opinion to the club but the final decision is for the club. I have to wait to see what happens. I am very calm in this aspect because I am working with my players in the right way and I am very happy for their commitment.

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“If the club wants to help us we are happy, otherwise we continue in this way and give ourselves every day to give satisfaction to our fans.”

Conte was asked directly about Dzeko, Llorente and Crouch but gave a familiar reply, adding: “As you know, it is not right to talk about players from other teams. I am not interested in it. 

“In this moment I can talk about my players, Morata and [Michy] Batshuayi. It is not right to talk about the characteristics of other players. 

“I have always said that I’m happy to work with my players, to try to improve them. Every striker has their own characteristics, in his case Morata has this and Batshuayi has this.” 

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One new recruit now available to Conte is Ross Barkley, who signed from Everton on January 5. The England midfielder played 70 minutes in a friendly on Thursday and is in the squad for Saturday’s trip to Brighton and Hove Albion.

Conte added: “Ross is in good physical condition. He’s in the squad, he’s coming with us. I don’t know if during the game I decide to give him the chance to play a part or wait.”

The champions will, however, be without the injured Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabregas while Morata and Pedro are both suspended.