Gunners’ fans should be pleased with the signing of Anderlecht’s Belgian midfielder Albert Sambi Lokonga. I have seen this boy play and can confirm that he is very, very good. The 21-year-old completed a five-year deal and is Mikel Arteta’s second signing after Benfica defender Nuno Tavares. Lokonga first appeared for Anderlecht in 2017 and has been a regular ever since making 78 appearances. He was selected for the Belgian Euros team squad. Arteta heaped praise on Anderlecht manager Vincent Kompany explaining that he had coached the youngster well and enabled him to become a top player. It was Kompany who contacted Mikel and recommended him for Arsenal. The Gunners also look to have won their quest to sign Brighton’s Ben White for £50million. He is taking a medical on Monday and the deal should be completed. After last season’s mediocre performances Arteta is under huge pressure to deliver success for 2021/2. With Arteta finally getting his act together and bringing in new talent, I keep hearing that if Jordan Henderson leaves Liverpool the Gunners want him. Arteta feels that Jordan could provide the much needed spine for his midfield/defence in the same way Patrick Viera played for Arsenal during the glory years. I am told the manager is also currently considering putting White and Rob Holding in a defensive pairing with Kieran Tierney forming a back three.
Tottenham awaiting “Little Johan Cryuff”
Tottenham are in advanced talks to bring in Bryan Gil from Seville for £21million. New manager Nuno Espirito Santos is willing to let Erik Lamela move to Spain as part of the deal. Gil is known as the “Little Johan Cruyff” because of his looks and style of play. Lamela’s agents have agreed a three-year deal with Seville. Spurs are also hoping to sign Cristian Romero from Atalanta and the 23-year-old Argentine international is a strong centre back, a hard tackler, excellent ball header and commands respect.
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Klopp still awaiting his big stars for pre-season tour
It is often difficult for managers to assemble their best players after a major international competition. Jurgen Klopp is only now seeing his players dribble back to join the club from national duties followed by agreed holidays. Diogo Jota has finally arrived in Austria for pre-season training and joins Liverpool’s 34-man squad. Neco Williams and Harry Wilson joined last week but Jordan Henderson and the Brazilian trio of Allison Becker, Fabinho and Roberto Firmino still have two weeks of their holiday left. Thiago Alcantara and Xherdan Shaqiri are also still missing along with full back Andy Robertson who is also still away on a family holiday.
United hierarchy disagree over Lingard
Ole Gunner Solskjaer says he is delighted that Jesse Lingard is back in a United shirt following his loan period to West Ham. Jesse’s future at Old Trafford however is still being discussed behind the scenes. Solskjaer has put his thoughts to the United board and says that Jesse could play an important part in United’s progress this coming season but a possible sale could still go ahead. It was the first time for 191 days that Jesse played for United in a pre-season warm up match against Wayne Rooney’s Derby County and his contribution was impressive in the 2-1 win. Solskjaer has argued that United’s options were sometimes limited at the end of last season and Jesse could have solved part of that. The United board have valued him at £30million but he has less than 12 months to go on his current deal which means his value drops as he approaches June 2022. Jesse has made it clear he won’t return to sit on the bench and wants assurances that he will be given game time. The West Ham board are in constant contact with United and have made it clear that if Jesses leaves they want first option to buy him and will offer him a long deal. Solskjaer has explained to the United board that he is still worried he has too few forward options despite the arrival of Jadon Sancho.
Pogba drops a “I’m staying hint”
I noticed that Paul Pogba dropped the biggest hint that he is staying with United when he modelled their new kit for the coming season. With one year left on his current contract, he hasn’t yet agreed an extension but United want to tie him down to a longer deal. Having said that, all that my contacts tell me that Paris St Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino is determined to take Pogba to Paris when he is free to talk to other clubs in January. Pochettino is in the process of rebuilding PSG and has already signed Italian Euro winning goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, Sergio Ramos from Real Madrid, right-back Achraf Hakimi and Liverpool’s Gini Wijnaldum. United’s new kit is based on their famous strip worn by legends Sir Bobby Charlton, George Best and Denis Law. The collar is ribbed and the cuffs give the shirt a retro feeling.
Benitez making solid plans
Rafa Benitez has taken his new Everton team to play their first matches in front of a crowd as they visit the USA against Millonarious before tackling either Arsenal or Inter Milan. A match against Manchester United is also arranged a week before the kick-off to the new season. At the moment he is looking at starting with a 4-2-3-1 line-up which was favoured by previous Blue’s managers David Moyes, Marco Silva and Roberto Martinez. That would require club captain Seamus Coleman and Lucas Digne to get forward but Rafa still needs a wing forward. On the other side of the field Richarlison would probably be instructed to play wide although he prefers to play through the centre. However, many of his best performances for Everton have come from the left on runs through the defence and into the heart of the opponents’ penalty area. The manager wants a new winger to feed into Dominic Calvin-Lewis in the centre and he would also employ a No10 which could be either Gylfi Sigurdsson or James Rodriguez if he stays at the club.
Haaland going nowhere
We have all been following the Erling Haaland saga for some months now…will he go to either of the Manchester clubs or even a late bid from another European giant? The answer appears to be no as Erling himself said this week how much he is looking forward to working with new Borussia Dortmund manager Marco Rose. Dortmund have declared publicly over and again that Erling is going nowhere and now I suppose, we have to accept it.
Marcos Alonso’s Barcelona deal getting closer
I would be disappointed if Marcos Alonso leaves Chelsea this summer but that possibility is becoming more likely. His contract is until 2023 but he isn’t getting much game time under Thomas Tuchel and now Inter Milan have contacted the Blues management to register their interest. Chelsea have responded, after talking with Tuchel, and put a price of £7 million onßß the 30 year-old defender. Barcelona are also in the hunt for Marcos and he has history with them because his father Marcos Alonso Pena also played for the Catalans. Barca are dealing with a possible sale of Jordi Alba to Italy and Junior Firpo’s transfer to Leeds so the door is open for Alonso to step into the first team.