I am receiving reports that all is not well in the Arsenal dressing room. Senior players are upset at being blamed for poor results. Arteta keeps talking about the players being responsible for a lack of advancement for the team. Currently Arsenal are mid-table in 10th place and 11 points behind West Ham who can qualify for a Europa League place next season. Following a poor performance in the Europa League against Slavia Prague Arteta’s tactics were criticised in many quarters and he only made changes in the 75th minute which was too late. Many of the players are unhappy with Arteta’s habit of leaving a senior player out of the team as a punishment and his treatment of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has upset many. New summer signing Thomas Partey is known to be unhappy with Arteta’s tactics not allowing him to play to his strengths in midfield and he too is frustrated. Fans have taken to social media claiming that Arteta is still living on his achievements with Pep Guardiola at Manchester City and he is not capable of running a top team on his own. The fact is that although Arteta is supposed to be rebuilding the Gunners his record so far is inferior to his predecessor Unai Emery however even with a disappointing season I am told that the board of directors will allow him next season to get things right.
Verane heading for the Premier League?
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The big news this week concerns full backs. With Real Madrid’s Raphael Verane no closer to agreeing a new contract to replace the one which expires in 2022, I understand that Chelsea have now entered the race to explore signing him. Manchester United were originally the leaders in that race however the Blues have indicated a fee of £61million is within their spending power this summer. Chelsea have also looked at Bayern Munich’s Niklas Suze who would be half that price. United have now completed and signed a new three-year contract for 27-year-old full back Eric Bailly and then there is the mouth-watering prospect that Madrid’s Sergio Ramos might finish his career in the Premier League which he has always admired and United definitely interests him. Verane is keen on moving and he is also aware that Bayern Munich’s David Alaba will be arriving at the Bernabeu Stadium on a free transfer which is what Real want at the moment given their perilous financial position. The chance to sell Verane and get Alaba through the door has obvious financial advantages.
Watford back in the Premier League
Alongside Norwich we welcome back Watford next season as both have qualified for automatic promotion. Xisco Munoz surprised everyone when he took up the managerial role at Watford but his former club, Spanish side Valencia, knew he would succeed. His calm approach to football and switch to a 4-3-3 style has brought out the best in Ismaila Sarr, Jao Pedro, Ken Sema and Willl Hughes who will all thrill the Premier League next season. Believe it or not, Xisco now has to get the relevant coaching qualification to work in the Premier League and the Pozzo family owners have to stick with the Spaniard and not sack him if results do not go well at the beginning.
Liverpool v United in pre-season friendlies
Liverpool and Manchester United are negotiating to play two pre-season friendlies at Old Trafford and Anfield during the summer. The idea is aimed to gradually bring fans back to the big stadiums after Covid-19. All restrictions are currently expected to be lifted on June 21st. I have learned that Liverpool are not planning a pre-season tour this year but will train in both Austria and France.
Premier League Hall of Fame
The Premier League has introduced its “Hall of Fame” and selected its first two legends. Alan Shearer, who holds the PL record as all-time top scorer hit the back of the net an incredible 260 times and won the league title with Blackburn. Thierry Henri was a leading member of the Arsenal Invincibles during and unbeaten run of games in 2003-4. Shearer said, “When you look at some of the unbelievable players to have graced the Premier League, I feel very honoured.” Henri said, “When I was young, I was just trying to make sure I could get a pair of boots and now we’re talking about the Hall of Fame.”
Maitland-Niles wants to be accepted as a midfield player
Talking to Arsenal’s wing-back Ainsley Maitland-Niles it is obvious that he wants to be seen and accepted as a midfielder, able to dictate a game and defend and push forward from the centre. Gunners boss Mikel Arteta never appreciated the talent he had at his disposal with Ainsley and gave him few opportunities to prove himself. A loan period with West Bromwich to gain more game time has worked out brilliantly for the 23-year-old. West Brom manager Sam Allardyce has told Arsenal he wants to keep Ainsley however several clubs are lining up for his signature. Leeds, Monaco in the French league and Wolves have all made their interest known. Mikel Arteta wants to rebuild the Arsenal squad this summer and has said that Ainsley has a part to play however the player has indicated that he will probably move away.
Leicester could be as good as Manchester City
Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers was asked this week what it would take to lift his team to the dizzy heights of Manchester City. He replied, “If you can get me £500million we might not be too far off it.”
I think I have discovered the secret to 32-year-old Jamie Vardy’s energy and prolific goalscoring performances. Before each game he drinks two cans of Red Bull and runs around like a 20-year-old!
Coutinho back on the market
Philippe Coutinho might have played his last game for Barcelona following knee surgery. Coutinho, at 28 years-of-age, has appeared just 14 times for Barca this season having ruptured his meniscus which is a piece of cartilage in the knee and acts like a cushion between the bones. He has undergone surgery in his native Brazil for the second time and is unlikely play again this season. Barca still owe Liverpool a large part of Coutinho’s £142million transfer fee dating back to January 2018 and they are anxious to get him off their payroll.
Fofana plays on empty stomach
If your side needs an example of commitment then look no further than Leicester’s Wesley Fofana. Manager Brendan Rodgers hailed him as “remarkable” for playing well during the match against West Bromwich Albion. Wesley had fasted during Ramadan for 15 hours and not eaten a thing and then played for a full 60 minutes. Impressive!
Decision time over Lingard
Jess Lingard’s incredibly hot streak of form at West Ham has given both Ole Gunner Solskjaer and David Moyes headaches. The Manchester United and West Ham bosses have to decide what to do in the upcoming summer transfer season. Lingard has hit eight goals in nine games and made plenty of assists. Solskjaer has been watching very carefully and Lingard’s form has increased his value and earned him an England international recall. Now the two clubs are talking to see if there is a way of swapping Lingard plus cash for West Ham’s Declan Rice as Solskjaer looks to boost his ageing midfield set up. Rice, who is currently on the injured list with a knee problem, is rated by David Moyes at over £100million and Lingard is one of the hottest properties in the Premier League on current form. Moyes does not want to sell Rice but he knows that the big six all rate the 26-year-old and bids will arrive for the transfer period in June. Lingard’s United contract expires in 2022 so United will be anxious to make a decision to either keep him or sell him.