Mikel Arteta recognises that his team of youngsters are generally light in build and body strength and often cannot compete with tough attackers, defenders and midfield strong men. Think of Erling Haaland at City when he bullies defenders, takes on players and runs over them. Arsenal have few players who can compete on these terms. The coach believes Arsenal can lift the PL trophy next season if he has a more powerful squad. First name on the list is Declan Rice and Arsenal are offering him a £15 million annual deal which matches Bukayako Saka’s. The board of directors have been careful with money during the last two seasons after wasting millions on Mesut Ozil and Pierre-Emerick-Aubameyang who were both on nearly £20 million a year. Inside the club they recognise that now is the time to spend wisely and strengthen the team to go forward. Qualification for the Champions League and the sale of several unused players will fund Arteta’s rebuild.
Crystal Palace defender Marc Guehi definitely interests Arteta and Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen might be persuaded to do a deal which takes Granit Xhaka to Germany with their forward Moussa Diaby coming to the Emirates.
Folarin Balogun has spent time on loan at French club Reims and scored an impressive 20 goals. The 21-year-old has talked with Mikel Arteta and told him he is only interested in staying if he plays regularly otherwise he wants to leave.
Pochettino is completely different to Conte
Mauricio Pochettino arrives at Stamford Bridge, not so much a hero but more of a wing and a prayer. Chelsea supporters have to be persuaded that an ex-Tottenham manager can do a job for them which he failed to do at White Hart Lane. He won lots of praise, lots of accolades and the fans loved him…but he never won a trophy – just ask Harry Kane. So what can the Blue’s fans expect?
Pochettino plays attractive football which is good on the eye. He supports and believes in young talent and the academy players will prosper under his coaching methods. He is also a very approachable person. He always has time to sit and have a coffee and he is popular with club staff and directors…unlike previous coach Antonio Conte who could be difficult and emotional. It is true that Pochettino did well with Paris Saint Germain and won the title but Ligue 1 in France is nowhere near the challenge of the Premier League.
Mauricio’s first job will be to release some of the huge playing staff accumulated since the arrival of new owner Todd Boehly. There have already been discussions within the club to bring in a new goalkeeper, continue the club’s search for a top-class striker and re-energise club moral and find a new captain who can lead on the pitch and in the dressing room.
In recognition of his service to the Blues Chelsea are planning to make Cesar Azpilicueta an ambassador for the club now he has reached the age of 33.
Once proud champions heading for second tier
Fighting furiously for their Premier League survival, Dean Smith called in his Leicester players for extra training on their day off last week but Liverpool exposed the Foxes’ frailties and they still lost 3-0. Fans left the stadium early accusing several players of not being fit to wear their shirt.
In an almost perilous position but in contrast, Everton supporters remain faithfully behind their team, turning up in their thousands to sing “We love you Everton” and there is still belief they can beat the drop. Away at Wolves this weekend and a last season match at home to Bournemouth has given them hope.
Word from inside Leicester is that if they survive in the top tier then Graham Potter is favourite to take over as coach.
It is a long way from their historic 2016-2017 League title when they won with a total of 81 points under the management of Claudio Ranieri ahead of second placed Arsenal.
Leicester next face Newcastle away and then a final meeting at home to West Ham.
Private thoughts of Jurgen Klopp for next season
Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp believes the improvements he makes over the summer will put the Reds back in contention for a title challenge next season. They have only a slim chance of qualifying for a top four place this season.
Klopp said to us this week, “A successful season with two cups means there are three, four or five million ways to win a football game and you only have to find one. A successful season is when you are ready for all the matches and you can win 25-odd games and then if Man City, Arsenal, Chelsea, Newcastle, Tottenham and Man Utd are all involved in those 25 then it is even better. But it is about can we create a team which can win the majority of the games? Yes, we can…There will be some people who said it didn’t happen this season because we didn’t have this player or that player in a particular moment. Getting 90-odd points is absolutely insane, pretty special and no-one should take these things for granted. As the top seven get even closer together it becomes more difficult and more competitive. It doesn’t make it easier but everyone with a good plan has a chance to be part of it. If you are part of the battle then you can win it. Never have I questioned my boys. Never. Mentality-wise they are exceptional. But we still couldn’t deliver for long periods of the season consistently good, successful football…we have a clear idea of what we want to do. All we can do is go for the last three games and make the best of what we have so far.”
Gundogan has a special place in Pep’s heart
There is not one person at the Etihad who wants Ilkay Gundogan to leave this summer.
To understand why it might happen is to know the man. It is all down to loyalties. Ilkay is proudly Turkish. When he got married in Copenhagen, Denmark he followed up with a big celebration in his home town in the north west of Turkey. It showed his loyalty to his roots. He is loyal to those close to his heart and he admits that leaving City in the summer – if he leaves, that is – will be difficult but equally he will join Barcelona which also means a lot to him. He has won nine winners medals since joining City. Pep Guardiola rates him as outstanding along with Kevin de Bruyne and the two are responsible for much of the club’s success in the last few seasons. Pep says, “He can do everything and he can do everything well.” He possesses skill, can read a game perfectly and can almost predict which blade of grass his passes will land on! Against Real Madrid in the first leg of the Champions League he simply walked past Tony Kroos every time. Pep also said, “He doesn’t talk much but when he talks everyone listens and this shows the power of a true leader.” Why is Gundogan possibly leaving? He says that every player wants to show their skills at Barca but I remind him that City are the world’s top ranked club. Barca have also offered him a two-year contract with the option of a further year which will take him up to the age of 35 when he will retire. But Pep Guardiola still hopes to find a way to keep him at the Etihad and said, “Nobody knows what is going to happen, maybe he will stay, hopefully.”