Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has already turned his team into a winning unit and they currently hold a top four place. His signings Aaron Ramsdale, Martin Odegaard, Ben White and Takehiro Tomiyasu have all been very successful but Arteta thinks this summer’s transfer business will be the most important of all to take the Gunners to the next level. He said this week, “We have been able to get the squad balance in a much better shape.
Financially, we are in a more stable position with the money we have spent on certain players rewarding us with their amount of minutes on the pitch. That balance is better spread out across the squad. And now is the moment to raise the quality.” Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah are both out of contract at the end of the season and Arteta is actively researching strikers to strengthen his attack. I am told Lacazette will possibly stay but Nketiah is more likely to leave. Mohamed Elneny and Lucas Torreira are likely to leave along with Hector Bellerin who has been on loan at Real Betis. Italy has been buzzing this week with talk that Arsenal executives have been negotiating to bring Milan’s 24-year-old Lautaro Martinez to the Emirates. I am told that Technical Director Edu has been given a figure of £59million which is a bargain as the striker has scored 87 goals in 171 appearances.
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Benfica’s 22 year-old Uruguayan striker Darwin Nunez and Everton’s 25-year-old Dominic Calvert-Lewin two other players on Arteta’s radar. In response, Everton manager Frank Lampard said that he will fight hard to keep Calvert-Lewin. Leicester’s excellent midfielder Youri Tielemans is also interested in a move to north London and I am told that the Foxes would expect in the region of £40million. Arteta is aware that he has upcoming youngster Flo Balogun waiting in the wings to break into the Gunner’s first team. The England Under-21 striker is currently on loan at Middlesborough where he has made quite an impact. He scored against Andorra for the young England Lions last week.
Guardiola worried about his defensive options
Pep Guardiola held a meeting this week at the Manchester City training ground regarding his defensive problems due to injuries. Upper most in his thoughts is the visit of Liverpool a week on Sunday. City have eight games in three competitions during April. Defender Ruben Dias has been unavailable due to injuring his thigh in an FA Cup match. He is making good progress and is taking part in light training on his own but Pep’s medical team have warned him that if Ruben breaks down again it will be the end of his season. John Stones has returned from England duty also on the injured list. Stones was due to play against Switzerland but withdrew during the warm-up with a tightness in his hamstring. If both Dias and Stones are unavailable Pep only has Aymeric Laporte and Nathan Ake as his central defender options. As I write this he is deciding whether or not to risk Dias this weekend against Burnley and if Liverpool beat Watford his City team will start the day in second place after being 12 points ahead earlier in the season.
Verane determined to prove fitness
There was definite concern this week when Manchester United’s Raphael Verane suffered a foot injury whilst away on international duty with France. He was taken off the field after only 50 minutes of Les Blue’s 2-1 win against Ivory Coast. I received reports that the United defender underwent special training and his week has been focused on being fit to face Leicester this weekend. The match against the Foxes is a must win as United fight to secure a final top four finish and entry into next year’s Champion’s League because their run-in to the end of the season includes matches against Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea. Verane said this week that he is determined to keep fit to help United and he is anxious to prove to fans that he still has the powers which made him a star at Real Madrid.
Werner takes aim at Tuchel
Timo Werner has criticised Thomas Tuchel’s style of football saying that it does not suit him personally. Werner’s Germany beat Israel 2-0 in a friendly this week and Werner scored. Werner said how much he prefers working for German national coach Hansi Flick. He said, “I’m a striker and always want to score. Things aren’t going the way I’d like at Chelsea, so I am pleased they are going well for Germany under Hansi Flick. There are differences in the style of play between football at Chelsea and here. Maybe the one at the national team suits me better, I can score goals and I feel very comfortable.”
Davies in but Skipp still out
Tottenham are hopeful that Ben Davies will be fit for the match against Newcastle this weekend. Ben dropped out of the Wales squad after he felt his hamstring tighten during Wales 2-1 win over Austria in last week’s World Cup qualifying match. Coach Antonio Conte has accepted that midfielder Oliver Skipp will not be available. He has been suffering from a long-term groin injury and Conte spent time training with him alone but has slowly brought him back to work with the other players. Oliver has not played since January and he was expected to return earlier but an injection caused an infection which has delayed his recovery.
Bale is one of the best of his generation
It makes me sad to see Gareth Bale subjected to yet more criticism in Spain. The Welsh maestro is one of the most exciting players of his generation and it is a privilege to watch his skills. I cannot understand why Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti does not use him more and Bale has only played five times this season despite being a much better player than most others in the first team squad. Madrid wanted to offload Gareth when Zinedine Zidan was the coach as the two did not get along. Bale has remained at the club despite continuous insults from the Spanish press and fans but as he earns £600k a week he has little motivation to move. He has hinted that since he is a very rich man he might retire in the summer after his contract expires and if his beloved Wales do not reach the finals of the World Cup.
Referee Mike Dean hangs up his whistle
Love him or hate him, Premier League referee Mike Dean is finally going to hang up his whistle at the end of the season after officiating in 553 top class matches. His first was 22 years ago. I am told that Mike is currently negotiating to become one of two regular VAR officials based at headquarters Stockley Park.
Goodbye to one of the greats
My respect and best of luck to Jermain Defoe who has decided to hang up his boots after 20 years of top-class football. He looked in the mirror at age 39 and decided it was time to go. Jermain is much loved by Tottenham fans after 362 appearances and scoring 143 goals with 32 assists. He once turned down Juventus so he could be at Tottenham. He will always be remembered for the love and care he showed to a young terminally ill friend Bradley Lowery and the day he led out the England team hand in hand with Bradley. A true professional who demands total respect.