At a dinner in Los Angeles Mikel Arteta enjoyed a light-hearted dinner with owner Stan Kroenke after presenting his plan for this coming season which pleased the billionaire.
It was the key moment when Arteta knew he had the blessing of his boss to sign Declan Rice.
Martin Odegaard is on record as saying, “I challenge anyone to come away from a meeting with Arteta and not believe everything he tells you.” For the first time in years Arsenal completed all their transfer business before pre-season training. £105million secured the signature of Rice and Kroenke agreed a £180 spend for transfers. Arteta convinced Declan of his ambitions for the season and originally he told the ex-West Ham man he would be a holding midfielder. In their final pre-season game against Monaco Declan demonstrated how versatile he is when he played a more advanced role and linked well with Gabriel Martinelli and new left back Julien Timber. Arteta was also pleased with Kai Havertz. He will play a Granit Xhaka role on the left of midfield but will also play through the middle and be expected to score goals. Arteta admitted this week that he cannot always play Rice, Havertz, Partey and Jorginho together. The coach has already discovered new combinations using the quartet and he is hoping to spring some surprises with his formations because he believes that losing the title at the end of last season was because opponent teams had worked out exactly how Arsenal performed using Arteta’s favourite 4-3-3 line up. He summed up by claiming, “The idea is to become more unpredictable, to become more difficult for opponents to stop. We have more options at the back and in midfield.”
He intends to play some of his new ideas in the opener against Nottingham Forest.
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*Arteta has agreed a deal with Brentford’s goalkeeper David Raya and he will provide competition for Aaron Ramsdale between the posts. Brentford, in response, have made a bid for Fiorentina’s Nico Gonzalez.
Spurs players cannot relax
Tottenham boss Ange Postecoglou has one main thought in his mind: Attack! Attack! Attack! Dejan Kulusevski revealed to us that the coach gave the players a roasting at half time because they had eased off against Shaktar Donetsk and allowed the Ukrainians to equalise. The players listened and lifted themselves and ran out 5-1 winners. Two Bayern Munich agents were in the crowd and were delighted to see Harry Kane, their prime target, bang in four goals. Postecoglou has drilled into his players that they will not play to protect leads unlike the previous ultra-cautious Antonio Conte. Kulusevski revealed that the coach has told him “Attack the box more when the ball is on your side, when you have the ball just go, go all the time. Don’t worry if you lose the ball, just keep going. He wants me to score more. I’m enjoying having a lot of the ball higher up the pitch.”
*Postecoglou told Daniel Levy he wanted to boost his defence and the club have signed Micky van de Ven from Wolfsburg and forward Alejo Veliz from Rosario Central. Both are on six year deals. Van de Ven’s cost is £34 million.
Guardiola still looking to replace Gundogun
Pep Guardiola is confident he can keep Bernardo Silva at Manchester City for the season.
West Ham’s midfielder Lucas Paqueta is under consideration and has replaced original targets Declan Rice, Gabri Veiga and Jude Bellingham. Guardiola was upset last week when he told us that clubs add on an extra 10% transfer fee when City enquired about their players. Paqueta joined West Ham for a record £51million last summer and they would be looking to make a profit on that.
Leading players rebel over new “time-wasting” rules
I spent last Sunday watching my team Ipswich in the Championship against Sunderland. I was staggered the way it turned out because the International Football Association Board (IFAB) has issued new instructions to referees to add up all those little moments of taking a long time for throw-ins, substitutions, arguments over free kicks and deliberately delayed goal kicks etc. What staggered me with the Ipswich game was that nearly half an hour was added on! Yes, instead of 90 minutes we played for 113 minutes!
IFAB believe their not so clever idea will lead to less time wasting and increase better, more exciting play.” What they have tragically forgotten is that the players have to perform for much longer than the usual 90 minutes but now they have found their voice and are shouting back loud and clear. Kevin De Bruyne claimed, “The new rule doesn’t make any sense to me.” He warned that overworked players faced severe danger of injuries with the extra long games and especially when the season gets crowded with little time between games because players get tired and lose their focus. He said, “We spoke to Arsenal players and even the referees say they don’t want to do it either but it’s the new rule and it’s what it is.”
This new introduction is going to play a big part in football across Europe and I can see a lot of trouble ahead.
Luton, the minnows of Premier League
Luton Town have fought long and hard to join the elite Premier League but I fear for them this season. Facing Brighton this weekend will be a tough match. As traffic rolls along the A1081 main road, drivers can look down on the “Orange & Blacks” training ground outside Luton. No plush hotel, private chefs and big expensive cars in their car park. When supporters arrive they actually go through turnstiles which are built between two private houses with a family living above the entrance to the ground. Luton in the Premier League has been described as facing a huge tidal wave without a surfboard. Coach Dave Gregory has retained the majority of his squad which was promoted from the Championship and he is looking at Marvelous Nakamba to perform as he did last year. Tom Lockyer and Carlton Morris are the others players to look out for. I wish them luck but I am afraid they will need lots of it.
Nkunku injury worse
New Chelsea signing Christopher Nkunku’s meniscus knee injury is worse than the club originally thought. It might require surgery to mend. The £52million man from RB Leipzig was injured in a heavy tackle with Borussia Dortmund defender Mats Hummels. His injury has set coach Mauricio Pochettino’s plans back and his attacking force has been considerably weakened.
De Bryune says Haaland is okay
Both Kevin De Bryune and Pep Guardiola have said, “Don’t worry about Erling. He might not be scoring at the moment but he will start to deliver once we get on with the real business, the Premier League.” The City man scored 54 goals last season but was hardly seen during the Community Shield match last Sunday. De Bryune said, “Obviously people want to see him score in every game but it is pre-season and maybe he needs a little more time to get 100% match fit. He will be alright.” The Dutch international believes that after winning the astounding treble last year it has taken the team a little longer than usual to blow away those summer cob-webs and will hit full fitness and speed in two or three games.