Arsenal v Manchester United on Sunday is a mouth-watering prospect. Both managers are anxious to claim a strong foothold at the top of the table. There is no doubt that Mikel Arteta brought much of the grief on himself in a 2-2 draw with Fulham. Replacing Captain Martin Odegaard was a mistake and the weakness left behind after his substitution was highlighted by Gabriel Martinelli. He said after the game, “Martin has a lot of qualities and there is no one more important in the dressing room and on the pitch.
People might not see it but he is very vocal. We trust him on and off the pitch.” Mikel Arteta believes Odegaard will play an essential role against Manchester United. Gabriel Jesus could be available but Jurrien Timber and Mohamed Elneny are out with long-term injuries. Gabriel Magalhaes and Oleksandr Zinchenko have come through training and Arteta is looking at bringing them into the game.
Raphael Verane, Luke Shaw and Mason Mount are definitely out. All eyes will be on new man Rasmus Hojlund who has settled into the Emirates this week and Arteta has considered putting him in the strike force. Many are criticizing Arteta asking why he keeps tinkering with his team and playing with no recognised striker when Eddie Nketiah is ready to play? Erik Ten Hag is not looking forward to visiting the Emirates. Against Arsenal, Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund pre-season, United pressed aggressively but when that forward movement is beaten and they lose the ball several players have struggled to get back and often Casimero has been left stranded upfield which opens up the centre for opponents to control and counter attack. Arteta has recognised this and Arsenal have trained this week to move quickly into the open spaces. Ten Hag organizes his team to make a ring around the opponent’s box 35 yards out and uses every outfield player. The danger is obvious when a successful counter attack is launched. Ten Hag intends to use that strategy again so this game could be a real roller coaster of a ride with plenty of action.
Beto could be answer to Everton goal drought
Sean Dyche has not panicked after seeing his team sitting bottom of the PL without scoring a single goal in three games. His main striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin is once again injured, this time with a facial fracture and is likely to miss four or five games. Beto has been signed from Italian side Udinese and Dyche believes he is the answer to Everton’s goal-scoring problems. The 25-year-old Portuguese has signed a four-year contract and trained with his new teammates on Tuesday and played in midweek and scored in a 2-1 cup win over lowly Doncaster. He said after the game, “I can bring courage, I can bring confidence and my biggest thing is effort. I love to score goals and I am here to help.” Beto was working in a Lisbon Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant only three years ago and his rapid elevation to the elite of football has made him even more determined to succeed at Everton. Beto scored 21 Serie A goals in two seasons and when I made contact he revealed that his all-time idol Samuel Eto’o played for Everton and that has made the move even more special.
Pep pulls the strings from sick bed
Pep Guardiola might have been in his home recovering in Barcelona from surgery but make no mistake he pulled the strings in City’s win over Sheffield United. He talked throughout the match by phone and masterminded the move which allowed Rodri more space to operate upfront with Mateo Kovacic moving out of defence and higher upfield. City’s European Cup winning scorer Rodri is keen to add more goals to his arsenal of talents. He has in fact either scored or assisted in three of City’s goals from their first four matches. While Guardiola sorted out his back problem his chief assistant Juanma Lillo watched the game and rarely moved into his technical area as he listened to Guardiola through earphones with his other assistants joining in.
Cancelo begins reign in Spain
Joao Cancelo was travelling to Spain as I write this column and his loan move to Barcelona is almost certainly going to result in a permanent move. Manchester City exchanged documents with Barca and the full back’s fee is expected to be £20million. It is Cancelo’s second loan spell in seven months as he played for Bayern Munich at the end of January. Certain members of staff at Maine Road are still uncertain why Cancelo was moved out after playing such an important role during 2020/21 but his reaction to being left on the bench last season resulted in a heated exchange with Guardiola and a move was mutually agreed. Bayern Munich decided not to sign him permanently after the loan period and Barcelona have taken the opportunity to take him to the Nou Camp stadium.
Doku joins pal De Bruyne at City
When Jeremy Doku scored his first goal for Belgium in a 5-1 win over Iceland it was behind closed doors because of Covid. Kevin De Bruyne fed him the pass, he cut inside on his right foot and fired the ball home. De Bruyne described 21-year-old Doku as a “diamond in the rough” and now three years later Pep Guardiola has put them together at Manchester City after signing Doku for £55million. Liverpool thought they had a deal for the youngster in 2018 and even met his family and introduced him to Jurgen Klopp, Steven Gerrard and Mo Salah. Young Doku wasn’t interested because Romelu Lukaku had sent him a video warning him against leaving Anderlecht too early in his career. Doku is a confident young player who was nicknamed at Anderlecht’s Academy as “The King of the Dribbles” and “The Arrogant One”.
West Ham going places with improved squad
Hands up all those who expected West Ham to be joint second in the table after the opening games. Not many I guess. However, The Hammers appear to have spent wisely after pocketing £105million for selling Declan Rice. Their influential import James Ward-Prowse was the best player on the field in the win against Brighton, themselves a formidable opponent and he opened the scoring. Edson Alvarez is the other important arrival and the way he protected his defence was excellent. His Mexican teammate Emerson Palmieri said, “He is an animal, he works very hard and even without the ball he is unbelievable”. Coach David Moyes has assembled a good squad. Edson Alvarez has delighted supporters and now Mohammed Kudos has joined the Hammers after scoring 18 goals for Ajax last season.The Europa League and the Premier League could be happy hunting grounds for West Ham this season.
Sterling back to electric form
I wrote last week how Raheem Sterling’s recent Chelsea performances have risen to the level he achieved at Manchester City following a meeting with Mauricio Pochettino in his office pre-season. Raheem was again Man of the Match against Luton last weekend. I can reveal that during the meeting Pochettino suggested that Raheem also worked with a nutritionist and lighten his physique by losing some muscle and weight. This resulted in a more protein-based diet. Sterling also told his coach how frustrated he was last season when he played in seven different positions under Thomas Tuchel and then Graham Potter, including a false nine and striker. He was also unhappy playing with his back to goal and found link-ups and assists difficult in some of those positions. Pochettino responded by creating a new role for the winger. Pochettino was impressed with Sterling at the meeting and asked him for suggestions regarding tactics and strategies for the team. He subsequently positioned Sterling on the right of an attacking trio in a 3-3-4 system and suggested he targeted the space between defenders which resulted in his current electric performances weaving, dribbling and cutting inside defenders. Sorting out a hamstring niggle completed the return to form.