A Spanish journalist friend of mine sent me an Instagram picture of Chelsea striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang celebrating with the Barcelona team in their dressing room after defeating Real Madrid in El Classico on Sunday night. He obviously feels more at home with Barca than he does at Stamford Bridge. Aubameyang, if you remember, joined Chelsea from Barca in September on a two-year contract and so far has proven to be a dismal failure. He was even cut from the Champions League squad after owner Todd Boehly brought in several new players in January. It is almost certain that the striker will be on his way out in the summer after falling behind Mykhaylo Mudryk, Joao Felix, Raheem Sterling, Kai Havertz, Hakim Ziyech and Noni Madueke in the pecking order. I caught sight of Aubameyang training at Chelsea’s Cobham headquarters this week but he is unlikely to feature any time soon. Another player heading for the exit door is goalkeeper Edouard Mendy who has been told he can leave this summer. After Todd Boehly’s January spending spree the club need to reduce their large squad of players and whereas Mendy was No1 under Frank Lampard and Thomas Tuchel, he is now behind Kepa Arrizabalaga despite his frequent mistakes between the posts. Mendy is in the last eighteen months of his contract but sustained a cruel injury when Graham Potter took over which saw him lose his grip on a first team place.
Conte caused his own downfall
Tottenham chairman Daniel levy was driving home from the Southampton match when he heard about Antonio Conte’s criticism of his players following their 3-3 draw with the Saints. There are two golden rules usually followed by team coaches. Never criticise in public your players or the fans. Tottenham’s Conte has broken both of those rules in a single week. He reminds me of a school child, “Please Sir, it wasn’t me sir, it was him (or her) sir.” Conte never admits failures are his fault and is quick to blame others. His claims that certain players are selfish only highlights how selfish he is himself. Conte’s words should have been confined to the dressing room and not spoken at a press interview which embarrassed everybody. Conte gave his players Sunday and Monday off and he went to the airport to fly back to Italy to see his family who still live there but he usually does this when there is an international break. This time he must have felt it was better to weather yet another storm from a distance. The popular Ryan Mason took charge of training as the players drifted back on Tuesday morning. Senior players stood around in small groups and were waiting for an announcement that Conte had gone.
*Much depends on what happens in the next few weeks. Ryan is a capable deputy and Mauricio Pochettino, Thomas Tuchel and Luis Enrique are standing by. Pochettino is still close to the players, regularly texts several of them on match day and especially Harry Kane and fans still chant his name. However, if Ryan Mason can control the team for several months and Conte’s replacement is not immediately employed, one name being secretly mentioned is that of Carlo Ancelotti. Everything is judged on success at his current club Real Madrid and Carlo’s team has been beaten three times by fierce rivals Barcelona this season. I would suggest that a mutually agreed parting of the ways in the summer could be on the cards. That is the word around Tottenham this week.
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Cancelo rejected by Bayern
Bayern Munich are preparing to send Joao Cancelo back to Manchester City at the end of his loan period with the German giants. It was a shock to fans when he switched clubs in January after Pep Guardiola demoted him from the starting eleven. Bayern have an option to buy him for £60million but I understand they feel there are more important player positions to be filled. Cancelo and Guardiola had not been getting along at City and it is difficult to see this relationship mending anytime soon. Ironically, probably the only way he can impress Bayern so they keep him is to play a starring role in the upcoming tie against City in the Champions League because the light Blues have not objected to him playing although he is still their player.
Ten Hag to stay longer
No matter who owns Manchester United this time next season, the Glazer Brothers, Sir Jim Ratcliffe or Qatar’s Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Than, Erik Ten Hag has made such an impressive start to his Manchester United career that he is to be offered a new contract which extends the three year deal he signed last summer. Currently Ten Hag earns £9 million a year and has brought the Reds their first trophy in six years, the Carabao Cup. He has also restored confidence in the dressing room and routed out the players who unsettled the team. He has been widely praised for his strength in handling the Cristiano Ronaldo problem which resulted in the striker leaving and moving to the Middle East.
Odegaard praises Jesus
Arsenal captain Martin Odegaard is delighted that Gabriel Jesus is back to match fitness after injuring his knee in the World Cup. Playing as a late substitute against Fulham at the weekend and 45 minutes in the Europa League tie against Sporting Lisbon, which the Gunners regrettably lost, he proved that he has still retained his striking sharpness. Odegaard said this week, “He is a great addition to the squad again. He gives so much every day in training and plays like it’s a real game. He also helps with leadership too and having won titles with Manchester City he brings experience with his energy. After working with Pep Guardiola, players arriving from City bring a different sort of thinking, they have the knowledge and people listen to them. They are calm under pressure.”
Dedication is Haaland’s secret
This is a lesson for all young aspiring footballers who want to make our cherished game their career. Erling Haaland, leading striker and now Manchester City record holder for most goals scored in a single season works tirelessly to improve. Here are a few secrets that help him to keep on adding to his goal tally almost every week. To start with he is the first to arrive for training at City and his astonishing five goal haul against RB Leipzig was not luck because after a strenuous training session he does not leave with the other players but stays behind to make sure he is in peak physical condition for the next match. He takes nothing for granted. Nathan Ake describes him as “a machine who at 22 is getting better and better.” When other players have departed he takes treatments with physios and works on his scoring techniques by taking literally hundreds of shots against assistant goalkeepers. There has been some criticism that Erling does not fit in with the current City playing set-up and the team is better without him. This has not hurt or influenced the striker one little bit…he has ignored it. The other players in the team also do not agree with the comments. Let Nathan Ake have the last word, “He is a top guy and in training is very hard to defend against so I know how opponents feel and we are lucky to have him and if he continues like this no one is going to stop him as he heads for fifty goals this season.”
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