To even discuss Manchester City’s Jack Grealish fighting for a place in the starting team is surprising but the fact that he has started only two games this season is amazing. Pep Guardiola admitted “He’s one of the players without who we couldn’t have done what we did – winning the Treble.” Now Grealish is scrapping for opportunities coming off the bench. In the last three PL games he has played for only 28 minutes as a substitute. He didn’t even make the field against Arsenal and has made only one assist all season. Jeremy Doku was preferred by Guardiola against Brighton and he and Phil Foden both have more starts on the left wing than Grealish. Pep says, “Both can play well but Jack is more controlled but he does not have one on one speed. He likes the direct play of Doku who takes on opponents and goes round them and moves forward. Jack has been accused of passing backwards too regularly and Pep is quick to point this out. It is basically a choice for the coach between the control of Grealish and Bernado Silva and the direct pace of Doku and Foden. For now Grealish is playing second fiddle but he has been in this situation before and will fight to regain his place.
Salah might stay but if he leaves Klopp has the solution
There is a running joke at Liverpool regarding Mo Salah. After every game journalists ask Mo for an interview. He always politely refuses and says he will speak at the end of the season. The truth is that he doesn’t like to be asked time and again if he will leave and accept the Saudi big bucks on offer in the middle east. If he were to move he would of course be nearer to his Egyptian homeland but in all honesty he admits that Liverpool is his second home. It is also a fact that Mo can do whatever he likes at the end of this season. He will have only one more year on his contract. Mo’s wages are between £300k and £400k a week which makes him Liverpool’s best ever paid player. The main reason Mo has stayed at Anfield is his desire to enter the top four list of scorers for the Reds. He has scored 196 goals so far and is already up to eight for this season. Liverpool players want him to stay, Jurgen Klopp wants him to stay and I give the coach the final word: “Mo was not at his best against Everton last weekend but he still scored two goals and that is what we need and that’s the greatness we need. I think he is very much a great.”
Jurgen Klopp sent a scout to watch Napoli’s Victor Osimen who has emerged as Liverpool’s Plan B if Salah does leave and the Nigerian striker’s relationship with his present club is, I am told from Italy, at an all-time low.
Cancelo likely to join Barcelona
Barcelona president Joan Laporta has confirmed that the Catalan club will sign Manchester City loanee Joao Cancelo permanently if he continues to perform at the level he is currently achieving at the Nou Camp. The Portugese full back is unlikely to return to City after publicly falling out with Pep Guardiola. In his eight appearances this season Cancelo has scored twice for Barca and made an assist. His fellow Portugese international Joao Felix has also impressed coach Xavi who said, “If they continue playing so well we have to make the effort to sign both players but it also depends on what Deco (the Sporting Director) says.”
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Van Dijk stands by his friend Robertson
Liverpool defender Virgil Van Dijk had just put down the phone after talking to his friend Andy Robertson who has sustained a shoulder injury which will need surgery to mend and he will be out for three months. Virgil said, “I’m very upset for him. It’s not a nice injury and is bad. The shoulder is hard work to mend and we have seen it with Mo Salah and there is so much work to go through but we are all here to support him all the way through and I am sure he will be fine. Tough weeks ahead for him.”
De Zebri fails his audition
Brighton coach Roberto De Zebri has been heralded as Pep Guardiola’s eventual replacement at Manchester City. He did himself no favours last weekend however when he decided to put veteran 37 year-old James Milner in at full back and given the task of containing Manchester City’s super-fast Jeremy Doku. Doku turned poor Milner inside out and he was eventually replaced by Joel Veltman at half time. De Zebri had no excuses when questioned and he won’t make the same mistake this weekend when Brighton meet Fulham with Brazilian veteran Willian at left wing. Pep Guardiola has received so many questions regarding De Zebri taking over from him and he joked that perhaps he ought to become the Brighton managers agent!
Pep’s gamble to replace Ederson in goal
Last week on Friday morning Pep Guardiola was studying his team sheet for the game against Brighton. His dilemma was to decide whether he should start goalkeeper Stefan Ortega in place of Ederson who has just replaced Liverpool’s Alisson Becker as Brazil No1. Ederson only returned on the Thursday after an exhausting 14,000 mile round trip back from South America. The coach decided on Ortega however he had no decision to make regarding Julian Alvarez who had also made the long trip back from the Americas. Guardiola explained that Alvarez is younger and looked very sharp in Friday’s training. Alvarez has become one of Guardiola’s most important players since Kevin De Bryune’s injury and he opened the scoring against Brighton. Behind the scenes Alvarez is very popular in the dressing room and at training because he is a team player who never moans and sees the best in everything despite living in Erling Haaland’s shadow. As a No 10 behind Haaland he creates chances for the striker and is a headache for defences. He has improved this season with real game time and in 14 appearances has scored seven goals and made five assists. He will undoubtedly cause Manchester United problems this weekend in the derby match and United might well regret missing the opportunity to sign him in 2022 from Argentine side River Plate.
Chelsea’s Nkunku out until December
Chelsea attacker Christopher Nkunku has told supporters that he is doing well with his recovery work and is gradually strengthening his injured his knee. The 25-year-old is yet to play for Chelsea after signing from RB Leipzig last summer. He was the Bundesliga’s top scorer after an impressive season last year despite missing two months with another unrelated knee injury. Only Manchester United have scored less goals than Chelsea in the top half of the table and Nkunku will play an important part in the Blue’s revival but he is unlikely to be available before December.
Manchester United to extend contracts
Manchester United are set to extend the one year remaining on the contracts of Victor Lindelof and Aaron Wan-Bissaka. Hannibal Mejbri’s deal will also be extended but Anthony Martial will probably miss out as he is now a fringe player in the first team squad. He is first choice substitute striker to Rasmus Hojlund but has scored only 18 goals in three years and has not completed 90 minutes since January 2021 and he missed 33 of United’s 62 matches last season because of injury. Many have criticised United’s decision to replace goalkeeper David De Gea with Andre Onana. Many claim he isn’t as good as the Spaniard. With some recent poor PL performances by Onana there is a growing band of disillusioned fans who believe United made a big error forcing De Gea out after 12 years.