The Manchester United ‘next manager’ merry-go-round is a little clearer. United still favour Ajax manager Erik ten Hag who was interviewed this week however Mauricio Pochettino, the dressing room choice, remains second favourite to take over when Ralf Rangnick steps aside in June/July. I am told Ten Hag made a good impression with the United board of directors and their style of management is the same as Ajax where the manager coaches the team and does not get involved in club decisions such as recruitment.
Pochettino favours a more “hands on” approach and tends to be involved in all matters relating to the team. The situation moved on this week when Pochettino declared that he would prefer to stay with Paris St Germain however his bosses are less than thrilled that the French club has been eliminated from the Champions League after losing 3-1 away to Real Madrid at the Bernabeu Stadium and they have also been knocked out of the French Cup. Last weekend they were humbled by seventh placed Monaco who beat them 3-0 in Ligue 1. PSG Sporting Director would not be pressed on Pochettino’s position but not positively backing his manager says a lot and he merely commented that Pochettino would remain in his job until the end of the season and then there would be discussions. Sevilla coach Julen Lopetegui Agote and Spain’s head national team coach Luis Enrique are also being interviewed for the United job. Enrique would not be available until November after the World Cup. Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel is still a possibility but at the moment he is unlikely to leave the Blues unless their current financial sanction problems make it impossible for him to do his job properly.
Conte’s plans make Spurs far stronger
I predict that under Antonio Conte Tottenham Hotspur will flourish and he will produce a front three equal to Liverpool’s Salah, Mane and Firmino. The relationship and effectiveness of Kane and Son Heung-Min is already well documented but now that incredible pairing is being strengthened by Dejan Kulusevski’s arrival from Juventus. He has been signed on an 18 month loan and I expect will become a full Tottenham player eventually. In training Conte has been blending the three into one strong unit and Kulusevski, instead of playing out on the wing, roams around supplying balls to both Kane and Son. Conte is determined to make the three even more potent by adding the multi-talented Lucas Moura into the mix with Steven Bergwijn and Erik Lamela also featuring. Conte is convinced this combination will propel Tottenham to new levels which will see them challenging Man City and Liverpool for top honours.
Liverpool’s incredible 16 games in 56 days
It is not impossible that two of Europe’s strongest clubs could meet in the final of the Champions League. Liverpool are going for a quadruple and Manchester City for the treble! Red’s manager Jurgen Klopp is worried that his Liverpool team could play 16 games in 56 days but the players insist they are ready for it and will give their best. Virgil van Djik said, “This is something we want first and foremost. It’s something we should enjoy, those nights when you have everything to fight for, that is what we want.” Liverpool’s fixture list of opponents reads like a ‘who’s who’ of football’s elite clubs. In just 11 days they face Benfica twice in the Champions League quarter finals and Manchester City twice in the FA Cup and a Premier League title clash. Providing Liverpool beat Benfica they could then face Bayern Munich after having just played Manchester United and Everton in the league! Liverpool have already won the Carabao Cup after beating Chelsea in a penalty shoot-out. After the international break they face Watford who are desperate for points.
Tammy doing well at Roma
Chelsea might well wonder what they have done giving Tammy Abraham to Jose Mourinho at Roma. Tammy, who could not hold down a regular place at Stamford Bridge, scored again last weekend and his two goals helped the club beat Lazio 3-0 and brought his total to 23 in all competitions and 15 in Serie A for this season. By the way, that is two more goals in a debut season for Roma breaking the legendary Argentine Gabriel Batistuta’s record in his first year at the club. Roma have suggested that Tammy is worth £100million but if they sell him then Chelsea have a buy back clause for £68million. The situation is complicated because the Blues are not allowed to buy players under current UK government sanction restrictions because of owner Roman Abramovich’s links to Russia’s Vladimir Putin. The Italian club lost £134million last season and whereas they would not want to lose the striker it would be difficult to turn down a lucrative offer.
Dybala has eyes on the Premier League
Hot news from Italy is Juventus star Paulo Dybala possibly heading for the Premier League. Paulo is a huge fan of English football and his current Juve contract expires at the end of the season. I am told that the Italian giants offered him new terms and a new contract which did not exactly excite him and he politely declined. Juve CEO Maurizio Arrivabene purchased striker Dusan Vlahovic in January and Paulo’s position was weakened. The 22-year-old Serbian is a class act. Further enquiries revealed that Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester United are all keenly watching the situation and any one of them could make a bid which would delight Dybala. Interestingly Paulo keeps in regular touch by What’s App with his friend Paul Pogba who gave him a Manchester United shirt when the two faced each other in the Champions League and he has admitted he would be delighted to link up with him at United.
Intense training for six Spurs players
Personal contact with players is everything for a coach. With many of his first team away on international duty this week, Tottenham’s Antonio Conte has been in intense training with six of his first team squad. Sergio Reguilon, Eric Dier, Harry Winks, Lucas Moura, Harvey White and Emerson Royal have all been working with Conte for several hours each day after breakfast and only breaking for a short lunch. They were at the Spur’s Hotspur Way Training ground in north east London.
Lampard’s strategy is questioned
Questions were being asked this week regarding Frank Lampard being good enough to manage a top level team in the Premier League. Everyone was confused as to why Lampard played a back three against Crystal Palace which left space behind the wing backs and fast skilful players Wilfried Zaha and Michael Olise took full advantage by ripping apart Everton’s defence. Surely Lampard knew what would happen if he played a back three which other managers have avoided when playing Palace. Everton defenders Keane and Holgate were run ragged by the speed of the wingers. The person to blame was most certainly Lampard. Everton also need a much stronger midfield and losing six of his first ten games for the Toffees does not look good for the length of Lampard’s career in the north east.
Midfielder Ndidi could be out for rest of season
Another top player suffering injury problems this week is Leicester’s Nigerian midfielder Wilfred Ndidi. He staggered off the field with a knee injury against Rennes last week in the Europa Conference last 16 match. The Foxes beat Brentford 2-1 on Sunday but Ndidi was missing from the team. Manager Brendan Rodgers said, “Wilf is not so good and we are getting a second opinion. Whether he will play for the rest of the season, we are not quite sure.”