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Manchester City v Arsenal

With Arsenal sitting top of the table and Man City in third place with only a point separating them, this match is of vital importance…

With Arsenal sitting top of the table and Man City in third place with only a point separating them, this match is of vital importance to both clubs. Both coaches believe this could be a battle between Declan Rice for the Gunners and Rodri for City. Both are able to control games and Rice believes Rodri is the best holding midfielder in the world. Arsenal can take advantage of City’s constant high pressing which leaves gaps at the back but it is central midfield which will dictate which team dominates.

Most worrying for the Gunners is the injury to Bukayo Saka who has contributed 16 goals and 13 assists in 37 appearances. Last week Saka pulled out of the national Three Lions team, did not train and returned to the Emirates Stadium early. I am told his withdrawal was a “precaution.” If he does not make it this weekend Arteta has Reiss Nelson and Gabriel Jesus available but I am hearing that Fabio Viera has asked personally to be considered. However, I think Saka has a fair chance of playing. Tomiyasu and Partey were both training this week but there was no sight of Jurrien Timber. Gabriel Magalhaes also dropped out of international duty and Gabriel Martinelli has been struggling with a gash on his foot which meant he had to use crutches this week. By choice Ben White did not play for England in the internationals and remained in north London but the 26-year-old is a vital part of the Arsenal set up. The Gunners took part in a warm-up training match against QPR in order to test the fitness of Partey, Tomiyasu and Jesus and all three did well.

Manchester City still have three trophies in their sights with the match against the Gunners this weekend and the upcoming games against Real Madrid in the Champions League and an FA Cup match against Chelsea. Pep Guardiola needs all of his key players to be fit.

Mourinho looking to return to Premier League

Jose Mourinho has made it clear that he expects to be back in management for next season.

The controversial Portugese coach spent over two years with Roma in Serie A and won the Europa Conference League and secured a place in the Europa Cup Final. When asked what his plans were he replied, “Zero, zero. I don’t have a club. I’m free. But I want to work, in the summer I want to work.” He has been linked with a return to the Premier League with Chelsea and Newcastle being favourites. He is also linked to Saudi Arabia and even Portugal where he made his name with Porto winning the Champions League.

Chelsea looking at big clearout this summer

Chelsea have a decision to make about Romelu Lukaku this summer. After signing for a record Chelsea fee he could not perform to the heights reached at Inter Milan and was sent out on loan to Roma. At the Italian club he has rediscovered his scoring touch with 18 goals in 37 matches. Whether Mauricio Pochettino wants him back and in his plans for next season, providing he is still coach, remains to be seen but either way Lukaku has increased his value with his latest performances.

Chelsea owner Todd Boehly is under pressure to explain to his shareholders how a £1billion investment in Chelsea is failing to bring results. In response he is putting together a plan to recoup some of the vast sums of money he has spent and flew out to Saudi Arabia to discuss offloading some his expensive players. There have been whispers of a 15 player clear-out and Boehly had talks with Saudi’s sports minister and the Saudi Pro League director of football. The meeting took place in the Saudi capital of Riyadh.

Chelsea are also looking at a new shirt sponsor for the 2024-25 season to bring in extra funding. The Blues made a pre-tax loss of £90.1 million last season despite Boehly selling Kalidou Koulibaly and Edouard Mendy to Al-Hilal. Kepa Arrizabalaga, on loan at Real Madrid, is unlikely to be retained for another season at the Bernabau Stadium. Marc Cucurella is the third name on Boehly’s list although the Frenchman has been playing well when fit. There is still speculation regarding a move to Tottenham Hotspur for Conor Gallagher. Trevoh Chalobah is another on the list and like Gallagher would be sold as pure profit as they were Chelsea Academy players.

O’Neil will make Wolves fight on

Wolves coach Gary O’Neil, spoken of as a possible “coach of the season”, admits it is going to be tough to carry on after the amber and gold’s elimination from the FA Cup by championship side Coventry. Their star performer Pedro Neto could be out for the rest of the season. Matheus Cunha, Hwang Hee-Chan, and Craig Dawson all missed the 3-2 defeat. O’Neil says it is his job to get the players over the disappointment but realistically added, “It’s going to be really tough to win games because we’re going to Aston Villa and they will have Watkins, Bailey, Ramsey, Zaniolo and Tielmans. It is going to be a tough spell but we are going to have to fight, to scrap and I hope the fans understand that.”

De Zerbi in Bayern and Liverpool’s sights

Roberto De Zerbi says he is flattered by the approach from Bayern Munich to take over at the Bundesliga giants. De Zerbi has performed miracles with Brighton, making them a threat to any side and his exploits as one of Europe’s most exciting young coaches has been noted around the globe. Both Xabo Alonso, who has taken Bundesliga club Bayer Leverkusen to the top of the table and De Zerbi are probably the two most admired coaches at the moment. Both have also been linked with taking over from Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool. De Zerbi said he is flattered to be considered for the Liverpool role but his priority is winning Brighton a European place.

Kompany learning coaching the hard way

When you have been one of football’s most successful and admired players of your generation and moved into coaching and taken the Championship league by storm, winning by an incredible 10 points, failure on Europe’s biggest stage, the Premier League, is bitter disappointment.

Step forward Vincent Kompany who guided Burnley to promotion in his first season in charge.

This season however has been a completely different story and the Claret & Blues are in a relegation battle.

As a coach Vincent readily admits that his main influence is the years spent with Guardiola at City and he built his team playing out from the back using Pep’s strategy at Maine Road. With the youngest team in the league, Kompany is building for the future and he kicked off this season with a goalkeeper who had never played higher than league one. Last season Burnley lined up with a 4-2-3-1 formation which was often changed to a 3-2-5 and even a 2-3-5 which attacked from the back and moved forward to a packed front line to give them an advantage over defences and they scored 101 goals in a single season. That worked for the Championship League but Premier League players are better and Kompany learned the hard way that teams like Arsenal, Liverpool, Aston Villa etc pressed them harder upfield and put them under pressure resulting in conceding plenty of goals. Kompany eventually realised the situation and changed to a 4-4-2 set up.


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