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Rodri tells Guardiola “I need a rest”

It is 431 days since Manchester City midfield genius Rodri lost a match – that is 51 wins and 14 draws! During the 3-3 Champions…

It is 431 days since Manchester City midfield genius Rodri lost a match – that is 51 wins and 14 draws! During the 3-3 Champions League thriller with Real Madrid this week he was not at his best, misdirected several passes and was under par. After the game he met with Pep Guardiola on Wednesday and told the boss he was tired both physically and mentally after starting 42 of City’s previous 44 games. He asked to be rested in this weekend’s game against Luton so that he can give his best in the return Real Madrid next week. It is likely he will be on the bench this weekend but Guardiola has not confirmed his thoughts and will decide just before the match against Luton how to handle the situation. Rodri commented, “Every one of us can do better, even myself. But we need to rest, to be honest.”

Arsenal vs Aston Villa

Definitely the big game this weekend featuring the high flying Gunners and determined Aston Villa fighting it out at the Emirates. Villa are equal on points with Tottenham and 11 in front of Manchester United. Coach Unai Emery believes Champions League football is possible for next season but I think more likely it will be the Europa league. He has been highly focused this week in training after surrendering points to Brentford last weekend drawing 3-3. He said it was not good enough after giving away a two goal lead. He admitted that away to the Gunners, Villa cannot relax during any part of the game because that is why they conceded points to Brentford. Emery admitted in his press conference, “Two-nil is always a dangerous scoreline. We came out in the second half and scored then we seemed to relax as a team thinking we had the game won. It’s poor.

Mikel Arteta has his team tweaked to perfection for the Premier League run in. They are probably the best around at the moment and the title is very much in their grasp. One of the Gunner’s assistants pointed out to me that a computer has calculated Arsenal have a 75.3% chance of winning this game and Villa only 9.1%. This match is a vital to both team’s ambitions for this season.

Arteta has made Kai Havertz a different player

Mikel Arteta is determined to remain unpredictable with his team selections so that opponents do not know how to prepare for games against them. One man who is almost certain of remaining in his place is Kai Havertz because Arteta has discovered what makes the German tick. He is flying as a centre forward and Arteta said that although Jesus is back and fit, it is Havertz who is his front runner. Against Brighton, Kai scored one and assisted in one goal which moved the Gunners back to the top of the table. Havertz has started in the No9 role for the last eight games and Arteta has turned him into a completely different player since leaving his Chelsea failures behind him. He has been directly involved in eight goals. As a result of Havertz’s success, coach Arteta has met with Jesus and asked him to play out wide on the left. Havertz has an advantage over Jesus and that is his size which the coach recognises and he has used him to cause defences problems because Arsenal suffered in front of goal at the beginning of the year but Havertz can both score and hold up a ball whilst bringing his fellow attackers into the box. He has certainly silenced his critics who questioned the £65 million Arsenal paid Chelsea for his services. Havertz himself praised Arteta saying, “The coach helped me from the moment I arrived and he showed me a different spectrum of how to play football, how to make myself better on the pitch and in the last few weeks it has worked well. I am just so happy.”

Szoboszial names his best pal at Liverpool

It is easy to understand why Dominik Szoboszlai has settled into life at Liverpool when he says his best friend at the club is right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold. When asked who he is close to he said, “I’m close with everyone but with Trent we are the same age and outside of football we do almost the same things and we hang out together. On the pitch we understand each other.” Alexander-Arnold has heaped praise on the Hungary International in the past saying, “I think he’s just a natural born football player. I think you just get a feeling with someone who knows and understands the game. They don’t overcomplicate it.”

Rashford and Ten Hag ease injury worries

Marcus Rashford has confirmed that his injury, sustained during the 2-2 draw with Liverpool, is not serious. He was withdrawn midway through the second half and was replaced by Anthony. Erik Ten Hag was awaiting a full medical report yesterday but he commented, “I’m not sure but I don’t think it is serious.” The 26 year-old said in response, “I will be okay,” which addressed fears that he would not be able to play in the match against Bournemouth and at Wembley against Coventry on April 24th for a place in the FA Cup final.

Grealish shows his old flair is back

Pep Guardiola believes the old Jack Grealish is almost back after a superb display against Crystal Palace. The game was only the third time Jack as completed consecutive back to back matches for Guardiola and he showed glimpses of how he used to run the Aston Villa team before being bought by City for £100 million. He was part of each of the light blues four goals and said after the match, “I feel like I’m coming back now. I feel strong and fit.” Guardiola plans to use Jack as much as possible in the Premier League run in and fighting for the Champions League and FA Cup titles.

Blues fight Barca for Brazilian wonderkid

Chelsea are trying to bring Brazilian wonderkid Messinho to Stamford Bridge but are being challenged by Barcelona. The Blues have been working with Palmeiras since last October in a move for the 16-year-old. He could move to Chelsea when he reaches his 18 birthday. Messinho has a release clause in his current contract worth £51 million. Barcelona have sent representatives to Brazil in order to beat Chelsea for his signature however both clubs face problems under the Financial Fair Play rules and they face spending restrictions in order to remain within the £105 million threshold. Both Chelsea and Barca have fallen below their usual standards this season and are anxious to strengthen.

Ashley plays on…

Ashley Young has enjoyed a highly successful career but he turns 39 in July. He has been impressive during his one-year-deal at Everton this season after 24 appearances for the Toffees. He now wants to extend his playing career until the age of 40! He won 39 England caps and this season has covered full-back roles on both sides of the field and is effective moving forward into attacking positions. After playing in three different positions this season coach Sean Dyche says he has come to rely on his experience and is likely to extend his stay at the club.

Eriksen allowed to leave United

Manchester United have agreed with Christian Eriksen that he can leave after this season. He has been continually left on the bench since the emergence of 18-year-old academy player Kobbie Mainoo. Turkish giants Galatasaray have already shown interest in the 128 capped Danish international. Christian impressed during a six-month period with Bournemouth in 2022 after recovering from his cardiac arrest at Euro 2020. United will make some money when they sell him because he arrived on a free transfer after signing a three year deal. 

 

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