Erik Ten Hag did not get the one Christmas present he most desired, a new striker. After being in prime position, Manchester United were overtaken by Liverpool and Dutch club PSV Eindhoven have confirmed their World Cup success Cody Gakpo now belongs to Jurgen Klopp’s team for £44million. The 23-year-old striker left for England on Wednesday to take a medical after PSV signed transfer documents on Boxing Day. Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp has confirmed it was his action which pushed the transfer at full speed because he needed to strengthen his attacking options due to injuries to Luis Diaz and Diogo Jota. There is no need to rush things now as the deal is done however Gakpo could be allowed to play in the Premier League from Monday against Brentford but after checking with City it is more likely he will start on January 7th in an FA Cup match against Wolverhampton. Cody only began training last weekend following his return from World Cup duties. He has an impressive 18 goals and 18 assists from 34 appearances this season and is top of the Dutch League for his goals, assists, chances created and shots on target.
Mudryk has eyes on Arsenal but Nketiah impresses
Arsenal have opened the bidding for attacker Shakthar Donestk 21-year-old Mykhailo Mudryk. Clearly the two clubs have different opinions of the youngster’s value with the Gunners putting £40million on the table with £15million in add-ons but Shakthar are talking about £90million. It is early days but the Ukraine international has expressed his wish to join the Premier League after an impressive season. Interestingly he watched Arsenal’s victory over West Ham on his ipad and uploaded a picture from the screen which we understand was designed to say “Here I am, come and get me.” At the moment Arsenal have only five attacking players whereas Liverpool now have seven seniors, Manchester City also have seven and Tottenham six. Meanwhile Eddie Nketiah rose to the occasion as a stand-in for injured Gabriel Jesus in the West Ham match. Both Mikel Arteta and Nketiah were pleased with his performance, scoring the third goal for the Gunners. Arteta was particularly pleased with Norwegian midfielder and club captain Martin Odegaard who was exceptional in running the game, pulling all the right strings and making two of the goals for Bukayo Saka and Nketiah.
*It was good to see former coach Arsene Wenger in the director’s box. It is the first time he has attended a game since leaving the club in 2018. He admitted it was difficult for him to return after being such an integral part of Arsenal, achieving the highest accolades and winning championships. He clearly looked delighted and was given a standing ovation by the thousands of fans who could see him.
Ronaldo taking medical in Saudi Arabia
Cristiano Ronaldo will have a medical at Saudi Arabian side Al-Nassr’s headquarters and he and his people have been booked into a five star hotel. The 37-year-old terminated his contract in agreement with Manchester United after an explosive interview with my former colleague Piers Morgan on national TV in the UK. It is clear that Ronaldo has still not signed a formal agreement but I understand he will be given a high profile role in Saudi Arabia’s bid to host the World Cup in 2030. Ronaldo has tinkered with the possibility of club management and the Saudis have offered to help him in that direction. His agent Jorge Mendes tried to secure a European club with Champions League credentials however this did not happen as no leading club showed interest. Ronaldo’s wish to lift the World Cup with Portugal also came to nothing and with Lionel Messi, fresh from lifting the famous world trophy, now being hailed as the best footballer ever in various voting polls, Cristiano has had an uncomfortable few weeks.
Newcastle are serious title contenders says coach Howe
The top of the table is fascinating and Newcastle have arrived to shake up the “big boys” and they are not only challenging for a top four spot. Supporters believe they can overhaul Arsenal at the very top of the table. Their 3,300 supporters sang loud and clear in the away seats at Leicester “We’re going to win the league!” Coach Eddie Howe, clearly on a high after the win said, “We can do anything.” Those “big boys” Arsenal, Manchester City, Tottenham, Manchester United and Liverpool occupy the top six places with Newcastle but only four can qualify for the Champions League. Managers are under pressure. A year ago the Black and Whites were fighting a relegation battle but with Saudi money, coach Eddie Howe and in-form players such as Almiron the club has been completely revitalised. In the win against Leicester, Howe was able to field the same eleven players who beat Chelsea before the World Cup break. Miguel Almiron showed that the break has not dampened his form and once again he scored to bring his season total to nine which is more than he contributed during the last four campaigns. Bruno Guimaries has been a clever buy and with players such as Joelinton, Kieran Trippier and Nick Pope in goal, Newcastle can boast that they have, at last, world class players.
Spurs players made to train in the dark
Antonio Conte cracked the whip and prepared his Tottenham team, not with an enjoyable winter warm training camp abroad in a favourable climate but cold nights in north London in the bitter English winter weather. He put his players through his famous “double” training sessions with exhausting runs around the perimeter of the training ground and often into the early evening in the dark – sometimes without flood lighting. Conte knows that sitting in fourth place in the league with Newcastle shaking everyone up and Manchester United breathing down their necks, the only way to remain Champions League place contenders is to work, work and then work some more. Fortunately, only World Cup players Hugo Lloris and Cristian Romero are still away.
How long will Lampard survive?
Everton’s coach Frank Lampard is under intense pressure and is the bookmaker’s favourite to be out of job very soon. After the toffees lost at home on Monday to Wolves, sections of the crowd chanted that Lampard must go and many left their seats at half time. They lacked any sort of goal threat and Lampard is bitterly disappointed that he still does not have the services of the injured Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Neil Maupay, Alex Iwobi, scorer Dwight McNeil and Anthony Gordon all looked goal shy and only Gordon, due to sign a new contract in a couple of days, showed any sort of fight. New Wolves manager Julen Lopetegui is currently being guided by his backroom staff as to which players make up the starting eleven and his delight at his first victory and the knowledge that he has quality performers such as Adama Traore, Daniel Podence, Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho, encouraged the highly rated coach to say that he can mould and build on these players and Wolves will climb away from the relegation zone and finish somewhere in midfield with much more to come in the near future. More misery probably awaits Lampard and Everton as they faceManchester City on New Year’s Day.