A friend sent me a funny video clip this week. A man reading the sports pages of a newspaper suddenly shouts, “Arsenal are top of the league”. Unfortunately he was holding his paper upside down! But that, astonishingly, is where Arsenal find themselves. Bottom of the table.
The situation at the club is chaotic with unhappy players and disgruntled fans. Willian tore up his £240k a week contract so he could leave and return to South America and join Brazilian side Corinthians. His agent said Willian left Chelsea to join the Gunners because he was sold Arteta’s Arsenal “Project” but when he arrived he found no project. He quickly became disillusioned with Arteta.I wrote last week that the Arsenal board are sticking with the manager for the time being but after seeing the shambolic, disorganized way they played against Chelsea and then Man City and their futile spirit accepting defeat, the clock is ticking for Arteta. Why, all the Gunner’s fans were asking, was Arteta playing new signing Martin Odegaard centrally alongside Granit Xhaka in a defensive role? He is an attacking midfielder! He was totally out of position and it was a recipe for disaster and City scored two inside 12 minutes. Where is the planning, the tactics and briefings? Arsenal have backed Arteta by spending £160million but I cannot honestly see that the money has been spent wisely. The players brought in are only marginally better than those who have left. Takehiro Tomiyasu joined on the final transfer day to fill the right back position after Hector Bellerin left on loan for a year at Real Betis. Ainsley Maitland-Niles annoyed Arteta by using his Instagram account to announce that he wants to leave as soon as possible but in a ‘clear-the-air talk’ between the two on Tuesday, Ainsley was told he has to stay until January. After agreeing he attended a Covid testing session but on his return he was humiliated by being sent out to train with the Academy youngsters. According to my contacts he will remain with the junior team for the foreseeable future. Arteta’s future could be decided on the return from the international break when they play Norwich who are above Arsenal simply because they have scored one goal this season! It is must win situation for Arteta.
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Solskjaer considers his attacking options with Ronaldo
There is much discussion as to what United’s formation line up will be now they have Cristiano Ronaldo to boost their attack. During his three years in charge, Solskjaer has used a 4-2-3-1 formation however this has failed many times. Pogba has proven to be world class when played further forward however Solskjaer often reverts him to a deep midfield role which restricts his potential. Solskjaer considered switching to a 4-3-3 formation during the summer although at present he is still using 4-2-3-1. With Renaldo added to his ranks this season it will enable Solskjaer to make the formation change at last. United have been known over the years as an attacking, entertaining team and their new wealth of lethal strikers gives Solskjaer various options to restore this. With Ronaldo, Cavani, Greenwood, Sancho and Radford as his main strike force, both Fernandes and Pogba would be given their freedom to control the midfield. Many believe this could be United’s year but whatever happens they are going to be the team everyone wants to see and this is Solskjaer’s big chance to win some silverware.
Chelsea players enjoy Tuchel’s fun and joking
With Chelsea sitting in the top four, Thomas Tuchel let us into a few Chelsea secrets this week. He reckons his team are much happier these days because he is someone who likes a lighter atmosphere than most managers. He might look stern and tough, shouting from the manager’s technical area but behind the scenes he enjoys a good laugh and a joke and he has not imposed fines on players who arrive late for training whereas his predecessor Frank Lampard handed out fines of up to £20,000 if players did not turn up on time. Tuchel says, “Normal guys like to play football. If we don’t laugh, who can laugh? We should be happy. I might have lost a bit of authority and maybe we have to change a bit to get back to our serious side. You should have seen me ten years ago, running up and down the line, calling over the fourth official and attacking him and also shouting at the bench and the referee. No one was safe. But I have calmed down a lot and it is better for the team and everybody!” He said, “Going to Liverpool was always going to be tough but we were reduced to ten men and had to defend the whole of the second half in front of a noisy Kop. It is maybe the toughest question you can get asked in world football. At the moment we have what it takes. We have the spirit. We still have stuff to improve, absolutely, but the key factor in the last half of the year was the atmosphere and the spirit. It was that we played like brothers and we could rely on each other. And we have bonded as manager and team. I think my lighter touch pays off.”
Good business by Leicester
Brendan Rodgers is an astute manager who knows a bargain when he sees one. Leicester’s last minute signing of Ademola Lookman is an inspired piece of business. He spent last season on loan at Fulham and his parent club RB Leipzig has agreed an option for Leicester to buy him next summer. Lookman is capable of taking on and beating defenders to set up an assist or going for goal himself. He reminds me of Riyad Mahrez at Manchester City.
Son’s teammate joins Wolves
I wrote to you some time ago about Son Heung-min’s national teammate Hwang Hee-chan who plays for German Bundesliga side RB Leipzig. Known as “The Bull” because of his aggressive tough playing style, the striker has been signed on a loan deal and joins Wolves for this season. Manager Bruno Laga says “He’s got pedigree, having played Champions League football and in the World Cup. He’s got a lot of pace and strength. He’s probably a little bit different to what we already have and we think he’s a strong acquisition.”
Zouma gives Moyes solid backing
Was it really only three months ago that Kurt Zouma was wearing a Champions League medal around his neck and answering a phone call informing him that he had been selected to join the French national squad? What a difference when he returned for training at Chelsea to find that he had slipped down the pecking order and there was no place for him in Thomas Tuchel’s team. Enter David Moyes, the highly successful manager of West Ham and Zouma received a lifeline. Last weekend the Hammer’s centre-back Craig Dawson endured a painful time against Crystal Palace and his place is under threat with the incoming Zouma. The Palace forward Conor Gallagher turned Dawson one way then another before beating him time and again. Teams will find that Zouma is a rock-like defender and that is what Moyes bought him for, to be the foundation of his defence and his heading ability is second to none.