Manchester United’s Carrington training facility was the last place on earth the players wanted to be on Monday morning. After suffering humiliation against Liverpool they reluctantly arrived fearing that Erik Ten Hag was going to tear them apart. David de Gea and Luke Shaw avoided media cameras by pulling down the visors inside their cars. Several players wore hoodies pulled over their heads. It was like the walk of shame. Ten Hag had arrived two hours earlier than his players and had already set up the briefing room. Breakfast was not on the menu until the players had been confronted by the coach. Much to the surprise of everyone in attendance Ten Hag did not shout, scream and criticise his players but emphasized that the 7-0 defeat must not undo all the good work and progress the team has achieved this season. Recover from the weekend and move on was the message. He said, “What happened doesn’t destroy the work we have done this season. You have to be more hungry and not let the loss depress you. That is vital. We can overcome this.” Ten Hag also suggested players having sessions with a Dutch sports psychologist who he introduced to the club. Unlike the usual Monday morning routine, Ten Hag did not show a video replay of the game but selected clips which he thought would motivate the players to do better.
Guardiola: Next three matches vital for City
Pep Guardiola believes the next three matches will define Manchester City’s season. The Blues have had a rare break this week with no matches. This weekend they meet Crystal Palace and then have a huge Champions League match against RB Leipzig. In a week’s time Vincent Kompany brings his highly successful Championship side Burnley to Maine Road and Guardiola believes those three games will be the foundation of going on to compete for three titles this season. I understand that John Stones is now fit and Aymeric Laporte is also back. After taking two days off following the 2-0 win over Newcastle, Guardiola said, “If we are able to win those games, we will still be alive in three competitions and in the last part of the season we will be there. If we lose we are out of the competitions. I gave the players two days off to forget football, enjoy their families and friends and to come back stronger.”
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Trossard and Gabi give Arsenal options
Mikel Arteta is delighted with his new signing Leandro Trossard. His role as a false No9 is similar to that of Gabriel Jesus before his cruel injury. Arteta said, “He is really good. He gets involved in many situations and he is good in small spaces. He’s got that creativity to open people up and I’m really happy with him. His tendancy is to drift out to the left and interchange with Gabriel Martinelli. Their link-up play has given Arsenal a new dimension which is producing goals. He also has the ability to drop deep and again link-up play which gives the Gunners different options going forward. Arsenal captain Martin Odegaard also has been heaping praise on Trossard, “He is doing a great job and he and Eddie (Nketiah) are having a positive impact on games.” Arteta can play Trossard as No 9 or Gabi as No9 with Trossard going wide on the left. His arrival together with Jorginho from Chelsea have given Arteta the ammunition he needs to keep Arsenal at the top and the run in with Manchester City is going to be fascinating.
Foden’s foot problem
Phil Foden has been struck down again with his niggling foot injury. After playing injured in the January Manchester derby he finally realised that he had to ask Pep Guardiola for time off. Riyad Mahrez and Jack Grealish rose to the challenge of playing on without Foden and Bernado Silva more than made up for the missing talent of the youngster. Four goals in the past ten days have promoted Foden back into automatic selection however his foot is again worrying him. Instead of playing on as he did in January, he has taught himself to manage his body more successfully and on Monday he asked Pep Guardiola for time off from training or perhaps only light training. He said this week, “We are always playing and there is no time to rest, sometimes your feet just need to rest and that was it really. It’s one of those injuries where physios cannot help and I have to manage it myself. I have to balance resting and training.”
Eriksen eyes return
Christian Eriksen is hoping to make his comeback for Manchester United before this season ends in May. He watched from the stands as United lifted the Carabao Cup and witnessed their disaster against Liverpool at the weekend but has been out of the team since seriously injuring his ankle against Reading in January. Surgery has helped his condition and he displayed his upbeat mood when he said, “I’m feeling well. I mean it’s always boring to be in the protective boot and being on crutches but I’ve left the crutches off now and am only having to wear a boot. Next week it should be gone and I’ll be finally learning to walk again! I still hope to make a final this season!”
Silva’s knee causing problems
I checked in with Chelsea this week for a progress report on Thiago Silva’s knee injury. The news is not good. Chelsea’s medical team were unable to give an accurate length of time Thiago will be out of action but the 38 year-old centre back is likely to take 6 weeks to recover. That would rule him out of games against Leicester and Everton and four more games after the international break. Chelsea do have cover in Wesley Fofana and several other players who have all played at centre back but Silva is the main man with his experience, timing and reading of a game.
Onana can score goals for Everton
Everton boss Sean Dyche believes Amadou Onana can develop into a first-class goalscoring midfielder. Onana was Everton’s big signing last summer at £33million from French club Lille and he impressed former manager Frank Lampard and now Dyche has recognised his potential. Onana scored only one goal in the year he spent in France and hit two goals for his former club Hamburg but Dyche believes he has seen something special in the Belgian. Dyche said, “When you are young you can adapt your game and we want Ama to be able to change and look at his role in midfield. I think it’s more of European thing and sometimes from a very young age they say ‘you are that player’ but when I was growing up midfielders did a bit of everything and that is what I want from Amadou. I’m already showing him video clips of great midfielders and telling him that he can add their skills to his game. Manchester United legend, captain and midfielder Bryan Robson scored 100 goals in 465 games and 26 times for his country and Frank Lampard was always a goal threat for Chelsea. I think with Ama’s physicality, driving into the box and power, he is a really good weapon for us.”
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