•Jose Mourinho has an ace card up his sleeve in his pursuit of 28-year-old PSG defender Thomas Meunier
•Now that Chelsea manager Frank Lampard is getting his new team line-up sorted out, the club have four players who I am told are surplus to requirements so they can save on wages.
Mikel Arteta is determined to retain the services of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who is being chased by Atletico Madrid.
Aubameyang’s importance to the Arsenal manager is underlined by Alexandre Lacazette’s upcoming negotiations over his contract renewal. The striker’s current deal runs out in 2022 but he could be made available for transfer so that Arsenal can hang on to Aubameyang.
Arsenal are being very cautious with financial dealings at the moment because of the effect on their bank account related to the coronavirus shutdown. Arsenal have also paid off several top scouts on their books to save money. Some of them have 20-years service with the Gunners but received only one month’s redundancy. Those scouts are all operating in Europe but 10 part-time academy scouts
have also been axed despite being credited with discovering Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Reiss Nelson.
Arteta had to make do with loan deals last January because of financial restrictions and now the Covid-19 pandemic has ended, any chance of spending this summer. Before the game on Wednesday evening against Manchester City, Arteta said he definitely wanted to keep David Luiz and asked his management to offer the Brazilian defender a deal for next season.
Arteta said on Tuesday, “I’m really happy with David. I want to keep him here. He has been a key role model for me since I’ve joined.”
Regrettably, that might have changed 24 hours later when Luiz came on as a substitute, was at fault for City’s first goal and then gave away a penalty and got himself sent off. It hardly gives his agents a strong bargaining hand in negotiations and I expect news in the next few days.
Luiz, however, is influential in the dressing room and has been a positive force for the younger players who listen to him. Meanwhile, Juventus are considering putting ex-Arsenal player Aaron Ramsey up for sale at the end of the current season. He has not had an easy time because of injuries and has failed to make the impact we all expected from such a talented player. His club Juventus needs to make savings because of the coronavirus and Aaron is one of their highest paid earners.
Heads up for Rashford
Marcus Rashford has covered himself in glory just recently by championing a cause to give poorer children lunchtime meals during the school closures. His efforts have raised nearly £20million and Marcus is tipped to be honoured by the Queen of England sometime in the future. The world’s media has been talking about this story all week but you read it here in this column on April 4th. We were two months ahead of the world’s sporting media.
Meanwhile, I can reveal that back at Old Trafford the club have a special plan for Marcus. Before he was injured did you notice that despite, being a prolific goalscorer, he rarely delivers with his head. Although he stands 6ft tall he has scored 31 of his Premier League goals with his right foot, three with his left foot and only four headers. It is something that Ole Gunner Solskjaer intends to concentrate on in future training because he can see more goal opportunities for the England striker.
Mourinho moves for PSG’s Meunier
Jose Mourinho has an ace card up his sleeve in his pursuit of 28-year-old PSG defender Thomas Meunier. The Belgium right-back is a close friend of Tottenham’s Toby Alderweireld and Mourinho intends to use that to his advantage in trying to sign Meunier when his contract runs out with Paris Saint-Germain. Mourinho will have very little money to spend because of the coronavirus lockdown and subsequent lack of club income. I have learned that chairman Daniel Levy has arranged a £170million loan to help the club through the current financial crisis. Current right-back Serge Aurier is worrying Mourinho because of his inconsistency. One week he is brilliant and the next he is awful. My contacts tell me that Mourinho has already made contact with Meunier and the manager has
reported back to his club. Liverpool and Manchester United are known to like the 40 cap Belgium international but I can see this going Mourinho’s way if things work out.
Four players likely to leave Chelsea
Now that Chelsea manager Frank Lampard is getting his new team line-up sorted out, the club have four players who I am told are surplus to requirements so they can save on wages. David Zappacosta was an urgent buy by Antonio Conte during his time as manager but he does not fit into Frank Lampard’s plans. He has struggled with injuries whilst on loan at Italian club Roma and I can’t see him returning to favour with the Blues, especially with the emergence of Reece James. Tiemoue Bakayoko is likely to be another casualty with the 25-year-old currently back at his original club Monaco. He only spent one real season with Chelsea and again he doesn’t fit into Frank’s overall plan. Kenedy is a Brazilian star with quality but he has not had a good time at Chelsea. On loan to Watford and Newcastle twice and he could be on his way out of Stamford Bridge at the end of the
season. Danny Drinkwater had his moment of glory when winning a Premier League winners medal with Leicester but it has all been downhill ever since. The 30-year-old has been on loan to Burnley and Aston Villa and Lampard would like to move him on.
Liverpool and West Ham’s planned start
Here are two updates on how clubs are planning to continue their season: Liverpool will play their anthem “You’ll Never Walk Alone” over the loud speakers as their players take to the pitch without fans watching in the stadium. The club believe it will inspire players in the absence of the usual support and noise from the Kop. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the UK government has issued strong instructions to clubs that their fans must not congregate outside the closed stadiums where matches are being played. West Ham have gone one step further and erected a steel barrier around the ground so no fans can get anywhere near the gates. The barrier will be open on non-match days and closed on the morning of a match. So far, other London clubs have not followed West Ham’s example.
Why Villa cannot risk relegation
As we return to watching Premier League matches again, there is one club which needs to do well in avoiding relegation or they risk losing their best players. Aston Villa are fighting hard and on Wednesday they started with a point against high flying Sheffield United. If they are relegated then two of their best players will certainly leave the club. Jack Grealish is much sought after by the top clubs and will command a fee of around £80million. Grealish will not play in the lower Championship league and seeks top level football with Champions League a priority. Tyrone Mings, probably Villa’s best defender, wants to build on his England international career and a drop into the lower league would be unthinkable for him. He will be up for sale at around £40million.
How Jurgen Klopp could replace Dejan Lovren
Dejan Lovren, Liverpool’s self-proclaimed “one of the best defenders in football” could be on his way out of Anfield at the end of this summer. The former Southampton player was almost transferred to Italy’s Serie ‘A’ at the start of the season but the move fell through. Jurgen Klopp will replace him if he can find a suitable defender at the right price and with the shutdown, money is not going to be readily available. Kalidou Koulibaly was one name in the frame but he would be expensive.
Therefore, the club have decided to repeat their plan when they brought Joel Matip into the squad in 2016. They need a player to work closely with Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez but in all probability will spend some time on the bench as second choice.
Matip has accepted his place in the squad rotation and has remained loyal without making many starts. I have heard two other names from the grapevine and they include Dan-Axel Zagadou, a French under-21 international who has been impressive playing for Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund. The price would be around £25million although Dortmund are not looking to sell him at the moment. Another possible is Tanguy Kouassi who plays in the French Ligue 1 with Paris St Germain. He is only just 17 but has been highlighted because of his maturity and he is already a national under-18 player. Both Barcelona and RB Leipzig are also interested and I have received a whisper that Jurgen Klopp thinks Kouassi is a possible for the future to be moulded into a player supporting both van Dijk and Gomez.
Carroll tries for short contract
Andy Carroll, I believe, is a good quality striker but his career has been dogged with injury. I have been told from St James’ Park that at 31-years-old he is hoping to persuade Newcastle to extend his contract on a short term basis so he can impress and gain a longer stay at the club.
He arrived on a free transfer from West Ham where he spent most of his time on the medical table and he has managed only four starts at Newcastle since August. Regrettably, he has not scored in his last 28 games. Newcastle has set a precedent for short contracts with Danny Rose and Valentino Lazaro having made the same arrangement. If Newcastle agree, Carroll will have until August to influence manager Steve Bruce to keep him.
Is yellow your favourite colour?
If you like the colour yellow and want to wallpaper your house then ask Bournemouth’s Jefferson Lerma to give you some of his yellow cards. He has the unfortunate record of having been booked and shown 66 yellow cards in the last four years with 22 coming at Bournemouth!