ON THE BRINK

Lampard fighting for his job after recent slump

Abramovich points out that he spent £200million in the summer on players who include Timo Werner and Kai Havertz, who are not performing to the standards they achieved at their previous clubs.

In Summary

• My inside source at Chelsea says that Abramovich and his senior staff have ex-Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri pencilled in as Lampard’s replacement if he is sacked.

• Such a player is Manchester United’s Donny van de Beek. He was a superstar at Dutch club Ajax before moving to Old Trafford for £35million in the summer.

Chelsea manager Frank Lampard during a recent match
Chelsea manager Frank Lampard during a recent match
Image: /REUTERS

I am hearing whispers from inside Stamford Bridge that being a club legend and friend of owner Roman Abramovich will not save his job if results do not improve. Chelsea do not employ losers…ask Jose Mourinho, Roberto Di Matteo, Ruud Gullit, Gianluca Vialli, Carlo Ancelotti, Guus Hiddink, Andre Villas-Boas, Antonio Conte, Rafa Benitez, Luiz Felipe Scolari, Claudio Ranieri, Maurizio Sarri and Avram Grant (also a close friend of Abramovich).

When the going got tough, they were all shown the one-way exit door. Abramovich spent Christmas on the Caribbean island of St Barts where he has a 70-acre estate with his 533ft yacht moored in the bay.

He was contacted as usual, after the defeat to Manchester City and he was not pleased. Chelsea have now lost four of their last six games and are eighth in the Premier League table. They have a total of 26 points after 17 games which is three less than last season at this stage.

Abramovich points out that he spent £200million in the summer on players who include Timo Werner and Kai Havertz, who are not performing to the standards they achieved at their previous clubs.

Lampard defended himself by saying: “I’m the man that has to be real… I’m real now saying that this club has to take some pain to get where we want to because any build or rebuild takes pain. It means pain behind the scenes, pain on the pitch occasionally, and fight and character — that’s how you build.”

I am just wondering if Abramovich is checking his address book to see it there are any top managers he hasn’t employed and sacked and who would please him with some positive results and perhaps a league title. My inside source at Chelsea says that Abramovich and his senior staff have ex-Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri pencilled in as Lampard’s replacement if he is sacked.

53-year-old Allegri decided to take a year away from football in 2019 and he is now available and can boast of six Italian Serie-A titles.

 

Tough season says Klopp

Jurgen Klopp has admitted that winning the title this season is much harder than last season. He thinks the race will ‘go down to the wire’ and the final games of the season will sort out which club holds the Premier league title cup aloft. If Liverpool do win, the club will draw level with Manchester United, who have won the title 20 times. Klopp said: “Every team is finding it tough this season in the world’s best league. It is so close and for a neutral, you will love it. Our season has so far been good. Not more. Not less.”

Klopp pointed out that Liverpool have had to cope with injuries to Virgil Van Dijk, Joel Matip and Thiago Alcantara as they were beaten 1-0 by rivals Southampton.

 

Donny van de Beek told to pack his bags

So many European players who have tasted success in their own country discover that joining a Premier League club is much more of a challenge. The pace and style of our game plus the depth of playing squads mean they are not automatically included in the starting line-up on many occasions. Such a player is Manchester United’s Donny van de Beek. He was a superstar at Dutch club Ajax before moving to Old Trafford for £35million in the summer.

However, he has started only two Premier League games since joining and now a report in the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf has advised him to ‘pack his bags’ if he doesn’t get more game time. At the time of writing, I do not yet have access to Ole Gunner Solskjaer’s team sheet. However, Donny is in contention with Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic, Bruno Fernandes, Scott McTominay and Fred. Solskjaer has previously claimed that Van de Beek needs more time to adjust to Premier League football and his time will come but points out that United are well covered in that position at the moment.

 

Alli could rejoin Pochettino

As predicted and you read in this column, ex-Spur’s coach Mauricio Pochettino has taken over the reigns at Paris St-Germain. He previously played for the club 95 times between 2001 and 2003. PSG are a club with huge resources and Pochettino has been told he can spend to strengthen the team. That puts Spur’s Dele Alli in the frame as Pochettino is known to admire his qualities. I am hearing that Alli’s name has already been mentioned inside PSG by Pochettino when talking with the club management.

Alli has not had much playing time under Jose Mourinho and he will agree to a sale if PSG come calling.

Another player Pochettino admires is Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha who has been linked with many clubs during the past two years. Pochettino tried to take the 28-year-old to Tottenham. Palace manager Roy Hodgson has admitted he could be in for a fight to hold on to his star player.

 

Saint-Maximum still weeks away from beating Covid-19

Newcastle manager Steve Bruce hasn’t had very much good fortune lately with injuries and Covid-19 affecting team selections. To start off the new year badly, he has received news from his medical team that star striker Allan Saint-Maximin is several weeks away from returning to full fitness.

Arguably Newcastle’s best player, the 23-year-old Frenchman has missed the black and white’s last seven games. He spent Christmas with his family in France as he tries to beat the virus. Defender Jamie Lascelles has also suffered from long-term effects of Covid-19 but he is expected to be back in training very soon. Bruce told us this week: “Jamie has done a little bit of work and is making inroads back into joining the team but we are still weeks away with Saint-Maximum.”

 

Kane and Son lift Mourinho’s blues

Last week did not start well for Jose Mourinho. He was bad tempered although that might be a little strong but he was definitely one to avoid at the Spur’s training ground. He discovered that three of his players had illegally attended a Christmas Party when the government and all football clubs had forbidden group get-togethers of any sort due to Covid-19.

Sergio Reguilon, Erik Lamela and Giovani Lo Celso were the offenders. West Ham’s Manuel Lanzini was also at the party and he is faces disciplinary action although he did play in the match against Everton. As a punishment Reguilon and Lamela were left out of the Spur’s team which beat Aston Villa 3-0 but Lo Celso was injured anyway. Mourinho’s mood changed when his two link-up forwards, Kane and Son, once again weaved their magic and inspired a good Spur’s performance. The two train hard together, practicing runs, shooting and operating as a pair and many would argue they are Europe’s most lethal combination. They have become inseparable of late. They have also played together for six seasons and when Kane passed to Son in the Villa game he knew exactly where Son would be; playing off the shoulder of a defender and racing for goal. And so it proved as Kane, almost without looking up, stroked the ball into the stride of Son who delivered the goal. It could have been the other way around because these two have an almost telepathic understanding. It was a great week for Kane; he scored against Villa and his wife gave birth to their third child and the biggest bunch of congratulatory flowers were sent by a smiling Mourinho!

 

ALK Capital takes over Burnley

I was highly amused at Burnley’s online conference following the club’s takeover on new year’s eve by American sports investment firm ALK Capital. The new Burnley chairman and boss of ALK Alan Pace is clearly a nice guy and has promised to get involved in the club, the community and everything to make the claret and blues a successful Premier League club. As a committed Morman he does not drink. A moment of hilarity at the conference was therefore enjoyed by many, including Pace, when manager Sean Dyche asked if that meant the club had to stop serving beer at matches!

Pace, clearly a Dyche fan, laughed but on a more serious note has promised investment in the club which means money will at last be available for Dyche to strengthen his team.

 

Romero still wants out of United

Manchester United reserve goalkeeper Sergio Romero was very angry when he failed to secure a move away from Old Trafford in the summer.

United asked for £5million for the 33-year-old but no offers came in. Now they are prepared to release him for £2.5million in the January transfer window. Goalkeepers at United are paid a total of £575k-a-week because both De Gea and Henderson have been given pay rises but Romero has been left behind. Both Everton and Leeds were interested previously but United are uncertain if they are still considering a bid and have not been contacted.

Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti witnessed his goalkeeper, England’s Jordan Pickford make a number of mistakes last season and it cost the Blues points. Ancelotti wants to put pressure on Pickford to do better and has spoken with United about signing Romero. He is still Argentina’s number one choice having won 96 caps. Newly promoted Leeds United are also monitoring Romero’s progress and might make a bid. United tell me that manager Ole Gunner Solskjaer would be prepared to discuss letting him go.

 

City’s Garcia heading back to Barcelona

I am picking up news from Manchester City that Pep Guardiola is struggling to persuade defender Eric Garcia not to return to Barcelona. Guardiola revealed that Garcia has refused to extend his contract beyond 2021. I hear that Garcia is already speaking to the Catalan giants. The 19-year-old is a regular in the City team after joining in 2017 following his promotion from the famous La

Masia academy at Barcelona. Barca wanted to buy Garcia out of his contract early but were put off by City’s demand for £20million because they are steeped in financial problems at the moment. Garcia’s representatives were reluctant to comment but it is possible he could sign a pre-contract with Barcelona in January.