• With Thomas Tuchel now settled at Stamford Bridge, I have learned that Chelsea could offer Alaba a pre-contract arrangement in much the same way they brought Thiago Silva from Paris St-Germain.
• If you wonder why Pep Guardiola’s teams are always near to or at the top of any league, you only have to look at one of his training sessions.
I received a phone call on Monday from Chelsea informing me that the Blues have reached an agreement with Jerome Boateng’s agent to bring the Bayern Munich defender to Stamford Bridge.
Boateng will be a free agent when his current contract expires in the summer and he is very keen to move on.
Bayern are also set to lose defender/midfielder David Alaba this summer and Chelsea are competing with Real Madrid and Barcelona for his signature. Chelsea hold the ace card as they have plenty of money whereas Real and Barcelona have huge debts.
Alaba will also be on a free transfer as his current deal with Bayern is running out and he cannot agree on new terms with the German Bundesliga side.
With Thomas Tuchel now settled at Stamford Bridge, I have learned that Chelsea could offer Alaba a pre-contract arrangement in much the same way they brought Thiago Silva from Paris St-Germain.
Odegaard with the Gunners at last
Martin Odegaard is one of Europe’s brightest talents and taking him on loan from Real Madrid was an excellent move by Arsenal. However, things could have been very different because it was the Gunners who first spotted Odegaard’s talent when he was just 14.
Odegaard’s father, a professional footballer himself, worked hard every day with his son teaching him techniques and skills resulting in the youngster impressing Arsenal scouts with his ability to read a game and command the midfield.
He made his debut for Norwegian club Stromsgodset at only 15 and he attracted the interest of Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Manchester United and Liverpool.
But it was Arsenal who made the positive move and brought Odegaard to London where Arsene Wenger wined and dined him and showed him round the impressive set up at the club. Odegaard thought long and hard about which club to join but opted for Real Madrid.
Now at 22, he is with Arsenal at last — though on loan — and his future looks bright as he joins Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe and Eddie Nketiah as the Gunners’ stars for the future.
Tough taskmaster Guardiola
If you wonder why Pep Guardiola’s teams are always near to or at the top of any league, you only have to look at one of his training sessions.
No, it is not just about the money he can spend, it is about how he manages the team and his meticulous preparation. Pep lines up his players in their playing formation and on his command they start an attacking move.
If one player is out of position or makes a pass which goes astray he screams “Stop!” and they have to start all over again. Some of the players find his methods tough, some lose concentration and some cannot quite cope. But one thing is for sure, they all listen to the master and they all learn.
After the session, Guardiola calls several players into his office and shows them replays on his MacBook laptop, going all through the moves, individual passes, their possession and speed.
Werner in upbeat mood
Despite his difficult start to a Chelsea career, Timo Werner is in good spirits. He has scored only one goal in 19 games but is improving and provided an assist and won a penalty in the 2-1 win over Sheffield United.
The reason for his upbeat feeling is new manager Thomas Tuchel. Previous manager, Frank Lampard, played Timo on each wing and through the middle. He said this week: “Every manager is different in how he wants us to play. He (Tuchel) gives us a lot of ideas and now I play as a left No.10 not as a winger. I have more space for my runs in the middle and can play behind a striker. It is very good for me and is working.”
Allardyce admits big task ahead at West Brom
Sam Allardyce has admitted that he has made no significant progress in his attempt to rescue West Bromwich from their perilous relegation situation, sitting next to the bottom of the Premier League.
The Baggies are 11 points from safety and his struggling defence have conceded 28 goals in 10 matches. Allardyce said this week: “I am still facing the same problems I was facing when I arrived. My work here is not done by a long way. We have to start with Manchester United on
Sunday and I have to get my lads working and practising from now until the last kick of the season. I have to stop those lapses of concentration which lead to defensive mistakes and costs us goals and matches. That is what I have got to work on.”
Allardyce praised on-loan signing from Arsenal, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and said: “He is a good player, he’s got pace and quality plus Premier League experience and will play a big part in our revival. Everyone here at the Hawthorns is trying as hard as they can and there is no lack of effort and I hope the spirit of the new players can help us.”
Guardiola looking forward to Aguero’s return
Pep Guardiola is delighted with Sergio Aguero’s progress as he trained this week with his Manchester City teammates.
After a thirty minute session, Aguero then worked on his own and was pleased with his performance. He has missed the last nine matches after coming into contact with a Covid-19 positive friend and then caught the virus himself.
Pep explained that he will not rush Aguero in his recovery but he trained on Monday and Tuesday with other players not involved in last weekend’s matches. Guardiola is also pleased that he has managed to carry on City’s winning streak with Phil Foden acting as a striking forward which resulted in the 4-1 win at Liverpool.
Gabriel Jesus has also impressed recently but Pep recognises that he must buy players in the summer to cover for injuries and cup games.
Speaking of Aguero this week, he said: “I’m so optimistic that Sergio will give us some good months until the end of the season and he is going to help us in the decisive moments, to give us the goals and the difference that we need. I am so confident this is going to happen.”
Pep was also pleased with Kevin de Bruyne’s lone training session as he continues to recover from the injury which has prevented him from playing for City during the last three weeks. City hopes he might even make it back for their Champions League last-16 first leg tie against Borussia Monchengladbach on February 24.
Future of Zaha and Hodgson
Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson told us that his star winger Wilfried Zaha could be out for a couple of weeks at least after suffering a hamstring injury. Hodgson pointed out that Zaha has a record of fast recovery from injuries but his hamstring is a worry.
He also touched on the importance to the club of keeping his mercurial winger when the summer transfer period arrives as several clubs are once again showing interest. Talking to us about his own future, Hodgson said he is very happy in his current position as manager but at 73, he will make a decision about whether to continue or not at the end of the season and probably in July.
Mourinho told to give Gareth Bale a fair chance
On a peak performance day, Gareth Bale can be the best in the world. I have watched him play defenders off the park and run teams rugged. Jose Mourinho is not even tapping into Bale’s qualities.
For starters, the Welsh forward might not have his old speed but he can still perform moments of magic of the kind we saw in two Champions League finals.
He can, like Messi or Ronaldo, win matches on his own. Mourinho is now attracting a lot of criticism from Tottenham fans for not giving their former favourite a fair chance since he signed on loan from Real Madrid.
Speaking this week, ex-Spurs manager Harry Redknapp said: “Mourinho needs to give Bale plenty of room on the training field, put him up against one of the more mediocre defenders and work him tirelessly, encouraging him to beat the defender over and again and strike for goal.
He needs his confidence back and desire to play. He suffered a torrid and embarrassing time under Zinedine Zidane in Madrid and he needs to feel wanted again. Bale doesn’t drink or smoke and is very fit but he needs games.
Carlos Vinicius, Lucas Moura and Steven Bergwijn are Bale’s immediate contenders to start a match and Redknapp does not believe they are anywhere near Bale’s true quality.
Which manager will be sacked next?
Who is your pick to be the next Premier League manager sacked? This season we have lost Slaven Bilic, who lost the confidence of directors at West Bromwich Albion and next was Frank Lampard at Chelsea.
The latest betting odds are: Steve Bruce at Newcastle who is 5/2. Sam Allardyce hasn’t performed his usual relegation magic at West Bromwich and he is 10/3.
Next comes Jose Mourinho who has seen his Spurs' team drop down the table recently. He is 5/1. Then comes Roy Hodgson at Crystal Palace, who are not doing so well with their under-funded team this season and he is 9/1.
Fulham’s Scott Parker is firmly cemented in the relegation zone and he is 11/2. Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder has the confidence of the management and his odds are 20/1 so he looks safe for the immediate future.