Contrasting events as Arsenal host Liverpool

Van Dijk insisted this week that he will not be leaving Anfield in the summer despite many reports to the contrary.

In Summary

• Salah has returned from the Cup of Nations following Egypt’s surprise elimination from the tournament, but Klopp has said he will miss the next two games because of a hamstring injury. 

• Chelsea might have been overrun by Liverpool, but Chilwell showed that he has lost none of his considerable abilities after being on the sidelines for such a lengthy period.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta talks to Thomas Partey
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta talks to Thomas Partey

Arsenal v Liverpool

A top-of-the-table clash at the Emirates on Sunday is a game that has been heavily influenced by recent events at both clubs.

Liverpool’s shock revelation that Jurgen Klopp is leaving in a few months and Mikel Arteta believing he has got his team perfect.

Probably the two most influential forwards, Mo Salah for Liverpool and Gabriel Jesus for Arsenal will not meet this weekend.

Salah has returned from the Cup of Nations following Egypt’s surprise elimination from the tournament, but Klopp has said he will miss the next two games because of a hamstring injury. 

Klopp said: “We cannot rush. If we could rush the healing process, believe me, Thiago Alcantara wouldn’t have been out for ten months.

Mo is not ready for the next game or the one after. He’s injured and muscle injuries take time... he is just doing his rehab.”

Mo has been running on a track during a training session which has convinced fans that he could be available for Sunday.

Adding spice to the tie is Chelsea’s long-term view that Liverpool defender Virgil Van Dijk could be their replacement for 39-year-old Thiago Silva.

Liverpool fans do not appreciate the disruptive dialogue. Van Dijk insisted this week that he will not be leaving Anfield in the summer despite many reports to the contrary.

Both he and Klopp insisted that the coach’s summer departure would not mean a mass exodus of players and that fans should remain calm as everything is stable and on course.

Arteta intends to play Jesus, Kai Havertz and Eddie Nketiah. Jesus had a sit-down meeting with the coach and insisted he could handle the pressure of being the central striker.

He said his mental attitude is perfect to cope after playing for Man City and Brazil.

Jurgen Klopp in a past match
Jurgen Klopp in a past match

Conor is a golden nugget

Take a note: Conor Bradley is going to be a huge superstar. The Liverpool rookie was brilliant against Chelsea in midweek but he is such a new player the Kop crowd doesn’t yet have a song to sing about him! “There is only one Conor Bradley” was their quick response.

Pep Guardiola said that Phil Foden was the best young player he had ever worked with. Jurgen Klopp is thinking the same about Bradley after his goal and two assists.

The 20-year-old Northern Ireland youngster is everything Klopp would like to leave as part of his legacy when he moves on in the summer. He is undoubtedly one of the brightest prospects for the future of the club.

Klopp rested man of the match Bradley with 20 minutes to go so that he is fit and strong to face Arsenal on Sunday.

Moyes believes in Phillips

West Ham coach David Moyes wants Kalvin Phillips to be the new Jesse Lingard, who enjoyed a spectacular season at the club three years ago.

Lingard arrived and helped the London team into Europe with his goals. Phillips is only with West Ham on loan until the end of the season but is motivated by his desire to keep his spot in the Three Lions.

He has not started a league game all season and was praised by Moyes saying he could play as a No.6, a No.8 and could thrive in midfield. Mohammed Kudus is back from playing for Ghana but Lucas Paqueta has no set return date.

Kevin De Bruyne in a pasta ction
Kevin De Bruyne in a pasta ction
Image: FILE

City looking strong for the title 

Would you seriously bet against Manchester City retaining their Premier League title?

Aiming for a consecutive fourth title, City are back to their best with the return of Kevin De Bruyne and Erling Haaland.

De Bruyne was out for 10 five months while Haaland missed 10 games. The Norwegian was given a standing ovation when he came onto the field against Burnley in midweek.

City last lost to Aston Villa on December 16 and have since won 16 points from a possible 18.

Against Burnley on Wednesday, De Bruyne was involved in everything good about City… he ran the game.

He was anxious to make up for those lost months and ran and ran like a man possessed.

Alongside Rodri, City look perfectly capable of overhauling Liverpool and bagging another title.

Away at Brentford on Monday evening, Pep Guardiola once again intends to play De Bruyne, Rodri, Foden and Haaland which will severely test the London club.

Bee’s coach Thomas Frank has been concentrating on making breakaway moves and set pieces.

His training ground routines were highly effective against Tottenham in midweek, and he plans to use that strategy again, but I fear for Brentford with City in their current rich vein of form.

Chelsea's Ben Chilwell in action with Fulham's Kenny Tete
Chelsea's Ben Chilwell in action with Fulham's Kenny Tete
Image: FILE

Chilwell is a born leader

Despite the Blue’s midweek loss away at Liverpool, Ben Chilwell is a vital part of Mauricio Pochettino’s revival at Chelsea.

When he pulled up in his 4x4 next to me at a Cobham Shell service station recently, I asked him how he was recovering from the four-month hamstring injury layoff and when he expects to be back.

He told me he is desperate. He misses the action, the fans and the adrenalin but since this is his third major hamstring problem, the medical team were cautious.

In Chelsea’s 6-1 thrashing of Middlesborough in the FA Cup, Chilwell showed how pleased he is to be back.

He was the first out to warm up before the game and the last back in the dressing room.

He was the first to run over to the Chelsea fans at full time, waved at them to show appreciation for their support.

He took off his jacket, removed his shirt and gave it to a young, excited fan.

Chilwell has a bond with the Chelsea faithful which is invaluable to Pochettino and as an elder statesman in the dressing room, he is, alongside Thiago Silva, the one who the players listen to and are motivated by.

Chelsea might have been overrun by Liverpool, but Chilwell showed that he has lost none of his considerable abilities after being on the sidelines for such a lengthy period.

What the Chelsea coach craves for is a fit Reece James playing alongside Chilwell and he knows they are the best in the league when fully fit.

With Chilwell playing at left back, Pochettino can move Levi Colwill inside to centre-half which he considers as his best position.

If Colwill then moves forward towards midfield, he feels more secure knowing he has the captain’s protection.

His clever runs forward often put him alongside Raheem Sterling which demonstrates his ability to get around the field.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta
Image: FILE


Arteta to Barca is fake news!

Arsenal fans were worried this week when a Spanish media source claimed that Mikel Arteta had told a member of his staff that he is interested in taking over from Xabi as coach of Barcelona.

“Fake News!” shouted the Gunner’s coach. “It is untrue and I do not like it. I am in the right place.”

It was revealed this week that Mikel sympathised with Jurgen Klopp and his decision to leave Liverpool in the summer.

The Arsenal man said his brain is working at 100 miles an hour and you have to find time to relax.

He chooses to meditate when he is not enjoying time with his family or taking a well-earned holiday which he says is essential for survival in the Premier League.

Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson
Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson
Image: FILE

Palace does it the Eze way

Crystal Palace coach Roy Hodgson has made his opinion clear.

Despite all the rumours and attention given to Michael Olise leaving the club in the summer, Hodgson says it would be wrong of the club to sell the future of the team.

The France Under-21 international has been suffering from niggling injuries lately but has still scored five goals in nine appearances.

Many suspected Hodgson would have been sacked had they lost at home to Everton but were 3-2 winners to ease the pressure on Hodgson.

Former Tottenham Hotspur manager Nuno Espirito Santo
Former Tottenham Hotspur manager Nuno Espirito Santo
Image: FILE


Maupay pays for tormenting Spurs

The problem with making fun of your opponents was clear on Wednesday evening.

Brentford star Neal Maupay wound up the crowd and Tottenham players by celebrating his goal with a pinpoint dart-throwing action which was aimed at Tottenham’s James Maddison.

The annoyed Tottenham player grabbed Maupay round the neck before realising he could be sent off.

Maupay also continued shouting insults and making niggling fouls to frustrate and annoy both Tottenham players and their fans.

That is all well and good if you win the game but Tottenham won 3-2 and Maupay was left embarrassed.

Three goals in seven minutes quietened him and it was Richarlison’s turn, alongside Maddison, to celebrate with the dart-throwing action.

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag
Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag
Image: /FILE

Ten Hag’s strategy questioned again

Once again Erik Ten Hag’s strategy is being questioned. The Dutchman is intent on playing the sort of game that won him awards at Ajax.

The fans do not like it and his players are constantly questioning his tactics.

Many players feel United sit far too deep and entice teams to drive at them making breakaways from defence.

What they should be doing is winning the ball high up the pitch and pressuring their opponents, not the other way around.

Playing Ten Hag’s system against a lowly club such as Newport in the FA Cup knockout competition was asking for trouble and the Welsh club duly equalised at 2-2 before United won back control to win it 4-2.

Sitting back and waiting for an opponent’s attack to break down can only lead to problems in the Premier League but in Holland’s Eredivisie, Ajax had the best players and were far better than their opponents.

Mohamed Salah in a past action
Mohamed Salah in a past action
Image: /BBC

Liverpool could lose their finest

Not many people would argue against Jurgen Klopp as a great leader, an inspiration to his players and a true friend of the Liverpool community.

No one would argue against him as one the most outstanding coaches of his generation. Probably Liverpool’s three best coaches over the past 60 years are Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley and Jurgen Klopp.

Klopp nurtured, coached and improved Mo Salah from a good player to a world-class. Together they turned Liverpool into a European powerhouse reflecting the glories of decades past. Both may leave Anfield at the end of the season.

Wolves will lose Neto

Gary O’Neill has done a good job at Wolves and they are marching towards Wembley in the FA Cup.

They are also safe in the league. However, no matter how big the club is, there are bigger and better clubs and Wolves’ Pedro Neto will be the next one to leave in the summer.

Wolves lost Diogo Jota to Liverpool and Matheus Nunes to Manchester City. Neto can play at the top and, at 24, it’s the perfect time for him to move upwards.