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MARTIN SAMUEL: So, why would Brendan Rodgers leave Leicester for awful Arsenal?

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MARTIN SAMUEL: So, why would Brendan Rodgers leave Leicester for awful Arsenal?

  • Why would a manager leave Leicester, or Wolves, to work for Stan Kroenke?
  • Arsenal are some way behind the Premier League clubs they seek to plunder
  • Leicester are simply better as a club, an executive regime and better as a team
  • There is only one Arsenal player who would get into Leicester’s starting XI 

Brendan Rodgers? Nuno Espirito Santo? Who exactly do Arsenal think they are?

Why would a manager leave Leicester, or Wolves, to work for Stan Kroenke at this time? How would an employer sell modern Arsenal to the chosen target? 

Do they have a vision, a philosophy, do they have the necessary investment, are expectations married to what is realistically achievable?

Why would Brendan Rodgers leave Leicester to take charge of Arsenal at this moment?

Why would Brendan Rodgers leave Leicester to take charge of Arsenal at this moment?

The answer to each of these questions is no. Meaning Arsenal are some distance behind the clubs they seek to plunder.

Leicester are, simply, better than Arsenal right now. Better as a club, as an executive regime, better as a team, too.

How many Arsenal players would get in the Leicester starting XI? One, maybe, because they would probably find room for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang — but alongside Jamie Vardy, not ahead of him.

As for Wolves, they have a strong and coherent recruitment strategy that expertly exploits one market in particular, the way Arsene Wenger did when he arrived in north London and revolutionised the English game.

While the modern Arsenal take Borussia Dortmund’s cast-offs with varying degrees of success, Wolves have mined Portuguese talent through their links with the agent Jorge Mendes.

They are higher than Arsenal in the league and progressed more efficiently in the Europa League. Wolves know what they are about in a way Arsenal haven’t for years.

Leicester are better than Arsenal right now - as a club, as an executive regime and as a team

Leicester are better than Arsenal right now - as a club, as an executive regime and as a team

Leicester are better than Arsenal right now – as a club, as an executive regime and as a team

So why would an ambitious manager go to Arsenal? History? What good is it to Rodgers that Wenger did the Double in 1998? What use is the Invincible season now? 

All Arsenal’s historic success has done is increase the pressure on Wenger’s successors, because no ground becomes disillusioned quicker than the Emirates Stadium these days.

The empty seats that brought Unai Emery’s time to a sudden end also spelled the finish for Wenger. Tottenham was not a happy place by the time Maurico Pochettino left, but there was nothing like the anger and resentment felt at Arsenal.

Yet any manager would look at that squad, consider those players, and know there cannot be a quick fix. Without great resources, patience is required. Arsenal present nowhere near the opportunity Jose Mourinho was given at Tottenham.

As the traditional elite have faltered, so Leicester have muscled in. They are recent title winners. They have tagged an exceptional Liverpool side more doggedly than most. Their owners are wealthy and back the manager with investments in players and infrastructure.

Yes, Leicester still lose individuals to rivals such as Manchester United, but so do Arsenal. Next summer, maybe in the next transfer window, there is more chance of Aubameyang’s head being turned than Vardy’s — and then where will Arsenal be?

Arsenal's sacking of Unai Emery last week was the action of a club that has lost its way

Arsenal's sacking of Unai Emery last week was the action of a club that has lost its way

Arsenal’s sacking of Unai Emery last week was the action of a club that has lost its way

No doubt Leicester would fight extremely hard to keep Rodgers, having turned the club around in such a short space of time, but that is equally true of Wolves and Nuno. They are bound to the Portuguese model and the coach is a giant part of that.

Mendes may say he can deliver a replacement, but it would make more sense to put the current manager on a very lucrative contract and keep the regime intact. Wolves could be in the Champions League next season. Certainly, as it stands, they have more chance of it than Arsenal.

Sacking Emery was the action of a club that has lost its way. Daniel Levy knew the next step when he broke with Pochettino; Arsenal appear to be as confused as ever about what happens next. That is why this is no longer a club for a coach with aspirations.

There is nothing Rodgers or Nuno could do at Arsenal that they could not do with Leicester or Wolves. If anything, they’ve got more chance where they are.

Potentially, Arsenal are a great club. But not like this, not right now.

If Rodgers and Nuno are men of ambition, they’ll stick.

Thank heavens we’ve been spared another Sven saga

At first sight, David Pemsel’s persistent pursuit of romance with a younger former colleague seemed more a matter for his wife than his future employers at the Premier League. 

There is a reason, however, that it was considered impossible for him to take up the chief executive role. It’s a question of judgment. He didn’t show any.

In a purely social context, the relentlessness of his quest did not make comfortable reading. 

The relentlessness of David Pemsel's quest did not make comfortable reading

The relentlessness of David Pemsel's quest did not make comfortable reading

The relentlessness of David Pemsel’s quest did not make comfortable reading

While the romantic film industry would be finished overnight if every man just took no for an answer, it was not a good look that Pemsel continued to pester the object of his affection repeatedly even when she had made it very plain she was not interested in a relationship with a married man.

Professionally, too, Pemsel came across poorly. On the brink of starting a new job, yet seemingly distracted by an opportunity that could only complicate his life and his diary.

Put it like this: had the FA been entirely aware of Sven Goran Eriksson’s, ahem, interests away from football, they might not have rushed to give him the England job in 2000.

It’s about priorities. The Premier League may be pleased they discovered Pemsel’s sooner rather than later.

Blythin brings up standard question 

Maxine Blythin, Kent Women’s transgender opener, gave her first interview since being named the county’s cricketer of the year.

Blythin said she was born with a condition that meant she never went through male puberty, and her testosterone levels were so low that she would meet the requirements set by the ICC for participation in the women’s game, even at England level.

And that, really, is the end of it. She says she’s a woman, she lives her life as a woman, she’s a woman. 

The science — having below five nanomoles of testosterone per litre of blood, as the ICC demands — backs her up, too.

Speaking publicly in difficult circumstances, Blythin came across brilliantly. 

She was hugely articulate, open and sincere. It is terribly unfortunate that athletes have to reveal personal circumstances in this way, yet transgender issues in sport are a relatively new phenomenon and executive bodies are all struggling with issues of inclusion, fairness and balance.

Blythin says she feels like a case study, but that is almost what the pioneers will become. Their experiences, their narratives will be used to establish the parameters in female sport in a way that is both progressive but also just.

Yet one question was never asked. At no time was the disparity between her performance in men’s and women’s cricket mentioned.

Blythin averages 33 for Kent in league cricket, 29.1 for Kent in T20 — placing her in the top 10 in both competitions.

She averages an incredible 127 for St Lawrence & Highland Court and 11.6 in men’s second XI cricket.

So if, as it would seem, she has no physical advantage playing among women, the only explanation would be that of relative standards. This is quite another issue, but no less concerning.

Why Roman must build new stadium 

West Ham did not move into a new stadium to make a great leap forward. They did it to stay where they were, the fourth biggest club in London. It wasn’t about challenging Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea but remaining in their slipstream.

At Upton Park, they could have come under threat from a successful Crystal Palace or Fulham. Eventually, Chelsea will reach a similar conclusion about rebuilding Stamford Bridge to keep pace with the elite.

Now that Roman Abramovich has reconnected with his club through Frank Lampard’s younger group and some exciting football, it is being wondered whether he will resurrect the stadium project. 

In short, he must. Chelsea can only compete for so long with reduced capacity and matchday revenues.

Eventually, just to remain where they are they will have to increase Stamford Bridge’s size. It is an expensive, ambitious plan, but there is no alternative. Chelsea’s owner returns to his original vision or risks losing what he has.

Roman Abramovich must resurrect the stadium project after reconnecting with Chelsea

Roman Abramovich must resurrect the stadium project after reconnecting with Chelsea

Roman Abramovich must resurrect the stadium project after reconnecting with Chelsea

Beware trigger-happy Pozzo 

Scott Duxbury, Watford’s chairman and chief executive, is preparing to welcome his third manager of the season. 

‘We will provide all the support necessary to make the coming months successful,’ he promised. And kept a straight face while saying it, too, which was impressive. 

The support felt by Watford managers is often obscure. There have been 11 since Giampaolo Pozzo bought the club in June 2012 and, while not all were sacked, most have been. 

The manager fits into a system and philosophy at Watford that comes from the top. 

Just win England, and keep winning 

Here we go again. No sooner had the draw for the European Championship been made, the nation’s cleverdicks were calculating what a smart move it would be for England to come second and plot an easier route to the final. 

Win Group D and England meet the second-placed team in Group F, likely to be one of Germany, France or Portugal.

Finish second, however, and England’s opponents will be the second-placed team in a group probably won by Spain — so Sweden, Poland or the winner of play-off route B, featuring Bosnia and Herzegovina, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland and Slovakia.

The nation's cleverdicks theorise that England should finish second to plot a route into the final

The nation's cleverdicks theorise that England should finish second to plot a route into the final

The nation’s cleverdicks theorise that England should finish second to plot a route into the final

How a manager coaches a group to come precisely second seems less certain, mind. What team does he pick to ensure just enough quality to slip into second place? 

And what message does it send to his team that he does not fancy their chances against stronger opponents?

This is a thoroughly defeatist attitude, particularly as England would meet the winners of Group F in the quarter-finals, if they avoided the runners-up in the round of 16. 

Just win, and keep winning. The rest takes care of itself.

The Expendables 

He is an employee, not the prime influencer, and his team a mish-mash of nationalities and styles. Some coaches adapt, others struggle, but all are expendable.

Watford do not spend big on management, either, because they do not want a strong, empowered figure, who wishes to shape the club. 

Marco Silva understood this, which is why he left for Everton at the first opportunity. 

He did it to Watford before they did it to him, recognising their support as the flimsiest of conceits.

The death of the ‘Group of Death’ 

There is no group of death at Euro 2020. How can there be when in most pools three go through? Pitting Germany, France and Portugal against each other initially seems perilous, but only eight of 24 qualifiers exit at the group stage. 

That’s six bottom nations and the two poorest third places.

The key to Group F, then, will be leaving a mark on whoever fills the play-off spot out of Iceland, Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary and, keeping it tight in the remaining matches. 

At the previous competition a single win and a goal difference of zero was enough to qualify.

UEFA had a brilliant, competitive tournament which they destroyed, yet we cling to its terminology. 

The ‘group of death’ belongs to another time. There is no longer any such thing.

The table never lies 

Middlesbrough manager Jonathan Woodgate claimed recently that the Championship table is lying. 

On Saturday, his 20th-placed team played Leeds, who went top by winning 4-0. No polygraph required here, one thinks.

Middlesbrough boss Jonathan Woodgate claimed recently the Championship table is lying

Middlesbrough boss Jonathan Woodgate claimed recently the Championship table is lying

Middlesbrough boss Jonathan Woodgate claimed recently the Championship table is lying

Leaky Liverpool

Some felt Virgil van Dijk should have been the first defender to win the Ballon d’Or since Fabio Cannavaro in 2006. Undoubtedly, his move to Liverpool has been transformative. 

In terms of his impact, Van Dijk must go down as one of the greatest signings in history. Given this, there is no greater anomaly in football than Liverpool’s propensity to concede.

Only one Premier League club — Tottenham — have kept fewer clean sheets than Liverpool this season, and even Watford have more, despite being separated by 32 points. 

Liverpool have shut out the opposition just twice in this league campaign — a match for the records of Arsenal, Manchester United, Southampton and Norwich, none of whom have Ballon d’Or-contending defenders in the ranks. Strange.

Reality bites at Swansea 

Back in 2018, Steve Kaplan, joint-owner of Swansea, set out his vision. The club were in the Premier League at the time and Kaplan said he wanted to attract global sponsors, expand the stadium, upgrade the training facilities, sign top international players and reach new fans worldwide.

This was reported as if it was a revolutionary initiative, not the vague gameplan of any mid-table club. Relegation followed and then a mediocre season in the Championship.

Now, with Swansea among a rump involved in a bitter dogfight to return to the first tier, it appears Kaplan’s masterplan has evolved.

There is talk that the academy training facility at Landore will be sold to raise funds for new players. That’s the problem with plans. Reality often begs to differ.



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Is Sean Dyche the Obvious Choice to Manage Arsenal and Will Football Snobbery Discount him as an Option

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There’s been quite a swing in favour of support for Sean Dyche to replace Unai Emery at Arsenal and it’s rather surprising in the light of the big names available and all the usual suspects that the media continues to promote.

Many see him as a George Graham figure, one that will bring structure and discipline. A battler, a motivator and a no bullshit kind of guy, all of which may be true but would he instantly be discounted by supporters because his name was seen by fans as small time.

Would he also be subject to football snobbery because he managed Burnley ?

Dyche has worked miracles at Burnley with the expected tight financial restrictions and frugal framework that the bigger clubs manage to avoid with a single sponsorship deal.

Dyche has had to implement a strong team ethic and foster a togetherness that has kept them afloat and one which just a few seasons ago, saw them break into Europe. That journey revealed a lack of depth in his squad but Burnley’s failure isn’t that of Dyche himself.

The campaign had an impact on their premiership aspirations but Dyche is realistic enough to know that there was a likelihood of this happening. He is ever the pragmatist but to say that he has resigned himself to a lower level of expectations for his side or for himself would be to misjudge the man entirely.

His sides are determined, well organised, hard working and adventurous. They are the type of opposition that most supporters dread because if there’s anything amiss in your team’s preparation, Dyche and Burnley will find you out.

You tend to view his work with the view that in some ways he has outgrown his current home and is capable of so much more but will that somewhere be the Emirates ?

Sean Dyche is an outside bet at this time but with Arsenal’s top targets dropping like flies, perhaps his name will also pop up in the boardroom as it has on social media.

Remember this, George Graham wasn’t the name supporters wanted back in 1986. Then he was the manager of Millwall who were in the old second division but the Scot had enormous success and is often mentioned by fans in the same sentence as Chapman and Wenger. Just saying.

READ MORE: Ivan Gazidis is the Bonafide Villain of the Arsenal Panto and is Ultimately Responsible for the Chaos at the Club and the Lame Appointment of Unai Emery

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Sokratis calls on team-mates to 'do the dirty work' against Man City and backs Arsenal to 'explode'

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Arsenal defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos calls on team-mates to ‘do the dirty work’ against Manchester City as he backs Gunners to ‘explode’

  • Sokratis Papastathopoulos has been a regular at centre back so far this season 
  • Arsenal drew at Standard Liege after Monday’s victory against West Ham 
  • The Greek has issued a rallying call ahead of the Gunners’ game against Man City

Sokratis Papastathopoulos believes a home win over reigning Premier League champions Manchester City this weekend can see Arsenal‘s disappointing season ‘explode’ into life.

The Greek defender has called on his team-mates to do the ‘dirty work’ and ensure they match stuttering City at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

Arsenal have won just one of their last 11 games in all competitions and had to battle from two goals behind to earn a 2-2 Europa League draw at Standard Liege on Thursday night.

Sokratis in action on Thursday night, when Arsenal came from 2-0 behind to draw 2-2 in Liege

Sokratis in action on Thursday night, when Arsenal came from 2-0 behind to draw 2-2 in Liege

The Greek has been a regular in a struggling side during the opening four months of the season

The Greek has been a regular in a struggling side during the opening four months of the season

The Greek has been a regular in a struggling side during the opening four months of the season

SOKRATIS IN 2019-20  

  • Appearances: 17
  • 90 mins completed: 16 
  • Goals: 1
  • Assists: 0
  • Clean sheets: 2
  • Yellow cards: 4
  • Red cards: 0 

Statistics according to Transfermarkt  

The Gunners have gone almost four years without a league victory over City, who won 2-0 at the Emirates Stadium last season in Unai Emery’s first game in charge.

Arsenal currently sit ninth in the table as their domestic season threatens to fizzle out before Christmas – but Sokratis feels victory on Sunday could kick-start the campaign.

‘Of course it is a very difficult game.’ the 31-year-old said of the challenge of hosting Pep Guardiola’s side.

‘Sometimes, these games are games where you can explode. I think we need one good game in our home to explode and I hope we will have that on Sunday.

Freddie Ljungberg was placed in interim charge of the first-team after Unai Emery's sacking

Freddie Ljungberg was placed in interim charge of the first-team after Unai Emery's sacking

Freddie Ljungberg was placed in interim charge of the first-team after Unai Emery’s sacking 

‘But, first of all, we have to run all together, try to help each other and intensity is the most important thing in football, of course you have to have quality but to show the quality you have to first show intensity, win the duels, be tactically-organised.

‘I think now the manager tries to explains what he likes from us and I think he gave a lot of attention to the organisation and we work very hard until now. I hope things in the future are going to be better.’

A 3-1 win at West Ham on Monday night ended a nine-match run without a victory and, having battled back in Liege, Papastathopoulos feels confidence is starting to return to the ranks and can be bolstered once again this weekend.

Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang celebrates his goal against West Ham United on Monday night

Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang celebrates his goal against West Ham United on Monday night

Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang celebrates his goal against West Ham United on Monday night 

‘I think it’s coming back,’ he said.

‘It’s a big point this. We lost confidence because we didn’t win for a long time. It’s important also, it’s normal for (young) players. 

‘They don’t have the experience before to live this, to lose their confidence. As a team we lost confidence. Now we try to find balance.

Arsenal host Pep Guardiola's Manchester City on Sunday in a pivotal clash for both teams

Arsenal host Pep Guardiola's Manchester City on Sunday in a pivotal clash for both teams

Arsenal host Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City on Sunday in a pivotal clash for both teams 

‘Maybe. If we win, create and be more organised the confidence is there. It’s not about quality. The team has quality. 

‘But to show the quality you have to do the dirty work. If you do the dirty work and you’re organised you can win, you can do a lot of things. 

Ljungberg will be hoping to have both Nicolas Pepe and Hector Bellerin fit after the pair missed the trip to Belgium with knee and hamstring injuries respectively.



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THE WOMEN'S FOOTBALL COLUMN: Things are adding up for an Everton future in the Champions League

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THE WOMEN’S FOOTBALL COLUMN: Things are adding up for an Everton future in the Champions League under former accountant Willie Kirk… and taking on champions Arsenal doesn’t even hold the same fear factor now

  • Under former accountant Willie Kirk, Everton are enjoying a revival in the WSL 
  • The Toffees are mounting a challenge to enter next season’s Champions League
  • Everton are an attractive proposition and could recruit well in the next window 
  • League leaders Arsenal come to town on Saturday but it won’t be an easy tie 

Everton‘s revival under former accountant Willie Kirk is in full swing. 

As Arsenal head to Merseyside on Saturday lunchtime, they do so knowing that a trip to the Pure Stadium is a much more difficult prospect than it once was.

Everton have won four of their last five home games in the FA Women’s Super League – a record all the more impressive given their last four wins took 27 matches to rack up. 

Everton have won four of their last five home games and present a tough challenge in the WSL

Everton have won four of their last five home games and present a tough challenge in the WSL

The Toffees are level on points with fourth-placed Manchester United and just six behind Manchester City in third. UEFA’s new proposals to send three English sides into the Champions League don’t come into play until 2021-22, but Kirk may wish it was sooner.

When the former Hibernian and Bristol City head coach took on the troubled Toffees 12 months ago, rooted to the bottom of the table, Kirk admitted the players’ primary concern was whether he would take their Christmas holidays away from them.

As the festive period looms once again, the mind-set in the Everton dressing room is somewhat different as they prepare to welcome the reigning champions Arsenal for what Kirk hopes could be one of club’s last home fixtures at Southport.

Under former accountant Willie Kirk, Everton are galvanised and climbing the WSL

Under former accountant Willie Kirk, Everton are galvanised and climbing the WSL

Under former accountant Willie Kirk, Everton are galvanised and climbing the WSL

THE FA WSL 

GAME OF THE WEEKEND: Everton v Arsenal, Sun 15 Dec, 1230pm

PLAYER TO WATCH: Chloe Kelly (Everton)

Chloe Kelly has two goals in two games

Chloe Kelly has two goals in two games

Chloe Kelly has two goals in two games

Even though the club have lost 10 games against Arsenal in the FA WSL – three more than against any other opponent – there’s no longer a sense of this fixture being decided before a ball has even been kicked, despite Joe Montemurro’s side inevitably running out favourites on Sunday.

If Arsenal’s lethal in-form striker and league top scorer Vivianne Miedema finds the net against Everton – and there’s every chance she will having scored in each of her last five league appearances – she will equal Kim Little’s club record (6) in the competition set back in October 2018.

Everton’s hopes largely rest with striker Chloe Kelly – a former graduate from Arsenal’s Centre of Excellence – who learned her trade playing street football on an estate in West London. 

Somewhat of a breakthrough star of the 2019-20 campaign so far, the 21-year-old credits much of her side’s progress since last season’s 10th place finish to the cohesion and competitiveness Kirk has instilled since his arrival.

Chloe Kelly (right) has been identified as one to watch from a talented Everton team

Chloe Kelly (right) has been identified as one to watch from a talented Everton team

Chloe Kelly (right) has been identified as one to watch from a talented Everton team

Though not all of Everton’s players have bought into the Scotman’s ways, with some of those on the fringes of the squad or barely making the bench likely to make a swift exit in this forthcoming transfer window opening on 27 December.

Some might argue Everton are punching above their weight, but Kirk has undoubtedly made the club a more attractive proposition – so much so that Sportsmail can reveal potential new recruits have been approaching the club’s management with a move to Merseyside in mind, not just the other way around.

Along with three points against the Gunners this weekend in the final league outing of 2019, completion of the club’s new Walton Hall Park home will also be high up on Kirk’s Christmas wish-list.

 



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