Chelsea’s Conte in crosshairs for Eng­land’s mighty man­agers

New Straits Times - - Sport -

LON­DON vul­ner­a­ble, no­tably in one-sided de­feats at out­go­ing cham­pi­ons Le­ices­ter City (4-2) and Ever­ton (4-0).

Guardi­ola seems con­tent with his at­tack­ing set-up, par­tic­u­larly since the Jan­uary ar­rival of Gabriel Je­sus, but in de­fence and in goal, where Clau­dio Bravo van­ished af­ter ar­riv­ing to re­place Joe Hart, work is needed.

United won the League Cup, de­feat­ing Southamp­ton in the fi­nal, and are favourites to beat Ajax in to­mor­row’s Europa League fi­nal, which will yield a berth in the Cham­pi­ons League.

But while Mour­inho has brought a bit of be­lief back to Old Traf­ford, United have looked des­per­ately short in at­tack, their fail­ure to se­cure a top-four place the legacy of a league-high 15 drawn games.

Wenger has en­dured his most dif­fi­cult sea­son at Arse­nal, one which di­vided the cub’s sup­port and ended with­out the prom­ise of Cham­pi­ons League foot­ball for the first time in 20 years.

Vic­tory in the FA Cup fi­nal against Chelsea would re­store some credit, but Wenger must ad­dress the lin­ger­ing un­cer­tainty about his fu­ture be­fore Arse­nal can hope to move for­ward.

Liver­pool looked set for a ti­tle tilt af­ter surg­ing to the top of the ta­ble in Novem­ber, but a run of one win in seven early in the year robbed them of mo­men­tum they never re­dis­cov­ered.

While Klopp’s team were of­ten mag­nif­i­cent against the di­vi­sion’s heavy­weights, fin­ish­ing the sea­son un­beaten against the other mem­bers of the top six, they were too eas­ily frus­trated by the smaller teams.

Spurs se­duced neu­trals with their dash­ing chal­lenge to Chelsea, only to run out of steam, and now face the wrench of play­ing a sea­son at Wem­b­ley while their White Hart Lane home is de­mol­ished and re­built.

With Europe’s elite clubs al­ready eye­ing up Po­chet­tino and play­ers like Harry Kane and Dele Alli, Spurs’ big­gest chal­lenge is keep­ing the train on the rails.

“You don’t sit back and wait for this team to be­come cham­pi­ons be­cause that might not hap­pen,” said former Liver­pool cap­tain Graeme Souness, who be­gan his ca­reer at Tot­ten­ham.

“You’ve got to add to the squad and have a right go be­cause they are not very far away.”

Ever­ton, who fin­ished sev­enth, look the only club ca­pa­ble of muscling in on the top-six car­tel, par­tic­u­larly with ma­jor­ity share­holder Farhad Moshiri ex­pected to splash the cash in the clos­esea­son trans­fer win­dow.

With Sun­der­land, Mid­dles­brough and Hull City go­ing down, the north­east has lost three clubs, but the re­gional su­per­pow­ers, New­cas­tle United, re­turn un­der Rafael Ben­itez.

Brighton and Hove Al­bion will sam­ple Premier League foot­ball for the first time, as could Hud­der­s­field Town, who face Read­ing in the Cham­pi­onship play-off fi­nal on Mon­day. AFP

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