Matic holds key on return to Chelsea
Last week I promised you news on Tottenham’s Kenyan defender Victor Wanyama and I have been in close contact with the club this week. I am afraid the news is not good. Victor saw a specialist this week and his knee injury is so serious that he could be out for the rest of this year and into 2018. Moussa Sissoko has been deputising for Victor in midfield but he does not have the composure and skill to be the perfect replacement. Mousa Dembele has also covered Victor’s position but manager Mouricio Pochettino isn’t 100% happy with his performances. That leaves one long-term obvious option. Spurs have long tracked Everton’s unsettled Ross Barkley and I am told that a bid in the January transfer window is likely. Tottenham have a tough string of games at the end of January/beginning of February and meet Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal in three consecutive games and it is possible that they will have a two matches in the Champions League if they make the last 16. In contrast to the midfield problem, congratulations to Spurs for their great midweek win over Real Madrid where they completed a second win over the reigning European champions. Spurs are now in the last sixteen of the competition and despite their problems the midfield performed well.
Mourhino’s strange behaviour
I am not sure what Jose Mourhino is up to with the fans at Manchester United. He seems to be creating confrontation where there is none. Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) have now called for a meeting with the manager to ease tensions between supporters and Mourhino. I was at the match with Liverpool and admit there were some boos when Marcus Rashford was replaced but it wasn’t very loud. Then the crowd began to get on Romelu Lukau’s back as he failed to score but again the fans criticism was only luke warm and most fans seemed fairly happy with the way United were playing. Some say that Mourhino is making United into a boring team to watch and his focus is only gaining three points even if the score is 1-0 every time and the match play not very entertaining. But again, there is only minimal discontent. Why then did Mourhino put his finger to his lips after the victory over Spurs at Old Trafford last weekend? Mourinho said it was to quiet the crowd and stop criticising him and the players. The one thing Jose must not do is upset the fans because it will be bad for him because that was what happened at Chelsea where he lost the fans and the players and then his job. Will Jose never learn?
Curse of Premier League title holders
There is now a sense of worry at Chelsea and manager Antonio Conte js doing everything in his power to play the situation down and has issued a “There is no panic” reassurance as the Blues head into a huge “must win” game with Manchester United on Sunday. I wrote at the beginning of the season that Chelsea were crazy to sell Nemanja Matic to Manchester United and to me the mid-week loss to Roma underlined that view. Chelsea were shredded at the back by a strong Roma team in the Champion’s League. It seems that, like Leicester after their famous Premier League title win, Chelsea are falling to defend their status. It is almost like a curse of the title holders: Brilliant one season and not too good the next. I know they are fourth in the table but it has been a troublesome road so far. Conte has problems, it must be admitted, with the commanding presence of N’Gol Kante missing in midfield and Chelsea have conceded 11 goals in six matches during his absence. I noticed in the midweek Roma match that ex Manchester City star Edin Dzeko, now starring for Roma, neatly threaded a ball to the unmarked Diego Perotti because Antonio Rudiger, David Luiz and Cesar Azpilicueta were standing in a line and all were caught off balance and the defence split wide open. And that scenario happened more that once. Combine that sort of tactical problem with the fact that Antonio Conte has been getting very angry this week as he strongly denied there was trouble between him and the Chelsea board of directors and you can see how unsettled Chelsea are. Conte emphasised that, despite reports to the contrary, he is not talking to any Italian clubs about returning there to manage. Chelsea need to take a breath, reorganise and work out the best way to operate in midfield. Harry goes for 50 before December 31 Harry Kane has scored 45 goals in all competitions so far this year. And his aim is to score 50 by the end of 2017. He scored a brace against Liverpool and has 13 games left before the end of the year. Barcelona’s Lionel Messi has already hit 50 goals in 51 games and Cristiano Renaldo has 43 in 47 games but they don’t play in the Premier League and have arguably an easier time. Kane met legend Maradona before the Liverpool match and was star struck! He said, “He was such a down to earth great guy. What a player and I can only learn from someone like him.” Kane’s loss to Spurs against Manchester United was evident although one player does not make a team. You can never keep Zlatan down My favourite quote of the week came from World Boxing Champion Anthony Joshua. He was due to fight Carlos Takem and before the fight, which he won, he was visited by Manchester United star Zlatan Ibrahimovich. I will let Anthony’s words tell you the rest of the story: “Zlatan loves his boxing and his mindset is phenomenal but he picked me up on something I said after my fight with Wladimir Klitschko earlier in the year. He pointed out that I’d said ‘I’m not perfect, but I’m trying’. Zlatan told me, ‘No, no no! What you must is say is: ‘I am perfect and I’m not trying.” Good old Zlatan, as confident as ever and you can never keep the brilliant Swede out of the headlines! It will be a great day when he returns to United’s attack.