Iwobi proving his value
Arsenal’s midfielder Alex Iwobi has a big smile on his face these days. He has shown in his recent performances how effective one-toone training work with new manager Unai Emery has been. Iwobi used to lack self confidence, was slow, heavy footed and often took two or three touches on the ball before passing or shooting and it was all down to a lack of confidence, not a lack of ability. The 22-year-old said he feels like a new player under Emery’s guidance and he is certainly much more powerful and positive. The attacker has played well enough to gain a nomination as Arsenal Player of the Month for November together with Lucas Torreira, Rob Holding and Bernd Leno.
I have been told from inside Old Trafford that there is still a chance superstar goalkeeper David De Gea might not sign a new contract next summer. Real Madrid are constantly linked with signing him and I know for a fact that they regularly send scouts to monitor his progress. David’s problem is not money as he is a rich man... his prize is winning trophies and he wants Premier League titles and a Champion’s League medal. He has already won United’s Player of the Year in four of the last five seasons. United might be forced to sell their brilliant goalkeeper next summer if he cannot be persuaded that United are serious title contenders.
I wrote last week about Mesut Ozil and manager Unai Emery leaving his most expensive famous player on the bench. Now Arsenal have beaten their fierce rivals Spurs on their own territory and Ozil was absent with a back injury. The simple fact is that they didn’t miss or need him. A conversation with Emery revealed the most astonishing facts. Following the Gunners 4-2 win over Spurs, Emery responded to questions about Ozil as follows…Question: “Could Ozil have played?” Emery: “He has back ache”. Question: “When did he get that?” Emery: “I don’t know.” Question: “Was he here today to witness this great win over Tottenham?” Emery, “I don’t know.” Those answers imply that he doesn’t care either. My question is: if you buy one of the world’s most expensive players and pay him £350k a week and he does not fit into your new playing pattern, do you keep him or sell him and get back a fortune and reinvest it? I have no doubt you are considering this question and so are the Gunners fans on the terraces and the manager and his directors.
It is too early for Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino to start panicking after their beating by fierce derby rivals Arsenal but I keep hearing rumours around White Hart Lane that Real Madrid midfielder Isco is on their radar. Isco is not getting along with new Real manager Santiago Solari and has not started since he took over the club. Isco was left out of the entire squad for Real’s Champion’s League trip to Roma. I have also heard that Isco’s representatives have made enquiries about him joining the Premier League and Tottenham would be a good fit for him. However, Real have imposed a ludicrous £700million release clause that will require some clever financial and legal work to overcome if Isco is to become available. Arsenal and Chelsea have also entered the race and contacted Real and have sent representatives to meet I was particularly pleased with the dressing room reaction to Liverpool’s Divock Origi’s last second winner against derby rivals Everton on Sunday. Divock has had a tough time lately having been pushed down the list of first team starters. Despite having not appeared for 16 months he seized on a last second mistake by Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford and forced the ball into the net for a 1-0 win. He was mobbed by his teammates and cheered by supporters who sang his name. Later, in the dressing room, Divock was congratulated by every teammate and his popularity was clear to see. Manager Jurgen Klopp has instilled at Liverpool a “fight until the last minute attitude”, just as Sir Alex Ferguson did at Manchester United during his glory years and Divock showed just how effective that can be. Jurgen Klopp praised the ex-Lille striker and said how hard he worked in training and his attitude was excellent despite not playing in the first team. He said, “He has never moaned or complained. He has kept training hard and has done his best every season.” New Liverpool signing Naby Keita is working hard - to learn English! The Guinean international said that he thinks it will take him 6 months. Liverpudlians have a distinct dialect accent which is very strong and it will be interesting to see if the former RB Leipzig star picks this up during his lessons. He said, “I want to be able to speak to the coach, to other players on the team and I am working towards that.” Naby started very strongly at the Red’s and quickly became a Kop favourite and the fans made up a new song to cheer him on but just recently manager Jurgen Klopp has reigned him back and his starts have been less frequent.
More misery for Chelsea: fans and management are getting very frustrated with Alvaro Morata being caught offside this season. He has been flagged 18 times which is more than the entire Bournemouth team and only one ahead of Newcastle on 19 and two ahead of Spurs on 20! As one Blues fan said to me, “I think Morata was born offside!”
I received a call from Arsenal this week which went like this, “Have you heard that Arsene Wenger is talking to AC Milan about taking over as manager?” I understand that the Gunner’s former boss has met with the Italian club several times during the last six weeks as current manager Gernaro Getuso comes under ever increasing pressure over his position. I am told that new Milan CEO Ivan Gazidis, ex-chief executive of Arsenal, is pleased with the Wenger connection to the Italian giants despite having more than one falling out with the manager during their time together at Arsenal. Then, on Tuesday, I received a call to say Wenger is also talking to German Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich about taking over from under threat manager Niko Kovak. One thing is for sure, Arsene is definitely keen on a return to management in January.
Kell Brook feels “reborn” and will target the welterweight division’s elite fighters if “con man” Amir Khan turns his back on a domestic dust-up.
Brook takes on Australia’s Michael Zerafa this Saturday in a final eliminator for the WBA superwelterweight world title, live on Sky Sports, confident of producing another explosive performance.
The clash was expected to set up a British showdown with rival Khan but, with the Bolton man now linked to Terence Crawford, a revitalised Brook has his eyes on the other leading fighters at 147lbs.
“Amir Khan is a con man, they should call him Amir ‘con’,” Brook said as he and Zerafa came face to face at Thursday’s press conference.
“This is his last big fight under Matchroom and I thought it was nailed on. He shook my hand and looked me dead in the eye and said we would fight next. What can I do, I’ve bent over backwards and said I’d come down to 147.
“I’m doing everything I can for the fans, he’s turned his back on them. Everyone knows it’s him that’s running off.
“I want any elite fighter and could weigh in at 147 tomorrow if I wanted, I’ve got that buzz again. I want the top guys, Shawn Porter with the WBC title if he wants a rematch or I’d love to bring Errol Spence Jr back in the summer and get the win.”
The former IBF king now has long-term friend John Fewkes in his corner and feels “reborn” ahead of his return to the Sheffield Arena.