The Warm-Up: Arsenal's very dry January
Plus: it's Ole v Mauricio in the final of The Apprentice this weekend...
FRIDAY’S BIG HEADLINES
Arsenal’s dry January
We all know the feeling. Christmas and New Year were great fun but as you’re taking your tree to the dump there’s a nagging guilt about how much you spent on Prosecco, presents and pigs in blankets.
Because you got paid early for Christmas it’s five weeks until the next payday and that makes January a looooong month. Suddenly, doing a dry January and cutting back on anything sweet becomes less a health choice and statement for the year to come, and more of a financial necessity. Until next month, it’s Lidl, not Sainsbury’s, for the weekly shop.
We’ve all been there: you accidentally give Mesut Ozil a contract of £350,000 a week, play in the Europa League for a couple of years, allow a prime asset like Aaron Ramsey to sign a pre-contract with Juventus after running their deal down, and spent a middling amount on some middling players and suddenly, oops, you don’t even have enough to pay a reported £10m asking price for Barcelona midfielder Denis Suarez. Easy mistake to make.
"We cannot make payments to sign players," Emery said. "We can only loan players. I don’t know about his [Suarez] situation. But we can only sign players on loan.
"I know the club is working to find players who can help us, with this condition. I know these players and they are very good players. But I cannot sign more."
As the tweet above demonstrates, this is not really a persuasive argument. This is not really how things should be – not when Arsenal are desperate for new signings after long-term injuries to Danny Welbeck and Rob Holding, and the crushing realisation of just how bad their defence is during the 5-1 hammering at Anfield recently.
And this is not the story Arsenal fans were sold either. It’s worth revisiting quotes from then chief executive Ivan Gazidis in 2013, a time when Arsenal were paying off their stadium debt and striking new commercial deals. Arsenal, Gazidis said, could "compete with any club in the world… We should be able to compete at a level like a club such as Bayern Munich."
More investment from Stan Kroenke isn’t necessarily a short-term fix as Arsenal still need to be compliant with Premier League and UEFA financial regulations. Having spent a fair amount in the summer, and awarded huge contracts to players like Ozil, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan in the past 12 months, Arsenal have maybe, genuinely run out of cash for now. Oops.
Ole v Mauricio
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (Manchester United)Getty Images
If you hadn’t already noticed, it’s Tottenham v Manchester United this weekend in a match which is absolutely crying out for a laboured moniker given the context around it: that is, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Mauricio Pochettino both making their pitches for the full-time United position. The Audition, perhaps, or El Jobbico.
In theory things should be rather more complex than that, but this is Manchester United we are talking about. Ed Woodward doesn’t strike you as the most deep of thinkers so maybe this match is exactly as is being billed.
Solskjaer has won five games on the spin since his appointment as interim manager but Spurs are the first genuine high-class opposition he has faced and Pochettino hasn’t done too much to dissuade suggestions that he is quite keen on making the move to Old Trafford this summer. So all in all it’s a huge match for Ole. Win at White Hart Lane on Sunday, impress a panel of leading industry experts with his powerpoint presentation, negotiate a final grilling from Karen and Claude and the job is basically his.
Nice guy that he is, Solskjaer had a brief word of praise for Pochettino yesterday.
“The speculation is there for a reason, because he’s done well. But it’s not my job to rate different managers. My focus is on me and my team.”
Before pressing all the right buttons again by insisting United are going to North London with the intention of attacking Tottenham.
" They are one of best in the league so we have to be aware of their strengths. But we need to attack teams, that is our strength – going forward, attacking. We have to. We are not going to get as many chances to attack against these as we had before so when we have the ball we have to be ready to play well with it and we have to use the whole pitch because Wembley is a decent size pitch as well."
He definitely talks a good game - Sunday will show what he is really made of...
Arnautovic wants out
Arnautovic has his heart set on a move to the Chinese Super LeagueGetty Images
Everything has been going so smoothly at West Ham. Six wins from nine under Manuel Pellegrini, goals galore and Samir Nasri's just signed to add a bit of class to proceedings. Finally this basket case of a club seems to be hitting a stable patch.
Hang on, what’s that? Marko Arnautovic says he has no intention of playing for the club again and wants to move to China in a £35m deal?
Brother Danijel Arnautovic told talkSPORT on Thursday:
" West Ham bought Marko for peanuts. They paid £20m for him, which is nothing in the current market. They bought him to keep them in the Premier League last season and he did that. He took every award at the club; best player, signing of the season and the players' award. Now West Ham have a fantastic offer. It is close to double what they paid for him. He wants to go to a new market and challenge for titles."
A West Ham spokesperson said: "Marko has a contract and we fully expect him to honour it. He is not for sale."
Good luck with that.
IN OTHER NEWS
Elton John has signed for a Canadian club - and yes, his nickname is Rocketman.
News broke overnight that Andy Murray is on the brink of retirement and the Australian Open could be his final ever tournament. Lots more will be written about this great man and sportsman over the coming days. For now just look at how much this all means to him:
You know the story by now: 3-0 down at half-time, only to win 5-3. This really was the most extraordinary of Premier League matches between Spurs and United.
It wasn’t the genesis of one of sir Alex Ferguson’s most famous comments though, which actually came before a match at Old Trafford against Spurs, even if it was surely there in spirit at half-time at White Hart Lane. As Roy Keane explains: “It was Tottenham at home. I thought please don’t go on about Tottenham, we all know what Tottenham is about, they are nice and tidy but we’ll f*****g do them. He came in and said: ‘Lads, it’s Tottenham’, and that was it. Brilliant.”
It’s Marcelo Bielsa v Frank Lampard in The Championship tonight. Derby are eight points off leaders Leeds after 26 games and will still fancy their chances of making a promotion push. You can watch highlights of this, and all the other EFL action, on Saturday evening.