Tag Archives: matteo

Alex McLeish appointed Nottingham Forest manger

McLeish beats Di Matteo to Forest job ONE DAY after O'Driscoll axeing as ruthless owners target top flight

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UPDATED:

22:09 GMT, 27 December 2012

ROUGH JUSTICE

Read Joe Ridge's Football League Blog for his opinion on Sean O'Driscoll's sacking just five months into the job

Nottingham Forest have confirmed the appointment of Alex McLeish as their new manager – just a day after parting company with Sean O'Driscoll.

The former Birmingham and Aston Villa boss will begin work tomorrow and will take charge of Saturday's npower Championship encounter with Crystal Palace at the City Ground.

The Scot, who will be presented to
the media following training tomorrow morning, welcomed the opportunity
to return to management at a club lying eighth in the second tier.

Wanted: McLeish has been out of a job since he was sacked as manager of Aston Villa on the final day of last season

Wanted: McLeish has been out of a job since he was sacked as manager of Aston Villa on the final day of last season

'I'm really looking forward to working with Nottingham Forest,” McLeish told Forest's website.

'I've had time away from the game and now feel refreshed and ready to go.

'The fact that a club of Forest's magnitude has offered me a job excites me greatly – it's a wonderful opportunity.

'I can't wait to get started and I'm
looking forward to meeting the players, talking to them and taking my
first training session.'

'I'm delighted to welcome Alex to our
club and look forward to working with him,' Forest chairman Fawaz Al
Hasawi added.

'Alex took Birmingham to promotion from the Championship and has great experience of working in the Premier League.

'He's hungry for more success and I
believe he's the man who can help us fulfil our ambition of making it to
the Premier League.'

The 53-year-old McLeish, who has also
had spells in charge of Rangers and the Scotland national team, had
been out of work since being dismissed by Villa in May, after finishing
just two points above the relegation zone in the Premier League.

Shock: Roberto Di Matteo was a surprise contender for the Forest job

Shock: Roberto Di Matteo was a surprise contender for the Forest job

Missing out Roy Keane was in the stands for the match against Leeds United at the City Ground

Missing out Roy Keane was in the stands for the match against Leeds United at the City Ground

News of McLeish's appointment was met with a lukewarm reception in Nottingham.

A local newspaper poll ran a list of
candidates in the wake of O'Driscoll's shock exit and McLeish
received no votes by way of support.

A number of supporters also took to Twitter to voice their frustration after being linked
with the likes of Roy Keane and Roberto Di Matteo, who lifted the Champions League
trophy with Chelsea last season.

Clency
Lebrasse ‏(@Clency) posted: 'McLeish McLeish Is this a joke! Why
are forest raiding the brummie poundland for a boss Such an anti-climax
after hopes of a big name.

Harsh Sean O'Driscoll was sacked after Forest beat Leeds 4-2

Harsh Sean O'Driscoll was sacked after Forest beat Leeds 4-2

Ruthless: (From l-r) Fawaz Al-Hasawi, Abdulaziz Al-Hasawi and Omar Al-Hasawi are determined to reach the Premier League

Ruthless: (From l-r) Fawaz Al-Hasawi, Abdulaziz Al-Hasawi and Omar Al-Hasawi are determined to reach the Premier League

A RUTHLESS REGIME

New manager Alex McLeish may not feel too secure in his new position with how the Al-Hasawi family have treated his predecessors.

The Kuwaiti-based owners sacked Steve
Cotterill just two days after taking control of the club in July 2012.

Cotterill survived just nine months at Forest.

Sean O'Driscoll, who was sacked after a convincing win against Leeds on Boxing Day, parted ways with Nottingham Forest after joining the club five months earlier from Crawley Town.

Ben
List ‏(@ACosmicHobo) added:'McLeish is a boring dour man who plays dour
boring football. They'll be no more 4-2s at the City Ground this year
:( #nffc'

Nick Pickard ‏(@nickp210) said:
'Don't understand the appointment of Alex Mcleish, why would you get rid
of O'Driscoll for him. We will be going back to hoof ball again'

Simon
Ackrill ‏(@simon_ackrill) was slightly more positive, adding: 'Not the
biggest fan of mcleish but we've certainly appointed worse! Just gotta
get behind the team and the new gaffa #COYR #nffc'

Ex-Chelsea chief Di Matteo
was the most popular choice but the former Italy international is
believed to be holding out for a post in the Premier League.

McLeish, who left Aston Villa under a cloud after fans reacted angrily to the former Birmingham boss' poor run of results, has remained in good shape and hopes to catapult his new club into the Premier League, a feat he performed with Birmingham City in the 2008-09 campaign.

Derided: McLeish left Aston Villa under a cloud after a poor run of form

Derided: McLeish left Aston Villa under a cloud after a poor run of form

Derided: McLeish left Aston Villa under a cloud after a poor run of form

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David Villa is Chelsea loan target

EXCLUSIVE: Chelsea fight to bring in Barca striker Villa on loan in bid to help Torres

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UPDATED:

08:24 GMT, 26 December 2012

Chelsea are preparing to join the dash for Spain and Barcelona striker David Villa as Rafa Benitez seeks firepower to complement Fernando Torres.

Having restored the goal instinct of Torres within a month of taking over from Roberto Di Matteo, Benitez is keen to provide more support and cover for his only established centre forward.

Target: Chelsea want Fernando Torres's compatriot David Villa to move from Barcelona on loan

Target: Chelsea want Fernando Torres's compatriot David Villa to move from Barcelona on loan

Bayer Leverkusen’s versatile young
striker Andre Schurrle remains a serious target but Villa is available,
possibly on a loan deal until the end of the season, which means he
would not interfere with Chelsea’s long-term pursuit of Radamel Falcao.

Benitez accepts it will be difficult
and expensive to prise the Colombia striker Falcao from Atletico Madrid
next month but this swoop — or even a move for Newcastle United’s Demba
Ba — may be more achievable in the summer.

Villa provides an attractive short-term solution for Chelsea. At 31, Spain’s record goalscorer does not
fit their ideal profile for young players with their best years ahead of
them but he is fading from favour at the Nou Camp and knows how to
dovetail with Torres after their years together at international level.

Villa is understood to earn 110,000 a week, which is near the top of the Stamford Bridge pay structure but not out of reach.

He can operate at centre forward if
Torres is unavailable or play from wide either side, giving Benitez a
valuable option in his quest to rotate his support strikers and keep
them fresh.

Arsenal are among other clubs
interested in Villa, who has not started a La Liga game for Barcelona
since mid-November, but the Champions League will not provide any
incentive for the striker because he is already cup-tied in that
competition. However, he would be free to play for Chelsea in the Europa
League.

Support: Villa could play with Torres or replace him up front if he needs a rest

Support: Villa could play with Torres or replace him up front if he needs a rest

Daniel Sturridge’s proposed move to Liverpool means that Chelsea must recruit in January.

The back-up option is to recall
Romelu Lukaku from West Bromwich Albion, although it is widely agreed
that the best thing for the teenager’s continued development is to spend
the rest of the season at the Hawthorns.

Radar: Demba Ba and Bayer Leverkusen's Andre Schurrle are both other options for Rafa Benitez

Radar: Demba Ba and Bayer Leverkusen's Andre Schurrle are both other options for Rafa Benitez

Radar: Demba Ba and Bayer Leverkusen's Andre Schurrle are both other options for Rafa Benitez

Winger Victor Moses played as a
centre forward for the last 23 minutes of the 8-0 romp against Aston
Villa on Sunday but he has been named in the Nigeria squad for the
Africa Cup of Nations. Nigeria have also selected John Mikel Obi and
have asked players to report to a training camp in Portugal on Thursday.

Eden Hazard featured at centre forward
in a disastrous experiment away to Juventus in the Champions League.
Chelsea lost 3-0, a defeat which virtually sealed their fate in the
competition, and Di Matteo was sacked a few hours later.

Didn't work out: Eden Hazard played up front for Chelsea against Juventus

Didn't work out: Eden Hazard played up front for Chelsea against Juventus

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Frank Lampard fears Chelsea exit but hints at Premier League stay

Frank fears Chelsea exit… but hints at Premier League stay

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UPDATED:

22:30 GMT, 13 December 2012

Frank Lampard fears the end of his Chelsea career is in sight as his contract ticks into its last six months with no talks in the diary.

Lampard wants to extend his 12 years at Stamford Bridge, but seems likely to become another victim of the club's rejuvenation drive and can sign a pre-contract agreement with a foreign team next month.

He has already been linked with Los Angeles Galaxy, Paris Saint-Germain and clubs in Russia and China but hinted last night that he may prefer to stay in the Barclays Premier League, saying he feels he still has something to offer at the top level.

Don't go: Chelsea supporters in Japan back substitute Lampard to stay at Stamford Bridge

Don't go: Chelsea supporters in Japan back substitute Lampard to stay at Stamford Bridge

Don't go: Chelsea supporters in Japan back substitute Lampard to stay at Stamford Bridge

'Maybe things don't last for ever,' said Lampard, who joined Chelsea from West Ham for 11million in 2001. 'Although I want it to last for ever, you have to be big enough to know what it is.'

When asked about contract talks, he added: 'There's nothing planned as far as I know. There have been no talks about an extension. 'The ball is in Chelsea's court. I'm a Chelsea player, as simple as that. I've had a great, great time here.'

Lampard came off the bench against Monterrey as Chelsea earned a place in the Club World Cup final yesterday.

It was his second appearance since returning from a calf injury, but he insisted he was ready to start. Interim manager Rafa Benitez let it slip when he replaced Roberto Di Matteo that the club were unlikely to offer extensions to Lampard and Ashley Cole, also out of contract next year.

In Yokohama, Benitez chose to play centre half David Luiz in central midfield ahead of Lampard, who was clearly disappointed.

'I was ready to start, it was the manager's decision,' said the 34-year-old. 'I'm not the kind of player to see out my time and sit with my bum on the bench too much. I want to be involved. I will keep trying to do that, whatever the circumstances.

'I can't predict anything but I feel like I have two or three years at least in me at the top level. It is not for me to decide. Whatever happens, I've had a great time at Chelsea. I am determined to play a few more years.'

That's handy: Lampard came on as a second-half substitute in the victory over Monterrey

That's handy: Lampard came on as a second-half substitute in the victory over Monterrey

That's handy: Lampard came on as a second-half substitute in the victory over Monterrey

Lampard added: 'I wanted to be here. I relapsed last time I came back too early. I wanted to be with the lads and in the competition. It feels good.

'This is a final now, a very prestigious competition which the club have never won, which not many English teams have won. We have a number of trophies available this year and it's important to make sure we get our first one.'

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Rafa Benitez"s bowling trip the new secret to success ahead of Monterrey clash

Is this Rafa's secret to success Benitez's bowling trip ahead of Monterrey clash worked a treat

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UPDATED:

18:54 GMT, 13 December 2012

He came to Chelsea with a reputation as a tactical genius. He introduced unorthodox zonal-marking and squad-rotation systems when he took charge of Liverpool in 2005. Now, though, it seems Rafa Benitez has uncovered a new winning formula.

The Blues boss took his team bowling on Tuesday night as they prepared for their Club World Cup semi-final tie against Mexican outfit Monterrey.

Chelsea won 3-1, Torres was back among the scorers and the players were having fun. Was this another Benitez tactical masterstroke

Tactical masterstroke Rafa's Ten-pin tactics paid off as Chelsea beat Monterrey

Tactical masterstroke Rafa's Ten-pin tactics paid off as Chelsea beat Monterrey

Having fun Oscar, David Luiz, and Ramires seemed to enjoy themselves

Having fun Oscar, David Luiz, and Ramires seemed to enjoy themselves

Ashley Cole didn't impress with his bowling technique and he was forced to wait on the team as punishment

Ashley Cole didn't impress with his bowling technique and he was forced to wait on the team as punishment

I know what I'm doing: Benitez may have lifted the Chelsea players' spirits

I know what I'm doing: Benitez may have lifted the Chelsea players' spirits

Not a lot has gone right for Rafa since he took over from Roberto Di Matteo as Chelsea manager. He started with back-to-back 0-0 results in the league followed by a 3-1 defeat at West Ham and an embarrassing early exit from the Champions League, the first time the holders have ever fallen this early.

And, of course, all this with the boos and groans of discontent from Chelsea fans in the background.

But in the last few days things appear to be looking up for the ‘fat Spanish waiter’. They won 3-1 at Sunderland and set off for Japan for what must feel like welcome relief from the scrutiny back home.

Above all, it appears the Blues are having fun in the Far East. They were mobbed by adoring Premier League fans when they arrived and now it looks like Rafa has found the secret formula to make Chelsea fire again.

Wrong sport: Juan Mata tries the shot-put with a bowling ball

Wrong sport: Juan Mata tries the shot-put with a bowling ball

Good technique: David Luiz shows off his bowling skills

Good technique: David Luiz shows off his bowling skills

Good job son: Torres was amongst the goals in Yokohama as Chelsea won 3-1

Good job son: Torres was amongst the goals in Yokohama as Chelsea won 3-1

All smiles: Whatever happened at bowling must have worked as Chelsea brushed aside the Mexican side

All smiles: Whatever happened at bowling must have worked as Chelsea brushed aside the Mexican side

But if the Blues come back having lost to Corinthians in the final it will be perceived as a worthless trip, as was the case when Liverpool lost to Sao Paulo in 2005.

At least Benitez has got Torres scoring again and team morale looks to be the best it has been since that famous night in Munich in May.

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Rafa Benitez writes open letter to Chelsea fans saying he will make them a success

Benitez writes open letter to Chelsea fans after his first league win saying he will fight for trophies at Stamford Bridge

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UPDATED:

08:14 GMT, 9 December 2012

Rafa Benitez has written an open letter to the Chelsea fans and says he will do all he can to bring success to Stamford Bridge.

The Chelsea interim manager has endured a testing baptism to his time in the Blues hot-seat and has been jeered by some supporters unhappy with his appointment in the wake of Roberto Di Matteo’s sacking.

The former Liverpool boss won his first league game in charge of his new side at the fourth attempt in the 3-1 win over Sunderland on Saturday just days after their Champions League defence was brought to a shuddering halt at the group stage.

Putting it in writing: Rafael Benitez has written to Chelsea fans telling them he will do all he can to deliver success

Putting it in writing: Rafael Benitez has written to Chelsea fans telling them he will do all he can to deliver success

The Spaniard has highlighted the relentless schedule of matches since his appointment, with the Sunderland game their fifth in a fortnight, and was keen to pay tribute to the Chelsea fans who have been in touch to offer their support.

Benitez used his own website to reach out to the Chelsea fans, saying: ‘From the moment I accepted the offer to join Chelsea, my team and I have worked towards improving the results and getting the wins that we all want – no matter what hours we have to put in and the effort and sacrifice in order to achieve this.

In the goals: Fernanado Torres scored a brace against Sunderland

In the goals: Fernanado Torres scored a brace against Sunderland

Winning feeling: Juan Mata helped secure Chelsea's first league win under Benitez

Winning feeling: Juan Mata helped secure Chelsea's first league win under Benitez

'As you can imagine from what you may have seen, we have been immersed in the tasks ahead and since the change in my work situation it has been a cycle of training and matches with virtually no time to do anything else.

'My official presentation as Chelsea manger took place on Thursday November 21 and I came straight from Abu Dhabi where I was giving a lecture. We literally walked straight off the plane into running my first training session in Cobham. After two sessions we faced my first match in charge against Manchester City and then just a further two sessions before facing Fulham in a local derby.

'Two massive league commitments in just three days. We had a couple of conditioning workouts with referrals and then another London derby against West Ham United. We rested on Sunday and then the same timetable again, Nordsjaelland and then Sunderland.

'The team’s win against the Danish side (6-1) was the biggest home win of the season for Chelsea but was not enough for us to progress in the competition. The results of previous matches of the group stage and the results that occurred on the night in other games left us without options. We would have liked to be able to offer our fans another ending to this story, to offer our fans another Champions League win but we now look forward to the Europa League.

'We are now challenged with the Club World Championship in Japan and it will not be easy – I tell you this from the experience of two previous participations with differing results. This team is willing to give everything to try and return with a new title to bring home to the fans.

'But let’s get back to why I am writing this letter and the basic purpose of trying to give a full account of my new situation and feelings before I seize this exciting new challenge of coaching at Chelsea FC. It is on that basis of the challenge I accepted the offer that was made. With the same faith, the same honesty, with the same loyalty and dedication I put into each of my previous projects.

Getting it right: Benitez says he has had little time to work with the Chelsea players on the training pitch

Getting it right: Benitez says he has had little time to work with the Chelsea players on the training pitch

‘That said, thank you all for your support, to those who have sent messages, emails, letters… To those who have called, who have tried to contact by any means possible… To all, I sincerely thank you for your support. We’re going to Japan right now to fight for the FIFA Club World Cup spurred on with all of your support.’

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Eden Hazard: No regrets over Chelsea move

Hazard: I've got no regrets about joining Chelsea… but I feel sorry for Di Matteo

PUBLISHED:

10:36 GMT, 8 December 2012

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UPDATED:

10:36 GMT, 8 December 2012

Chelsea midfielder Eden Hazard has no regrets about moving to Stamford Bridge – despite the sacking of the manager who brought him to the club.

The 21-year-old was signed by the European champions and their boss Roberto Di Matteo in the summer from Lille when he was not short of options among the continent's elite.

It has been a turbulent start for the Belgium international as the Blues have crashed out of the Champions League, while Di Matteo has been replaced by former Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez.

Eden project: Hazard insists he has no regrets about joining Chelsea

Eden project: Hazard insists he has no regrets about joining Chelsea

Hazard told The Independent: 'Look, I knew before I came here where I was “putting my feet” and the sort of club I was coming to.

'I knew that Chelsea was a club that changed its manager reasonably often.

'Obviously I didn't intend it to be that quick because Di Matteo was the person who signed me and I was looking forward to a relationship and working with him for some time. But, I don't have any regrets.

Disappointment: Hazard admits h felt sorry for axed boss Roberto Di Matteo

Disappointment: Hazard admits h felt sorry for axed boss Roberto Di Matteo

'We have a new manager now and again it is about stressing we must try to get as high as we can up the table, go as far as we can in the cups, play well and win as many trophies as we can.

'I think it's the first time it has happened to me in my career when a manager has gone. It's never easy. It's something that is part of football life.

'We have to put our disappointment to one side. Although I was sorry because he was the manager who signed me.'

On the ball: Hazard remains optimistic over Chelsea's future despite their Champions League exit in midweek

On the ball: Hazard remains optimistic over Chelsea's future despite their Champions League exit in midweek

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Andriy Shevchenko could join Chelsea as a coach

Shevchenko may join Chelsea as a coach after Abramovich holds talks with former striker

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UPDATED:

23:00 GMT, 6 December 2012

Andriy Shevchenko could be handed a role within Chelsea's coaching set-up.

The recently retired Ukrainian has spent considerable time at the club's Cobham training base as he works towards qualifying for his coaching badges.

And owner Roman Abramovich has held talks with the 36-year-old about a role at Stamford Bridge.

New skills: Andriy Shevchenko could join Chelsea as a coach

New skills: Andriy Shevchenko could join Chelsea as a coach

The Russian is close to Shevchenko and sanctioned his 31million transfer in 2006.

Shevchenko never came close to his AC Milan form in a Chelsea shirt and left the club on loan to the Italian giants in 2008.

Chelsea have a habit of bringing back former players to play coaching or managerial roles.

Former player Bolo Zenden recently joined the club as an assistant to new manager Rafael Benitez.

Eddie Newton and Benitez's predecessor Roberto Di Matteo were also former Chelsea players before they rejoined in a staff capacity.

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Wallace signed for Chelsea – who is he?

No, he's not the one that likes Wensleydale… so just who is Chelsea's new signing Wallace

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UPDATED:

14:29 GMT, 5 December 2012

Chelsea are no strangers to Brazilian flair and the latest Samba star to join the ranks is Wallace.

Like Oscar, who arrived in the summer and took England by storm, the Fluminense right-back is not well known outside of his own country.

So, what can Blues fans expect from the fifth Brazilian to join their squad Will he be more David Luiz or Emerson Thome

Scroll down for video

Flair: Wallace loves to roam forward from his defensive position

Flair: Wallace loves to roam forward from his defensive position

Stamford Bridge Samba stars

Here are the Brazilians who have left Chelsea:

Alex (86 Premier League apps)

Normally reliable and packing a thunderous free kick, Alex was well liked by everyone in SW6 – apart from Andre Villas-Boas.

The Portuguese manager alienated and then sold the defender, much to the chagrin of the Stamford Bridge faithful.

Juliano Belletti (54)

A cult hero, Belletti was adored by the fans. It helped that he had a penchant for scoring spectacular goals, with one fantastic strike in particular against Tottenham endearing him to the supporters.

Emerson Thome (21)

Only at the club for one year, but popular because of his willingness to put in a shift. Known as 'The Wall', Thome drew nods of approval with his uncompromising tackles.

Mineiro (1)

A bizarre, obscure Avram Grant signing who barely played for the team. He made one other appearance, in the League Cup against Burnley.

First things first – the 18-year-old who cost 5million will arrive for duty at the end of the season.

Wallace officially becomes a Chelsea player in January but will remain at Fluminense until next term.

Although he has been signed while Rafael Benitez is in charge, the deal was put in place while Roberto Di Matteo had the reins at the Bridge.

He made his debut for the first team this year, turning out 18 times to help them win the Brazilian league, the Rio State league and the Guanabara Cup.

He is likely to fit into the Chelsea squad behind Cesar Azpilicueta, with Branislav Ivanovic spending more time in his favoured centre-back position.

When Wallace does play he will get forward a lot – he's not shy of putting in crosses with either foot.

Fans will be glad to know Wallace is putting some research time in, to see how he'll fit in with his team-mates.

He said: 'I used to follow La Liga and its big clubs but now because I'm moving to Chelsea I'm following them more, after the Champions League triumph.

Solid as a rock: Alex was excellent for Chelsea

Solid as a rock: Alex was excellent for Chelsea

'I'm watching every single match apart from when I'm playing or concentrating with my team but I don't miss a chance to see their matches.

He also expects having compatriots Lucas Piazon, Ramires, Oscar and Luiz will help ease him into life in London.

'It's always helpful to have Brazilian colleagues playing by your side because normally they are settled down and can give you some advice and this is important,' he explained.

'Now that I'm moving to London I'll have to learn some English, but I am used to this and they can help me a lot.'

Shaky: David Luiz is not renowned for his defensive aptitude

Shaky: David Luiz is not renowned for his defensive aptitude

He played alongside Piazon for Brazil at the 2011 U17 World Cup in Mexico, finishing fourth.

Wallace has represented his country at U20 level and won the South American U17 Championship last year.

He is heading to Chelsea from the club which Deco, and fan favourite Juliano Belletti departed for in 2010.

It doesn't seem likely he will help Chelsea's defence become any more solid, but Chelsea fans are used to right backs who play similarly – Jose Bosingwa, anyone

12 of the greatest Wallaces the world has ever seen

William Wallace (Braveheart)

Mel Gibson

Danny Wallace (ex man Utd, not to be confused with the comedian, author and DJ)

Rod Wallace

Ray Wallace (Danny, Rod and Ray three are brothers)

Ian Wallace (signed by Brian Clough for Nottingham Forest)

Wallace, from Wallace and Gromit

Wallace, from Wallace and Gromit

Wallis Simpson

Gregg Wallace (Masterchef)

Jessie Wallace (plays Kat Moon in Eastenders)

Kat Moon

Ross Wallace (striker, Burnley)

Danny Wallace (Comedian, author and DJ)

Aisleyne Horgan-Wallace (Big Brother)

Judge Wallace for yourself

If he wants to fit in he should take his cues from Belletti…

Pep Guardiola blow for Chelsea as PSG target Spaniard

PSG plan Pep talk to beat Chelsea in race for Guardiola as axe hangs over Ancelotti

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UPDATED:

13:12 GMT, 4 December 2012

Paris Saint-Germain are set to provide Roman Abramovich with his toughest challenge yet as he tries to tempt Pep Guardiola to Chelsea.

Blues owner Abramovich is determined to make Guardiola his next manager when the former Barcelona coach returns to the game after a year off.

The one they all want: Pep Guardiola (right) is the top target for Chelsea and PSG

The one they all want: Pep Guardiola (right) is the top target for Chelsea and PSG

But the Russian, who sacked Roberto Di Matteo and installed Rafa Benitez as interim boss, faces competition from PSG.

The French giants' Qatari owners, who will have no problem standing toe-to-toe with Abramovich when it comes to money, have lost patience with former Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti.

The one they don't want: Chelsea fans are angry at Rafa Benitez's appointment

The one they don't want: Chelsea fans are angry at Rafa Benitez's appointment

The Italian has guided his side into the knockout stage of the Champions League but sit fourth in Ligue 1, five points behind leaders Marseille.

Guardiola, who has also been linked with Manchester rivals United and City, insists he will not make any decision on his future until the New Year but sources close to PSG claim he has been approached by the club.

The Spaniard already has connections with the Qatari Royals through their sponsorship of Barcelona.

Under pressure: Carlo Ancelotti appears to be heading for the exit at PSG

Under pressure: Carlo Ancelotti appears to be heading for the exit at PSG

Jose Mourinho, another former Chelsea boss, is also on PSG's radar but he wants to return to the Premier League when he leaves Real Madrid.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger's name has also been mentioned in connection with a move to the French capital but Guardiola is the top target.

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Martin Samuel: Arsene Wenger used to solve Arsenal"s problems… now he helps his rivals solve theirs

Wenger used to solve Arsenal's problems… now he helps his rivals solve theirs

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UPDATED:

22:45 GMT, 2 December 2012

If Arsene Wenger genuinely had 70million to spend, do you know who his striker would be Robin van Persie. Still.

Van Persie would never have left Arsenal if, in his talks with Wenger, he had been convinced that lavish funds were available and would be spent on the team. If Wenger could have given Van Persie any form of guarantee that 70m was coming his way, he might not have been so eager to sign for Manchester United.

The figure of 70m is the latest jam tomorrow bulletin from Arsenal’s money men, following the sealing of a shirt deal worth 150m with Emirates.

This windfall is Wenger’s to spend, apparently, except he never does.

Cash back: If Arsene Wenger had 70m to spend Robin van Persie would have stayed at Arsenal

Cash back: If Arsene Wenger had 70m to spend Robin van Persie would have stayed at Arsenal

Cash back: If Arsene Wenger had 70m to spend Robin van Persie would have stayed at Arsenal

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He never seemed to spend the 30m that was his in the Highbury days, either, or the 55m it was claimed sat in Arsenal’s transfer kitty last summer. He has 40m reserved for improvements in January also. Whether that is part of the 70m or in addition to it, nobody is quite sure.

The funny thing is, no matter what is said to be available at Arsenal, Wenger’s outlay always seems commensurate with how much he brings in, as if the two are related. He sells his best player, he buys two or three inferiors. This is not an uncommon policy, indeed, a number of Premier League clubs have adopted it.

Most of them, though, reside in the bottom half of the table: where Arsenal may soon join them.

They are 10th now, two points above Liverpool, and their next home game is against the awkward squad of West Bromwich Albion.

Most years, an Arsenal win would be considered a certainty, but that was thought of a home fixture with Swansea City, too.

If only everything at Arsenal was as predictable as the forecasts of long-term wealth and success.

Arsenal would have known last summer that the shirt deal was up for renewal. Van Persie wanted a better contract, but he also wanted a sign that Arsenal would compete in the transfer market; like 70m dropping into his manager’s lap, for instance.

It seems strange, then, that he left unconvinced and disillusioned. A lot of Arsenal players have trod that path.

Personal finances were also an issue, true, but equally the direction the club was taking. Wenger used to solve Arsenal’s problems: now he solves those of his rivals.

Mountain to climb: Arsenal are languishing in tenth after home defeat to Swansea

Mountain to climb: Arsenal are languishing in tenth after home defeat to Swansea

Manchester United are first, Arsenal are 10th. It is not so crazy to speculate that those positions might be reversed had Van Persie stayed.

Think about it. United have gone behind to the first goal of the game in 10 Premier League matches and in seven have come back to win. Of those seven, five have featured crucial goals from Van Persie, including the equaliser against Fulham, a hat-trick against Southampton and the winner against Liverpool.

Imagine United without him this season. Wayne Rooney scored twice against Reading on Saturday but, on the eve of the game, Sir Alex Ferguson was bemoaning his strike rate. Even after the 4-3 win, Javier Hernandez had still outscored Rooney in the Premier League.

Now consider Arsenal with Van Persie’s 10 league goals this season added to their total. Supplement a single goal from Van Persie to the draws with Sunderland, Stoke City, Manchester City, Fulham, Aston Villa and Everton; add an equaliser to the one-goal defeats by Chelsea, Norwich City and Manchester United.

That is a difference of 15 points, or the current spread between Manchester United (top, 36 points) and Arsenal (10th, 21).

Obviously, this is not an exact science but the general point seems reasonably watertight: Arsenal’s loss has been United’s gain.

Maybe Van Persie was told of the 70m at the end of the rainbow; the problem is that Arsenal’s players have heard it all before. For seven barren years they have been fed talk of some mythical golden day, when the club will reap the benefits of careful husbandry, glory restored.

Who's next: How long will the likes of Thomas Vermaelen and Jack Wilshere tolerate inferior acquisitions

Who's next: How long will the likes of Thomas Vermaelen and Jack Wilshere tolerate inferior acquisitions

Who's next: How long will the likes of Thomas Vermaelen and Jack Wilshere tolerate inferior acquisitions

In two years, Arsenal will be able to compete with the best in the world, promises chief executive Ivan Gazidis. Yet the best of this current team might not wish to wait that long, and then what

Having already lost such vital players as Van Persie and Cesc Fabregas, take Jack Wilshere or Thomas Vermaelen away and 70m would be needed just to restore the squad, rather than enhance an existing world class group.

Also, it is hard, coming fourth. It is a risky business. Set out to win the league and, falling short, the Champions League still beckons. Yet increasingly Arsenal have revised their aims so that any place in the top four constitutes success.

Fourth place, however, has no safety net. Fail, and enter the Europa League; or worse.

The good news No team, beyond the Manchester clubs, have made a charge yet. Chelsea have not won for seven Premier League games, yet remain third.

Few believe West Brom or Everton are capable of maintaining early dalliances with elite positions.

Tottenham Hotspur have won three on the turn, but preceded that with four consecutive league defeats.

Arsenal are five points off fourth place with over half the season remaining. It is not unthinkable that they could be part of the elite quartet when the season ends.

Yet, one day, they will miss that mark. Football’s history says that reality must catch up with a selling club eventually and that is what Arsenal have become in recent years.

An exclusive, top of the range, elite clientele, bespoke selling club, true. But a selling club nonetheless.

What they certainly do not look like is a club with anything between 40m and 70m to spend; for if they were, they wouldn’t be 10th.

Wimbledon are the real winners

Jon Otsemobor having killed AFC Wimbledon with a flippant back-heel, the supporters of Milton Keynes Dons could not resist their moment. ‘You’re not singing any more,’ they crowed.

But the true Wimbledon are still singing. And they will always sing, because even in defeat they were empowered by the knowledge that every neutral in the land was on their side.

They have suffered kicks in the teeth far crueller than an FA Cup defeat and survived. They will be back this way again.

And they will always be the real and only Dons.

Top Dons: AFC Wimbledon left Milton Keynes with their heads held high despite defeat

Top Dons: AFC Wimbledon left Milton Keynes with their heads held high despite defeat

Dance or abuse: Liam Jones in grey

Dance or abuse: Liam Jones in grey

So, are we getting the full picture

The Sunderland fan accused of making a racist gesture to West Bromwich Albion striker Romelu Lukaku issued a strong denial.

Liam Jones claimed that what was perceived as a monkey gesture was, in fact, a chicken dance.

'I'm devastated,' he said. 'I have black friends and black cousins.'

No certain judgments can be made, but, revisiting the photograph of the incident, it is possible to concede that he could have been flapping his arms, not scratching his armpits.

His elbows are out, but slightly forward, and his fingers are pointing down. Your hands go up to scratch your armpits.

We can be sure, though, that Northumbria Police will be acting on far more than a single frame image, as they have already arrested Jones on suspicion of racially aggravated intentional harassment.

And if that was the sum of the evidence, it would be ridiculous.

AND WHILE WE'RE AT IT
Platini's grand plan would end up as a 64-team bunfight

There are 16 places up for grabs in the Champions League first knockout stage, and 13 are already decided. Matchday six this week is largely a glorified round of club friendlies played before disinterested crowds.

Juventus and holders Chelsea will fight over the last place in Group E; Celtic and Benfica in Group G; Galatasaray and CFR 1907 Cluj in Group H. None of these teams play each other, though, and all the action takes place on Wednesday.

Tuesday is as a good as dead. Exhibition stuff really. Squabbles over who comes first, as if that matters in a tournament in which Real Madrid, AC Milan and quite possibly Juventus will be in the runners-up pot; skirmishes over third place and the right to enter a competition that is so prestigious that UEFA are thinking of scrapping it: again.

The dreaded Europa League. Barely three years since the UEFA Cup breathed its last, UEFA president Michel Platini is checking the pulse of its replacement. Still, as ever, he has a cunning plan.

Man with not a very good plan: Michel Platini has touted merging Europe's two club competitions

Man with not a very good plan: Michel Platini has touted merging Europe's two club competitions

Expand the Champions League to 64 teams and merge the two competitions. Yes, that should get the juices flowing again. More lame ducks, more dead rubbers. A group stage that trundles on and on, like one of those freight trains in America taking forever to pass.

The problem is the Europa League is failing. Crowds are small, television interest minimal and post-Christmas brings the march of the useless in which all the third-placed teams from the Champions League are parachuted into the competition to confirm its mediocre status.

Fulham, who were charting unknown territory, had great fun in the Europa League, but the teams fielded by Liverpool this season suggest priorities elsewhere.

If any English club had a genuine chance of returning to the Champions League through league position next season, the Thursday game would be sacrificed in a heartbeat.

So what is Platini’s solution In an interview with Ouest-France newspaper, he entertained a merger, pairing the tournament that doesn’t work with the one that does, to create a giant bunfight in which a team that finished seventh in the Premier League, won the League Cup or lost the FA Cup final could potentially end up champions of Europe; or in a pool stage match with Barcelona.

Millwall, for instance, who lost 3-0 to Manchester United in the 2004 FA Cup Final, and qualified for the UEFA Cup as a result, would be there.

How would this format work Having first arrived at 64 teams through the usual summer round of preliminaries, one presumes they would split into 16 groups of four. This would then be whittled down to a further eight groups of four, before the knock-out stages begin with 16 teams, then eight, four, and eventually the two finalists.

Wise move Millwall, defeated FA Cup finalists in 2004 would have been in the Champions League

Wise move Millwall, defeated FA Cup finalists in 2004 would have been in the Champions League

That would make a total of 19 games, excluding preliminaries, up from a current campaign of 13. Maybe Platini could invent a 13th month to play it in, too.

Alternatively, the knock-out stage could start at the round of 32, meaning a group competition comprising teams so weak it would barely be worth watching (Manchester United v Hapoel Kiryat Shmona, Real Madrid v Neftci PFK), followed by an unfortunate pairing with Barcelona and then out.

Why would any elite club sign up for that It would be financial suicide.

It was Platini who turned the Europa League into a Champions League Lite, when a better solution would have been to make it wildly different, returning to the immediacy of the old knock-out format. A proper cup competition, without the safety net of group football.

Madrid, Milan, Barca, Chelsea... Neftci PFK: Merging would result in more dead rubbers and would likely discredit eventual winners

Madrid, Milan, Barca, Chelsea… Neftci PFK: Merging would result in more dead rubbers and would likely discredit eventual winners

Sadly, the Europa League, like most of Platini’s creations, was poorly conceived from the start. He isn’t very bright, this guy. He doesn’t think things through. That makes him dangerous.

His supporters say he often floats ideas, like a 64-team Champions League, to test the water – or so other people can do the hard work and point out the flaws –but that isn’t correct either.

Platini may have been answering a newspaper question but he could have, instantly, ruled out a merger.

Instead, he kept the plan alive. Some pretty half-baked schemes – financial fair play, expansion of the European Championship to 24 teams, those extra officials standing next to the goal doing nothing – have become reality this way.

For a man who played football in such a thrilling fashion, Platini comes up with plans that make for a moribund game.

Financial regulations linked to income cement in place the existing elite. An expanded European Championship is less competitive, therefore less interesting, and the same would be true of an inflated Champions League.

Just because Platini said it in a regional French newspaper does not mean his cogs are not already whirring away on a plan to pit Barcelona against AEL Limassol. He will then wonder insightfully, three years later, why nobody is watching.