Barry Glendenning on 6 February 2018
At the time of writing, Chelsea’s official website leads with a quotes piece from Antonio Conte’s press conference in the wake of his side’s demolition at the hands of Watford and only time will tell if that particular news item will be replaced with one of those statements announcing the football club wishes to “make clear Antonio leaves us on good terms and will always remain a much-loved, respected and significant figure at Chelsea”.
Yesterday’s Rumour Mill hinted that Roman Abramovich has already lined up Napoli’s Maurizio Sarri as Conte’s successor, but with the Partenopei currently top of Serie A, one suspects that any replacement for Conte, who may very well be parading up and down outside Stamford Bridge ringing a bell and wearing a “PLEASE SACK ME!” sandwich board, would be an interim fix. Carlo Ancelotti or Luis Enrique are the favourites to step into the breach, while the Italian FA is hopeful Conte will leave Chelsea and take over a national team still reeling with embarrassment from their failure to qualify for the World Cup.
Despite having gone some small way towards rehabilitating a managerial reputation that looked destined to end in all sorts of ignominy before he rocked up at West Ham, David Moyes seems unlikely to remain at the London Stadium past the end of this season. The Scot took over from Slaven Bilic on a six-month contract that is unlikely to be extended if reports the club are already sounding out potential replacements are to be believed. The Newcastle manager Rafael Benítez is reported to be a target, but is unlikely to be keen on swapping one basket-case club with tens of thousands of disgruntled fans for another, while Marco Silva and David Wagner have also been linked with the club.
Those blokes with ropes lurking with intent near Arsenal’s training ground are hoping to “tie down Aaron Ramsey” to a new contract at the club, while reports from Spain suggest Real Madrid will offer Karim Benzema to Manchester United, Arsenal or the Dog & Duck next summer. Arsenal are also hopeful of signing the 24-year-old Hoffenheim midfielder Kerem Demirbay, who has just been ruled out of action for several weeks after rupturing ankle ligaments during his team’s draw with Hertha Berlin last Saturday. Liverpool are also interested in securing Demirbay’s services and both Premier League clubs are reported to be happy to meet the £28m release clause in the Germany international’s contract. Arsenal also like the cut of Benfica winger Andrija Zivkovic’s jib, while Liverpool, Manchester United and Bayern Munich are all hitching their skirts in the direction of Christian Pulisic.
And finally, this morning’s Times leads with the exclusive news that the Premier League is thinking of introducing a winter break in January of each season, presumably so fatigued players can rest their weary bones by boarding planes, travelling to far flung corners of the world to play lucrative friendly matches on money-spinning mid-season tours. Any potential break would have to be factored into the next television rights deal. “Provided space can be found in the calendar, we are open to this in principle and will continue constructive discussions with our football stakeholders to seek a workable solution,” announced a Premier League statement this morning.