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Arsenal go top as title race takes an intriguing turn
Arsenal made the most of Manchester City and Liverpool taking points off each other in yesterday’s early game. Following the 1-1 draw at the Etihad Stadium, Kai Havertz popped up with a late winner away to Brentford, giving the Gunners a 1-0 win and sending them top of the Premier League table.
This year’s title race looks very open, as I expected. We’re not seeing anyone running away with it, and I expect it will continue to be close in the months ahead. I’m impressed with Arsenal and see them fighting for the title until the end. I’d still say that Man City remain the favourites but Arsenal are there and will be there.
Liverpool have also shown that they are ready to fight – they’re third at the moment but it’s so close at the top, so it looks like it’s going to be a very interesting battle this season. I expected it to be mainly between City and Arsenal, but it looks like Liverpool will be there too.
Chelsea far from good enough at Newcastle – plus thoughts on those links with Ousmane Diomande
Chelsea had a really bad day yesterday, losing 4-1 away to Newcastle United. Mauricio Pochettino was really not happy afterwards, saying he felt this was their worst performance since he took the job.
I have to say I agree with Pochettino – it was a bad performance as the team was not 100% focused in key moments. This is not acceptable at this level, this is why they still need to improve a lot. They remain 10th in the table, and despite some recent encouragement with the 4-1 win away to Tottenham and an exciting 4-4 draw with Man City, they still have work to do.
One position on their agenda for 2024 is a centre-back, and I’ve previously stated that they would be exploring the market in that position.
We’re now seeing talented young Sporting Lisbon defender Ousmane Diomande being linked with Chelsea, but my understanding is that there’s nothing concrete at the moment. Scouting activity for top clubs is normal and he’s very good player but I’m not aware of any concrete discussion so far.
As I recently reported, Arsenal have been tracking Diomande for some time, but there are other interested clubs as well as he’s a big prospect, so it’s normal. Let’s see if the Chelsea links materialise into anything more concrete, but I’m not hearing of anything substantial at the moment.
Bayer Leverkusen are serious Bundesliga title contenders under Xabi Alonso
With a 3-0 win away to Werder Bremen yesterday, Bayer Leverkusen are still absolutely flying under Xabi Alonso. They’re two points clear at the top of the Bundesliga table, winning eleven and drawing one of their twelve games so far.
Personally, I see them as genuine title contenders. They are in superb form and I think they’re the real deal. The secret is Xabi Alonso – he’s a wonderful manager and with great mentality. As for their players, Florian Wirtz is unbelievable, Victor Boniface is also doing great but Alex Grimaldo has been top – the numbers he’s producing for a full-back are insane…and they signed him as free agent!
Of course, we know how dominant Bayern Munich have been in the German league for the last decade or more, and they remain a great side with Harry Kane on fire this season, but it’s clear that Alonso’s Leverkusen side also have to be taken very seriously in this year’s title race.
Casemiro rumours and Man United’s Fofana interest
There’s been a lot written about Casemiro’s Manchester United future recently, with talk of interest from Saudi clubs. As I previously reported, there’s nothing concrete happening yet, but we’ll see what Saudi plans are.
Still, I also wanted to address the claims that Casemiro has struggled to settle in England – as far as I understand, this is not accurate. He has no issues, no problems living in England, so I don’t see this as a key factor in determining his future.
Casemiro’s future will be discussed for sure in the next months, but for now anything else is just speculation.
Youssouf Fofana is a name attracting interest at the moment, and I can reveal that Man Utd considered him as backup option for Sofyan Amrabat (who was their top target) in the summer.
I can’t mention specific clubs pursuing Fofana now, it’s too early, as this is more a move for the summer than for January as he’s a key player for Monaco. I’m also told that PSG are not working to sign him, despite reports.