B/R Gossip Roundup: Giroud Has Arsenal Future, United Van Gaal Talk Not Right

BR UK NewsFeatured ColumnistApril 13, 2014

B/R Gossip Roundup: Giroud Has Arsenal Future, United Van Gaal Talk Not Right

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    Julian Finney/Getty Images

    The focus is firmly on the battle for silverware, but the papers continue their pursuit of gossip and rumour nonetheless.

    The past seven days have seen the papers produce back-page headlines on the potential summer movers and shakers.

    Arsenal are a club in focus, while Manchester United are also firmly in the spotlight.

    Here, we take a look at the stories from the week and offer our assessment.

Tim Sherwood Never Stood a Chance as Tottenham Hotspur Head Coach

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    Armando Franca

    Tim Sherwood has spent recent weeks watching Tottenham matches from the stands and away from the dugout.

    Ostensibly, the former Blackburn midfielder wanted to distance himself from potential public rows such as the one he endured with Benfica boss Jorge Jesus during their Europa League tie.

    More cruel folks might suggest it was a case of putting himself closer to Spurs chairman Daniel Levy and technical director Franco Baldini.

    But the truth is Sherwood never really had a chance as head coach at White Hart Lane, and the news, per Sky Sports, that he will be relieved of his duties at the end of the season comes as little surprise.

    The Spurs boss signed an 18-month contract in December following the sacking of Andre Villas-Boas, restored Emmanuel Adebayor to the team and immediately reaped dividends.

    The team appeared to be stirring again with a run of five wins from seven matches, but this has been a disjointed Tottenham this season after the wholesale changes based on the spending from Gareth Bale's world-record move to Real Madrid.

    But it was the lack of a supportive voice from the Spurs hierarchy which ensured Sherwood should not have made himself too comfortable in one of the hottest Premier League seats.

    Instead, Sherwood has had to read stories, such as Jack Gaughan of the Mail's piece last month, linking Netherlands boss Louis van Gaal with the position in the summer.

    There is no doubting that Sherwood lacked the necessary experience for the role after being promoted from his coaching position at the club, but it was the steepest of learning curves.

    Sherwood was a passionate presence on the sidelines in his opening weeks in the role, but perhaps his demeanour was borne out of inexperience.

    However, as a manager, he showed promise and deserves a chance to prove himself somewhere where the media spotlight and the expectation are not quite so great.

    Don't rule out a return in a few years.

    Believability meter: High

    Sherwood showed enough in his opening few matches to suggest the seeds of a good manager were there.

    But with the finances and expectations involved at Tottenham, something more will be needed to turn around the team to mirror the £108 million spent on new players in the summer.

    Levy should shoulder some of the blame here for a lack of public support, but Sherwood deserves a chance to prove himself as a team manager outside of White Hart Lane.

Everton Fans' Desire to Prevent Liverpool Title Underlines Merseyside Rivalry

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    Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

    Sylvain Distin might not understand it, but the dilemma facing Everton supporters is one which underlines a healthy rivalry.

    The Goodison Park defender admitted this week that some Blues fans would prefer to miss out on the Champions League rather than help Liverpool win the Premier League title, as Andy Hunter of The Guardian reported.

    Distin is quoted as saying:

    We've spoken about it with some of the staff and said: "What if we have to beat City to be in the Champions League but by doing that Liverpool win the league?"

    The funny thing is some people would rather we don't get Champions League as long as they don't win the league. It's mad!

    Personally I'd rather be in the Champions League. You can't miss a chance for that. It would be amazing for the city if both clubs made it.

    I think deep down both sets of fans would like it if both clubs were in it.

    Liverpool have long since considered Manchester United as their archrivals, but Everton have always viewed their neighbours from across the park as the team to beat every season.

    The 1970s were an awful time for Blues supporters as they watched Liverpool win title after title and conquer Europe in the European Cup and UEFA Cup.

    Everton became the "little brother" to be patted on the head and wished well by their Anfield counterparts. But Blues fans would not forget.

    That continued into the following decade until things began to change at Goodison Park as Howard Kendall put together the most successful Everton team ever.

    Everton fans of a certain vintage will remember how many Liverpool supporters wanted United to win the 1985 FA Cup final to deny Kendall's team of the domestic double.

    Turn forward 20 years, and few Liverpool fans were keen on Everton replacing them in the Champions League on the back of finishing above the Reds in the Premier League.

    To players, such dilemmas just aren't an issue. You want to be the best, play against the best and feature in the best competitions.

    Fans, though, vote with their hearts.

    It is highly unlikely that Everton supporters will not cheer a victory over Manchester City on May 3, but in their opinion there will be every reason for a few glum faces at the thought of helping Liverpool end a 24-year wait for the title.

    Believability meter: High

    For years, the Merseyside derby was considered the friendliest of derbies, although a creeping antagonism has edged in between the two sets of supporters in recent years.

    There will always remain a healthy respect between the two clubs and their fans, particularly over the support Everton have shown over the Hillsborough disaster, as the Liverpool Echo reported earlier this season.

    On the field, though, wanting anyone but Liverpool to win the title has long since been an Evertonian's state of mind.

    And that's exactly as it should be.

Iker Casillas a Luxury, Not a Priority, for Arsenal

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    Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

    Arsenal’s season has unraveled in recent weeks, and they are facing a fight to secure fourth place and a spot in next season’s Champions League.

    From a position of title challenger a matter of weeks ago, that’s not a great spot for the Gunners to find themselves in.

    Given their failure to press through with a concerted title push, it is fair to suggest that Arsenal are in need of some remedial work.

    That is clearly the opinion of Gunners midfielder Santi Cazorla, who feels that not only are Arsenal in need of a “winning mentality," they also require new faces.

    The Mail’s Sami Mokbel has the quotes from an interview Cazorla gave to Sport 360:

    Arsenal has everything to win. History, infrastructure, an incredible stadium and great players.

    But we have to improve and sign the best players because if you don’t do that, you may lag behind. ...

    ... Arsenal know what they need next season, but it’s almost impossible to win a title if we haven’t got these kinds of things.

    So who are the new faces Arsenal need? Cazorla has floated the prospect of Arsenal making a swoop for Real Madrid keeper Iker Casillas.

    Per the Mail’s Matthew Morlidge, again via Sport 360, Cazorla said:

    His situation is very complicated, but he has to make a decision.

    Lots of clubs want him, including Arsenal, but I think that it would be very difficult to leave Real Madrid because of what the club represents.

    He knows what he has [at Madrid] and what he could find at another club.

    There is no doubt Casillas is a top-class keeper; he has proved that during 15 years at Real Madrid. But is he really what Arsenal need?

    Bleacher Report’s lead Arsenal correspondent, James McNicholas, certainly does not think so, as he claims Casillas is at a stage in his career where he needs first-team football.

    There is no guarantee of that at Arsenal, with Wojciech Szczesny having been a solid performer for the Gunners this season.

    Szczesny has proved himself a worthy No. 1 keeper; another No. 1 is not what Arsenal need.

    Believability Meter: Low to Medium

    Arsene Wenger has been known to deviate from the expected path with regard to transfers, but there are greater areas of need within his squad than adding a No. 1 keeper.

    If Wenger boosts his squad in areas such as attack and defence in good time in the summer, Casillas could be on the radar—but it’s not a priority.

Andre Schurrle Form Offsets Eden Hazard Injury Blow for Chelsea

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    Julian Finney/Getty Images

    Amidst the cheers and celebrations of Tuesday night, Chelsea supporters momentarily forgot one crucial part of the Champions League win over Paris Saint-Germain.

    The loss of Eden Hazard to a calf injury in the opening 20 minutes could not have come at a worse time for the Blues.

    They were still trailing the Ligue 1 champions 3-1 at that stage of the match, and the chase for the Premier League title is heading into the final furlong.

    Jose Mourinho might decree his team to the be the "little horse" in the top flight, but the Belgium international is a pure thoroughbred.

    However, the Stamford Bridge boss was also offered a timely reminder that his stables include the presence of some stylish colts.

    The introduction of Andre Schurrle for Hazard may have offered up some concerns in the stands, but the Germany international has not proved a letdown for the Blues this season.

    His opening goal on the night may have been aided by some poor PSG defending, but it was his presence of mind which found the space inside the area.

    The former Bayer Leverkusen man represents a speedy and direct player who can also find the net when necessary. And the 23-year-old was not short of defensive qualities, as his work later in the match proved as PSG sought the one goal they needed.

    This is all a far cry from the summer when media questioned the signing of Schurrle.

    After his summer arrival from Bayer Leverkusen, Simon Knights of TalkSport offered a word of warning to Schurrle of players who had previously stagnated at Stamford Bridge. The presence of both Daniel Sturridge and Nemanja Matic on the same list might have acted as a catalyst for both players this season.

    The loss of Hazard for the next two league matches should have little bearing on the outcome with the Blues expected to beat both Swansea City and Sunderland.

    The race will be on to have him back to full fitness for the Champions League semi-final with Atletico Madrid and the Premier League visit to Liverpool on April 27.

    Schurrle, though, offers a more than capable option for Mourinho to fall back on. Chelsea fans will know it too.

    Believability meter: High

    Schurrle might not be viewed as the marquee talent of Hazard, but he represents a marker of the strength Mourinho has in his squad.

    The German's reliability is exactly the kind of resource the Stamford Bridge club will need heading into the close of the season.

Mauricio Pochettino Should Leave the Poisoned Chalice of Spurs Alone

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    Clive Rose/Getty Images

    While Tim Sherwood reportedly begins his search for a life after Tottenham, Spurs have turned their attention toward Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino, claims Jeremy Wilson of The Telegraph.

    According to the article, Netherlands head coach Louis van Gaal remains the favourite to succeed Sherwood at White Hart Lane, but the north Londoners are considering Pochettino as an alternative.

    Wilson claims that the Saints boss has placed Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy on alert after delaying talks on a contract extension until after the current Premier League season ends.

    But this is a move the former Argentina international should resist.

    Pochettino arrived at St Mary's Stadium on a wave of protest after then-chairman Nicola Cortese sacked popular Nigel Adkins, who had guided the club to successive promotions from League One to the top flight, as BBC Sport reported in January last year.

    But the move has paid dividends, particularly this season where Pochettino has kept the Saints in the top half of the table throughout the campaign.

    With a plethora of English talent, such as Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Jay Rodriguez, Southampton have become a welcome presence for supporters across the country.

    However, Pochettino will have been thrown by the loss of Cortese, the man who brought him in from the cold after his departure from Espanyol two months earlier in January of this year, as BBC Sport reported.

    Club owner Katharina Liebherr replaced Cortese, installing herself into the vacant position. Since then, however, Ralph Krueger has been appointed as chairman, and Wilson notes that he and the manager have enjoyed "positive talks," which will be music to the ears of Southampton fans.

    Pochettino is building a strong reputation for himself on the South Coast, and while it is not in doubt that he will move on at some point, Tottenham should be a place he avoids for the moment at least.

    The instability at White Hart Lane this season has been the subject of much speculation in the newspapers through the season.

    Immediately following the departure of Andre Villas-Boas in December came reports of Levy and technical director Franco Baldini being responsible for selecting players to bring in on the back of the world-record move of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid, as Paul Jiggins of The Sun (subscription required) reported in January.

    Tottenham have lacked stability in recent seasons since the departure of Harry Redknapp in 2012 despite guiding the club to two top-four finishes. Indeed, it was only the fact that Chelsea won the Champions League in 2012 which denied Spurs a place in the 2012-13 competition.

    In came Villas-Boas, and Tottenham missed out on the top four to rivals Arsenal on the final day of the season. And then came the spending spree in the summer. But soon AVB was also out of the revolving door at White Hart Lane.

    Pochettino has earned widespread plaudits for his work at Southampton this season and deserves full credit for his mix of foreign and English talent.

    It is little wonder that he would be coveted by Spurs, but it is a move he must resist.

    Believability meter: Medium

    It is understandable that Pochettino is a target for bigger clubs than Southampton, and the South Coast side will be fortunate to keep hold of him long-term.

    However, Spurs need a strong and experienced boss to deal with the politics of the club and turn them into the Premier League force Levy wants them to be.

    Pochettino should remain with the Saints and look elsewhere if he is to progress his managerial career.

Van Gaal United Talk Looks Extremely Premature

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    Buda Mendes/Getty Images

    Louis van Gaal is one of the most talked about managers in the game at present.

    He is putting the finishing touches to his plans for Netherlands’ World Cup challenge, but it is his next role that is commanding column inches.

    He will leave the Dutch job after the World Cup and has his sights trained on a return to club management.

    Tottenham have been strongly linked with a move for the Dutchman, and Ruud Gullit suggested in an interview with the BBC that it was a done deal. But a spanner has been thrown into those works by David McDonnell of the Mirror.

    McDonnell claims van Gaal could be heading to the Premier League, but to the North West with Manchester United.

    In his piece, McDonnell wrote:

    Mirror Sport understands United representatives—believed to include one of the Glazers—met with Holland coach van Gaal at a secret location in Europe within the last 48 hours.

    Reports from Holland last night claimed the meeting between van Gaal and United had taken place, with the Dutchman sounded out about the prospect of succeeding (David) Moyes at Old Trafford.

    The report comes a matter of days after United were eliminated from the Champions League at the hands of Bayern Munich.

    That defeat ended United’s hopes of making the Champions League next term, which highlights the kind of season the Red Devils have had.

    There is pressure on Moyes. He is, after all, in charge of the most successful side in the history of the Premier League.

    But Moyes received a six-year deal when he succeeded Sir Alex Ferguson last summer, and the club has shown no signs of being ready to make a change.

    Moyes himself has spoken positively about his summer spending plans, which is not the action of a man who expects to lose his job.

    Believability Meter: Low

    We just don’t see this one happening. Moyes has had a tough first season at the helm; his purchase of Marouane Fellaini has not worked out. But he also inherited a squad that was in need of an overhaul.

    Manchester United will surely hand Moyes the chance to stamp his mark on the club, so we do not expect managerial changes at Old Trafford this summer.

Giroud Too Valuable for Arsenal to Let Go

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    Bogdan Maran

    It’s been a tough few weeks for Arsenal, and they needed the lottery of penalties to see off Wigan Athletic to book their place in the FA Cup final.

    With either Hull City or Sheffield United lying in wait in the final, the odds are heavily in favour of the Gunners ending their long trophy drought.

    That, though, will merely mask the problems Arsenal are currently facing. Having started the season so well, they have faded like a team short of options.

    Arsenal’s forward line or lack thereof is in the spotlight. And The Sun (subscription required) carries an exclusive from Charlie Wyett which claims Olivier Giroud will be sent packing in the summer.

    Under the headline “Gir Out," Wyett claims Arsene Wenger has had enough of the forward’s off-field issues.

    Giroud was one of the many Arsenal players who started the season in sizzling form—he had eight goals to his name before the end of October—but he has struggled to show the same consistency in the second half of the season.

    With his struggles for form coming at the same time as off-field trouble, such as talk of an extra-marital affair via the Mail Online, Wyett suggests Wenger has decided to wield the axe.

    It is true Giroud has looked off the pace in the second half of the season, but he is not the only Arsenal player who has been found wanting.

    What Arsenal need is to find attacking reinforcements rather than jettison a player who has led the line pretty much single-handedly this season.

    There have been links with Chelsea's Romelu Lukaku, and that would be a sensible move. Lukaku, currently on loan at Everton, would not come cheap—£40 million is the number Rob Shepherd of the Mail has floated—but the Belgian is the type of player Arsenal should be targeting if they want to challenge at the top level.

    But rather than bringing in Lukaku as a replacement for Giroud, he should be signed to complement the Frenchman.

    Bringing in a top-class, powerful forward would not only increase competition for Giroud, it would also take the pressure off his shoulders.

    Believability Meter: Low to Medium

    If Wenger feels Giroud’s off-field issues are a distraction the forward cannot overcome, there may be truth in him wanting to move him on.

    However, Wenger will know full well the value of a powerful centre-forward. Letting Giroud go without bringing in adequate replacements, meaning two would really be needed to make Arsenal competitive, just does not add up.