The end of the season: such a routine time, where the expected play themselves out: some teams reveal kits for the new season (yes, you, Everton), Manager XYZ says he’s leaving club XYZ at the close of the campaign, a tearful farewell follows the departure of a long-serving cult hero at a club, and Real Madrid win the Champions League (just typical).

Oh, right, and also, supposed writers run out of gas and opt to take a look at those Premier League players who might well switch clubs at the end of the season (or June 30 in Football-Managerish). It’s the ti…errr.. like I said, out of gas. So, straight to it then. Who are those players you could just about bet on to switch clubs after the season is read its last rites?

Arsenal

It’s likely there’ll be a raft of changes at the Emirates come the end of the season, the biggest one being the departure of Arsene Wenger. After 22 years, the French gaffer will call time on his Arsenal tenure at the end of the campaign, and it’s not unlikely that some players will also depart. Jack Wilshere’s contract runs out at the end of the season, as does the recuperating Santi Cazorla (although there’s an option of a one-year extension for him), while there are rumours linking Hector Bellerin with a move away. And with a new manager coming in, there’s expected to be a squad shake-up. No rest for the Arsenal revolving door in the summer, then.

Bournemouth

With first team opportunities hard to come by lately, Artur Boruc might well move on at the end of his contract in the summer. Harry Arter remains linked with the exit door, the rumours putting West Ham in front of the queue. Marc Pugh and Rhoys Wiggins are also out of contract at the end of the season.

Brighton

There’s always a worry for the Seagulls that bigger guns might come calling for Pascal Gross, who has been involved in 44% of the team’s goals in the Premier League this season. Liam Rosenior and Steve Sidwell will have no contracts once the season ends, and are likely to be moved on. Same might go for Niki Maenpaa and Uwe Hunemeier.

Burnley

There’s the big Burnley conundrum in terms of who’ll be in goal next season. Tom Heaton is arguably the best English goalkeeper in the league, but having been side-lined for most of this season, his deputy in Nick Pope hasn’t done too badly, even managing to force his way into World Cup contention. Both are good for number one spots at club level, and come next term, it’s likely one would move in search of it. Stephen Ward and Dean Marney are out of contract soon, while Scott Arfield has already agreed to join Rangers (no, not the one in Enugu).

Chelsea

It’s not Chelsea if there’s no forthcoming change for a new season once an old one is coming to a close, and this term looks to be no different.  Antonio Conte looks as likely to stay at Stamford Bridge next season as pigs are to fly, Chelsea are reportedly in talks with other managers already, and this- coupled with the fact that Champions League football for the next campaign is unlikely, means changes to the playing staff as well. David Luiz has spent most of this season- injury or otherwise- out of the team, Danny Drinkwater’s time at the club looks to be coming to an end, and it remains to be seen whether Tiemoue Bakayoko would get another season to get into shape, while backup goalkeepers Willy Caballero and Eduardo are out of contract in the summer. The big question is whether Eden Hazard would stick around for a second season with European elite football in three years. One thing’s for certain, though: there’ll be lots of loanees, as always.

Crystal Palace

Palace’s problematic position for the past couple of years has been in goal, with the men between the sticks having rarely convinced. All three are about to be out of contract, though, as Julian Speroni, Wayne Hennessey and Diego Cavalieri are bound to be free agents by the end of the season (although Vicente Guaita is due to join from Getafe). There’s also bound to be a hairy transfer window for the Eagles, with Wilfred Zaha likely to be subject of speculation, while there’s uncertainty surrounding Christian Benteke- even if he has said he intends to stay. Joel Ward, James McArthur, Bakary Sako, Lee Chung-Yong, Damien Delaney, Yohan Cabaye and Martin Kelly are also out of contract soon (I know right, too long).

Everton

There’s bound to be another busy summer for the Toffees, not least in terms of the exit door, likely starting with manager Sam Allardyce himself. The likes of Sandro Ramirez, Davy Klaassen and Cuco Martina are likely to be moved on after just a season, while fans would pay to drive Ashley Williams away. Joel Robles becomes a free agent once the season ends.

Huddersfield

Errr…. Not much to talk about here. Dean Whitehead and Rob Green are soon to become free agents, but (not to sound mean) who’d really miss them? Aaron Mooy might attract clubs in the summer. 

Leicester

Goalkeeper Ben Hamer runs out of contract at the end of the season, as does Robert Huth, who’s been out of the side this season thanks to a combination of injury and Harry Maguire. Riyad Mahrez has reportedly revoked his transfer request, but his case is still tagged under ‘remains to be seen’. Currently out on loan players Leo Ulloa, Islam Slimani, and long-serving Andy King are likely to also move on. As is customary at the time of the season, Claude Puel is reportedly likely to be dismissed.

Liverpool

The big transfer issue for Liverpool, since Philippe Coutinho said bye, has been Emre Can, who runs out of contract in the summer. The injured German is under Juventus’ radar, and there have been reports of a deal being signed with the Italian club. The right-back position looks rather clogged, and one of Nathaniel Clyne, Joe Gomez, and Trent Alexander-Arnold might well move on, something Daniel Sturridge would also be considering. James Milner and Alberto Moreno can also leave on a free at the end.

Manchester City

Who’d wanna leave? Okay, Yaya Toure has confirmed his departure at the end of the season, while loanee Eliaquim Mangala’s contract runs out. Joe Hart would also return from his temporary stint at West Ham, but surely be on the way out again.

Manchester United

Luke Shaw, Luke Shaw, Luke Shaw, Luke Shaw, Luke Shaw. The young left-back has been subject of some finger-pointing by manager Jose Mourinho, and there wouldn’t be a shortage of clubs coming in for English defender, who’s departure from Old Trafford seems inevitable. Michael Carrick retires at the end of the season, Anthony Martial remains linked with the exit door, while Marouane Fellaini’s contract issue remains unresolved. Matteo Darmian and Daley Blind are also bound to leave. Have I mentioned Luke Shaw?

Newcastle

Most of the Magpies’ squad is still comprised of their Championship side, even if some of them don’t appear on the pitch. Much depends on whether or not players arrive, although the likes of fringe players in Jesus Gamez, Curtis Good and Massadio Haidara, as well as loanee Tim Krul, are all out of contract at the season’s close.

Southampton

The future of a few players, and perhaps the manager, depends on whether the Saints can avoid the drop (which is likely), while Sofiane Boufal is likely to move after his exile by Mark Hughes. Jeremy Pied and Stuart Taylor are soon to no longer have contracts.

Stoke City

With relegation having been confirmed, clear-outs are not unlikely. Xherdan Shaqiri is unlikely to follow the club to the Championship, same goes for Joe Allen (picture Brendan Rodgers in Glasgow with open arms). Glenn Johnson, Jakob Haugaard, Stephen Ireland and Charlie Adam all run out of contracts soon, but dropping them a tier might make the team reconsider.

Swansea City

Another side whose players’ futures might hinge on whether or not they go down, although Alfie Mawson is likely to have a busy summer no matter what. The likes of Martin Olsson and especially Lukasz Fabianski are bound to move on should relegation be the case, while Ki Sung-Yeung is out of contract and has been linked with AC Milan, while long-serving veterans Leon Britton and Angel Rangel are also soon to be free agents.

Tottenham

It’s the stuff of mini-battles at Tottenham, with the likes of Danny Rose and Toby Alderweireld seemingly on the losing side of off-the-pitch tussles with manager Mauricio Pochettino. Both have a fair amount of suitors, and both are likely to be moved on. There are also rumours of Mousa Dembele and Victor Wanyama leaving, while Fernando Llorente might consider the exit door considering the (lack of) playing he has had. Backup goalie Michel Vorm is soon to be out of contract.

Watford

It’s not Watford if you don’t expect change at the end of the season. Manager Javi Gracia only arrived in January (on an 18-month contract), yet there are more than a few suggestions that he might be shown the door once the season reaches its close, especially with their usual end-of-season form. Any potential managerial change is always likely to lead to changes in the playing staff as well, so expect departures as well as arrivals- some Hornets fans might bite your hand off for the opportunity to drive away the inconsistent Etienne Capoue. Miguel Britos is out of contract at the end of the campaign.

West Brom

With relegation now sealed, there’s going to be changes at the Hawthorns, beginning with the managerial post. Ben Foster has declared his intention to stay even in the Championship, but clubs are surely going to come for defender Johnny Evans; Salomon Rondon has done his reputation little harm, and will lure admirers, while the likes of Nacer Chadli and Jay Rodriguez might remain in the top-flight with someone else. Chris Brunt might stick around, but his contract is currently due to expire at the season’s end, same goes for Gareth Barry, James Morrison, Gareth McAuley, Claudio Yacob and Boaz Myhill.

West Ham

If the fans had their way, the changes would begin from the boardroom. They might well settle for the departure of manager David Moyes, whose short-term contract runs out at the end of the season. Same applies for James Collins and Patrice Evra, the latter of whom is unlikely to get any renewal. Expect Robert Snodgrass to depart almost as soon as he returns from his loan at Aston Villa.

Published in International Watch

It wasn’t so much as being nervy, but rather occupying a convoy of nerves at the St. Mary’s, as Southampton managed to stumble over the finish line against Bournemouth. The win was a narrow as it was vital, the performance as irrelevant afterwards, as it was shaky during; the air punches from Mark Hughes and his assistant at the final whistle, along with the sighs of joy and relief from the players summed it up: Southampton still have life in them.

This South Coast derby had been a must-win for the Saints, after a torrid of form in the league- no wins since February prior to this. There had been close calls, a 3-2 defeat at Arsenal where the Saints spirit and commitment yielded plaudits but no points, a 3-2 defeat at home to Chelsea where their impressive start was replaced by a horrific conclusion as they threw away a two-goal advantage; there had also been insipid displays; from the 3-0 loss in Hughes’ first game, at West Ham, to the 3-0 loss in Mauricio Pellegrino’s last, at Newcastle.

But every battle has a turning point if things are primed to still end well, every war its twist of fate that shows there might just be salvation after all, and perhaps this is the Saints’ Normandy moment, their Battle of Gettysburg situation. Two goals from Dusan Tadic was enough for victory over the Cherries on Saturday…well, two goals at the attacking end, at least. At the other end, there was a combination of brave and gutsy defending, mixed with desperate and nervous defending, as well as a few good saves from goalkeeper Alex McCarthy (one of which was a blinder in stoppage time to keep out Josh King’s deflected effort). The football was hardly mind-blowing, the fans were edgy, and the players had their fair share of tiredness, but they held on nevertheless.

That big win became even bigger considering the state of results of elsewhere. When the Saints were hanging on against Bournemouth, fellow relegation battlers Huddersfield were succumbing to Everton at the John Smith’s stadium. The Terriers had gone into that game with a chance of virtually gaining survival, but a 2-0 loss, where they lacked any sort of invention going forward and didn’t look like scoring even if the entire Toffees squad got hypnotised, now leaves them just three points above Southampton, who are in 18th. That’s the first point to note for David Wagner’s team, the second is that their final three games are against Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal, two of those away from home. The celebrations at the end of that win against Watford a fortnight ago sent a message, the lack of one at the end of this defeat sent another.

The relegation battle story of this weekend doesn’t end with those two, as before Huddersfield and Southampton took the pitch for their respective games, Stoke City had gone to Anfield and claimed a point. It was an expected backs against the wall game for Paul Lambert’s side, but perhaps the result wasn’t as predicted, the Potters sharing the spoils after an impressive display at the back. The reality is that it’s still no wins in 12 for the Potters, and they’re still 19th having played a game more than their rivals around the drop zone, but this could well be a big point, especially considering one of their final two games is against Swansea.

Swansea would also face Southampton before the season runs out, and this weekend, despite their second half performance, they fell to defeat at Chelsea. A frustrating evening for Carlos Carvalhal leaves his side just a point above the drop zone. That home game against Southampton in the penultimate will be vital.

West Ham, meanwhile, are only two points off Swansea, and by extension three from Southampton. They also have a rather terrible goal difference, not aided by their loss at home to Manchester City, which made them the worst defence in the league so far this season. Brighton, who drew at Burnley, may be two points further forward, but aren’t quite safe yet, especially as they end the season with a home game against Manchester United, as well as trips to Liverpool and Manchester City.

This long slog looks like playing out right to the wire.

Five-star Eagles

One team that’s probably safe are Crystal Palace, who, amidst the battles going on elsewhere, were putting five past Leicester City on Saturday. There was a first goal at home for Christian Benteke in just about a year, while the likes of Ruben Loftus-Cheek and (of course) Wilfred Zaha came to the party, which was almost literal at the end of it. Palace haven’t lost against a side currently in the bottom half since September, Palace have the best goal difference in the bottom half, Palace are three points off the top ten. This was the same side that were goalless and pointless in October.

Elsewhere

  • It was a brilliant reception for Arsene Wenger as he walked on to Old Trafford for the final time, before receiving an award from Sir Alex Ferguson, and even (yes, really) sharing a smile with Jose Mourinho. At the end of it, there was no smile on his face, as his youthful side came close to grabbing a point at Old Trafford, but his last league game at the Theatre of Dreams succumbed to Fergie Time; how fitting. Arsenal still haven’t managed an away point in 2018; how worrying.
  • That West Ham loss to Man City, means City are now seven points away from a century of Premier League points in a season, as well as two goals away from the Premier League record of 103 in a season (by Chelsea in 2009/10). They have more goals in the first half of games, than West Ham have over 90 minutes.
  • Having looked doomed all season, suddenly West Brom won’t go down. Their win at Newcastle means they’re not mathematically relegated, yet. It also means they are unbeaten in four games under Darren Moore. They’ve won two games in that time, Tony Pulis and Alan Pardew combined for three league wins in nine months.
  • On the Chelsea win at Swansea, it’s finally 50 up in the Prem. for Cesc Fabregas at last. More pressingly, should Chelsea win all their remaining three games, they might finish in the top four.
  • And Mohammed Salah scored for Liv… oh, hang on. He didn’t (!). He even missed a sitter in Liverpool’s goalless draw with Stoke (what!!!).

Results

Southampton 2-1 Bournemouth

Burnley 0-0 Brighton

Manchester United 2-1 Arsenal

Crystal Palace 5-0 Leicester

West Ham 1-4 Manchester City

Newcastle 0-1 West Brom

Huddersfield 0-2 Everton

Swansea 0-1 Chelsea

Liverpool 0-0 Stoke

Monday Night Football: Tottenham v Watford

Published in International Watch

And the end of the road isn’t so far now. It was barely a week ago that Arsene Wenger announced that this season would be his last at the club, and from the next campaign, for the first time in 22 years, the answer to the question ‘who’s Arsenal’s manager?’ wouldn’t be the Frenchman. As expected, the inevitable praises and reminiscing over his time at the club have been pouring in. From journalists, fellow managers, current and former players, both for and against. Not least of them a tweet from ex-Manchester United man Gary Neville, who mentioned facing Arsenal in the Wenger era and the difficulty that posed.

And so, in a way, it’s quite fitting that one of Le Professeur’s final games before he walks off to the sunset would be at Old Trafford, and, as destiny would have it, against Jose Mourinho. The old adversary will be the last manager Wenger faces in the Old Trafford dugout before calling time on his, however sour the latter of part seems to have been, illustrious adventure with the Gunners, a ground that has held a few unforgettable memories for the 68-year-old.

It was at Old Trafford that Wenger suffered that infamous 8-2 defeat in August of 2011; at Old Trafford that he watched United become champions in 2009, seven years after he and his Arsenal team were also confirmed kings of the land at the Theatre of Dreams. It was at the same stadium he stood in the stands, arms aloft in a fit of ‘it’s just me’ almost a decade ago; where that famous pizza-gate incident happened in 2005, where his team were trampled 6-1 in 2000, and where Arsenal won to take momentum on their way to title triumph in 1998.

The Arsenal v United games, especially between the late ‘90s and 2005, were as pivotal as they were fiercely-contested. From the touchline squabble between Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson, the dressing room and pitch tussles between players (yes, this is you, Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira), to the silverware on offer, it was the quite the series. But even after everything changed, the players, even the stadium, even when Fergie himself retired, there was still a constant in the fixture. Now that constant is about to change.

There isn’t much, in terms of the league, riding on this game; United can’t be champions and can’t dropout of the top four, while Arsenal, with the top four a bridge too far, are more interested in their Europa League affairs, where they have a second leg at Atletico waiting four days after this game. So the focus is likely to be on Wenger. How would the home fans welcome the Frenchman? What would the exchange between he and Mourinho be like? Would he finally win away at a Mourinho team before bowing out? With the likelihood of a reshuffled side as a result of their European commitments, that last part might seem unlikely, but this is a fixture that hasn’t wanted for twists and turns, one of this weekend’s being Alexis Sanchez hosting his former club.

And with that point it is worth noting that there will be more plot twists and drama in this fixture for years to come, the trend has already been set. But when the final whistle goes on Sunday, when Wenger walks down that path for the last time and into the tunnel, one of the men who have helped set the tone for this glamorous story between these rivals will be bidding it goodbye. Before that, though, he still has another chapter to star in.

Elsewhere:

  • It’s gone from ‘win or bust’ stage to ‘win-but-even-that-might-not-be-enough-because-you-left-it-late’ stage for Stoke, as the Potters know the water is hastily running dry as they seek to swim to the other side of the dotted line. Paul Lambert’s side will just about need to win the rest of their remaining fixtures to have a chance of survival. First, a trip to Anfield, where they haven’t won in 54 top-flight fixtures, and are bound to be up against probably the deadliest front three in Europe right now. Good luck with that one.
  • Speaking of last chance saloon, Southampton are in a not-so dissimilar situation. The past few weeks have been plaudits-not-points for the Saints, who are running out of time and games. The upcoming South Coast derby is a definite must-win, perhaps it’s time for some more attacking displays.
  • It’s shades of Southampton again for Claude Puel: the results are drying up, the boos are ringing, complaints have come about his training sessions, and the board are considering replacing him in the summer. He and Leicester need three points at Crystal Palace, or, with games against Tottenham and Arsenal to come, their season might just peter out, and someone might just be ringing Mauricio Pellegrino.
  • And Burnley can cement a European place with as much as a point at home to Brighton. Nine months on, and it’s still incredible.

Fixtures

Manchester United v Arsenal

Tottenham v Watford

Swansea v Chelsea

Liverpool v Stoke

Southampton v Bournemouth

Huddersfield v Everton

Burnley v Brighton

West Ham v Manchester City

Newcastle v West Brom

Crystal Palace v Leicester

Published in International Watch

For the second season in a row, there’s no springtime doom and gloom at Newcastle. No talk of fans rallying with banners demanding a club that tries, no claim of the players letting down the fans, and no sign of a squad underachieving. Tyneside feels alive and buoyant, smiles are on faces fans, and the team is overachieving by sitting in the top half.

‘It’s very good what is happening in this club, in this city. We are where we deserve to be, I think’, said Mohammed Diame, who put in a man of the match of performance as Newcastle came from behind to beat Arsenal. Yes, Newcastle beat Arsenal. After 10 defeats in a row, spanning six years, and no wins against the Gunners in eight years, the Magpies grabbed a completely deserved win, their fourth in a row, as well their fourth successive home win. ‘With the last four results, we’ve won four games in a row now, and confidence is high’, said defender Paul Dummett.

And there was no shortage of confidence, even when Arsenal took the lead. It had been 13 years since the Toon celebrated a home win over Arsenal, Nolberto Solano bagging the solo goal back in the winter of 2005. Then Alan Shearer and Michael Owen were the headline men up front, Rafa Benitez was managing at Liverpool, with Glenn Roeder in charge. Normally Newcastle heads would have dropped, conceding the first goal against a bogey team and that familiar feeling would start to creep in, of those 10 games in a row that they lost to the Gunners, only in one of them did they score equalisers- yet they were hit 7-3 in that one- so perhaps a shot in morale would have been expected the moment Alexandre Lacazette latched on to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s pass, and became the first player to score against Martin Dubravka at the St. James Park this season.

But dropping heads isn’t quite a feature of the new Toon, not what has made punch above their weight, made them win four games on the bounce. This may have been a shuffled Arsenal side, but there’s no discrediting Newcastle’s resolve. ‘People were talking about the changes they made but you could see the quality which they had, especially in the first half’, said Benitez. For quality, Benitez would have been delighted to see that that was the word surrounding his side’s equaliser. From Jonjo Shelvey’s superb pass, to Deandre Yedlin’s one-time cross, and Ayoze Perez’s one-touch finish, the goal that gave Newcastle parity involved eight of their 11 players, with nine passes.

It was a third goal in as many games for an in-form Perez, who bagged winners against Huddersfield, and at Leicester lately, but it’s the Spaniard’s work ethic that has been his most brilliant characteristic, and that has also been the watchwords for the rest of the squad. That work ethic, not so similar with Newcastle’s Premier League teams in recent past, always accused of a lack of trying and giving up too easily in the past. Not this side. ‘Everyone was pulling in the same direction…’ said Benitez, while Dummett pointed out ‘the organisation between the back four and midfield’ as key. But perhaps bigger proof of their hard work and focus is Diame pointing out that the team would enjoy this ‘for a few days, then get back to work’. There’s no room for resting on laurels, no room for slacking off, as they showed in the second half, with Islam Slimani and Perez combining to play in Ritchie, who- just like he did against Manchester United here- grabbed the winner.

With 41 points, Newcastle are one point behind ninth-placed Everton, whom they face next. ‘We’ll go to Everton hoping to beat them and take over them’ Dummett added. A win at Goodison Park next weekend takes them to ninth place; only twice in the past 11 Premier League seasons have they finished higher. Not that Benitez is one to get carried away, it’s still a case of one step at a time. The first step was always survival, and with 41 points that has been achieved, just ask Dummett. ‘Yes, definitely’.

City kings of the land, inevitably

You could excuse the nerves from the Manchester City fans and manager when Tottenham halved their advantage. City had been on top and took a deserved- yet fortuitous- two-goal lead, until Christian Eriksen pulled a goal back for Spurs (insert Harry Kane joke here). There was semblance to City’s implosion at home to Manchester United the previous weekend, and Spurs sensed it, the fans roaring them on while the players forced City to cede the ball, both at the end of the first half, and the start of the second. But City didn’t give up control or their lead this time, and with less than 20 minutes left, Raheem Sterling- guilty of a few misses in the derby and here as well- put the game to bed. City have won at Chelsea, Arsenal, United and Spurs this season; more importantly they got to within touching distance of the title. A West Brom win at Old Trafford would suffice.

Not that Pep Guardiola was watching, though. The City boss was presumably on the golf course when United took on West Brom, laboured at home to the bottom club, and, courtesy of a Jay Rodriguez header, suffered a second home league defeat of the season to hand City the title. Which means United had delayed City’s coronation at the Etihad on derby day, only to gift them the title by losing to a side that had won only twice in the league all season. Sums up this week of football. This also means City have won the league at the joint-fastest time ever (with five games to spare, just like United in 2000-01), and in seven years they’ve won three league titles, half the number of times United manager Jose Mourinho pointed out that he has won eight career championships in his post-match conference.

Elsewhere:

  • That defeat at St. James means Arsenal are yet to record an away point in 2018, the only side in the top four divisions in the country awaiting their first spoil on the road. Incredible.
  • Now it’s five wins in a row for Burnley. Not only did Sean Dyche’s side put some considerable daylight between them and recent opponents Leicester, they are now only two points behind sixth-placed Arsenal.
  • Mohammed Salah scored. Next!!
  • The jubilation was uncontainable, from the pitch to the dugout and the fans, when the goal went in and at the final whistle. It looked like Huddersfield-Watford would peter out to a goalless draw, until Tom Ince popped up for the Terriers in the 91st minute, his fifth goal against Watford. More Importantly, it has them on 35 points, on the brink of survival.
  • And in the crisis Clasico, Southampton managed to toss a two-goal lead at home to Chelsea, and grab defeat from the cusp of victory.
  • Oh, and welcome back to the big time Wolverhampton Wanderers

Results:

Newcastle 2-1 Arsenal

Tottenham 1-3 Manchester City

Southampton 2-3 Chelsea

Manchester United 0-1 West Brom

Huddersfield 1-0 Watford

Swansea 1-1 Everton

Crystal Palace 3-2 Brighton

Liverpool 3-0 Bournemouth

Burnley 2-1 Leicester

Monday Night Football: West Ham v Stoke

Published in International Watch

A man is all set to lose his wife to his betting partner for an entire week after he lost a bet on which team would win the high-octane Manchester derby on Saturday night.

A hand written agreement between the two Tanzanian gentlemen has been widely shared on social media with each of them pledging to give up his wife to the other for a week in the event of a loss for either Manchester City or Manchester United.

While Nairobi News could not authoritatively authenticate the gentleman’s agreement, one of the two men now stands to lose his wife following Manchester United’s dramatic fight back to win the derby 3-2 and keep their city rivals’ title celebrations on hold for a little longer.

In the agreement, one Amani Stanley, presumably a Manchester City fan, places his unnamed wife as collateral in the event his team lost, while a certain Shilla Tony likewise agrees to surrender his wife to his friend in case Manchester United lost.

“I hereby promise to give away my wife for an entire week to my brother Tony Shilla if Manchester City doesn’t win the league title against Manchester United. I’m of sound mind and Ive not been coerced into this agreement,” the Manchester City fan pledges.

The other party makes a similar pledge at the bottom of the page with both gamblers signing the agreement.

This agreement, if indeed authentic, is the latest case of a select group of passionate fans who shun money as their ambling currency and instead place wagers on other collateral, often their personal property.

Nairobi News

 

Published in International Watch

At this point, you begin to wonder who writes these scripts. Manchester City were two up at halftime, which could well have been six, cruising against a seemingly hapless Manchester United side, and had one hand and four other fingers on the trophy. The party was in full flow and the home crowd were in dreamland; yet by fulltime it was the stuff of nightmares, Citytis had struck again, United had had the better of their neighbours and there would be no title party just yet.

And that had been the aim for United before kick-off, delay, make them wait. It was one thing to watch as City strolled past everyone this campaign, it would be another to watch their rivals confirm the league after the final whistle. Jose Mourinho had talked about United not ready to be ‘clowns’ in City’s celebrations, the same word he used when Chelsea went to Liverpool in April 2014, another of his famous away day masterstrokes. The match build-up had been spiked by claims from Pep Guardiola that he had been offered Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitarayan in January by their agent and his pal Mino Raiola, comments Mourinho refused to speak on. But halfway through the first half, Mourinho would be screaming on the pitch.

City had been exposed by the high-press football at Anfield in midweek, but any suggestion that Mourinho would follow Klopp’s blueprint was extinguished early on, with United sitting deep and content to let City dictate the game. Which meant Mourinho had every right to be livid with the way they conceded the first goal. From Leroy Sane’s corner, Vincent Kompany shrugged off the attention of Chris Smalling to power home a header past David de Gea. There were shades of 2012, when Kompany beat Smalling and headed in the only goal in key game that season, but this time the eruption that came with the opening goal had barely died down when a second came, Raheem Sterling feeding Ilkay Gundogan, whose turn and finish into the bottom corner was a thing of beauty.

Mourinho was quite rightly incandescent, United were switching off at the back, and it happened again, David Silva playing in Sterling, who contrived to blaze over from point-blank range. Then Sterling did it again, from another Silva pass, before Gundogan could only direct a free header into the palms of De Gea. Still Guardiola would be at least content with the half, where the players and fans had played their part, every United touch met with a loud jeer that would echo round the stadium, while there were cheers in the same measure every time City had the ball.

For United, something had to change at the break. It wasn’t the personnel, as Mourinho felt the need to make no substitutions just yet, and he would be proved right. Only seven minutes had gone in the second half, and had United had offered more than they did in the entire first period, Pogba had fired a shot that was easy for Ederson, and it would be the Frenchman who dragged them into the game. First, after being played in by Ander Herrera’s brilliant chest down from Alexis Sanchez’s cross, he tucked home past Ederson to halve the deficit. Then barely three minutes later, he got his head onto another Sanchez cross to level matters.

Suddenly, United had gone from apparently down and out to restore parity, and City, from their seemingly unassailable position, now had to score again for the title. A goal would come with 20 minutes to go, but it complete United’s remarkable, and it was almost fitting that it came through Smalling peeling away from Kompany to jab home another Sanchez cross. Now it was truly the stuff of nightmares for the home crowd, the ‘ole’ cheers of joy were now substituted with silence of terror, and on the home bench, substitutions would follow, Guardiola disregarding Tuesday’s clash with Liverpool and throwing on Kevin de Bruyne, Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero. Now it was City who were on the rack and were starting to lose their heads, every decision that went against them was met with as much jeers from the crowd as it was with protests of frustration from the players, not least when referee Martin Atkinson denied them a penalty after Ashley Young did his best to detach Aguero’s legs.

Time was running out for the Citizens, and the closest they came was in stoppage time, when first De Gea pulled off another of his surreal saves to deny Aguero, and then Sterling turned Nicolas Otamendi’s effort onto the post from three yards out. But it wasn’t to be. City are still certain to win the league, but they couldn’t do it as early as possible, and could only do it next week if United fail to win.

For United, the aim had been achieved, they had pushed City’s celebrations, however inevitable, further back. Over our dead bodies, boys.

City Cause for Concern

That result, coupled with the loss at Anfield, now exposes some kind of chink in City’s armour, a large bit perhaps. Any sort of pressure and they seem to fold. Get at their defenders, and the collective solidity becomes individual frailty. Suddenly that cloak of invisibility has been ripped off. Sure, the alarm bells are somewhat overblown, a more profligate City side would have killed the game in the first half, but that’s the problem when you seem like the best team in the land. They go into that Champions League quarter-final second leg without much to stand on.

Elsewhere:

  • There was a touch of nostalgia, when Patrice Evra planted a kiss of Javier Hernandez’s face, a reminder of the Manchester United days, seeing Hernandez celebrate a goal against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. It was the Mexican’s ninth goal in 15 games against the Blues, his 50th Premier League goal, but more importantly it leaves them six points ahead of the drop zone, with six games left. For Chelsea, not only is the top four a bridge too far (no pun intended), they are now within reach of sixth-placed Arsenal.
  • Speaking of Arsenal, it was a more exciting game than expected at the Emirates against Southampton. The Gunners fell behind after Shane Long pounced on some uncertain Arsenal defending, to put it mildly, to score his second league goal in 29 months, but responded through Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Danny Welbeck to lead at the break. Charlie Austin levelled things up with 17 minutes left, his fourth goal in four games against the Gunners, but Welbeck would have the last say. In terms of goals, that is, as a late kerfuffle that saw Jack Stephens and Mohammed Elneny get sent off for either side dominated the embers of the game. Mark Hughes still hasn’t gotten a point at the Emirates, and the Saints are still three points from safety.
  • As Ayoze Perez ran off celebrating, Newcastle could almost heave a sigh of relief, as the Spaniard’s deft lob put the Toon two up at Leicester with 15 minutes left. Jamie Vardy did pull one back for the hosts, but Rafa Benitez’s side would hold on for a priceless win. With the Magpies now on 38 points, survival just about within reach.
  • Burnley have now won four in a row, and are now four points clear in seventh place. You can keep pinching yourselves all you want, Clarets fans, it’s still not a dream.
  • And on a weekend where there was a Manchester derby, Merseyside derby, and a London derby, who’d have thought it was the one in Merseyside that would be the least exciting.

Results

Manchester City 2-3 Manchester United

Leicester 1-2 Newcastle

Arsenal 3-2 Southampton

Stoke 1-2 Tottenham

West Brom 1-1 Swansea

Watford 1-2 Burnley

Brighton 1-1 Huddersfield

Everton 0-0 Liverpool

Chelsea 1-1 West Ham

Bournemouth 2-2 Crystal Palace

Published in International Watch

Pep Guardiola has revealed that the duo of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba were offered to Man City during the last transfer window.

The Man City boss said at his press conference ahead of the Manchester derby that Mino Raiola, who is the agent of both Pogba and Mkhitaryan contacted about the availability of the duo.

Guardiola, who Raiola labelled a dog in a recent interview said he told City about the availability of the players but there was no fund to sign Pogba.

“Two months ago he {Raiola} offered me Mkhitaryan and Pogba to play with us,” Guardiola said.

“We don’t have the money to buy Pogba because he is so expensive.”

On Raiola calling him a dog, he added, “Comparing me to a dog is bad – it’s not good. He has to respect the dogs.”

Published in International Watch

‘It’s difficult to find new words. Everyone’s raving about him at the moment and rightly so. I think we’re witnessing the start of greatness’.

Those were the words of former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, well at least the words he could come up with, as the Reds legend became the latest to be verbally extinguished by the brilliance of Mohammed Salah, who bagged four goals at home to Watford on Saturday.

Before the Reds welcomed the Hornets to Anfield, Salah was stuck on 32 goals, one behind Fernando Torres in the record for goals in a debut season with Liverpool; by the end of the game he had gotten to 36, becoming only the third Liverpool player, after Robbie Fowler and Michael Owen, to bag four goals in a league game, and is only three short of the Premier League’s record for goals in a 38-game season (31). ‘I think it’s indescribable', said Reds teammate Joe Gomez, another who seemed rather short of words.

Salah had been kept quiet in Liverpool’s loss at Old Trafford the previous weekend, much like the whole front three, as Manchester United hit them on the direct route, a system that Watford looked to employ, right from kick-off. But the visitors' plan were scuppered after just four minutes, Salah leaving Miguel Britos on his backside, before putting the ball past Ornestis Karnezis and into the net.

That was always bound to signal the start of a long day for Watford, who have only scored once in the road in 2018, and despite their growth in confidence as the half progressed, thanks in no small part to Liverpool’s slackness, when Salah turned home his second from Andrew Robertson’s cross before halftime, it was just about game over.

Salah began the second half in the same menacing vein as he had the first, but this time he took the role of a provider, as his cross was deftly flicked home by Roberto Firmino, the seventh direct goal combination between the pair this season. Salah’s fourth came after Karnezis pushed away Danny Ings' shot into his path, but it was his third that caught the eye, as he managed to find the bottom corner despite a sea of Watford bodies between him and the goal, sparking (perhaps overboard) comparisons with Lionel Messi.

‘Mo is on the way, that’s good. I don’t think that Mo wants- or anybody else wants- to be compared with Lionel Messi’s, said Salah’s manager Jurgen Klopp. ‘He is the one that is doing what he’s doing be it feels like for 20 years or so’. The Messi comparisons does seem a bit too much, but Salah is reaching rather unimaginable heights as each week passes.

Klopp has said he’ll still get better even before the season ends. Talk about putting fear into opponents. 

Elsewhere:

  • ‘He normally doesn’t use his right foot for anything but standing on' said Christian Eriksen of Erik Lamela’s strike in the FA Cup sixth round win at Swansea on Saturday. Lamela scored his side’s second with a peach of an effort, as Spurs produced another Harry Kane-less masterclass to advance to a ‘home’ semi-final. Spurs have a date with Manchester United in April.
  • You could have looked at Alvaro Morata’s face in the 42nd minute at the King Power, and probably seen a writing of relief on it. After failing to score since Boxing Day, the Spaniard was set free by Willian, and slotted past Kasper Schmeichel with the calmness not usually shown by a striker out-of-form. Leicester did rally back in the second period and through Jamie Vardy’s 17th goal of the season, grabbed an equaliser to force extra time. But Schmeichel’s error of judgment allowed Pedro to head in what proved to be Chelsea’s winner. The Blues still have a trophy to aim for this term. Southampton stands in their way towards the final.
  • Manchester United did have quite enough heritage in them this weekend to get past Brighton, but not quite enough personality, as despite Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic grabbing the goals to take them to Wembley, Jose Mourinho accused his players of being scared of the shirt. Not that he mentioned any names of course, except one. One which we’re Shaw you’d know (sorry).
  • The definition of things going against you: you play a side that hasn’t one away since December and you go down to 10 men. Stoke’s loss to Everton leaves them in 19th place, and they go to Arsenal after the International Break. For Everton, meanwhile, it’s four goals in three for January signing Cenk Tosun.
  • Wilfred Zaha plays for Crystal Palace, and Palace win. Duh! 

Results

Premier League:

Huddersfield 0-2 Crystal Palace

Stoke 1-2 Everton

Liverpool 5-0 Watford

Bournemouth 2-1 West Brom

FA Cup:

Leicester 1-2 Chelsea

Manchester United 2-0 Brighton

Wigan 0-2 Southampton

Swansea 0-3 Tottenham

Semi final draw:

Chelsea v Southampton

Tottenham v Manchester United 

Published in International Watch

Three minutes. That’s all it took. Ousmane Dembele’s pass ricocheted to Luis Suarez, who played in Lionel Messi, and the latter’s shot found its way in through the legs of Thibaut Courtois.

That’s that, surely. Chelsea, who needed a goal to stand any chance of progressing, set up to defend, and had failed in that regard after only 180 seconds. Except that wasn’t that, the Blues weren’t quite ready to lay down, and that early goal conceded seemed to galvanise them to action. Suddenly, it was a more positive approach from Antonio Conte’s side, Willian and Eden Hazard were running at the Barca defence, the wing backs Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso were getting much further forward, and Barcelona looked vulnerable.

Despite being behind, Conte would have had a tinge of satisfaction at his side’s display, but there would be nothing satisfactory about what happened midway through the half. Not from Messi’s point of view, though, as the Argentine stole the ball from Cesc Fabregas, evaded Andreas Christensen’s lunge, and Cesar Azpilicueta’s stretch, then found Dembele, whose shot found its way into the top corner despite the fingertips of Courtois.

Now extra time was no longer a possibility, Chelsea needed two goals, and just over an hour to get both, at a ground where Barcelona have only conceded eight times in this competition in four years. But it wasn’t for the lack of trying, only a few blocks at the back denied Chelsea, while Ngolo Kante dragged an effort wide, then Marcos Alonso tested Marc Andre Ter-Stegen, before hitting the post on the cusp of halftime with a free-kick.

If Chelsea ended the first half on the front foot, it was nothing compared to how they began the second. Barcelona were barely able to leave their half, let alone keep the ball, and you sensed if Chelsea got one back the mood around the stadium would surely change. Then when Alonso went down under Gerard Pique’s challenge in the box, it looked like that opportunity for a first goal would come, but referee Damir Skomina was having none of it, and Olivier Giroud saw yellow for his trouble.

Chelsea still wouldn’t be deterred, and it took another Pique challenge on Alonso, this time undeniably fair, to prevent a sight of goal. And therein lied the problem for the Blues; for all their show of determination, their spirit and boldness, they hardly tested Ter-Stegen in the Barca goal, and when the hosts broke forward around the hour mark- Suarez finding Messi, who had the beating of Courtois through his legs once again- the game was up.

By then Barcelona had taken off Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets, through injury, while Conte brought on Alvaro Morata and Davide Zappacosta. It was to little avail for Chelsea, they did hit the bar in stoppage time through Antonio Rudiger, but Conte’s show of resignation came earlier with the withdrawal of Hazard for Pedro.

There are worse ways to lose, but this was a lesson on how to win.

Elsewhere:

Speaking of lessons, Manchester United received one on Wednesday on the benefits of attacking. For some 175 minutes of their entire tie with Sevilla, Jose Mourinho’s side were, well, a Jose Mourinho side. The football was insipid, and they rode their luck for most of the time. But by the 77th minute of the second leg, they were two down at home, both at the hands of Sevilla substitute Wissam Ben Yedder, and, as a result of a goalless first leg, needed to score three times. Romelu Lukaku got one back, but that was it. After failing against Fenerbahce, CSKA Moscow and Leicester City, Los Rojilblancos' first ever success at the last 16 of this competition was celebrated at Old Trafford.

Results

Manchester United 1(1)-(2)2 Sevilla 

Barcelona 3(4)-(1)0 Chelsea

Roma 1(2)-(2)0 Shakhtar Donetsk (Roma go through on away goals)

Besiktas 1(1)-(8)3 Bayern Munich 

Published in International Watch

Former Arsenal striker and now Skysports pundit has said that Alexis Sanchez arrival at Manchester United was having a negative impact on the team’s formation.

The Chilean winger Joined United in a swap deal that saw Henrikh Mkhitaryan moved to The Emirates, and the winger is said to be earning over £400,000 weekly – making him the highest paid player in the English league.

Since the sensational move to the Theatre of Dreams in January, Sanchez has played 838 minutes scoring just one goal.

And after an abysmal night at Old Trafford on Tuesday night which saw United lost 2-1 in a Champions League Round 16 tie to Sevilla, Charlie Nicholas claims Sanchez, who lost the ball on twenty occasions (making it a total of 247 since he joined Man U), has unsettled the four-time European Champions.

Nicholas told skysports "At the start of the season, Manchester United had a fluency to them. Paul Pogba played high up with Jesse Lingard behind him and Romelu Lukaku on his game.

"All of a sudden Sanchez comes, Marcus Rashford gets dropped out and Anthony Martial gets moved over. All of a sudden the whole team is getting squeezed to fit Sanchez in.

"Sanchez, at the moment, does not deserve to be in the team. It's too individual. He is giving the ball away too often

"I'm sure a lot of Manchester United fans must be looking and saying 'when is he going to do something for us?'

"He looks as though he is trying hard, but this is Manchester United and you've got to deliver on a game-by-game basis and he is not."

Nicholas added that Jose’s United that won two trophies last season were disappointing against Sevilla and looked like a team that would end the season without a silverware.

"They did not justify being anywhere close to the last eight of the Champions League. They are not going to get the title and now have got the FA Cup to play for.

"Jose rescued an average Manchester United last season to get them into the Champions League with two trophies. Now he is staring down the barrel of winning zero, he added.

 

Published in International Watch

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