B/R Gossip Roundup: Breaking Down Week's Rumours: Martinez Not for Arsenal Yet

BR-UK StaffFeatured Columnist IVMarch 16, 2014

B/R Gossip Roundup: Breaking Down Week's Rumours: Martinez Not for Arsenal Yet

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    Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

    The Champions League might have dominated the on-field agenda this week, but that did not stop the newspapers examining other aspects of the game.

    There has been plenty of gossip and speculation throughout the last seven days, some of it credible, the rest of it less so.

    But where does the truth lie? Here, we cast our eye over the last week's news agenda and attempt to sift fact from fiction.

Roberto Martinez the Man Arsenal Want to Replace Arsene Wenger

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    Bogdan Maran/Associated Press

    The Daily Star carried a report on Friday stating that Everton manager Roberto Martinez had been identified as Arsenal's No. 1 choice to replace Arsene Wenger whenever the Frenchman leaves the club.

    Dave Woods wrote:

    The Spaniard’s work at Everton this season has seen the former Swansea and Wigan manager’s stock rise even higher.

    Martinez has impressed Wenger and the rest of the Gunners’ hierarchy with the style of play he demands—a cultured passing game—and by the way the 40-year-old handles himself.

    Starsport understands Martinez enhanced his credentials even further with the dignified way he reacted to Everton’s 4-1 FA Cup defeat at the Emirates on Saturday.

    Arsenal are poised to confirm Wenger has signed a new contract, expected to be for two years, with his current deal expiring at the end of the season.

    But it is believed discussions have already been held within the club about the suitability of Martinez as an eventual replacement.

    Rumours like this continue to emerge, despite the fact Arsenal hope to announce Wenger's contract extension over the next few weeks.

    Nevertheless, the Star seems to believe that Martinez is the man they will turn to in the event anything goes wrong.


    Believability Meter: Low

    While it would only be sensible for the Arsenal hierarchy to have discussed a couple of potential names in the unlikely eventuality that Arsene Wenger left—just as they would for any one of their players—that is very different from identifying a top target.

    Wenger is due to formally sign a contract extension at the Emirates any day now, most likely for another three years. A lot can change in that time—by then Martinez's career circumstances could have changed considerably, or there could be another popular young manager on the scene.

    Assessing managers makes sense. But it is pushing it too far to suggest that makes Martinez Wenger's successor-in-waiting.

Fabio Quagliarella to Southampton from Juventus Would Be Sensation for Saints

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    Antonio Calanni/Associated Press

    Southampton have enjoyed an interesting week after the arrival of their new Winter Olympian chairman Ralph Krueger on Wednesday.

    The man who guided Team Canada to a gold medal in the ice hockey at Sochi has now been appointed to succeed Nicola Cortese at the St Mary's Stadium.

    And if he can pull off the transfer of Fabio Quagliarella from Juventus in the summer, Krueger could be on his way to cult status at the south coast club.

    The Daily Mirror claimed on Monday that Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino was eyeing a move for the Juventus striker, in a cut-price £2 million deal.

    Pochettino views the 31-year-old as a potential replacement for Dani Osvaldo, who has returned to Serie A on loan with the Turin giants in January.

    Italy international Quagliarella has struggled to make an impact on the Juve first team this season, with Antonio Conte opting for Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente in his favoured forward line this year.

    Consequently, the striker has been limited to 14 league appearances and one Serie A goal this season.

    But the opportunity to resurrect his career in the Premier League will not have gone unnoticed by the former Napoli man.

    The Saints have not struggled particularly in front of goal this season, with Jay Rodriguez, Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana chipping in regularly throughout the campaign to date.

    However, a name such as Quagliarella could act as the catalyst for further successes next year.

    There is little doubt that the forward has the ability to produce the goods for a team when he is given the chance, as previous spells at Udinese and Napoli have proven.

    Quagliarella formed a formidable partnership with Antonio Di Natale at Udinese before helping the Naples club into the Europa League in his first season at the club.

    But he has become a forgotten figure in the current Juventus set-up and a move seems to be the best way forward.

    Southampton and their new chairman will have to move quickly, though, as interest in the forward will not end with them.


    Believability meter: High

    This would be a good move all-round. Southampton would gain a proven striker with a point to prove, while Quagliarella needs a fresh start.

    If Krueger can persuade Juventus to keep Osvaldo as part of the deal, this has a decent chance of progressing.

    However, it would be naive not to expect bigger European clubs to let the situation go unnoticed.

Thibaut Courtois Extending Atletico Loan Is Ideal Compromise for Chelsea

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    When you're looking for a solution to a perceived impasse, it is rare that football figures will provide it without a fight.

    But what Thibaut Courtois is reportedly suggesting over his immediate future rings true for all parties involved with the Belgium international.

    Courtois is currently in his third season with Atletico Madrid on loan from Chelsea, and he has already insisted he does not want to return to Stamford Bridge to play second fiddle to Petr Cech, as Tony Banks of the Daily Express reported.

    But Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho is adamant that the 21-year-old will be with the Blues for the start of the next Premier League campaign, as Matt Law of the Daily Telegraph noted last month.

    Mourinho was quoted as saying:

    I don’t think he will be loaned out.

    We don’t struggle to keep him because he has two more years on his contract. I don’t need to give any assurances to any player. 

    A player that has a contract with Chelsea has a contract with Chelsea. Chelsea has Petr Cech, Courtois and (Mark) Schwarzer. We are in a good condition.

    Courtois, though, has come up with a solution of his own, as John Cross of the Daily Mirror reported.

    According to the article, the Belgian will request a further season with Atletico on loan. Now that's a situation which makes sense to us.

    Mourinho and Chelsea will be aware of Courtois' ability and allowing him to leave will not be high on the agenda for Mourinho and club owner Roman Abramovich.

    At 31, Cech is not going to go on forever even though his displays so far this season offer no proof that his form is in any danger of wilting.

    As the young pretender, Courtois is learning and earning plaudits, particularly with Atletico challenging Barcelona and Real Madrid at the top of La Liga and continuing to play in the Champions League. 

    Throw in the possibility that Real Madrid are reportedly interested in Courtois, as Alex Richards of the Daily Mirror reported, and Mourinho's pragmatism should kick into effect.


    Believability meter: High

    Courtois has made a conciliatory gesture which offers a way out of a potential cul-de-sac for all concerned.

    Cech is not going to be dropped easily by Mourinho, and Courtois is learning at the highest level with Atletico.

    Chuck in the reported interest of Mourinho's former employers at the Bernabeu and staying at Atletico becomes a genuinely viable option for the Chelsea boss.

Arsene Wenger 'Disinterest' in Re-Signing Robin Van Persie Is No Surprise

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    Speculation surrounding a potential Arsenal return for Robin van Persie is never far from the surface in the rumour mills at the moment, so events of this week are a welcome end for the time being at least.

    John Cross of the Daily Mirror reported during the week that Gunners manager Arsene Wenger had no interest in restoring the Holland international to his ranks after the forward's acrimonious move to Manchester United in the summer of 2012.

    Cross wrote:

    The Manchester United striker could be on the move this summer and has been heavily linked with a return to the Emirates.

    But it is understood that the Gunners boss has ruled it out even though agents are trying to push a deal.

    The Frenchman recently refused to comment on it publicly when quizzed which only heightened the speculation.

    There is little doubt that Arsenal are in dire need of a new forward to support Olivier Giroud, and their lack of a newcomer during the January transfer window could be viewed as a contributing factor to the team falling off the title pace and crashing out of the Champions League.

    But the nature of Van Persie's 2012 departure means it is highly unlikely that he will be returning to the Emirates Stadium as an Arsenal player in the near future.

    As Cross reported: "Van Persie, 30, left the Emirates in 2012 after releasing a statement questioning the club's ambition and has become public enemy No. 1 among fans."

    Then on Friday, Mark Ogden of the Daily Telegraph reported that the striker had distanced himself from a move back to the Gunners or anywhere else in favour of staying at United.

    Van Persie is quoted as saying:

    Last time I checked, my head was still attached to my body.

    So I’m the only one who knows exactly what I’m feeling and that is not what I or the fans have been reading.

    The truth is I’m very happy here at this club. I signed for four years and I’d be delighted to stay even longer, beyond the next two years I have left on my contract.

    I’m very happy with my team-mates and I’m very happy with my manager and his staff.

    So, there you have it. Everything is right in the football world. Give it another poor United run and/or the substitution of Van Persie, though, and we can expect the rumour mill to turn again.


    Believability meter: Medium

    The speculation regarding Arsenal and Van Persie might have been brushed aside by reports this week, but the question mark over the Dutchman remaining at Old Trafford will not follow suit until the player commits himself on paper to Old Trafford.

    We have not been short on reports of Van Persie not being happy at United this season, as Ogden noted in his article, although the player allayed fears of an issue with David Moyes or the club.

    We can write off Arsenal as a destination for the future but another poor run of form is likely to see further options being rumoured.

Tottenham Head Coach Tim Sherwood Should Consider Stability of Swindon Role

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    Anyone who witnessed Tim Sherwood's post-match interview in the wake of the defeat at Chelsea last weekend will have seen a passionate man left distraught by his team's showing, per BBC Sport.

    After restoring some hope to the White Hart Lane supporters following his appointment to succeed Andre Villas-Boas, the former Blackburn and Spurs midfielder has seen his team drop off in the chase for the Champions League spots.

    Then, on Thursday, the north London club placed one foot outside of the Europa League with a 3-1 home defeat to Benfica.

    After the Chelsea match, Sherwood said:

    It hurts me and I won't forget about this when we hit the motorway, but some might.

    There's a lack of character, too many of them are too nice to each other and you need to show a bit more guts.

    You can't legislate for the capitulation. You can't have that.

    Sherwood has seen his position persistently questioned, despite signing an 18-month deal in his role as head coach with Spurs.

    Holland head coach Louis van Gaal has been linked repeatedly with the same position at Spurs, as Dominic Fifield of The Guardian reported last month.

    This week, however, David Woods of the Daily Star reported that Swindon Town were interested in taking Sherwood as their manager if Tottenham dispense with his services.

    There followed an element of support from the Spurs hierarchy after the head coach publicly queried the lack of communication over his position, as Matt Law of the Daily Telegraph reported.

    But that interest from Swindon should not be dismissed too lightly, despite their standing as a League One club in England.

    The Robins have shown commendable foresight with their managerial risk-taking over the years, with both Glenn Hoddle and Paolo Di Canio providing success for the club in their first coaching roles.

    Woods notes the friendship between Sherwood and Swindon chairman Lee Power, who is a former Norwich City midfielder, as a potentially decisive factor in the move.

    And if nothing else, the interest from Swindon will also have alerted other clubs to the possibility of taking Sherwood to their club.

    Wiltshire might not be the hotbed represented by White Hart Lane, the Premier League and European football, but it may just be the right place for Sherwood and his coaching staff to find a settled and stable run at management.


    Believability meter: High

    Sherwood has proved himself to be a capable head coach with Tottenham in the few months since replacing Villas-Boas.

    He restored pride to the team and rediscovered stability for the club, which had been left pummelled by heavy defeats to Liverpool and Manchester City.

    But the former Blackburn midfielder has seen his position continually undermined by links with Van Gaal, and Sherwood deserves more respect and stability to build his reputation and experience.

Roberto Martinez Taking a Risk with Everton Pursuit of Jack Rodwell

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    Scott Heppell/Associated Press

    Speculation that Everton manager Roberto Martinez is looking to offer Jack Rodwell a route out of Manchester City re-emerged on Tuesday, courtesy of Phil Thomas of The Sun (subscription required).

    According to Thomas, the Goodison Park boss attempted to bring the 22-year-old back to the Merseyside club in the January transfer window, but City's failure to land Fernando and Eliaquim Mangala from FC Porto meant Gareth Barry's loan from the Etihad to the Blues could not be made permanent.

    Current Premier League rules mean that top-flight clubs cannot recruit more than two domestic-based players on loan in one season, as Phil Kirkbride of the Liverpool Echo reported, leaving Rodwell in limbo in Manchester as Barry and Romelu Lukaku took up the loan slots.

    The midfielder joined City in August 2012 in a £13 million transfer but persistent injuries plagued his time under Roberto Mancini throughout last season.

    Those same injuries should also act as a warning to Martinez.

    Rodwell was once linked with a £25 million move to Manchester United in March 2011, as Goal.com reported, and the youngster looked set to follow the path taken by Wayne Rooney at a tender age.

    However, the player began to feel the effect of a hamstring problem and would make just 17 appearances for the Blues in what proved to be his final season at the club.

    It is little wonder that then Everton manager David Moyes happily accepted the cash offer from Mancini for the player in the summer of 2012.

    Rodwell's career had appeared to be on a NASA-style trajectory after his performance and goal helped to defeat Manchester United 3-1 at Goodison Park in February 2010.

    A senior England call-up followed, and the player was widely expected to become an international regular before his injury worries became apparent.

    Now, though, Rodwell has little chance of making the plane to Brazil this summer and potentially less opportunity of making a mark on the City first team.

    There should be a tremendous amount of sympathy for the youngster after his problems of recent seasons, but Martinez is looking to strengthen his current squad to lessen the impact of injury and suspensions.

    Everton were flying high and looking to be a serious challenger for a Champions League spot before injuries to key men Lukaku and Gerard Deulofeu helped take their toll on their ambitions.

    The Goodison Park boss must assess whether he wants to take a further risk on a notoriously injury-prone Rodwell for next season.

    The player needs a summer transfer but a return to Goodison might not be the ideal switch.


    Believability meter: Medium

    Martinez, understandably, rates a fully fit Rodwell as a solid acquisition for the club, but this strikes us as a gamble for the Everton boss.

    The former Wigan Athletic manager has enjoyed a solid first season in charge at Goodison, but he now needs to look towards securing silverware and a European place in his second year with the club.

    The return of Rodwell would represent a major gamble and one which needs careful consideration before moves are made to Manchester City.

Speculation Rife Around Southampton Players as New Chairman Comes in

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    The recent board-level turmoil at Southampton appears to be coming to an end, with this week's appointment of Ralph Krueger, a former ice hockey coach, as the new chairman at St Mary's.

    Krueger will be tasked with the good work started by Nicola Cortese, who helped oversee the club's rise back from the third tier of English football to the upper half of the Premier League.

    Most fans will be concerned with whether the club can keep hold of their best young players. And on that note Krueger was unable to be completely reassuring, as relayed by The Times' Rory Smith (subscription required):

    The only note of caution came when Krueger was asked whether he could guarantee the club will not be forced to sell any of their crop of bright young things this summer.

    [Southampton owner Katharina] Liebherr, he said, wants Southampton to be self-sustaining, improving their commercial performance, and while they will not let the likes of Luke Shaw go easily that may come at a price.

    'We will live within our means,' he said. 'We are going to earn every single thing we do here, and we will have to pay a price for that. We want to build a strong foundation, with improved commercial growth, and we will do everything possible to retain the players as long as possible.'

    That immediately raised questions about the longer-term future of the likes of Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana and Jay Rodriguez—all of whom are at the point, or at least getting to the point, where they could command a huge transfer fee.

    In light of Krueger's comments, the analysis in the press appears to be that all those players are for sale for the right price. With the summer transfer window coming, that might not bode too well for Saints fans.


    Believability Meter: High

    It is admirable that Southampton would want to keep hold of their best players and, perhaps, if the goodwill those players feel towards their club is sufficient, they might just be able to do that.

    But the club's financial situation is not such that they can keep their best players if huge bids come in, and Shaw in particular is surely going to receive offers from clubs playing in Europe. He would be the most likely to go; Lallana and Rodriguez might stay.