Paper News and Gossip: Walcott Worry, Baines Future Doubt and Mata's Fight

Alex LivieFeatured ColumnistSeptember 24, 2013

Paper News and Gossip: Walcott Worry, Baines Future Doubt and Mata's Fight

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    The sack race came to an end at the weekend with Paolo Di Canio winning the race no-one wants to win. There's plenty of talk in the papers about who will replace him at Sunderland.

    Injuries are one of the things managers fear most, and an injury to a player has not one but two managers fretting.

    There's also plenty of transfer gossip doing the rounds and you can check it out in Tuesday's edition of the Paper News and Gossip Roundup.

Zola in the Frame for Sunderland Job

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    For the second day in succession, Sunderland are back-page news. So there is a positive from sacking your manager, I suppose.

    The early indications were that Roberto Di Matteo was favourite to succeed Paolo Di Canio, but these things often change quickly and the Mail is now reporting that Sunderland are planning to delve into the Championship.

    According to Sami Mokbel, the Black Cats have trained their sights on Watford boss Gianfranco Zola and Blackpool manager Paul Ince.

    Gianfranco Zola and Paul Ince have emerged as surprise contenders to land the Sunderland job.

    The club’s hierarchy held an emergency board meeting on Monday after the decision to sack Paolo Di Canio.

    Potential candidates to replace the Italian were discussed, with Watford chief Zola and Blackpool boss Ince understood to be among those in the frame.

    Mokbel says Di Matteo, Gus Poyet and Neil Lennon are still in the frame, and claims contact has been made with the first two who are both currently out of work.

England and Arsenal Sweating over Walcott

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    Mokbel has been a busy boy, as he also has news on Theo Walcott, and his piece in the Mail claims there are fears the Arsenal forward could miss England’s World Cup qualifiers next month.

    Walcott pulled out of Arsenal’s win over Stoke on Sunday with a stomach problem, and Mokbel says he was sent for a series of scans.

    There has been no word from Arsenal, but Mokbel claims that a fortnight on the sidelines could hit England as well as the Gunners, with vital qualifiers against Montenegro and Poland on the horizon.

Baines Contract Cofusion

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    Everton have shelved plans to hand Leighton Baines a new deal, reports David Anderson of the Mirror—which is at odds with a report from Graham Chase of the Daily Star.

    The Toffees held firm in the face of interest from Manchester United in the summer transfer window, and it was reported that Baines would be handed a new deal for staying loyal to the Merseysiders.

    However, Anderson’s piece quotes Everton manager Roberto Martinez as saying the club have placed all contract discussions on hold to retain focus on games.

    At the moment, all it is is the games and any individual contracts or situations are put aside.

    The only thing that concerns me is just to make sure he’s as fit as he can be and gets in a stronger position and balances the demands of England and club level.

    That’s what I’m focused on, that his day to day is perfect.

    Everything else, behind the scenes we’re happy with the situation and we’re making sure he’s happy as well.

    Anderson’s report differs from his Star counterpart Chase, who says Everton are in the process of handing Baines a fresh contract.

    Chase says the Everton hierarchy are delighted with Baines’ commitment and want to tie him to a long-term deal.

Johnson Close to New Liverpool Deal

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    The Mirror’s Anderson has been busy on contract stories, as he reports Liverpool are set to offer Glen Johnson a new deal—on reduced terms.

    Johnson’s contract is set to expire next summer, and manager Brendan Rodgers says a deal is in the pipeline.

    In Anderson’s piece, the Reds boss does not go into specifics but the report suggests Johnson will have to take a cut from his current weekly wage—which Anderson says is £139,000.

Mata to Fight on at Chelsea

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    Juan Mata is set to get a chance to impress Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho in the Capital One Cup clash with Swindon on Tuesday.

    He has found life tough since Mourinho’s arrival, and he was told at the weekend that he must adapt his game if he is the secure regular playing time.

    It would appear the Spaniard is ready to heed Mourinho’s words of warning, as a report from David Woods—which he tags as "exclusive"—in the Daily Star says the midfielder will “knuckle down” at Chelsea.

    In his piece, Woods says:

    Mourinho made it clear on the eve of the Fulham game that despite Spanish star Mata being Chelsea's top scorer last season with 20 goals, he was unhappy with his contribution in other areas, like tracking back, tackling and winning 50-50 balls.

    And Mata - having seen the statistics to back up Mourinho's complaints - has agreed his coach has a point.

    It is understood that although Mata was not impressed at how Mourinho made his points about his shortcomings so publicly, he is ready to adapt his game.

Bits and Pieces: PSG Want Rooney, Arsenal Flushed with Cash

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    Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger is plotting a raid on Swiss side Basel for defender Fabian Schar, reports the Metro.

    Arsenal released their financial results on Monday and the Independent reports a huge increase in turnover which helped in their successful pursuit of Mesut Ozil.

    Liverpool and Chelsea are weighing up bids for Xabi Alonso, but could be pipped to the Real Madrid midfielder’s signature by Juventus—reports Charles Perrin of the Daily Express.

    Also in the Daily Express, again under Perrin’s byline, Thiago Silva has called on Wayne Rooney to leave Manchester United for Paris Saint-Germain.