Juventus, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain and now Manchester United are all reportedly chasing Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Days out from his 22nd birthday, Donnarumma has reportedly closed a deal with the Red Devils.

Is David de Gea's future in doubt?

 

TOP STORY – RED DEVILS SWOOP FOR RECORD-BREAKER

Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma has agreed to a provisional deal with Manchester United, according to Todo Fichajes.

The report claims the deal would make the Italy star the best paid goalkeeper ever in world football.

United have had goalkeeping issues this season, with number one keeper David de Gea making a number of errors, while understudy Dean Henderson has made a handful of appearances.

Donnarumma, who celebrates his 22nd birthday on Thursday, became the youngest player in Serie A history to reach 200 appearances in Sunday's 3-0 derby defeat to leaders Inter.

The 21-year-old's current deal with the Rossoneri expires at the end of this season and he has been linked with a host of clubs including Serie A champions Juventus, Champions League holders Bayern Munich and Ligue 1 giants Paris Saint-Germain.

Manchester City showed few signs of slowing as they recorded another win at Arsenal on Sunday.

The runaway Premier League leaders remain 10 points clear of both Manchester United and Leicester City, who each enjoyed victories of their own.

West Ham complete the top four, meanwhile, after a long-awaited triumph for manager David Moyes.

We start at the London Stadium in recapping the best of Sunday's action with the help of Opta data.
 

West Ham 2-1 Tottenham: Moyes ends miserable run against Mourinho

Moyes finally got the measure of Jose Mourinho as West Ham climbed into the top four with a 2-1 home win against Tottenham.

This was Moyes' first victory over Mourinho in 16 attempts in all competitions, halting his worst winless record against any one coach.

Michail Antonio's fifth Premier League goal against Spurs and 42nd in total - all of which have come from inside the box - opened the scoring early on, before another swift strike in the second half took the game away from Tottenham.

Scorer Jesse Lingard, whose best spell of his United career came under Mourinho, has netted as many goals (three) for Moyes in four league games on loan at West Ham as he did in 36 appearances for Red Devils manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Although Lucas Moura's header halved the deficit, Mourinho has now suffered 15 defeats and picked up only 81 points from his first 50 league games as Tottenham coach - the worst such returns of his career.
 

Aston Villa 1-2 Leicester City: More Villa Park joy for Rodgers

Brendan Rodgers maintained his 100 per cent winning record away to Aston Villa as Leicester won 2-1 at Villa Park.

Rodgers has won all six of his Premier League games at Villa Park as manager, the past two with Leicester ensuring the Foxes have enjoyed back-to-back away top-flight wins against Villa for the first time since October 1960.

James Maddison's eighth Premier League goal of the season broke the deadlock and made this his best scoring campaign in the top tier, before Harvey Barnes added his 13th in all competitions in 2020-21 - second only to Jamie Vardy (14) among Leicester players.

Bertrand Traore got a goal back and has now been involved in eight in the league for Villa since his debut, but the absent Jack Grealish, the only man at the club this season to better that tally (10), was sorely missed.

0.9 - Under Dean Smith, Aston Villa have averaged 1.5 points-per-game in league competition when Jack Grealish has featured compared to 0.9 points-per-game without him, losing all three Premier League matches without the Englishman since the start of last season. Centrepiece. pic.twitter.com/QafEdQ7IKY

— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 21, 2021  

Arsenal 0-1 Manchester City: Records stacking up for Pep's class of 2021

City equalled their own record for consecutive away wins across all competitions by a team from England's top flight, landing a 1-0 success at Arsenal.

An 11th straight victory on the road - tying their 2017 run - also made City the first visiting team to ever enjoy four league wins in a row at Arsenal without conceding.

In all, Arsenal have lost eight league matches on the bounce to City, tying Leeds United's benchmark streak against the Gunners from 1973 to 1976, and a familiar foe proved their undoing.

Raheem Sterling has scored in three consecutive league games at Emirates Stadium and no player in the division has more than his 20 on the road since the start of last season.

City stood firm at the other end with a 15th league clean sheet of the campaign and more achievements might be on the horizon, as a 25th game without defeat across all competitions takes them closer to their best run under Pep Guardiola of 28 in 2017.
 

Manchester United 3-1 Newcastle United: Red Devils dominate Magpies again

United's dominant home record against Newcastle United only briefly looked at risk as they won 3-1 in Sunday's final match.

Newcastle have won on just one of their past 36 league visits to Old Trafford, where Marcus Rashford's 40th goal in all competitions since the start of last season broke the deadlock - his tally is only bettered in that time by Mohamed Salah (47), Harry Kane (45) and Sterling (44).

Allan Saint-Maximin soon equalised - his fifth goal involvement of the campaign - but Dan James restored the home advantage from Bruno Fernandes' pass.

Fernandes secured the points from the penalty spot and now has 15 goals and 10 assists in the Premier League this season, the third player to reach double figures in both goals and assists in Europe's 'top five' leagues (also Kane and Thomas Muller).

United, who have just one defeat in 19 in the league, have now scored 53 times in 25 league matches, their best return at this stage of a season since their title-winning 2012-13 campaign (60).

Bukayo Saka was one of the Arsenal players who made Manchester City suffer during their 1-0 win at Emirates Stadium, according to Pep Guardiola.

Raheem Sterling's second-minute header was enough for City to extend their record-breaking winning run in all competitions to 18 matches and restore a 10-point advantage at the Premier League summit.

Guardiola's side briefly threatened to run away with the contest, but Saka's threat from the left flank brought Arsenal back into the match.

The 19-year-old England international completed all three of his attempted dribbles, while three shots were more than any of his team-mates managed.

"All the team suffered when Arsenal had the ball," Guardiola told a post-match news conference

"With [Martin] Odegaard and especially with Saka they are a really tough opponent to play. They have incredible young, talented players and I see a bright, bright future for Arsenal.

"If they can get a few players in a few positions they will make an incredible step forward. They are a team who make all the opponents suffer a lot when they play against them."

There are perhaps no City players more adept when it comes to addressing the suffering their manager identified than veteran holding midfielder Fernandinho.

The 35-year-old club captain made his first Premier League start since the end of January and gained possession nine times – more than any other City player.

Fernandinho also stood above his team-mates in terms of clearances (four), tackles (three) and interceptions (two).

"What a game, what a game he played – without the ball, winning duels in the important moments," Guardiola said.

"Rodri has been exceptional but needs rest. What a game Fernandinho played. He is an incredible player, person and captain.

"Always, I will remember him. We have been together since day one and he has been so important."

That association could come to an end at the end of the season, when Fernandinho's contract expires, but Guardiola suggested he could be capable of similar feats next term.

"Why not? He's so incredible," he added. "He knows exactly what he has to do. What a game he played in a tough, tough game."

Pep Guardiola revealed he is learning from his former assistant Mikel Arteta, despite Manchester City overcoming Arsenal on Sunday.

City's storming form continued as they sealed an 18th straight victory in all competitions – making it 13 wins from their last 13 games in the league – thanks to Raheem Sterling's early goal.

The visitors started in superb fashion at Emirates Stadium though failed to keep up the blistering pace. Arsenal, however, managed only one attempt on target despite some promising flashes.

Guardiola's team are 10 points clear at the top of the table, and 25 ahead of 10th-place Arsenal, who have lost their last eight league games against City, their joint-longest run of consecutive league defeats against an opponent, along with an eight-game run versus Leeds United between 1973 and 1976.

Arsenal have lost their last four Premier League games against City without scoring a goal – the first time in their history they have failed to find the net in four consecutive home league games against an opponent – but Guardiola nevertheless hailed the skills of Arteta.

"Mikel knows everything. He is so good. It is not because he is my friend or because today I beat him," Guardiola told Sky Sports.

"I know what he planned, know how he works. He is so clever. I learn a lot by watching his team. Today I learned something, I can use it in the future.

"It's not because we were together – he knows everything about football."

For his part, Arteta was left frustrated by a tactical error from his team in the opening stages, which resulted in City having four attempts – including the goal – by the eighth minute.

"Absolutely [the start cost us]. We conceded the first goal, it's a really difficult situation, it puts the game exactly where they wanted," Arteta told Sky Sports.

"I think after that, the team reacted really well, we were on top of the game, tried to generate chances, momentum but we lacked the quality.

"We got something [tactical] wrong, we talked about something and then didn't do it in the first five or 10 minutes and they used the overloads down the side. It's a cross from [Riyad] Mahrez – you know where it is going – Sterling cannot head that ball in the middle of the goal. 

"The moment we clicked, we did what we prepared, they found it difficult. We found really good spaces but when we were there, in the final third, we lacked the final pass."

City may have been unable to add to their lead – Joao Cancelo wasting an opportunity late on – but still remained relatively untroubled at the back as they earned a 15th clean sheet in the Premier League this season, the most by a team after 25 games of a top-flight campaign since 2008-09.

Their winning run stretches back to December 15, and a 1-1 home draw with struggling West Brom.

Since that game, City have faced just 78 shots in the league – 21 lower than any other team (Liverpool – 99), and only 23 of those have been on target, while they have made just two errors leading to an effort on their goal.

"It was hard like we expected it to be. It is difficult to play against Arsenal, Mikel is so difficult," Guardiola said.

"That's why I give incredible credit to this victory. It's Arsenal away. We need to win these types of games. People think that 13 wins in a row, 18 victories in a row looks easy.

"It is so difficult. Look across all of Europe. The consistency in this last month, honestly I didn't expect it. More than grateful for the players and what they are doing, but winning these games 1-0, that is when we need to realise that everything is so difficult."

Raheem Sterling believes Manchester City's slender win over Arsenal proved the Premier League leaders are able to dig out results in their bid to reclaim the title.

City made it 13 top-flight victories in a row as Sterling's second-minute header proved decisive at the Emirates Stadium.

Pep Guardiola's juggernaut are 10 points clear at the top of the table though, after a blistering start, they failed to replicate their best form on Sunday.

It mattered little, though, with Arsenal managing just one shot on target as City held them at arm's length to win an 18th successive game in all competitions.

City have also equalled the record for consecutive away wins by an English top-flight team across all competitions (11), which was previously set by them between May and November 2017.

Though they were not at their free-flowing best, Sterling cited their display as another sign of improvement.

"We moved the ball well, we were really aggressive in the first five minutes," Sterling, who has scored more away goals in the Premier League (20) than any other player since the start of last season, told Sky Sports.

"Kept the pressure on, got the goal early on. They're a good team, you can see how well they play on the counter. You could see we struggled at times with that but we kept our composure and ground the result out.

"Mikel's worked with us for plenty of years, he knows exactly our strengths and our weaknesses. I wouldn't be surprised if he spent a lot of time trying to find gaps in our team – they made it really difficult for us.

"It's even better now because we had a difficult start to the season. It was something we’re not used to. It's a credit to the team, we started to dig results out. Winning teams, you have to dig results out when it really matters."

City are unbeaten in their last 25 games across all competitions (W22 D3) – their second-longest run without defeat under Guardiola, following a 28-game spell between April and December 2017.

This was also City's 15th clean sheet in the Premier League this season – the most by a team after 25 games of a top-flight campaign since 2008-09, when both Manchester United (19) and Chelsea (15) had as many.

After he was rested against his former club Everton, John Stones returned to partner Ruben Dias at the back, and Sterling hailed the defensive solidity which has been mastered by City, who have conceded just three goals in their winning run in the league.

"The centre-back pairings have been great this season, they've got a really great understanding," Sterling said.

"There's a real unity and bond in there. It's like anything – if I'm scoring goals I'm trying to keep the run [going] and you can see it's the same with them and clean sheets."

Manchester City made it 13 consecutive Premier League victories as Pep Guardiola's team cast aside Arsenal 1-0 thanks to Raheem Sterling's early header.

Hunting an eighth straight win over the Gunners, City made a supreme start which was capped by Sterling's 13th goal of the season for the club in all competitions.

After 30 minutes of dominance, City rather took their foot off the accelerator, though Ederson only had one save to make as City maintained their superb defensive record.

Though they ultimately laboured to victory, City have now won their last 18 games across all competitions, and their march towards the title is showing no sign of slowing.

Sterling had been involved in six goals in his last five Premier League appearances against Arsenal heading into Sunday's game, and he added to that tally inside the opening two minutes.

Having already sliced wide, Sterling was left unmarked to leap up and glance Riyad Mahrez's cross from the right beyond Bernd Leno.

Sterling has only scored more league goals against Bournemouth than against Arsenal, and he would have had a second in this game if not for Leno's later save.

Though City's assault continued – Ilkay Gundogan and Mahrez squandering presentable chances – Arsenal, driven by Bukayo Saka, wrested some control as the first half went on.

Kevin De Bruyne's lob landed wide early in the second half, while Leno was at full stretch to deny German compatriot Gundogan.

De Bruyne's comeback ended with just over an hour gone, Gabriel Jesus replacing the City playmaker.

Joao Cancelo caused problems for Ederson with a dreadful pass – Mohamed Elneny drilling wide from the City goalkeeper's sliced clearance.

Cancelo looked set to atone when he found space in the box, only to prod wide, though City kept Arsenal at arm's length to ensure the full-back's miss did not cost them as their remarkable run rolled on.


What does it mean? City stumble, rather than stomp, to another victory

A 10-point lead at the top of the Premier League shows City's commanding grip over their rivals. Since losing 2-1 at Emirates Stadium in December 2015, City are unbeaten in their last 11 Premier League meetings with Arsenal, who have not been a factor in this year's title race.

The Gunners sit in 10th – 25 points shy of City. Arsenal have now won just three of their last 19 Premier League games when facing the side who started the day of the match in top spot (W3 D4 L12).

Sterling shoots down the Gunners yet again

Sterling has now been involved in more league goals than any other City player this season (14 – nine goals, five assists), while he has scored home and away against Arsenal in each of the last two seasons.

The 26-year-old is also the third player to score in three consecutive away games against Arsenal in the Premier League, after Nicolas Anelka (four games, ending in May 2009) and Ian Harte (three games, ending in May 2003).

Anonymous Aubameyang

After a stuttering start to the season, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has come up big for Arsenal lately, and he went into the game looking to become the first Gunners player to score two goals in three consecutive league starts since Derek Tapscott in March 1956.

However, you will not get many goals if you do not manage a shot, and Aubameyang did not have one effort throughout the match, while he also failed to create any chances.

What's next?

Both sides are in European action in midweek – City facing Borussia Monchengladbach in the Champions League on Wednesday, while Arsenal travel to Athens to face Benfica in the second leg of their Europa League tie.

Kevin De Bruyne was handed his first start since January 20 as Pep Guardiola was also able to welcome Ilkay Gundogan back from injury for Manchester City's clash with Arsenal.

Having suffered a hamstring injury in a 2-0 win over Aston Villa last month, De Bruyne came on as a substitute to help Premier League leaders City beat Everton 3-1 on Wednesday.

City won that rearranged fixture at Goodison Park without Gundogan, who had stepped up in De Bruyne's absence.

The Germany international scored twice and won a penalty in City's 3-0 win over Spurs last weekend but later sustained a minor groin injury.

Both De Bruyne and Gundogan – who has scored nine league goals since the turn of the year – were named in Guardiola's line up for the meeting with the Gunners, managed by former City assistant Mikel Arteta.

Phil Foden, who scored against Everton, made way, along with Gabriel Jesus, seemingly accommodating De Bruyne's place in a false nine role he has occupied in several matches this term, with Sergio Aguero again only deemed fit enough for a place on the bench.

Guardiola made five changes in all, welcoming back captain Fernandinho, centre-back John Stones and full-back Oleksandr Zinchenko.

Meanwhile, Arsenal were boosted by the return of Kieran Tierney from injury. The left-back had been absent from the XI since January 18.

Arteta also made five changes from Arsenal's 4-2 win over Leeds United last week,

Tierney's introduction was one of five changes from Arteta compared to the side that started in the 4-2 win over Leeds United last week, with Pablo Mari and Rob Holding forming a new centre-back pairing.

Mohamed Elneny and Nicolas Pepe - the latter replacing Emile Smith Rowe - were also brought in.

Real Madrid, Manchester United, Barcelona, Manchester City, Chelsea and Juventus.

Europe's elite are lining up to sign Erling Haaland, but who will he join?

Whoever it is, Haaland is set to command a mammoth contract.

 

TOP STORY – HAALAND ASKING FOR LUCRATIVE DEAL

Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland wants a contract in the region of £78million (€90m) as speculation intensifies over his future, according to the Daily Star.

Haaland is a player in demand following his exploits for Bundesliga side Dortmund, linked with the likes of Real Madrid, Manchester United, Barcelona, Manchester City, Chelsea and Juventus.

The report claims Haaland wants a five-year deal worth around £300,000 (€346,000) per week.

 

ROUND-UP

- Should Kylian Mbappe leave for Madrid, Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain want to replace him with Tottenham star Harry Kane, claims the Mirror.

- Bild says Chelsea, Liverpool and United are interested in signing RB Leipzig defender Ibrahima Konate. His centre-back partner Dayot Upamecano is set to join Bayern Munich at the end of the season, having been linked with the Premier League's elite.

Liverpool are preparing a £40m bid for Brighton and Hove Albion defender Ben White, reports Football Insider. Jurgen Klopp is desperate to bolster his injury-hit defence amid a difficult 2020-21 campaign.

- The Daily Mail says United are considering a move for Everton youngster Jarrad Branthwaite. The 18-year-old defender has impressed since joining the Toffees.

Leipzig lead the race to sign Ajax sensation Brian Brobbey, according to Diario AS. United, Milan and Bayern have also been linked.

Milan and Inter target Odilon Kossounou – who plays for Club Brugge - is also wanted by Premier League duo Arsenal and Wolves, claims The Sun.

- Calciomercato reports Juventus are eyeing Leicester City winger Timothy Castagne, who arrived from Atalanta at the start of the season.

Martin Odegaard has the character and intelligence to be a true leader for Arsenal, according to manager Mikel Arteta.

The 22-year-old has made four appearances since joining on loan from Real Madrid, where he struggled for starts, in the January transfer window.

He caught the eye in Thursday's 1-1 draw against Benfica in the Europa League, with no Arsenal player creating more big chances (two) than the midfielder, level with Hector Bellerin.

Odegaard also led the way for passes in the opposition half (29) and tackles (three), highlighting two different aspects to the Norway international's game.

Arteta has been impressed by what he has seen so far and has backed the loanee to grow in stature over the coming weeks.

"On the pitch he is showing a lot of character and intelligence - ingredients any leader should have," Arteta said. "He's been here a very short time but has adapted really quickly.

"He's gaining more and more respect from the players and staff. I think his weight on the team will increase week in week out."

Odegaard, who has previously spent time on loan with Heerenveen, Vitesse and Real Sociedad, is due to return to Madrid at the end of the campaign.

There has been talk of Arsenal signing the Stromsgodset player permanently, but Arteta remains unsure if Madrid will agree to a transfer.

"We've got him for a few months. We have to maximise this time with him to bring all his qualities to the team," the Spaniard said.

"At the end of the season we will see together if we can take this relationship forward. But at the moment that doesn't just depend on us."

Odegaard is in line to start Arsenal's clash against Manchester City on Sunday, with the Gunners seeking to end a seven-match Premier League losing run in this fixture.

The game will see Arteta reunite with Pep Guardiola, who he worked under as City's assistant boss for three and a half years before switching to Arsenal in December 2019.

Although Arteta acknowledged he shares many coaching similarities with Guardiola, the Arsenal boss intends to do things his own way at Emirates Stadium.

"You can share some values and ideas. The way we've been raised and educated in football is similar because we have the same background and worked together," Arteta said.

"But what do you do to make it work the way you need? You sometimes need investment, sometimes you have players who can already provide what you want. 

"You have to keep evolving and finding a way. There's not just one formula that works. If you try to do that you will fail."

Arsenal have won just three of their last 18 league games against the side starting the day in top spot, which is the position occupied by City heading into Sunday's match.

Kevin De Bruyne has a fight on his hands to win a place back in Manchester City's starting XI, but Pep Guardiola insists he would not have it any other way.

De Bruyne, the reigning PFA Players' Player of the Year, made his return from a hamstring injury as a second-half substitute during City's 3-1 win over Everton in midweek – a result that increased their lead at the top of the Premier League to 10 points.

Guardiola's side won all five top-flight games De Bruyne missed, scoring 15 times and conceding once, while they also negotiated away ties at Cheltenham Town and Swansea City in the FA Cup.

It is a body of work that has helped to rack up a record-breaking 17-match winning run across all competitions.

Bernardo Silva has excelled on the right of Guardiola's fluid midfield three, as he did when De Bruyne missed chunks of City's treble-winning campaign of 2018-19, and this is another factor to give the City boss food for thought heading into Sunday's trip to Arsenal.

"I cannot forget, [during] this incredible run of games, Kevin was there," Guardiola said. "We have not done these incredible things without him.

"But, of course, it is a challenge. He has to play good. That is what we need. That's what I want and that's what he wants.

"The competition is so healthy, today in this crazy schedule – 11 months, playing every three days. It is not human to maintain mentally and physically."

In all competitions this season, City have won 15 of 21 games with De Bruyne in their starting line-up, drawing four and losing two.

However, that impressive win percentage figure of 71.4 vaults to 87.5 – 14 victories, two draws, no defeats – when he has been injured or taken out of the first XI to rest.

Guardiola believes watching on from the sidelines and witnessing fine performances is fuel for De Bruyne, whose 15 assists on all fronts remains the best return of any Premier League player in 2020-21, with only Bruno Fernandes (90) and Jack Grealish (79) able to better his 74 chances created.

"It is so good, when a player is out injured or for my decisions, seeing his mates playing good and winning games. That is the best way to be a competitor, the best way," said Guardiola.

"We cannot be a competitor team if everyone knows, 'It doesn't matter what happens, I am going to play.'

"They have to play good to stay in the team because they know, when they are not playing good, they have no chance to stay in the team."

This sense of collective endeavour is backed up by City's capacity to work effectively off the ball – a hallmark of all Guardiola's best sides.

No team in the Premier League has had more high turnovers resulting in a shot this term than their 49, with Brighton and Hove Albion second on 35.

In terms of winning the ball back within 40 metres of the opposition goal, only Liverpool (227) have done so more often than City (224) this season.

However, perhaps with an eye on the compressed schedule Guardiola mentioned, it also appears his team are working smarter.

In 2019-20, City ranked third in the division behind Liverpool and Southampton when it came to pressed sequences – defined by Opta as passages of play where an opponent has three or fewer passes and it ends within 40 metres of their own goal.

This time around, they lie sixth on that metric and are allowing rivals an average of 11.9 passes per defensive action (PPDA), as opposed to 10.1 last term – figures that underline an increased efficiency to their pressing, given the impressive high turnover numbers.

"It's about being effective when you run. If you run, run, run you are not effective," Guardiola said. "The ball is quicker, the opponents are better and you can run like a marathon and not take the ball.

"I am pretty sure you cannot take the ball if you make an endurance season or go 100 per cent in all the actions.

"We can talk about this a little bit but we are more concerned… 80 or 90 per cent of our talks are about keeping the ball. It is about how you do with the ball, not without the ball.

"All the times we run, we run to take the ball, to keep the ball as much as possible. I never consider putting the players on the pitch just to follow the opponent.

"We have to do it when the opponent is better but when they decide to be football players they do it to play with the ball.

"I want them to come back to the amateur feeling that they enjoy playing football because there is the ball."

Another Guardiola belief where the returning De Bruyne would appear to be a key disciple.

Manchester City are reportedly yet to begin talks over a move for Lionel Messi, while Erling Haaland is Barcelona's ideal signing.

Messi's future continues to be a major talking point as the star's contract at Barcelona expires at the end of the season.

City have been one of the clubs most strongly linked with a move for the six-time Ballon d'Or winner, but it seems the Premier League giants are waiting.

 

TOP STORY – MAN CITY YET TO BEGIN MESSI TALKS

Manchester City are yet to open talks with Lionel Messi, according to ESPN.

The report says City will wait until the Argentina international has decided his Barcelona future before considering negotiations.

It comes after claims the Premier League side had already tabled an offer to Messi.

 

ROUND-UP

- Erling Haaland is wanted by numerous European giants. Mundo Deportivo reports the Borussia Dortmund star would be Barcelona's ideal signing, but the LaLiga side are considering more affordable options.

- Manchester United were seemingly keen to land Barcelona forward Ansu Fati last year. Mundo Deportivo says a £129.7million (€150m) bid from United for the 18-year-old was rejected ahead of 2020-21.

- With Tottenham slipping to ninth in the Premier League, Jose Mourinho has come under fire. ESPN reports Spurs chairman Daniel Levy will wait until the end of the season to make a decision on the head coach.

- Out of contract at the end of the season, Gianluigi Donnarumma is yet to agree to a new deal with Milan. 90min claims the 21-year-old wants to succeed Manchester United shot-stopper David de Gea as the highest paid goalkeeper in the world, although he is prepared to take reduced terms at Milan.

- Thierry Henry could be set to take over at Bournemouth. talkSPORT reports the Championship club have requested permission from CF Montreal, where Henry is currently in charge, to talk to the Arsenal great.

The return of UEFA club competitions this week offered a reminder that there remain significant hoops to jump through before the delayed European Championship kicks off.

Fixtures being switched to alternative venues due to local coronavirus regulations cast the multiple host city model for Euro 2020 in an unhelpful light, with March's international break set to throw up fresh challenges.

Postponing and rearranging a major sporting event due to ongoing and unspeakably tragic global circumstances makes any focus on the footballing concerns within the equation feel somewhat crass.

But all 24 men leading countries into the finals will look at their squads before kick-off and ponder whether the additional 12 months of waiting and haphazard preparation have been a help or a hindrance in terms of form and personnel.

For England manager Gareth Southgate, the delay looks to have been advantageous.

It is highly unlikely the now resurgent John Stones and Luke Shaw would have featured in his defensive plans, much less centre-forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who is now the obvious back-up to captain Harry Kane.

Aston Villa's sparkling creative inspiration Jack Grealish now has England caps to his name, while a crop of richly gifted youngsters are flourishing.

None more so than Bukayo Saka and Phil Foden, who will go head to head when Premier League leaders Manchester City travel to Arsenal on Sunday.

Learning on the job

When Southgate comes to whittle down his final 23, versatility will count as a plus point for those hopeful of making the cut.

Foden and Saka have it in abundance, even if they have edged towards a degree of specialism during stunning runs of individual form during English football's winter months.

A central midfielder on his way through the youth ranks at boyhood club City, Foden's deployment on the left-wing has more or less coincided with the record-breaking 17-match winning run across all competitions that left Pep Guardiola's side 10 points clear at the start of the weekend

Not that it stopped Guardiola starting the 20-year-old as a false nine away to Liverpool, before switching Foden to the right flank for the second half, from where he provided an assist and a goal to inspire a statement 4-1 win.

Then, with Ilkay Gundogan injured, he was back in midfield to open the scoring during Wednesday's 3-1 win over Everton.

"He can play in both positions, he is so young," Guardiola said ahead of the Arsenal game.

"Phil just needs - and for the age [he is], he will get it –  the timing to play inside.

"When you play as a winger you have to play in one tempo, with one timing and one rhythm. When you play in the middle you have to play with another one.

"When he gets this balance, he will be 10 times the extraordinary player that he is right now. It's just a question of time."

Foden has four goals and two assists since the turn of the year in the Premier League, the same figures that can be attributed to Saka since Mikel Arteta selected him on the right wing for the Boxing Day clash against Chelsea.

Saka has featured at left-back, in both wing-back roles and centrally during Arteta's tenure, but he got on the scoresheet in a dominant 3-1 derby victory and has not looked back.

"I see Bukayo evolving, getting better and getting to understand different positions and finally we will fit him in one that gives the best [result]," Arteta said back in July. It appears he has his answer.

Variety is the spice of life

Splitting Saka's 21 Premier League appearances this season into centre, right or left positionally, Opta data shows he creates 1.1 chances per 90 minutes when on the right.

Both of his top-flight assists this term have come when starting on that flank, while an expected assists (xA) scored of 0.23 per 90 indicates a better quality of pass into danger areas when set against stints on the left or through the middle.

The 19-year-old, whose four England caps have come at left wing-back, is similarly effective dribbling on either flank, with 1.4 (left) and 1.5 (right) completed per match.

That figure rises to 3.1 when Saka has played through the middle this season, although two appearances and a solitary – albeit goalscoring – start in a central three versus Sheffield United skew his numbers to a degree.

Guardiola's words this week suggest Foden will find himself back on the flanks at Emirates Stadium, but the City star's feel for a goal comes to the fore when he plays through the middle.

In six Premier League games where he has operated centrally, his goals per game rate of 0.81 per 90 minutes and 2.4 dribbles completed per game are his highest across the three categories.

A shot conversion of 30 per cent also dwarfs his efforts from the left (11 per cent) but 2.5 chances created from open play per 90 in the latter role is perhaps the most significant statistic when it comes to explaining why he has made Leroy Sane's old position his own.

Among Europe's best

Saka and Foden each stack up very well when compared to the leading players under 21 throughout Europe. Indeed, no player within their age range has played more than Saka's 2,317 minutes in all competitions across clubs in the big five leagues.

Foden (2,130) comes in sixth in that regard, while his 11 goals are third behind Moise Kean (16) and Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland (25). Saka's six goals overall place him seventh.

Jadon Sancho (11) is the only under-21 player with more assists than Foden (six), while the City player's 44 chances created from open play comes in second to the Dortmund winger – another handy illustration of the ample resources at Southgate's disposal.

How he should deploy them will be relentlessly discussed before June, even if those arguments are now the preserve of Zoom calls rather than crowded pubs.

What increasingly appears beyond debate is that Foden and Saka have established ironclad cases for inclusion, having at best been outside punts a year ago.

Along with their dazzling array of skills, the versatility Guardiola and Arteta have used to their benefit could prove invaluable to Southgate amid the cut and thrust of tournament football.

Jurgen Klopp hopes Liverpool can have a little more luck with regards to injuries next season, believing a full-strength squad would see them sitting much closer to runaway leaders Manchester City. 

Liverpool finished 18 points clear of second-place City in the 2019-20 Premier League season as they ended a 30-year wait to be crowned champions again. 

However, while they have struggled in the defence of their title, Pep Guardiola's squad are once again the team to beat. They set a new record with Wednesday's 3-1 triumph at Everton, becoming the first top-flight team to start a calendar year with 10 straight league victories. 

The Reds' focus has switched to finishing in the top four - they sit in fifth place ahead of Saturday's Merseyside derby, 16 points behind City - but Klopp feels such a huge gap would not have existed if he had key players available. 

Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez have been long-term absentees, with fellow centre-back Joel Matip now out for the rest of the season. Diogo Jota, meanwhile, has not featured since December 9, while Naby Keita is only just nearing a return having yet to make an appearance in 2021. 

Asked in his pre-match media conference about what it will take to be closer to City next season, Klopp replied: "We don't have to think about that now.

"We don't play them this year anymore - probably not, maybe the Champions League. For next year, then we have a little bit more time.  

"It's never the case that we thought, 'How can we overtake City and become the finest team in English football?'. We never saw it like this – we wanted the best version of ourselves.  

"We have that chance again, then if that's good enough, it's good enough. If another team is better, then that's how sport works. You cannot do more than be the best version of yourselves.   

"That's what we really try again, as a team especially. We need a little bit more luck, then a few other things as well.  

"But, in the beginning, slightly more luck with injuries would help. Then we can come closer to them.  

"I think we can all agree if I would say, probably Pep would say it too, that a full season for both teams and we wouldn't be 16 points away. But we are. That's how it is, we accept that.  This season, though, it is not about how close we can come to Manchester City."

Van Dijk has been out of action since the previous Merseyside derby at Goodison Park, back in October 2020.  

The defender was hurt early in proceedings following a challenge from goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, while team-mate Thiago Alcantara also suffered an injury in the game after a wild tackle from Richarlison that saw the Brazilian sent off. 

Klopp, however, made clear the game takes on no extra importance because of what happened in that 2-2 draw last year, as Liverpool look to avoid suffering four consecutive Premier League defeats for the first time since December 2002.  

"We play the way we play. It's very emotional but we are always emotional, to be honest," Klopp - who confirmed on Friday that Fabinho will not feature at Anfield - said. "That's our way to play.  

"What the other teams do I don't know, because I have no influence on that. I can imagine that after the first game you try to create some stories around that, but we will be prepared for a football game, for a derby, like we always do.  

"Nobody can say about his team that they are not ready for derbies, from an attitude point of view, from an understanding point of view over how important it is.  

"This team always was [ready] and will be tomorrow. Obviously, there are stories around, all these kind of things, but I have nothing to say."

Pep Guardiola insists he has had no significant influence over Mikel Arteta's fledgling managerial career.

Arteta spent three and a half seasons working as one of Guardiola's assistants at Manchester City before leaving to take the top job at Arsenal in December 2019.

City travel to Emirates Stadium on Sunday looking to extend their record-breaking winning run of 17 matches in all competitions.

Thursday's 1-1 draw against Benfica in the Europa League means Arsenal have only won once in their past five games but Guardiola nevertheless expects a tough test from his former understudy, who he does not believe has been getting much luck of late.

"What I see the last month or two months, every game Arsenal plays better than the opponent," he said.

"Our dream as managers is to deserve the results. We play to deserve what we want to get. Sometimes you lose or you win, you cannot control.

"What we want to deserve he is doing and in the games over the  last month, always they are better than the opponent – analysis in terms of controlling the game, creating more chances and conceding few.

"We must have an incredible performance to play as good as possible with the ball and run a lot in the right tempo to get the ball because they have an exceptional build-up already.

"In the final third they have incredible energy with [Emile] Smith [Rowe], [Bukayo] Saka and [Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang.

"In the future they will be a real contender to fight for the titles."

Despite such ambitions being a constant of Guardiola's career, he does not feel his influence is prominent in the work of a man who overcame him in last season's FA Cup semi-final.

"He doesn't need help. He is more than well prepared than to get help from me," he said.

"He is an important person in my life. We had a lot of contact in or period here in Manchester

"Everything going well for him makes me happy."

Guardiola added: "No, I didn't inspire him. What he knows he knows for himself.

"I'm not, absolutely in this case, any influence. What he is doing is all the credit for him and his backroom staff."

A look at some of the Opta data behind the two teams' performances this season backs up Guardiola's assertion that Arteta is not simply building a replica of City in north London.

City's patient build-up play is a hallmark of Guardiola's style and their 582 open-play sequences with 10 or more passes is almost 100 more than the next highest team in the division on this metric (Chelsea 493).

Arsenal are fifth in terms of such passages of play behind Liverpool and Manchester United, although their 338 is a significant drop on the numbers City's domination of matches has allowed them to rack up.

Similarly, when it comes to build-up attacks – sequences of 10 or more passes that end in a shot – City are top of the pile with 141, while Arsenal's 73 is once again fifth best.

When Guardiola teams are playing well, it generally follows that they are pressing very well. For high turnovers – those sequences that start 40 metres or less from an opponent's goal – only Liverpool (227) fare better than City (224) this term.

Arsenal are 10th in the league with 160, while they allow opponents 13.7 passes per defensive action on average, compared to City's 11.9, which further suggests a more aggressive pressing approach from Guardiola's men.

Manchester City have denied reports of a £433million package being proposed to lure Lionel Messi to the Premier League.

Messi is out of contract at Barcelona at the end of this season, having tried to engineer a departure from Camp Nou last August.

During that time, he was heavily linked to City and a reunion with Pep Guardiola, while Barca's appeal to the superstar forward arguably suffered another heavy blow as they were thrashed 4-1 by Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League this week.

On Friday, The Sun reported Messi had a five-year proposal worth £606m put to him by City before the current campaign, although this figure has been revised due to the wider financial climate of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the fact the six-time Ballon d'Or winner will be 34 in June.

However, a club spokesperson told Stats Perform no such offer has been made, nor are there any talks currently ongoing.

Were Messi to sign for City, it looks increasingly likely he would be joining a title-winning side.

Guardiola's men extended their record-breaking winning run for an English top-flight team to 17 matches across all competitions by beating Everton 3-1 in midweek, a result that stretched their lead at the top of the table to 10 points.

Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti said he felt City were "impossible" to play against after a dazzling second-half showing at Goodison Park, where fine strikes from Riyad Mahrez and Bernardo Silva - both players adept in the right-sided attacking roles Messi has filled for large chunks of his career - saw the visitors pull clear.

"I appreciate it, but I don't agree with Carlo, absolutely I do not agree," Guardiola said ahead of Sunday's trip to Arsenal.

"We can lose, the opponents are good and we try to do better than them every single game. This is the only target.

"I love Carlo, he is an incredible inspiration for me as a manager, for many things, but I don't agree with him."

Ilkay Gundogan sat out the Everton game with a groin complaint and Guardiola will make a late call on the Germany playmaker, who has been in sparkling form of late with nine goals in as many Premier League games since the turn of the year.

Gundogan's performances meant Kevin De Bruyne's absence with a hamstring injury was not felt as keenly as might have been expected.

The Belgium star returned from the bench versus Everton and came through will no ill-effects, leaving defender Nathan Ake (hamstring) as City's only remaining senior absentee.

"Nathan is back training on the pitch alone but is closer to coming back with us," Guardiola added.

"Gundo trained just part of the training session today, we'll see how he feels. The rest are fit."

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