Vieira '300 per cent' focused on Nice amid Arsenal links

By Sports Desk December 07, 2019

Patrick Vieira dismissed talk about the Arsenal vacancy as the Nice head coach insisted he is "300 per cent" focused on the Ligue 1 side.

Former Arsenal captain Vieira has emerged as a candidate to replace Unai Emery, who was sacked by the struggling Premier League club last week.

But Vieira – a three-time Premier League champion with Arsenal – played down the speculation ahead of Nice's Ligue 1 clash against Metz on Saturday.

"I don't have any comments," Vieira told reporters. "Sincerely. It's a question I don't have to answer.

"Sincerely, I am 100 per cent focused on what I have to do here. And I think I have a lot of things to do here. And I don't want to spread myself over anything.

"I am 300 per cent focused on how I can try to find solutions to be more constant, to win more games. Find solutions to get the best of my players. I want to put my energy and my concentration only on that."

Nice are 14th in Ligue 1 this season, five points above the relegation play-off spot following just one win in four matches.

Vieira said: "I communicate a lot with Julien [Fournier, football director], with the president [Jean-Pierre Rivere] and with Mr. Ratcliffe [owner]. I have their support. 

"We talk, we discuss. The goal is to find solutions, to improve. I have never felt the slightest doubt about their attitude to my work. It's reassuring."

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  • Can they do it on a Tuesday in Stoke? Opta data has the answer... Can they do it on a Tuesday in Stoke? Opta data has the answer...

    It is one of modern football's most enduring cliches: "Can he do it on a cold Tuesday night in Stoke?"

    The bet365 Stadium, formerly known as the Britannia Stadium, is the home of Stoke City and was long perceived as one of the toughest places for teams to visit.

    A partisan crowd combined with a physical, direct style of football implemented by Tony Pulis after he took over in 2006 and led the Potters to the Premier League made them formidable opponents.

    So daunting was a trip to Stoke that some started to question whether Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi – now a six-time Ballon d'Or winner – would be able to display his usual brilliance in the intimidating surroundings.

    Make it midweek, cold, rainy, and possibly windy, and the hypothetical game became even more forbidding – but some have been able to master such an occasion.

    Using Opta data, we've taken a look at the top performers away to Stoke on a Tuesday.

     

    Unlike a Baird

    Stoke have played eight Premier League games at home on a Tuesday, and only the following players have scored against them:

    Chris Baird (two appearances, two goals)
    Clint Dempsey (two appearances, one goal)
    Damien Duff (two appearances, one goal)
    James McArthur (one appearance, one goal)
    Franco Di Santo (one appearance, one goal)
    Cameron Jerome (one appearance, one goal)
    Keith Fahey (one appearance, one goal)
    Gareth Barry (one appearance, one goal)

    However, Baird's two goals were in a game that kicked off at 15:00 local time, making him ineligible for the "Tuesday night at Stoke" credit.

    A strong record

    In all competitions, Stoke have played 131 home games on a Tuesday, winning 67.

    Only 28 of those matches ended in defeat, meaning they have avoided losing in 79 per cent of such fixtures, the latest of which was a 3-0 victory over Luton Town on December 10.

    Bogey teams

    Just five clubs have racked up more than one away win against Stoke on a Tuesday.

    They are Derby County, Cardiff City, Liverpool, Sunderland and Fulham, and each of them has two such victories to their name.

    Derby have the best win ratio at 67 per cent – their only other trip to Stoke on a Tuesday ended in defeat.

    Cardiff are second (50 per cent) and Liverpool sit third (40 per cent). Sunderland and Fulham have each suffered four defeats, though the Black Cats have a 33 per cent win ratio compared to the Cottagers' 29.

    How they could have used a player like Messi…

  • Coronavirus: Government urged to tax Premier League clubs refusing to cut wages Coronavirus: Government urged to tax Premier League clubs refusing to cut wages

    The UK Government has been urged to impose a windfall tax on Premier League clubs who continue to pay their players in full after placing other employees on furlough amid the coronavirus crisis.

    Newcastle United, Tottenham, Norwich City and Bournemouth have used the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to put non-playing staff on temporary leave while being paid up to £2,500 per month by the Government.

    That has drawn widespread criticism given that top-flight players are still being paid huge wages in full despite the suspension of the Premier League last month amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Julian Knight, chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee, said English football is in a "moral vacuum" and wants clubs to face sanctions if they adopt a "two-tier strategy."

    He wrote in a letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak on Thursday: "I am writing to express my strong dismay at certain Premier League clubs' decision to furlough non-playing staff while continuing to pay players. This two-tier system is morally wrong, especially given the extremely high wages paid to players.

    "Non-playing staff keep Premier League clubs in business, ensuring the smooth running of finances, administration,  kit,  stadiums and player welfare. It is deeply unfair that these staff should take less money home with players retaining full salary.

    "The purpose of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is not to support the economics of Premier League clubs, who should play their part in dealing with this crisis and set a good example.

    "Lessons should be learnt from European clubs including Bayern Munich, Juventus and Barcelona, where players have all agreed to take pay reductions.

    "If PL clubs insist on maintaining the current two-tier strategy, they should face sanctions. As such, I have asked the PL to seek to broker an agreement between member clubs to change their approach.

    "I would like to propose that, if this action is not taken by next Tuesday (7 April), HMT consider, in due course, imposing a windfall tax to PL clubs to recover a substantial proportion of the money that clubs are paying to players. This could be used to reimburse non-playing staff, and/or to fund grassroots football (including non-League and women's football) during these difficult times."

    Knight also wrote to Premier League chief executive Richard Masters stating Premier League clubs should play a part in dealing with the crisis and set a good example.

  • Opinion: Like Mongrels growling over Liver - Players' Association advice unconscionable Opinion: Like Mongrels growling over Liver - Players' Association advice unconscionable

    The 20 clubs in the English Premier League, EPL are together losing about US$31 million each weekend that action in the globe’s most-watched sporting competition is suspended. That figure covers matchday related income alone. Television rights account for the bulk of EPL teams’ earnings and collectively, the suspension in play, induced by COVID 19,  is causing the teams to lose an estimated US$920 million. That’s a revenue bleed that no financial analyst would have ever seen in their career, let alone having a strategy to staunch.

    Every player in the first team squad of an EPL team is a millionaire. Every. Single. One. There are 512 players listed in the first team squads of all 20 EPL sides, an average of about 26 players for each club.

    Manchester City’s 24-man first-team squad is paid an average basic wage of US$8.73 million each, the highest average in the league. Manchester United, which has the highest overall wage bill at US$396 million, pays its 27 first teamers an average of US$7.66 million each. At the bottom of the payscale is Sheffield United, which pays each of its 22 first teamers a basic average salary of US$910,000, while just above them is Norwich City, which pays its 27 first teamers a basic average wage of US$1.2 million each.

    But enough of those big numbers for the moment. The point being made is that EPL players are among the best-remunerated individuals in the global workforce, regardless of industry. The basic wages paid to them comfortably eclipses the wage-plus-bonus-plus-benefits package taken home by some well-paid professionals in other fields. That is why so many people are disappointed at the refusal by EPL players, through their union, the Professional Footballers Association, PFA, to take a pay cut and allow their clubs to breathe in this moment.

    Indeed 92% of participants in a recent YouGov survey believe EPL players should take a pay cut in this difficult time, with another 67% saying the players should surrender at least half of their salaries. 

    People are not stupid. They know greed when they see it. And already, many on that red hot spit known as social media are roasting players for putting greed above benevolence, compassion and basic humanity.

    They ask, how can these players continue demanding their hefty paycheques when many people who work in the unglamorous roles in professional football face the stark reality of being laid off by their struggling employers?

    Indeed, the man leading the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA), Gordon Taylor has given life to the term irony by his staunch defence of the players’ rights to not have a dollar docked from their salaries. Taylor himself is a man who lives high on the hog. Afterall he can afford to.

    In 2017, the now 75-year-old was paid a salary of US$2.7 million. No wonder that in this situation he guards his players’ interests like a mongrel, growling as he protects a piece of liver from a pesky fowl in his master’s yard. 

    As Premier League officials meet with club executives and the PFA to reach a common position on wages, the Tottenham Hotspur chairman, Daniel Levy has made a clever move in what appears to be a chess match with his own players.

    Levy announced that 550 non-playing staff had agreed to a 20% cut in their wages. He says the move allows the club to keep them all in employment during this period. Levy is among the 550. This move is no doubt intended to guilt trip Jose Mourinho and the 25 members of his first-team squad to do what the cleaning lady, kit man, groundsman, tea lady, club steward and janitor at Spurs have all done.

    Levy never does anything without calculating the ramifications down to the last decimal point.

    In announcing the pay cut, he exhorted players to do their bit to protect jobs. In other words, if Spurs’ players refuse to give up some of their wages, then the tears of any janitor, cleaner or groundsman who gets sent home for good in this period, will be on the players’ expensively clothed shoulders.

    Haters need no invitation to criticise footballers for what they earn and how they live. But this situation is different.

    Habitual haters apart, well-thinking folks are also disgusted that almost a month after COVID 19 was declared a pandemic by the WHO, the richest among us are having to be cajoled into giving up some of their earnings to allow businesses to establish a form of balance in this period of disequilibrium.

    Per capita, the EPL is the richest sporting competition in the world by revenue. So why are its millionaires having to be begged to give up only a little to stabilize the business of the same employers who facilitate their massive earnings? If a janitor can give up 20% in pay, why can’t a man, who’s earning up to 200 times more per month, not do the same? This is unconscionable.

    Selah.

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