If Arsenal win the Premier League, Pep’s decision to sell rivals Jesus and Zinchenko will be their costliest own goal ever
PEP GUARDIOLA has no regrets. Like soccer star Edith Piaf, he refuses to cry over past events.
But if Arsenal win the Prem, he might still want to pull out the flux capacitor and reconsider last summer’s decision to sell Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko.
In hindsight that turns out to be the most expensive own goal so, well, we won’t go into that.
Not because the absence of the Brazilian striker and Ukraine full-back would have weakened Manchester City. It has not.
But the £75m duo have given the Gunners such a strong foothold that they are now clear favorites to take the City throne next month.
It’s a scenario Guardiola could not possibly have imagined as he deposited Arsenal’s check for two men who were minor players for much of their Etihad tenure.
Hell, even Mikel Arteta didn’t see this coming.
Selling Raheem Sterling to Chelsea seemed like a far greater risk at the time.
But ask anyone in the Emirates the spark behind this season’s success and they will all point to the arrival of Jesus and Zinchenko.
They are constantly cited for their winning mentality and it is striking that whenever the Arsenal players gather for their pre-game huddle it is usually one of the two who gives the rallying cry.
Zinchenko has allowed Arteta to take a hand right out of the pep playbook by pushing his left-back into midfield.
And if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, just look at the number of goals Arsenal have now scored from two yards after tearing opponents to shreds.
The return of Jesus from injury could not have come at a better time to bring renewed energy to a team that has a reputation for choking on final reckoning.
He has scored just seven goals this season while his City substitute Erling Haaland has 42. So there’s no comparison on that front.
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But it could be argued that Jesus’ impact on his team was even greater than that of the Norwegian powerhouse because of what he brings to the dressing room and onto the training ground.
He may have won four league titles in his five years at City, but for most of that time he played second fiddle to Sterling and Sergio Aguero.
The same was true for Zinchenko, whose options were limited by Benjamin Mendy and Joao Cancelo.
Now they enjoy the responsibility of being the most important men and will be absolutely crucial in the terrible games at Anfield, Etihad and St James’ Park.
These are the encounters that will decide this season’s title race.
And having already racked up more Prem medals than he knows how to do, you suspect winning another would likely mean less for Guardiola than it did for Arteta.
But that past glory won’t ease the pain of being the ignorant architect in your own downfall.
Evan helps him
IF your manager feels the pressure and needs an arm around his shoulder, who better to deliver that reassurance than Nottingham Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis?
The big softie has made an effort to end “the speculation” about Steve Cooper’s future by warning: “Results and performance must improve immediately.”
It’s probably the most intimidating vote of confidence in football history.
And with Forest’s next five opponents all in the top half of the table, Cooper can take great comfort in knowing his boss is right behind him. . . with a damn big axe.
Khan is not good for you
AMIR KHAN has been handed a two-year boxing ban after testing positive for Ostarine following his grudge match with Kell Brook.
I’m not sure what Ostarine is supposed to do – I thought it was window dressing – but judging by the condition of Khan after his sixth-round brawl, it was clear the meds weren’t working.
Rafa is still not a gaffer
There have been 13 managerial vacancies in the Premier League this season and Rafa Benitez has so far failed to land any of them.
That would suggest he’s not quite as sought after as he thinks, although there is now talk of him replacing Brendan Rodgers at Leicester.
But even if he doesn’t win the bid there, he needn’t worry too much.
Because the way things are going, there will definitely be a few more jobs coming our way in the next week or two.
Happy to live a little
Of all the major sports, golf interests me the least.
Still, I’ll be keeping an eye on this year’s Masters as the 18 LIV competitors all threaten to conquer the 18th green if one of them wins the Green Jacket.
They need cheering up after a ruling effectively disqualified them from the Ryder Cup.
What makes you different. . . Rebels without a course.
Eight to break it
THE FA plan to appeal Aleksandar Mitrovic’s eight-game ban for shoving referee Chris Kavanagh as they feel the penalty isn’t harsh enough.
What is the point of referring disciplinary cases to an independent commission?
The FA cannot rely on outsiders to deal with offenders and then groan when they don’t like the verdict.