Lambert ready to tread carefully

Lambert ready to tread carefully

Published Jan. 19, 2013 7:15 a.m. ET

Joleon Lescott has shrugged off speculation surrounding his future and claims he is fully committed to Manchester City.

Reports during the winter transfer window have suggested that Lescott could be allowed to leave the Etihad Stadium, with Roberto Mancini currently favouring other centre-half options.

A switch to Aston Villa has been touted, with Lescott having grown up supporting the Birmingham-based club.

The England international is aware of the reports, but insists there is no substance to them.


He has offered no indication that he is looking for a move and maintains that he is prepared to stay at City and fight for a starting spot.

Lescott told the Daily Telegraph: "I came to the club to win trophies. I have done that and I feel there is a chance to win more this season.

"So I am more than happy to stay and fight for a place in the team.

"I went to see the manager about my situation and what we said will stay between us, but we both came out of the conversation happy and content with what we spoke about.

"While I would like to start every game, I am also aware that, with the strength of the squad, that just isn't going to happen, but I am more than happy to play my part whenever needed."

The MLS outfit have been strongly linked with the England international ever since it became apparent that Lampard would not be offered a contract extension at Stamford Bridge.

The Galaxy have a place available in their squad for a 'designated player' following the departure of David Beckham.

Lampard has been touted as an ideal candidate to fill the void, and Arena concedes that the 34-year-old does appeal.

He has been reluctant to speculate on the likelihood of an agreement being put in place, but has fanned the transfer flames with his latest comments.

Arena said: "I wouldn't be surprised if over the next week or so we're going to have some sort of decision with a designated player.

"We wouldn't rule a move for Lampard out. It's always a possibility."

Lukaku will be looking to continue his impressive form during Saturday evening's Barclays Premier League derby with Aston Villa at the Hawthorns.

The 19-year-old has already indicated he would like to remain at Albion for a second season and has impressed Foster with his desire and hunger to learn.

Foster said: "This last month, it's like the penny's dropped with Rom and he has been superb.

"It was probably the inexperience, about getting used to playing Premier League football week in and week out, knowing what you are going to be coming up against, knowing your role as a striker.

"He's found that. He uses his strength to hold players off and he's starting to get into the box to get on the end of things. He's got everything.

"He will be ready for Chelsea when he goes back, without doubt, whether that is next season or whenever.

"Chelsea paid so much money for him, and they know what they've got now, and I'm sure they're very happy with him.

"But Rom just looks settled and enjoying his football so I don't see any reason why he wouldn't want to come back here."

Foster is relieved Chelsea opted not to recall Lukaku during the current transfer window.

He said: "I started hearing a few whispers that there was a possibility of it happening especially with the way Chelsea were going and with Torres misfiring.

"It screamed out for him to go back. I think it would have been a huge loss for us. We would have been gutted to lose him.

"He is not only a good asset on the pitch. He is such a good lad to have around the place. He's very level-headed, has no ego to him and is always the last one off the training pitch."

Despite being strongly linked with a move to the Barclays Premier League, specifically Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United, Guardiola has instead decided he will join the German giants when he ends his sabbatical at the end of the season.

Ferguson is believed to have spoken to Guardiola on a couple of occasions in New York recently, with his own job said to be one of the issues under discussion.

However, within 24 hours of the release of an interview with the Football Association underlining his wish to work in England, news that the former Barcelona coach had signed a three-year contract with Bayern was confirmed.

"I am surprised because I didn't see it coming," said Ferguson.

"All the time the speculation was about clubs in England."

Yet the United boss can also see the sense in Guardiola's decision.

For someone used to stability at the Nou Camp, life in Munich is a much neater fit than the constant upheaval at Chelsea in particular.

"But if you assess it as a coach, Bayern Munich is hard to turn down because they are one of the best run clubs in Europe," Ferguson added.

"They have a fantastic city, a fantastic stadium, good players and good history.

"The place is loaded with players who made the club's history.

"You have Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Uli Hoeness, Gerd Muller and, I think, Sepp Maier. And I'm not sure what role Franz Beckenbauer has now either.

"They have always been that way.

"With all these aspects, it is very easy to choose Bayern Munich."

The former Argentina international will take his first training session on Saturday after being recruited in controversial circumstances.

Nigel Adkins was sacked by the Saints on Friday, despite leading Southampton from League One to 15th in the Barclays Premier League with back-to-back promotions.

Southampton's decision promoted a furious reaction from supporters and former captain Matt Le Tissier said the club had become a "laughing stock".

Adkins retained his dignity and he left a message of encouragement to the squad which read: "Keep smiling. Have faith and belief that you are doing the right thing. Keep looking to improve."

Adkins' last game in charge was a 2-2 draw with European champions Chelsea which extended Southampton's unbeaten run in the Premier League to five matches.

Pochettino's immediate task is to maintain that momentum, a task which could be harder given he hardly speaks any English, but he is excited by the challenge.

"I'm an aggressive manager, in the positive sense, and I like to play dynamic, pressure football with an attacking nature that the fans can be proud of watching their team," he said.

"The biggest challenge is to win all the games that are ahead of us.

"That is the mentality that we need to have going into the games as a team.

"In the background there is a project and we'll keep on growing together as a club with one of the best academies in the country."

Adkins was such a favourite at St Mary's that Pochettino is well aware he will have to win over the angry supporters.

"I hope I can convince them with hard work, honesty and that they enjoy the way the club plays and they feel honoured and proud how the team is playing," he said.

Pochettino could have defender Vegard Forren available on Monday after the Norwegian international joined the club from Molde.

"When I was told of the interest from Southampton, straight away I wanted to come and talk to the chairman," said Forren, the Norwegian player of the year.

"There is a good, young squad here and the way they play fits me well, so I hope I can join the team and get some good results."

United's flying Dutchman has scored 10 goals in his last 10 games for the league leaders, who travel to face Spurs at White Hart Lane on Sunday.

Villas-Boas reckons the scintillating form Van Persie has carried over to United from his final season at Arsenal sets him out as a great striker.

"For them he has been a tremendous success and it has been a transfer with immediate impact and immediate results," he said.

"He is a player who last year impressed and his level of form was incredible. To make a move to an even bigger club and arrive the way he has and triumph there is something outstanding - he is probably the difference at this time between the Manchester clubs.

"I think what is exciting with Van Persie at this stage is the fact that you know he was transferred to Manchester United after last year's amazing goal scoring record, and he kept on scoring.

"It didn't affect him and his form. He continues to be the amazing talent that he is."

The 29-year-old Van Persie has now scored 23 goals in all competitions for the Red Devils, but his manager Sir Alex Ferguson has refuted claims United are now a one-man team.

England striker Wayne Rooney has struggled to match Van Persie's form so far this season, but returned from injury in the FA Cup replay win over West Ham in midweek.

And Villas-Boas believes he can be equally as devastating.

"He sacrifices himself for the team and embraces all of that United team spirit and desire to win," he said.

"I think he has overcome some difficult moments in his career but he is a top quality footballer."

Rooney returned to Premier League action for the defeat against Spurs at Old Trafford last September, after missing almost a month with a severe gash suffered against Fulham.

He is now fit to face Spurs again after his latest injury setback and Villas-Boas has been left cursing his luck.

"We are always very, very unlucky as he always seems to return for our game," he said.

"He played a fantastic second half (in September) and made an impact in the game.

"We recognise we had an amazing first half against Man United and in the second half Rooney made the difference and made lots of problems for us.

"He had the game against West Ham to come back to form so we will just have to wait and see if he is selected or not, but he certainly makes Man United tick."

With both Rooney and Van Persie hoping to fire United to a 20th league title, Villas-Boas knows the two working together can cause all sorts of problems.

"It is a very, very strong partnership at the moment," he said.

"The individual talent is absolutely amazing."

The 26-year-old started both Arsenal's fixtures over the past week after more than three months out with a thigh problem and is set to feature in a holding role behind Jack Wilshere again at Chelsea on Sunday.

It was the latest in a long line of fitness issues for the combative Frenchman, who had recovered from a potentially career-ending broken ankle after a tackle from Sunderland defender Dan Smith in May 2006.

And Wenger feels a fully-fit Diaby can emulate midfield enforcer Patrick Vieira and help drive the Gunners on as they aim to claw their way back into the top four of the Barclays Premier League.

"Honestly, what he has gone through is unbelievable," Wenger said.

"It is frustrating because it all started with a bad tackle at Sunderland, in the last minute of the last game of the season, which was decided already. You always think 'how can one thing that was so stupid can have such an impact on a career of such a big player?'.

"This now is a big period for Abou, and he is conscious of it.

"You do not want to put any pressure on him, though, because he has enough and Abou puts himself under so much pressure.

"He is a very conscientious guy. You should see how he works, how he is focused every day, because when a guy suffers as much as he did he becomes very professional, very rigorous.

"You have some guys, they can drink five beers, come to training, and play and go home and nothing happens to them."

Wenger added: "When you have a guy who is a lot injured, and he has not a serious life, you can say 'you see, you are punished', but with Diaby, he has a very serious life - he doesn't drink, doesn't smoke, doesn't go out, and is very conscientious in training, so you always feel sorry for him.

"You are in a position where you have to have patience, because what did he do wrong? Nothing. At least you have to give him a chance."

Wenger feels Diaby gives Arsenal's game a "different dimension" - much like Vieira did when his Invincibles swept all before them in 2003/04.

The Gunners boss said: "Abou can defend, can attack, is strong in the challenge.

"He can also dribble, pass players, is very quick in the transition from defence to attack.

"This guy is good in the air, is a fighter, with great stamina, so once you put all these qualities together... when he plays at his best, of course, Arsenal have a different dimension."

Villa are currently in the bottom three of the Barclays Premier League ahead of Saturday evening's derby clash with West Brom at the Hawthorns.

Lambert has only limited funds to spend compared to the combined ?30million club owner Randy Lerner spent on Darren Bent and Jean Makoun two years ago.

But the Villa manager is adamant any newcomers will have to improve the current squad.

Lambert said: "We'd try to do something if I thought the people we could get in would make it better.

"But, if we can't do it and I have to go with the group that's there, then I'll go with what's there.

"What I don't want to do is fill the place with people I'm bringing in just for the sake of bringing them in.

"It's the wrong thing to do for this club. It's wrong if they're no better than the ones who are already here.

"I have to bring in people I think will make a major impact."

When asked if only has ?3million to spend, Lambert said: "I know what's happening so I don't have a problem with that.

"If I have to go with the lads I've got, that's who I'll go with. Money dictates a lot. It's tough because of the way the market is."

Lambert is unfazed about the size of the task facing him to restore Villa to former glories after three successive relegation battles.

He said: "I knew it needed rebuilding which was the great challenge. It's not something where I'm sitting and thinking 'I can't believe the way it is'.

"I knew the parameters and what you have to go through to get what you want. I understand that really well.

"It's a challenge and I love the challenge. I'm not going to wilt or feel terrible on a Saturday night.

"I love it, love the challenge of it. I love the pressure of it, and it's something you're determined to get right because, if you do, you know this is an unbelievable club.

"It's always been a big club. But I've been brought in to try and rebuild it and get results while doing it - and it does take time.

"I think someone said the other week it might take you three to four years to do it. Whether I get that time.....I understand what they're saying."