Sunday, June 26, 2022

Newcastle’s Ekitike alternatives, Burnley lose key duo and Bielsa defend Leeds record

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In this week’s Northern Notebook Newcastle hit a brick wall in Ekitike talks, Vincent Kompany sees his first signing for Burnley and Marcelo Bielsa explains what went wrong at Leeds

Newcastle have signaled their willingness to back off from a deal for Hugo Ekitike following disputes with the player’s agent.

The “Northern Notebook” is I‘s weekly look at the biggest football clubs in the north of England, providing insight, analysis and news on the burning issues of the day

While the deal agreed with his club Reims isn’t dead yet, the Magpies are looking at alternatives to fill the forward spot.

As reported by I Last month Nice’s Amine Gouiri was spotted by Newcastle and fits the age profile and requirements.

Chelsea’s Armando Broja is another possible option, although West Ham’s interest in the Albania international could complicate matters.

Burnley’s new manager Vincent Kompany is unveiled to the press on Friday as the club continue to embark on a new direction after last season’s painful relegation.

The Clarets have confirmed the departure of Nick Pope to Newcastle in a £10m deal and are braced for more departures.

Wout Weghorst and Maxwell Cornet are both expected to leave with Bundesliga suitors for the Dutch striker, who says he has reached an agreement allowing him to leave after the club’s relegation to the Championship.

One player to watch out for is Anderlecht Republic of Ireland international Josh Cullen, who is well-loved at Turf Moor and played under Kompany in Belgium.

He has interest from the Premier League but a reunion with Kompany could appeal.

Marcelo Bielsa made a dramatic reappearance this week for the first time since leaving Leeds United, breaking his silence by admitting he wants to return to manager at former club Athletic Bilbao.

Bielsa has been characteristically reticent since leaving Elland Road but watched hundreds of hours of Spanish football after being approached about the Bilbao role in March.

And in a presentation he made to Bilbao members as part of their presidential elections taking place tomorrow, he also defended his methods, which have been criticized for the way Leeds suffered injuries and suffered a sharp decline in his second season the first League. Jesse Marsch even drew criticism when he said in an interview on Talksport that some of the players were “overtrained”.

“(My) way of preparing a football team created a process that works even when the team is playing poorly [it] holds the highest running and intensity rates in the top league in the world,” he said in his pitch.

I received a translation of the incredibly detailed presentation, which took 70 minutes to arrive and was typically meticulous, covering everything from his methods to a breakdown of Bilbao Academy players and procedures.

His thoughts on how his methods have matured throughout his career – and what he did at Leeds – will be of interest in West Yorkshire, where he remains a hugely popular figure for all that he has achieved.

“I worked at my last club, Leeds, for four years. I was fired in February – they fired me because the team I was leading had a long string of bad results,” he said.

“But there are two things – one important and one very important. In our first season in the Premier League we were the team to run the most in the league and all the major European leagues, we topped every statistic measured.

“And in our second season in the Premier League, despite being poor in the table, we were still the team to run the most in all categories except distance covered. But in terms of game intensity, we were the team that ran the most.

“We had very high player availability and a lot of debuts. In our first season in the Premier League we had three players who made their league debuts. In the second season we had seven.

“I’m making this comment because my teams’ physical preparation doesn’t make it that difficult to set goals.”

Bielsa’s hopes of getting the job in Bilbao rest on Inaki Arechabaleta’s presidential claims. Voting starts on Friday and his presidential rival Ricardo Barkala nominates Ernesto Valverde.

He remains an outside bet but if he lands the post he will quickly return to England in pre-season. Athletic Bilbao play in a friendly game in Newcastle on July 30th.

With the summer transfer window open and hundreds of millions being spent on new players, it’s understandable that most fans are more concerned about who’s coming to their club than which players are going out the door.

But Manchester City are among a growing number of Premier League clubs that have seen the value of being meticulous about the use of outgoing loans for their young players.

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