Chelsea pursuit of Maurizio Sarri back on despite Napoli release clause obstacle

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Maurizio Sarri's move to Chelsea may still happen.

Chelsea are attempting to renew their bid to hire Maurizio Sarri as manager.

The former Napoli chief was high on Chelsea’s list of managerial targets, but talks broke down over a £7 million release clause in the Italian’s contract with the Serie A club. Napoli owner Aurelio De Laurentiis is insisting that clause be paid, even though it expired on May 31 – not to mention, Napoli have hired Carlo Ancelotti as a replacement.

Chelsea have reportedly sounded out former Paris Saint-Germain boss Laurent Blanc and current Fulham manager Slavisa Jokanovic, with Blanc having spoken to potential assistants in case he gets offered the role. Ex-Barcelona manager Luis Enrique and Roma‘s Eusebio Di Francesco have spoken to the club about the vacancy, but have reportedly been ruled out.

Instead, the Blues continue their pursuit of Sarri, even as it holds up their transfer business. The club has final say on transfers regardless of who the manager is, but Sarri has reportedly singled out a few targets – Napoli defenders Kalidou Koulibaly and Elseid Hysaj.

Eden Hazard, meanwhile, has said Chelsea’s decision on a manager will affect his future at the club, with the Belgium star wanting to play under a more attacking manager after two seasons under Antonio Conte.

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Freddie Ljungberg returns to Arsenal as head coach for Under-23 side

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Freddie Ljungberg has been appointed as head coach of the Arsenal Under-23 side, the north London club have announced.

The former Arsenal midfielder played more than 200 matches for the Gunners and won the Premier League twice in a nine-year spell at the club from 1998.

Following a short stint as assistant manager at Wolfsburg, the former Sweden international will formally return to Arsenal next month.

“I’m delighted to be returning to the club,” Ljungberg, 41, said. “Arsenal has always been a special place for me and I’m really excited at this opportunity to work with our under-23 team.

“I look forward to working with the talented young players we have at the club.

“I know many of them well and will work hard to help them continue developing and become the best players and people they can be.”

Ljungberg joyed Arsenal from Halmstad in 1998, and played a prominent role in the north London side’s Premier League and FA Cup double triumph of 2002. He was also part of the Invincibles team which went unbeaten for the 2004 league campaign.

The midfielder left Arsenal in 2007 before brief spells at West Ham, Seattle Sounders, Chicago Fire and Celtic. He hung up his boots in 2012.

Ljungberg, who also played 75 times for Sweden, previously coached the Arsenal Under-15 and Under-19 squads.

He moved to Wolfsburg as former Arsenal Academy manager Andries Jonker’s number two, but left when Jonker was sacked by the German side after just seven months in charge.

Arsenal’s new Academy manager Per Mertesacker said: “It’s great to have Freddie back at the club. He brings great footballing experience and the highest possible levels of enthusiasm, energy and encouragement for our young professionals.

“He understands the club’s values and how important it is to give young players the opportunity to grow and develop.

“When Freddie left for Wolfsburg it was with the club’s blessing and with a return to Arsenal some day in mind.

“Everyone knows Freddie loves the club and we look forward to him developing his career with us.”

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Sam Allardyce biggest casualty as number of sacked managers in England soars

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Sam Allardyce has been an unpopular figure among Everton fans.

Fifty-four managers were dismissed in the English professional game in the 2017/18 season, the second-highest total ever.

Data published on Monday by the League Managers Association also showed that the managers relieved of their duties last term had an average tenure of 1.18 years – a slight improvement on 2016/17 (1.16 years) but still the second-lowest average in the six seasons for which data was published.

The 15 managers sacked in the Premier League was the highest total on record going back to 2005/06, beating the mark of 12 from 2013/14 and 2015/16.

That included two apiece at West Brom and Swansea as both clubs suffered relegation while of the 20 clubs in the 2017/18 Premier League, only half will begin the new season under the same manager.

Thirteen managers lost their jobs at Championship level, 16 in League One and 10 in League Two.

The LMA said the average tenure of all current managers was 1.53 years and listed Paul Tisdale as the longest-serving manager in the professional game at 11.94 years, following Arsene Wenger’s resignation from Arsenal.

The study, though, ran only up to May 31 – Tisdale quit his post as Exeter boss the following day to leave Jim Bentley, who had reached just over seven years at Morecambe by the end of May, as the longest serving.

The average tenure of Premier League managers come the end of the season was slightly higher at 1.70 years, with the Championship and League One languishing at 1.10 and 1.22 respectively.

The League Two average – boosted by Tisdale, Bentley and the now second-placed Gareth Ainsworth at Wycombe – was highest at 2.12 years.

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