Phil Thompson and Paul Merson disagree on who will win the Champions League final

‘First off, in high-profile games – and it doesn’t come any more high profile than this – we seem to turn up big-time,’ he told Sky Sports.

‘I class Real Madrid as a similar side to Manchester City in terms of not knowing how to park the bus, so it will be an open game, and I would like to think we can take advantage of that.

‘You can suggest that both sides’ defences aren’t the best, but I think ours is a little better now, especially in the full-back areas. I know that they have the big names, but I think ours are more capable defensively.

‘Sergio Ramos has had his critics and, while he is a warrior and a winner, he is also slow and only getting slower, which is why he gets so many yellow and red cards and plays into the hands of our pacy forward line.’

Paul Merson believes Real Madrid will SACK Zinedine Zidane if Liverpool win Champions League

Will Zidane lose his job? (Picture: Getty)Paul Merson is convinced Zinedine Zidane will be sacked by Real Madrid if Liverpool secure victory on Saturday night in the Champions League final in Kiev.

The former Arsenal and Aston Villa playmaker believes the French World Cup winner is hanging on by the skin of his teeth at the Santiago Bernabeu, despite guiding them to back-to-back Champions League wins in his first two seasons in charge.

However, while they’ve reached the final once more in 2018, their domestic form has been disappointing – finishing 17 points behind La Liga winners Barcelona.

And Merson thinks that failure to deliver the Champions League trophy would be the end of the road for Zidane.

‘Jurgen Klopp could get Zinedine Zidane the sack tonight because he is the better manager,’ Merson told the Daily Star.

Will Klopp get Zidane sacked? (Picture: Getty)‘I know Zidane has won two Champions League titles in a row but he has had world class players to work with.

‘You should be judged on what you do in your domestic league when you’re a manager and Real Madrid are so far behind Barcelona now it’s ridiculous.

‘Barcelona are not even that good – but Real have only won the league once since Zidane took over and this season they only finished a very distant third.

‘He’s been getting out of jail by winning the Champions League. But competitions like that are a bonus. The league is your bread and butter.

‘You can’t judge a manager in a knockout competition because you need a bit of luck and a good draw to win them.

‘Zidane could win three in a row and that would be an amazing achievement. But if he loses the final I would be shocked if he keeps his job because they are miles behind Barcelona.’

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Arsenal legend Paul Merson hails Liverpool star Trent Alexander-Arnold as his ‘unsung hero of the season’

Trent Alexander- Arnold has developed into a first-team regular for Liverpool (Picture: Getty)Paul Merson has named Liverpool star Trent Alexander-Arnold as his ‘unsung hero of the season’.

Having made his first-team debut for the Reds last season, Alexander-Arnold has emerged as a key player for Jurgen Klopp this term.

The 19-year-old has made over 30 appearances in all competitions, playing a huge role in Liverpool’s run to the Champions League final.

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While Merson believes this summer’s World Cup will ‘come a bit too soon for him’, the Arsenal legend is adamant Alexander-Arnold is an England player of the future.

‘He is my unsung hero of the season because he’s come from nowhere at Liverpool and been very impressive,’ Merson told the Daily Star.

‘He’s sneaked under the radar a little bit at times but I think he deserves more credit. He’s a young lad playing for a big club where you’re always under pressure.

The 19-year-old has starred in this year’s Champions League (Picture: Getty)‘But he’s handled it so, so well. Yes, he’s made mistakes but he’s always bounced back and to be the best player on the pitch in a Champions League semi-final is phenomenal.

‘He never hides, and while the World Cup will come a bit too soon for him, he’s an England player for the future all day long.’

Merson, who earned 21 caps for England, added: ‘He’s got many a World Cup in him if he keeps doing what he’s doing. Liverpool have found a real gem.

‘They just need to look after him because he’ll be under the microscope a lot as a homegrown youngster.

Former Arsenal and England star Paul Merson (Picture: Getty)‘Sometimes you get more criticism when you do something wrong if you’re in that position, but I think he can go on to have a great career if he keeps his feet on the ground.’

Klopp has been equally as impressed by Alexander-Arnold’s contributions this season and says Gareth Southgate should take him to Russia for the World Cup.

‘I am a fan of Trent,’ Klopp said this week. ‘That’s why he plays very often, and because he plays on a high level.

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‘He’s developed over the past year. Mentally he didn’t have to improve but physically he did.

‘I’m not Gareth Southgate, but if he needed a player who can play right-back and maybe other positions too, I think he would be a good choice. If Gareth needs him, he’d be ready.’

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Steven Gerrard took Rangers job because he felt unloved by Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp, claims Paul Merson

Steven Gerrard has left his role at Liverpool to join Rangers (Picture: Getty)Paul Merson believes the ‘main reason’ Steven Gerrard took the Rangers job was because he felt ‘unloved’ at Liverpool.

Rangers confirmed Gerrard had become their new manager on Friday – he has signed a four-year deal and has named former Reds star Gary McAllister as his assistant.

Gerrard, who played over 700 games for Liverpool and helped the club win the Champions League, had spent the last year working with the academy.

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And Merson believes he would have stayed at Anfield if Jurgen Klopp made him his number two.

Klopp’s current assistant, Zeljko Buvac, left his role last week and is being strongly linked with a move to Arsenal as the Gunners search for Arsene Wenger’s replacement.

‘Steven Gerrard is only taking the Rangers job because he doesn’t feel loved at Liverpool,’ former Arsenal and England star Merson told the Daily Star.

‘If Zeljko Buvac isn’t coming back, why haven’t they offered him the No 2 job? I think they should have done. He’s a legend at Anfield.

‘The Rangers job is massive. They are a huge club and once you’ve decided you want to leave Liverpool and go into management, it’s too good to turn down really.

‘But if Steven Gerrard had been offered a job on Jurgen Klopp’s coaching staff there is no way he leaves Anfield.

Jurgen Klopp should have made Gerrard his assistant, according to Paul Merson (Picture: Getty)‘That’s the main reason he’s going to Scotland. He doesn’t feel wanted.’

After being unveiled as the new Rangers manager on Friday, Gerrard said: ‘I have enormous respect for this football club, and its history and tradition.

‘I can’t wait to start this new journey at Rangers as we look to build on the many successes that this club has achieved.’

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Rangers chairman, Dave King, meanwhile, added: ‘From the very beginning, talks have been extremely positive and we believe that Steven is the right man to drive Rangers forward.

‘He was extremely impressive throughout our negotiations and we are convinced that he has the necessary knowledge and temperament to lead the club to the success we all desire.

‘This a special day for our club, our fans and for Steven.’

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Paul Merson and Charlie Nicholas disagree on who should replace Arsene Wenger at Arsenal

Arsenal are searching for Arsene Wenger’s successor (Picture: Getty)Arsenal legends Paul Merson and Charlie Nicholas have revealed who they believe should take over from Arsene Wenger at the end of the season.

It was confirmed earlier in the month that Wenger, 68, would not see out his contract at the Emirates.

The experienced Frenchman spent over two decades in charge of Arsenal, winning three Premier League titles and seven FA Cups.

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But Wenger’s position has been the subject of intense speculation for a number of years and he says it is the right time to leave.

The announcement has sparked debate as to who will replace Wenger at Arsenal and Merson and Nicholas have revealed their picks to Sky Sports.

Paul Merson:

‘I would like Rodgers to succeed Arsene. I like him, the way he plays football. Liverpool nearly won the league under him which they hadn’t done for some time before and haven’t since.

‘People say he had Luis Suarez but you’ve still got to get a tune out of him. He’s got experience of managing big sides as well. There’s a lot of pressure at Celtic and he knows the Premier League well.

‘Luis Enrique is the other one, with experience and style of football, but they need to move quickly if they want him because Chelsea might be after him soon.

‘The big thing for me is longevity. They need to get somebody in who is going to be there for five years because they don’t want a similar situation to Manchester United after Sir Alex Ferguson left.’

Former Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers is a contender (Picture: Getty)

As is Max Allegri, the current Juventus manager (Picture: Getty)

Charlie Nicholas:

‘I’m still of the mind that Rodgers and Ronald Koeman fit the criteria. I don’t think either of them will get it though and I’m swaying towards Allegri now.

‘Some people suggest it has to be somebody with a link to the club, such as Mikel Arteta or Patrick Vieira, but Wenger didn’t have one when he arrived.

‘I’ve got a feeling they’re trying to get a Spanish or German influence running stronger through the club but I feel that the favourite should be Allegri.

‘His reputation is strong and his Juventus side play a nice way with an organised defensive shape.’

Wenger made his last trip to Old Trafford as Arsenal manager on Sunday as the Gunners were undone by Marouane Fellaini’s injury-time winner.

Before the Premier League fixture, he was presented with a silver vase by former Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson.

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‘It was very nice and classy. I enjoyed it,’ Wenger said. ‘I have come here for a long, long time.

‘Next year, someone else will be in the dug-out and it will be a hostile environment again.’

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Paul Merson would be ‘shocked’ if Arsenal did not appoint Brendan Rodgers as Arsene Wenger’s replacement

Arsene Wenger is under immense scrutiny at Arsenal (Picture: Getty)Paul Merson would be ‘shocked’ if Arsenal did not appoint Brendan Rodgers as Arsene Wenger’s replacement.

Wenger, 68, is widely expected to leave the Emirates this summer after spending over two decades in charge of the Gunners.

Arsenal failed to qualify for the Champions League last year and will also finish outside of the top four this season, having slipped 12 points below Liverpool in fourth.

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The north London outfit also suffered an emphatic defeat to Manchester City in the Carabao Cup final at the end of last month, although they could still save their campaign in the Europa League.

A number of names have been raised as potential replacements for Wenger but Merson believes Celtic boss Rodgers is the stand-out choice.

‘I don’t know why he doesn’t get the Arsenal job,’ Merson said of Rodgers on Sky Sports. ‘He fits Arsenal great.

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‘The nearest Liverpool have ever come to winning the league for a long long time is when Brendan Rodgers was in charge.

‘He’s done nothing wrong at Celtic. To do what they’ve done… people can say it’s Scottish football and Celtic are head and shoulders above, but every team they played on that run treated it like a cup final, which is difficult sometimes – especially when you’re Celtic and know you’re better than everybody else.

‘I think he [Rodgers] now needs a change and needs to come back down. I’ll be shocked if he didn’t get a good job, I’d be quite shocked if he didn’t get the Arsenal job.’

Brendan Rodgers should be Arsenal’s next manager, says Paul Merson (Picture: Getty)Since taking over at Celtic in 2016, former Liverpool boss Rodgers has won the Scottish Premiership and three cup trophies.

The club are set to win another domestic title this season and Rodgers said he is ‘loving life’ in Scotland when asked about the links with Arsenal.

‘Arsenal is a great club with a great manager,’ he said. ‘People will look at it and see that I went to Liverpool, they were struggling for five seasons for Champions League football and I was able to get them back.

‘When I came to Celtic, they hadn’t been in the Champions
League for three seasons and I got them back.

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‘So maybe people are thinking – okay, Arsenal have been out of the Champions League and that is maybe the equation for someone like myself.

‘However, I’m loving my life up here. I’m not going to be here forever but I’m living in a dream – although dreams always come to an end at some point.

‘I’m always relaxed about speculation and whatnot but my focus is only on Celtic.’

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Paul Merson and Phil Thompson slam ‘ridiculous’ Riyad Mahrez and urge Leicester City to punish winger

Riyad Mahrez was said to be devastated that his move to Manchester City fell through (Picture: Getty)Paul Merson and Phil Thompson have slammed ‘ridiculous’ Riyad Mahrez and urged Leicester City to punish the winger.

After missing out on a move to Manchester City during the January transfer window, Mahrez missed five consecutive days of training and did not feature in the Premier League clash against Swansea City.

He will also miss Saturday’s trip to the Etihad, despite returning to training on Friday.

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Liverpool legend Thompson told Sky Sports: ‘I’ve got absolutely no sympathy for him. It has been handled very poorly by him and his agent.

‘I don’t understand why he had to hand in a transfer request. Surely if Manchester City wanted him then they would have gone about it the right way and agreed a deal earlier.

‘I know these opportunities come along once in a while but he’s taken bad advice in handing in that request and staying away from training.

Claude Puel hopes Mahrez can ‘get his head right’ (Picture: Getty)‘He was willing to take the new contract so he should honour that, especially with the size of the wage he’s on, so he needs to get himself back and apologise.

‘The players will wind him up but it will be over and done with in a week, and then it will be how the fans take him back.

‘The club have got to punish him and the PFA have got to back the club. He’s in breach of contract and if it was the other way round they would come down on the club.’

Merson, the former Arsenal and England forward, added: ‘I did have sympathy with Mahrez, but I don’t now.

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‘Since the window’s shut, you can understand a couple of days to get your head together and sort yourself out, but this is getting ridiculous now.

‘I don’t know what the club should do, that’s up to them, they should have taken £65m in my opinion, and now they’re struggling.

‘He’s got to come back, no one’s going to take him if he doesn’t come back. This isn’t normal.

‘Players get the hump, don’t get me wrong, they think ‘I should have got a move’, but Philippe Coutinho thought that and he was going to the dream of all dreams in Barcelona.

Mahrez returned to training on Friday (Picture: Getty)‘He came back, performed and got his move. You’ve got to come back, there’s nothing he can do now, nothing. He’s only making it worse now, whatever happens.’

Leicester boss Claude Puel refused to go into detail about Mahrez’s situation on Thursday, but said he hoped he can ‘get his head right’ and return to the squad with the right attitude.

‘I don’t want to comment and give details of our relationship with Riyad. It is important to all details remain inside the club and not in the public,’ he said ahead of the fixture against Manchester City.

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‘I hope Riyad can get his head right and to come back with us and to hard work. The best way is to come and to enjoy his football.

‘Riyad is a magnificent player and he loves football. He loves his relationship with his friends and team-mates. He needs to come back and to play, to touch the ball.’

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Arsene Wenger warned by Paul Merson not to tinker with Arsenal XI vs Brighton

Arsene Wenger’s side come up against Brighton this weekend (Picture: Getty)Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger should not fall into the trap of resting star players for the visit of Brighton and Hove Albion on Sunday afternoon, according to Paul Merson.

The Gunners may look at this upcoming game as one of the easier tests they’ll face in the Premier League this season, but Merson has warned they must not get complacent.

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The former England international used the example of Liverpool and Tottenham, who recently dropped points at home to Burnley and Swansea City respectively after making wholesale changes to their line ups on the day.

Arsenal haven’t got off to the best of starts this season so cannot afford another slip up this weekend, with Wenger also having the luxury of resting a number of big names in the Europa League on Thursday.

Wenger has been warned not to take Brighton lightly (Picture: Getty)Olivier Giroud, Theo Walcott and Shkodran Mustafi were the senior players most likely to also feature in the league that started against BATE Borisov, so Merson says that long journey is no excuse for Arsenal.

‘Arsenal’s trip to Belarus in the Europa League should not get in the way of three points against Brighton,’ Merson told Sky Sports.

‘However Arsene Wenger can’t take underestimate Chris Hughton’s side. That’s where some managers are coming unstuck at the moment, taking teams lightly.

Chris Hughton’s side have improved with two wins in their last three games (Picture: Getty)

Arsenal 2017/18 fixtures

Brighton (H) – Sun 1 OctWatford (A) – Sat 14 OctCrveba Zvezda (A) – Europa League – Thu 19 OctEverton (A) – Sun 22 OctNorwich – Carbao Cup (H) – Tue 24 OctSwansea (H) – Sat 28 OctCrvena Zvezda – Europa League (H) – Thurs 2 Nov

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‘We saw that when Tottenham played Swansea at Wembley with Heung-min Son playing left wing-back and Liverpool making six changes against Burnley.

‘You have to play your best team and if they do the Gunners should win easily.’

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