Xabi Alonso’s preferred move? Arsenal youth signings? Nico Williams to Chelsea? Ask Ornstein

Estimated read time 10 min read

Once a week for an hour, The Athletic’s subscribers can ask me for my views on anything from the world of football. I have pulled together some of my favourite questions and my answers to them from the latest Q&A below. Thanks to all who took part today.

Want to ask me a question? I’ll be back next week for another session.

Join The Athletic Insiders WhatsApp channel

Matt T asked: Hi David, is there any truth to Xabi Alonso favouring a move to Bayern Munich over Liverpool?

David Ornstein: Bayern are going all out for Alonso but I’m not aware of any firm decisions being made by him.

He may be leaning in one direction but that doesn’t mean it can’t change. That’s why Bayern, Liverpool and Bayer Leverkusen will be exploring their options.

There will be other teams across Europe embarking upon managerial and sporting director changes this summer, too, so there are moving parts and repercussions all over the place.

Catherine S asked: Do you think Ross Barkley, Ezri Konsa, Angel Gomes, Joe Willock, Joe Gomez and other outsiders have a chance to make the England squad for Euro 2024? They deserve a place over Harry Maguire, Conor Gallagher, Jordan Henderson and Kalvin Phillips, but Southgate won’t want to take them out. What do you think?

David Ornstein: All of the names you mention have been great over the past season or two, but Willock has missed much of this season through injury. They will be in Gareth Southgate’s thinking and some of them could make the long list.

The England manager has stayed loyal to his core group and in fairness, they have almost always repaid that faith. So, if fitness allows, it will be similar this summer. There is scope for a couple of new inclusions here or there but there will not be major changes.

Barkley has been a joy to watch at Luton Town this season but he hasn’t figured for England in a long time, nor has he been playing towards the top of the Premier League or in a European competition.

Gomez has been in great form for Liverpool (Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Konsa deservedly made the most recent England squad but didn’t get on the pitch and has missed game time through injury. I’m a massive fan but I’m not sure he makes the cut unless someone — such as John Stones, Maguire and Marc Guehi — fails to prove their fitness.

Gomes continues to shine at Lille and has excelled for the England youth teams, plus he offers a skill set that Southgate doesn’t otherwise have at his disposal — but with no senior call-ups and many other options ahead of him, sadly, I don’t see it.


I really could see Willock being part of the setup in the future but this season’s injuries almost certainly mean he’ll have to wait.

Gomez deserves to make the cut for his quality and versatility. He plays for one of the leading clubs in the Premier League and in Europe, and consistently delivers. He has a great chance of being part of Southgate’s squad this summer.


Parth S asked: Hi David, any news on Dan Ashworth? There are also rumours that Manchester United are looking at two more positions beneath Ashworth in technical and performance director roles. What are you hearing regarding those?

Ornstein: I have no updates on Ashworth, Parth. The same for Jason Wilcox. Ideally, United would get Ashworth in first and then Wilcox, as the plan is for Wilcox to work under Ashworth. But Ashworth is a more complicated situation than Wilcox.

United will probably give the Ashworth situation a bit longer and see if an agreement can be reached with Newcastle but if that doesn’t happen, perhaps they will bring in Wilcox sooner and Ashworth follows later.

Another key role after that has been on the agenda — and naturally, the club will have candidates in mind — but I don’t know of an appointment being close. These are very early days and United/INEOS will be studying and discussing the vision, structures, roles, existing staff, new staff, waiting for people to start and plenty more besides… so it might be a while before everything falls into place.

More on United’s future under INEOS…

David S asked: Who do you see as Tottenham’s top target for the summer? Eberechi Eze, Pedro Neto, or someone else?

Ornstein: Truth is, I don’t know, David, but even in January, we saw Tottenham sign players who were not previously reported as their top targets.

Many people were talking about Jean-Clair Todibo joining and Spurs ended up prioritising Radu Dragusin. Timo Werner came pretty much out of nowhere. Lucas Bergvall seemed nailed on to join Barcelona, only for Tottenham to nip in.

Let’s wait and see. It wouldn’t surprise me if Spurs go in for Conor Gallagher again, given they’ve tried before and there has been no meaningful progress on a new Chelsea contract (his existing deal expires in June 2025), but that’s more assumption than information.

Eze scoring against Tottenham (Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Cormac C asked: Do you think Chelsea will stick with Pochettino?

Ornstein: As far as I know, he has every chance to continue for the longer term. All managers know this is a results industry, the expectations at Chelsea are high and Pochettino needs to deliver.

He and Chelsea will be focused on doing that. They still have lots to play for. There’s the FA Cup and possible European qualification through that or the league.

There have been reports of Chelsea looking at replacements and while I don’t have information on this, it is normal for clubs to conduct due diligence in case a change is needed. Brighton & Hove Albion, for example, are very open in admitting this.

We know Pochettino is approaching the halfway point of a two-year contract, which includes an option to extend by 12 months. That makes this summer a natural point for Chelsea and Pochettino to review the situation, with all factors and context considered, before deciding whether to move on together or not.

Matthew M asked: There’s been talk of Arsenal targeting more youth signings for the first time. Is that about academy signings or players such as Jorrel Hato at Ajax or Evan Ferguson at Brighton, who are extremely young but would come in as first-team players? Or both?

Ornstein: When I said that on the podcast, Matthew, I meant investing more than previously in signing academy-level players. We’ve seen impressive progress at this level at Liverpool and Manchester City, so Arsenal would like to close the gap and produce more talent who can potentially play in their first team or be sold at a profit.

It’s especially important for clubs post-Brexit. Hato and Ferguson wouldn’t be viewed by clubs in this bracket — they’re basically senior players.

By the way, Hato turns 18 today… happy birthday to him! That’s why he couldn’t be signed by Premier League clubs before now, post-Brexit. Ajax are trying to tie him down to a new contract too.

Let’s see how he performs this evening against Aston Villa in the Europa Conference League. Top talent!

Andy P asked: Having seen your previous Q&A responses about your need to be constantly connected to your mobile to work sources and your long workdays, my question is: what do you do to avoid burnout? Is there a shelf life to a job with this kind of commitment?

Ornstein: I need to practise more of what I’m about to preach, Andy, but I try to exercise a lot, eat reasonably well and get a consistent amount of sleep.

It’s important to be well organised, understand your strengths and weaknesses, get your priorities right (in terms of what to focus on and what can wait), not expect yourself to be able to do everything you want, accept you won’t be first to (or on top of) every story, take time for family/friends/socialising/other interests where possible, don’t say yes to everything, be realistic about the amount of travel you can do/calls you can make/meetings you can make, and always be true to your values and ethics etc…

The intensity suggests there must be a shelf life but while I’m in it and enjoying it, I don’t know what that is. It seems better suited to younger people with fewer commitments and responsibilities, but equally, the value of experience and relationships built over time is priceless and serve you extremely well as you get older (and hopefully wiser!).

Harry B asked: Anything on the Chelsea and Nico Williams situation after being made a target by reporters this week?

Ornstein: He’s a player Chelsea and other Premier League clubs like and have been looking at for a while.

The size of his salary could be problematic, so I would classify Williams to Chelsea as unlikely, but let’s see. January showed that the period of Premier League clubs paying massive transfer fees and salaries may well be slowing down (largely because of profit and sustainability regulations).

Williams celebrates his goal for Athletic Bilbao against Atletico Madrid last month (Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)

Chelsea, like many clubs, are running tight on PSR so will need to cut their cloth accordingly. Today’s financial results showed that but they fully expect to remain compliant.

It means that when we hear talk of a big-name player, such as Victor Osimhen, being signed this summer, that is very unlikely — owing to the transfer fee and salary.

Konnor E asked: Hi David. Have you heard anything about William Saliba’s long-term plans with Arsenal? Seems like a player capable of playing for any team. As an Arsenal fan, I’d love him to stay but would understand the allure of top clubs, like Real Madrid, coming in for him.

Ornstein: He has only just signed a new long-term contract and I’ve not heard anything about him wanting to be anywhere else.

If he was ever to become available, I’m sure most/all of the world’s biggest clubs would try to sign him. There was strong interest in him from the Premier League and beyond before he put pen to paper on that deal.

But he is Arsenal property for the foreseeable future and they will be delighted with that.

Harrison M asked: Hi David, who do you think will win the Champions League this season?

Ornstein: Purely to say something different to everyone else… Paris Saint-Germain. They are the youngest team left in the tournament and Kylian Mbappe will sign off with the one trophy that has eluded them and that they want the most.

(Top photo: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)