Earlier today, ask for our subscriber-only weekly Ornstein.
This is a question-and-answer hour where The Athletics subscribers ask for my opinion on anything in the world of football. Questions this week include whether Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s proposed minority investment in Manchester United will affect Erik Ten Haag, Aaron Ramsdale’s future at Arsenal and his control of Everton.
I’ve collected some of my favorite questions and answers in the fourth edition of Ask Ornstein.
I’m off next week, but I’ll be back for another round in two weeks.
Akshay asked: How safe is Eric Hagg’s job (on a scale of one to 10) given that INEOS is looking to take over the sporting side of Manchester United?
David Ornstein: At the time he wrote it, Akshay, I guess he was around eight. I don’t know if the current United hierarchy have anything other than faith in him and Ineos is said to be happy with the job he’s doing.
The only reason why it’s not 10 is because football is a results business, the results during the season are not up to the club’s expectations and you never know.
But now I think Ten Hag is in a position of strength for now and for the future.
Christian M asked: Will Arsenal have the chance to sell Aaron Ramsdale in the summer if he continues to play a certain amount of games?
Ornstein: Ramsdale wants to be first-choice keeper at club – and international level. If it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen at Arsenal this summer, it’s fair to assume he may be looking for pastures new.
It comes down to the club, of course. He signed a new long-term deal in May and so if the sale is to be sanctioned, Arsenal will want to return their £24million signing in good form.
Shane M asked: Do you know what kind of transfer finances Arsenal have for this new financial year/next summer? We spent a lot last summer and we did a David Raya deal with options to help our FFP. As long as we secure Champions League qualification, should we still be able to reach the £150m net spend from the last two summers?
Ornstein: That’s a great question, Shane, but unfortunately, I don’t have a specific answer. From what I’ve heard, there isn’t much budget or interest in doing significant business in January (which, it’s important to add, is subject to change considering things like departures, availability of targets, injuries, form, etc.) and that naturally puts Arsenal at bay. In a stronger position to reinvest next winter.
I don’t think we can doubt that the owners KSE are willing to do this since they take full control of the club, it’s just a matter of what the FFP rules allow them to do. The Raya deal, which has an option to buy on loan, shows Arsenal are sailing close to the wind. My understanding is that once you get into a more comfortable FFP position and are able to spend properly again, the first cost would be to convert that activity into a permanent transfer.
After that, I’m sure they’ll have a plan for how they want to proceed. Most likely – as things stand – it will start with an attacker. We’ve all seen the names come together. There is also a long term need to provide backup/competition for Bukayo Saka, depth at left centre-back, left-back cover if Kieran Tierney departs and so on.
I’m sure Arsenal – like most teams – will scour the market for top talent and good value for money deals, which will obviously be easier than big money deals.
Parm B asked: Any updates on Niccolò Zaniolo’s situation at Aston Villa in light of betting investigations?
Ornstein: Nothing specific but I’m sure Zaniolo will sit down with Unai Emery and others at the club and give his version of events. There are reports that he is not betting on football, which is not the case with Sandro Tonali.
Without firm data, I cannot confirm this with my current report.
While the situation is clearly not good, it may not be the same for Villa as it is for Tonali for Newcastle – as Zaniolo is on loan from Galatasaray and his Italian team-mate is a permanent signing from AC Milan.
Zirui X asked: What is the position of the clubs and PGMOL on the refereeing of side matches in Middle Eastern countries? Is there a risk of a conflict of interest as some of these countries own Premier League clubs?
Ornstein: Like the rest of us, I talked to clubs that seemed to be concerned. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Premier League or PGML, the game’s governing body, stopped those trips either from a formal or advisory perspective.
It is worth noting that Premier League officials have work to do at UAF competitions, many of which involve significant travel and that the officials in question leave and return from the UAE on the same days. Work time was the same or similar.
But it raises questions about whether the Premier League can do without it (the nature of performance, finances, integrity and public relations, for example) and so I don’t expect it to happen again anytime soon.
Parth S asked: What is your interest in the sale of Manchester United? How long do you think it will take the Glazers to vote and make a decision? If he does, who do you hear as the next director of football? There are some good candidates out there right now.
Ornstein: The Glazers seem to have made their decision, the direction of travel is finally clear and – given that they are United’s owners and control the board – any vote is more procedural than meaningful. We are led to believe that it will take several weeks to complete the 25 per cent sale to INEOS and Mike Keegan (Daily Mail) reports that it may not be in time to make an impact in the upcoming January window. But it seems the end is in sight.
We have to be patient with CEO, director of football and many other positions. Glazers and INEOS (if the deal goes through) will have to decide whether to move on, move on or redeploy the likes of Richard Arnold and John Murtaugh. The individuals in question will also have their own preferences. My guess is that they want to continue the work they started later and believe in it, but we don’t know for sure yet.
In terms of outside directors of football, I’m hearing a lot of talk in the industry about Michael Edwards, Paul Mitchell and other names have also come up in various media reports. Nowadays it is difficult to know what is credible and what is not. In fact, no firm decisions have been made.
You can imagine that Sir Dave Brailsford from INEOS will play an important role in deciding what the rest of the setup will look like (the Financial Times published more details on this recently).
David C asks: With the news that Everton are under investigation for FFP breaches, are the chances of a points deduction at Goodison growing?
Ornstein: There is no indication yet if Everton will be fined or how much they will be fined. So chances are they are not growing or shrinking. Today (Thursday) there are reports that the case will be completed by next Thursday and a decision will be made later.
Everton feel they have been working with the Premier League to fully comply with the rules, so this appears to have surprised them and they will be hoping to clear their name.
Some of their rivals have the opposite view and would like to see them punished with such heavy financial losses.
Elias K asked: I was wondering if there were any upgrades to Jadon Sancho’s loan back to Borussia Dortmund in the winter window, or is there anything Dortmund has in general? Thank you!
Ornstein: I think Dortmund will be one of the clubs looking to land Sancho after the collapse of Ten Hag and before the winter transfer window closes. But obviously, nothing happened at that time and I have no knowledge of them wanting to re-sign him in January.
While you never know how things will develop, it’s not something I’ve personally heard of following.
I’m sure there will be many more reports on this in the coming weeks.
Callum O asked: Hi David, It seems to be a weekly thing that I ask about Everton’s takeover but there seems to be a lot of news coming out every now and then. Have you heard anything about the reports yesterday that the takeover deal may fall through?
Ornstein: Keep asking, Callum! I have no information on that outcome at this stage. There are well-documented concerns about the proposed deal, but it will be down to the Premier League, the FA and the Financial Services Authority to carry out their checks and due diligence (as required) rather than reporting from us in the media.
We know that 777 and we are sure that Everton will pass but again, it is not their decision. I believe 777 have now loaned Everton approximately £60million, which will be converted into equity if permission is granted.
He has been working closely with Everton on day-to-day operations in anticipation of becoming the new owner, but only time will tell.
Shaka M asked: Were the reports of Bukayo Saka’s Achilles injury true?
Ornstein: Saka, like most players, always carries a knock and that’s the result of some pretty rough treatment. However, he almost always finds himself on match days and excelling.
I don’t know if he’s carried a big case and crossed his fingers – for him, for the club and for the country – that’s how it is. He looks like a good player, professional and personable.
Finnegan H asked: Any news on a new contract for Kaoru Mitoma?
ORNSTEIN: I don’t have an update. Apparently, it’s on Brighton’s agenda, but I’m told initial reports are premature.
Calvin L asks: Do you have any complaints about Andoni Iraola’s position as head coach as Bournemouth have had a difficult start to the season?
Ornstein: I’ve heard a few grumbles in the industry about Calvin, but nothing more at this point.
Owner Bill Foley has put up quite a bit of cash and expects them to finish 19th over 20 for that investment. But it’s still Christmas, and I don’t like this hire-and-fire mentality. Time is needed, especially for a coach in a new league and country, another language and another.
I really like what I see, read and hear about Iraola – but of course, this kind of investigation needs results (and fast) if it is to be removed from us and especially from the bosses.
And finally, Ryan W asks: Does Harry Maguire’s comments about the fans shouting that they are not real fans make it more of an issue, or do you believe it will snowball into a bigger issue now?
Ornstein: I don’t think it should snowball. Don’t boo your own players is my personal opinion. It will be good!
(Top photo: Alex Livesey/Getty Images)