Royals are not amused by flattery from West Ham

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The Independent Online

"Everyone loves flattery; and when you come to Royalty you should lay it on with a trowel." Quite so, but West Ham's directors would no doubt be quick to point out that Matthew Arnold, who allegedly made that observation, was a Rugby man.

Modern football has its own order of things and the Royals certainly were not impressed when West Ham "flattered" their manager, Alan Pardew, by inviting the Reading manager to discuss the prospect of switching to a similar role at Upton Park.

Reading's chairman, John Madejski, responded to the Hammers' request to speak to his club's manager with a simple "No", even though Pardew said he had been flattered by the club's interest in him. As is the way of the world these days, Pardew responded through his agent, Barry Neville, who said: "Alan would have liked the chance to talk to West Ham United. He is flattered by their interest. They are a big club and he would have liked to speak to them."

As far as Madejski was concerned, losing a manager who has demonstrated last season that he could take the club to the verge of the Premiership and, this season, perhaps into it, was out of the question.

So, according to Arsène Wenger, is Arsenal abandoning their move to Ashburton Grove and sharing the new Wembley stadium instead, possibly with Tottenham.

The Ashburton Grove project has run into financial problems, but talk of giving up on that move and opting for Wembley is a non-starter. The club's French manager said: "There has always been talk about that 'Wembley' but the only priority is to go to Ashburton Grove and get the finance right, that would be the ideal situation. If that doesn't happen we will have to find another solution and I think at the moment the only one is to go back to Highbury. Wembley would be out of the question."

Arsenal did experiment with playing their Champions' League fixtures at the old Wembley, but that was not particularly successful and as it was Wenger who pressed for a return to Highbury he is not likely to be enthusiastic about using the new national venue when it is completed.

Chelsea's team rebuilding has been completed, until January at least, and now they will pose a threat in the Premiership title race, according to Wenger.

At the Uefa élite coaches forum in Nyon, Switzerland, the Frenchman said: "I believe Chelsea are a force. People tend to say 'no, no, no, no', but I say they finished fourth in the League and have spent more than £100m. You cannot say they will not be a force - all their players are good. They will be a major threat in both the league and the Champions' League."

Arsenal have begun the season with four wins out of four and Wenger said that had demonstrated the players' desire to prove themselves after being written off in the close season.

"In the summer we were out of it completely and it made us a little bit more hungry, more eager, more keen to start well," he said. "We have a good stability as we have had four years now with the core of the same players and we want to show we can fight and compete, and that's why we have started well even though they were all difficult games. I didn't speak to the players about any target - we just wanted to start well."

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