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Arsenal’s ‘work in progress’ going very well

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When Unai Emery first arrived at Arsenal, he was of the opinion that many players were complacent, too comfortable and living the life but not giving 100% to the fans or the club. That has now changed. Emery works 12 hours a day and he expects maximum effort from the players. A sign of things to come happened on July 23 when the Arsenal’s plane landed in Singapore’s Changi airport en route to their pre-season tour. Instead of relaxing after the long 15-hour flight, Emery told his players to drop off their bags at the hotel and report for training. The players were shocked. In very hot conditions and jet-lagged he made the players work hard.

Emery has phased out fruit and energy drinks, banned alcohol and insists that players eat together. Training sessions are longer and more intense and he is working the team harder during matches where they now run an extra two kilometres on average compared with Arsene Wenger’s tactics.

Emery concentrates on analysing everything from the previous match to the next opponents. He puts particular emphasis on the small things, finer points of the game and plays video after video of opponents, pointing out their strengths and weaknesses. He spends hours putting all this information together. He has also made 3pm an intense training time because it replicates kick-off time on a Saturday.

Training often takes place at the Emirates unlike Wenger, who never trained at the stadium. Every week starts the same with a 60-minute video of the previous match highlighting every player’s contribution, the positives and the negatives. Emery often criticises a player in front of the rest of the team. He behaves with the authority of a schoolmaster and backs up his criticism with video evidence so there is no room for argument. Emery has one-on-one meetings with each player but they are very formal and not a casual chat.

Emery is a good guy and he cares for his players but he distances himself from them like a figurehead boss rather than one of the guys. You feel the players should be calling him Sir! There is little time for favourites and Emery names his team only a few hours before kick-off so the selected players feel elated that they are playing. Emery learned a hard lesson at Paris Saint Germain where he was bossed around by superstars like Neymar, who called the shots and he has clearly avoided this at Arsenal, where he has kept world superstar Mesut Ozil very firmly in his place.

Four excellent positives have come from Emery’s first few months in charge — Lucas Torriera has been outstanding in midfield, Arsenal’s new rising star Matteo Guendouzi is a superb discovery and the two most improved players are Rob Holding and Alex Iwobi. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is full of confidence and banging in the goals and he is supported by Alexandre Lacazette. It is still work in progress but the way ahead looks very positive.

The sleeping giant awakes

I wished Ole Gunner Solskjaer the best of luck last week but it’s luck he did not need. His players have delivered for him with two emphatic wins. Manchester United ran around like a team released from their shackles in both matches. “Go out and play your game, play for yourselves and play to enjoy your football,” said interim manager Solskjaer as his players left the dressing room. And play they did and enjoyed themselves. United are focused, committed and look like a close family. Whatever happens from now on this season, United have to thank Solskjaer for bringing the Reds alive again. Several of the players told me that Solskjaer had instructed them to play higher up the pitch, to pass forward and not sideways so they pegged opponents back. “Let them come to you,” said the manager. Matic pulls the strings in midfield with Pogba, Rashford is direct, Martial is now on another planet and Lingard runs and runs! Martial was the man-of-the match in the first game and Pogba the second whereas under Mourinho both failed to impress. In the dressing room after both games, it was like a New Year’s Eve party, full of cheering, laughing and singing. And in the middle of it all was Solskjaer! He is a much loved United superstar and now the next generation of players also look up to him and the fans are already singing his name. Alexis Sanchez has been to talk with Solskjaer and explained that he wants to give his very best to United now that Mourinho has gone. I am told that Solskjaer will draft him back into the team so he can show his class. What a difference a week makes in football. United have now notched up two wins under the Norwegian with Paul Pogba showing how brilliantly he can play by scoring twice. Solskjaer and Pogba are becoming very close and the midfielder is leading his line effectively. Sitting at home in his very expensive Central London house, what must Mourinho have felt to see his team playing for the new manager on a different level to anything produced by him this season? Jose didn’t want to talk about anything and wasn’t answering his phone. He is just enjoying the Christmas break with his family and will then decide what the future holds for him.

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Poch is gagged at press conference

Manchester United have given Spurs’ manager, Mauricio Pochettino, a big headache for the start of 2019. United want Pochettino as their new manager to take over from Ole Gunner Solskjaer at the end of this season but that could change if United keep on winning. I was at the Spurs press conference after they had beaten Arsenal 2-0 in a Carabao Cup match last week and it was chaotic. All the questions were directed at Pochettino and asking: “Are you going to Manchester United? Pochettino was the calmest person in the room but not their Head of Communications, Simon Felstein. He kept stopping questions which addressed the issue of his manager leaving for United and at one point asked for the TV cameras to be switched off. The after-match question times are always filmed. At one point Pochettino touched Felstein on the arm and said, “You are the star of this question time not me!” Spurs’ chairman Daniel Levy is determined to hang on to his manager but United are equally determined to poach him so the New Year will be an interesting battle.

Henry eyeing Fabrigas

Monaco manager Thierry Henry has identified the answer to his horrendously bad managerial start at the French club. Cesc Fabrigas, who is out of favour with manager Mauricio Sarri at Chelsea, is his target. Henry has won only three of 13 matches and Monaco are 19th in Ligue 1. Henry is to approach Chelsea in the January transfer period to see if a deal can be done. Cesc is unhappy with his game time at Chelsea. He has only six months left on his contract and the club are dithering about renewing it. Players reaching 30 are normally only given a one year contract. Cesc and Henry were teammates in the successful Arsenal team in 2004-7 and he has also worked with Monaco’s Sporting Director Michael Emanalo at Chelsea. Blue’s defender Gary Cahill is also on Henry’s radar because he too is out of the Chelsea team and Henry wants to strengthen his defence. However, Cahill lives near to me and I know he will take some persuading as he has not prepared himself or his family for a move to a club outside the UK.

Benitez praises Rondon

Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez believes that striker Salomon Rondon is the answer to many of his problems. Despite Rondon’s physical presence, ruthless finishing and hold up play, Benitez thinks he can still improve his goal tally by getting his wingers to cross the ball more into the box instead of dribbling and passing into the penalty area. I can reveal that Rafa has been practising that on the training field this week. January will see them buy better players according to Benitez, who has been assured by owner Mike Ashley that the money will be made available. He has, however, said that before and let the manager down. If that happens again, I expect Rafa to leave.

Palace in Batshuayi talks

News from Crystal Palace is that manager Roy Hodgson thinks he can solve the club’s lack of goals problem. Palace regularly rely on Wilfried Zaha to provide both the assists and goals but he is often injured due to the way he plays. Like Eden Hazard at Chelsea, skills and speed are his main weapons but this type of play often invites heavy tackles from under pressure defenders and the result is an injury. I understand that Hodgson has contacted Chelsea for the on loan striker Michy Batshuayi who is finding life at Spanish club Valencia not to his liking. Hodgson wants Chelsea to end Batshuayi’s loan and do another deal with Palace so he can play in January. Hodgson has also sent his scouts to watch 36-year-old Bournemouth winger Jermain Defoe who is finding it difficult to get a game at the south coast club.

Thank you mum…

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola is delighted with the form of Gabriel Jesus and he puts much of it down to the Brazilian’s mother. Gabriel has no wife or current girlfriend but he is very close to his mother, Vera Lucia, who raised him and his three brothers on her own after their father walked out and was later killed in a motorcycle accident. This week, Jesus has spent Christmas with his family in Manchester where his mother cooked the traditional lunch. I noticed, when City were training, that Jesus has a tattoo on his right arm picturing his mother and she runs his life for him despite the striker being 21 and a multi-millionaire. He brought her and his brothers over from Brazil to help him settle in the UK. He has also learnt English which Guardiola appreciates. Guardiola puts much of the striker’s success down to his mother running his life efficiently and Jesus presented her with the match ball when he scored a hat-trick against Shakhtar Donesk last month.

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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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