Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “You will never get any help out of me again. I gave you access in South Africa and I shouldn’t have given you access. It won’t happen again. From now on, no matter how many miles you travel to get an interview, you won’t get one.” – Sir Alex Ferguson.
Runner-up: “Kevin has had a great break [in California], is feeling refreshed and wants to return. He knows what it would mean for all the fans and he wants a fresh crack at the club he loves. Of course, new owners have to come in but he has been pleased to see his name mentioned by prospective buyers. He is now just waiting to see what happens with things.” – a source close to Kevin Keegan.
Today’s overview: The commentators find themselves split over how well the Premier League sides performed in last night’s Champions League matches, with Arsenal and Manchester United (particularly Dimitar Berbatov) getting mixed reviews.
On the Gunners, the Guardian’s scribes seem unwilling to let Wenger forget about Saturday’s defeat to Hull. Accordingly, Barney Ronay opts to focus on the Gunners weaknesses at the back, particularly from the high ball (“there were signs of the kind of aerial incompetence exploited most recently by Hull’s Daniel Cousin here on Saturday”), with Kevin McCarra adding “Wenger should continue fretting about his centre-backs, but their chief deficiency is in the air and Porto lacked a striker to intimidate the captain William Gallas as Daniel Cousin had.”
Not everyone takes such a sour approach to Arsenal’s 4-0 drumming of Porto however, Henry Winter praising the fact that “no fears inhibited Arsenal, no doubts crept into the thinking of Walcott, who led the charge.”it was Arsenal at their best after a few initial hiccups,” and
Bucking the trend of celebrating Dimitar Berbatov’s first goals for Manchester United, Daniel Taylor points out that until Berbatov scored, the Bulgarian (as opposed to his teammates) was having a stinker. Such a negative appraisal ran contrary to the stances adopted by Mark Ogden and Ian Herbert.
There is much debate over the future at Spurs, with the excellent Sandy Macaskill, who chronicles how Spurs have sacked three of the club’s last six full-time managers after bad starts to the season.Experience suggests that if Tottenham even half-suspect that they may go down, they will ditch Ramos without compunction.” The baton is picked up by
Attempting to be the voice of reason, but arguably found twisting history to suit his own ends, Dan Silver constructs his argument for why Spurs need to hold onto Ramos – “In all reality, Spurs wonâ€™t finish in the top six this year, but neither will they be relegated. As such, Ramos should be given the rest of the season to sort his side out and prove his mettle.” And taking a more global approach, Rob Hughes looks at both Newcastle and Spurs, two of the largest clubs that remain in English hands who are both struggling to adapt to foreign management structures.
In the best of the rest, Rob Bagchi puts forward the case for why the Toon should have appointed David O’Leary, Henry Winter reports on the latest FIFA and UEFA initiative to help combat poor refereeing decisions with the introduction of two extra referees, David Conn speaks to Simon Jordon to report on how millionaires are now priced out of football by the billionaires, while Jerome Taylor reports on the European Commission and Uefa’s joint venture encouraging obese youngsters to shed pounds through healthy eating.
Finally, in today’s extract in the Daily Mail from David Davies’ new autobiography, attentions are focused on Terry Venables’ management of England.
Despite Arsenal putting four past Porto last night, Barney Ronay (Guardian) opts to focus on the Gunners weaknesses at the back, particularly from the high ball. “Before the game ArsÃ¨ne Wenger had spoken about the need for his young team to grow. In the case of Kolo Toure and William Gallas the concerns are less about adolescent mental frailty than the matter of feet and inches… despite Arsenal’s growing dominance, there were signs of the kind of aerial incompetence exploited most recently by Hull’s Daniel Cousin here on Saturday… Tonight showed that their firepower remains undiminished. Yet, in glimpses, there was evidence of that persistent defensive weakness too. The trip to Sunderland this weekend will surely provide rather more of a test than an overwhelmed, out-passed and ultimately discouraged Porto were able to muster.”
Kevin McCarra (Guardian) also manages to highlight Arsenal’s lack of aerial ability in his post match report from the Arsenal’s drumming of Porto. “ArsÃ¨ne Wenger’s team has put itself clear at the top of Group G in the Champions League, but they are not utterly beyond criticism. When this game was goalless there was trepidation at a corner kick, as if there had been a flashback to Saturday’s events. GaÃ«l Clichy cleared the prodded effort with which Lisandro might have put Porto ahead… Wenger should continue fretting about his centre-backs, but their chief deficiency is in the air and Porto lacked a striker to intimidate the captain William Gallas as Daniel Cousin had.”
A far more positive appraisal of Arsenal’s performance is delivered by The Times’ It was Arsenal at their best after a few initial hiccups and the ease with which they brushed aside the Portuguese champions augurs well for their hopes of reaching the knockout stages. Victory took Arsenal to the top of their group and stretched their unbeaten home run in the competition, encompassing Highbury and the Emirates, to 23 matches.”
Similarly, Henry Winter is full of praise for Wenger’s charges in the Telegraph, picking Theo Walcott out for special mention. “Portuguese Men of War in their Dragao home, pacifists abroad, the visitors were awful, particularly in a defence raided time and again by Arsenal, for whom Theo Walcott was at his electric best. As well as the emphatic result, the excellent performance and the clean sheet, what will also have delighted Arsene Wenger was the sheer variety of his teamâ€™s goals… No fears inhibited Arsenal, no doubts crept into the thinking of Walcott, who led the charge. The England international was full of running, taking the game to Portoâ€™s defence from the off, constantly flying at and past a rugged Argentine in Nelson Benitez, who immediately sought to clip Walcottâ€™s heels. And failed. ”
In Daniel Taylor’s match report from the Aalborg-Manchester United game, the Guardian’s scribe points out the until Berbatov scored, the Bulgarian (as opposed to his teammates) was having a stinker. “United should have had six, maybe even more. Ronaldo, in particular, will wonder how his own performance did not include a goal. He and Nani shimmered with menace on the wings, Rooney was alert and impressive and Ryan Giggs, Scholes’s replacement, delivered a masterclass in the centre of midfield… Berbatov, at this point, was the one player who was barely contributing, his performance in the first half incorporating a bewildering number of misplaced passes. Ten minutes into the second half, however, his United career was given a lift-off. He was helped by some atrocious defending, Andreas Johansson playing a pass across the edge of the penalty area and Augustinussen allowing the ball to spin off his toe. It sat up nicely for Berbatov and he fired a right-foot volley past Zaza.”
Not so according the Telegraph’s Mark Ogden, who believes Berbatov put in an “impressive” shift for the reigning champions of Europe. “Berbatov, whose double strike will go some way to silencing those who have questioned his ability to adapt to the unique demands that come with performing for United, produced his most eye-catching display since arriving from Tottenham as United coasted to the three points.”
Occupying the middle ground, Ian Herbert (Independent) offers constructive praise to Berbatov. “Berbatov’s sheepish response to his first volleyed goal was perhaps as much a reflection of the dire defensive mishap which handed it to him as an acknowledgment that he should have opened his account a full hour earlier instead of firing wide a gift-wrapped chance from five yards. Truth told, the man in black gloves was woollier than he might have been at times last night. But the 27-year-old’s second strike, an athletic scissor kick from Cristiano Ronaldo’s chipped cross was the moment that Ferguson has been waiting for since paying Â£30m for him.”
Ahead of tonight’s fixture, the Guardian’s Jonathan Wilson looks at CFR Cluj, the Chelsea of Transylvania. “Yes, they have money, and yes they have a team packed with Brazilians, Argentines and Portuguese, and that perhaps dims the fairy-tale lustre. But it was still something astonishing for them to win their first match in the group stage, beating Roma 2-1 in the Stadio Olimpico with two goals from Juan Emmanuel Culio, one of six summer signings â€“ none of them Romanian. What made it all the more extraordinary was that their coach, the Italian Maurizio Trombetta, was taking charge of the side for only the second time after replacing Ioan Andone, who was sacked following a stutter in league form. Moreover Tombetta’s previous experience as a coach had previously extended no higher than the Italian sixth flight.”
The excellentExperience suggests that if Tottenham even half-suspect that they may go down, they will ditch Ramos without compunction. Fear is the key here, just as it is in so many corners of the Barclays Premier League. On the face of it, this is the best and brightest domestic football competition in the world, a convention of all the talents, one that has taken as dry a product as Wigan Athletic versus Manchester City and made it not only acceptable to the watching neutral, but also positively scintillating. It is one hell of an achievement, yet it is built on the jangling nerve endings of frightened men. Fear pervades the top, the bottom and all points in between. Fear of failure, fear of disappointing, fear of falling out, fear of not getting back; fear of being unable to meet the huge financial demands of maintaining a place in the Premier League or Champions League next season.”
Also turning up the heat on Juande Ramos is the Telegraph’s Sandy Macaskill, who chronicles how Spurs have sacked three of the club’s last six full-time managers after bad starts to the season. “Christian Gross In the hot seat: 1997-1998 – Gross lasted only nine months at Tottenham, with Alan Sugar sacking him after three games of the 1998-99 season. Although Sugar blamed the media for sullying Gross’ reputation, the fact that the Swiss’ side won just nine out of 27 games, and let in six goals in two league games (against Wimbledon and Sheffield Wednesday) might have had something to do with it.”
Attempting to be the voice of reason, but arguably found twisting history to suit his own ends, the Daily Mirror’s Dan Silver constructs his argument for why Spurs need to hold onto Ramos. “Spurs havenâ€™t won significant silverware since their FA Cup triumph of 1991 â€“ a couple of Carling Cup Final victories, one of which Ramos masterminded, notwithstanding. In the 18 years since, theyâ€™ve had nine full time managers (not to mention six caretakers), just about every one of whom was heralded a hero on his hiring and derided as a dunce on his departure not too long after. The only one who looked like achieving anything close to the Champions League success that a lot of Spurs supporters deem to be their God-given right was Martin Jol. And yet despite steering the team to two fifth place finishes, he was run out of town last year. Itâ€™s a scenario symptomatic of the malaise that afflicts almost all fans of fair to middling Premier League teams. They want â€“ expect, even â€“ success, and they want it yesterday… In all reality, Spurs wonâ€™t finish in the top six this year, but neither will they be relegated. As such, Ramos should be given the rest of the season to sort his side out and prove his mettle.”
Rob Hughes (IHT) looks at both Newcastle and Spurs, who stand together as two of the largest clubs that remain in English hands, yet both sides are struggling at the foot of the table whilst adopting to foreign management structures.
The Guardian’s Rob Bagchi looks at the appointment of Joe Kinnear at Newcastle and concludes that the Magpies made a mistake by not choosing David O’Leary. “In his first two years at Elland Road he proved himself an astute coach, creating a vibrant, attacking side. And he had a knack of pushing the right buttons with the fans, from executing the “Leeds salute” to packing the side with youth-team graduates and sending them out to play a fearless brand of football full of vigour and verve which culminated in an exhilarating journey to the Champions League semi-final… In his valedictory address Ashley presented the club with a stark choice between investment in infrastructure and instant gratification. O’Leary has been down both paths but he was once a master of exploiting the resources available to him to galvanise an average team, which sounds like a perfect job description for the interim post. He has many faults and enemies but by going for Kinnear instead, Ashley has denied a man wiser for his experience the chance of rehabilitating both himself and a much-ridiculed club.”
Henry Winter (Telegraph) reports on the latest FIFA and UEFA initiative to help combat poor refereeing decisions, with the introduction of two extra referees, as opposed to video technology. “As stakes become higher, games faster and incidents more quickly analysed by more cameras, the refereeing debate has spread so wide that Fifa and Uefa have formed a joint working group to â€œexperiment into the concept of two additional refereesâ€™â€™. Loath to bring in any form of technology, a stance confirmed at the International FA Board summit at Gleneagles, Fifa and Uefa hope that giving the referee â€œtwo extra pairs of eyesâ€™â€™ will prevent penalty-box blunders. While the linesmen focus on offside, the fourth official polices the dugouts, these miked-up newcomers will be behind each goal to detect whether the ball crossed the line as in the ‘Goal That Never Wasâ€™ for Reading against Watford.”
Speaking with Crystal Palace chairman Simon Jordon, David Conn (Guardian) reports on how millionaires are now priced out of football by the billionaires. “During Jordan’s time in English football, the ownership of its clubs has been transformed. What was once a sport controlled by a band of domestic millionaires, of whom Palace’s Ron Noades was an archetype, has become a billionaires’ playground. Premier League clubs have become honeypots for the international rich list and the Championship is increasingly peopled by owners considerably richer than Jordan. Wolverhampton Wanderers, who are top of the league, are run by the property developer Steve Morgan; Queens Park Rangers, numbering Lakshmi Mittal and Bernie Ecclestone among their shareholders, had the world’s richest owners until Sheikh Mansour bought Manchester City; Bristol City, Reading, Sheffield United and Nottingham Forest – owned by the venture capitalist Nigel Doughty – are owned by men of great wealth. For a man of Jordan’s means, that makes life in the Championship seem grim.”
Jerome Taylor (Independent) reports on the European Commission and Uefa’s joint venture encouraging obese youngsters to shed pounds through healthy eating. “In a bid to win over their young fans’ stomachs, the Eat for Goals! picturebook features recipes and cheerful quotes from 13 of Europe’s top footballers. A spokesperson for the book said the footballers had been asked to come up with their own healthyÂ suggestions. Recipes include salmon grilled with cloves and served with vegetables by Real Madrid’s Ruud van Nistelrooy, and pasta Ã la siciliana by Fabio Cannavaro. Thierry Henry recommends rice cubana and Miroslav Klose opts for a ‘power omelette’.”
The Independent’s Martyn Ziegler reports on the problems facing Polish football, who are due to host the 2012 European Chgampionships, after the “Polish Football Association was suspended on Sunday by the sports ministry for allegedly failing to address corruption, and the government has appointed an administrator to run the organisation. But both Uefa, football’s European governing body, and Fifa, the world body, say that they will not recognise the administrator because both take a firm line that there should be no political interference in national associations.”
Finally, in today’s extract in the Daily Mail from David Davies’ new autobiography, attentions are focused on Terry Venables’ management on England. “Several people inside football simply didn’t feel he was a fit person to be England coach, regardless of what was or wasn’t proven against him. Terry divided people, no one was ambivalent about him. For England to be caught in the war between Alan Sugar and Venables was a constant frustration. Embarrassing to the FA, it was a time-consuming diversion from trying to give the players the best chance of success. One day in 1995, after another barrage of headlines detailing the messy breakdown of Venables’ business relationship with Sugar, I’d had enough. I went into Millichip’s office. ‘I want to try to sort this out,’ I said. ‘Go ahead,’ Sir Bert replied. I called on the conciliation services of the CBI, run by Howard Davies, a good friend. Howard investigated possible ways to ease the tension between Venables and Sugar, but even the CBI’s skills were not enough. Venables and Sugar remained at war.”