Comment & analaysis round up
Quote of the day: “Perhaps we were a bit behind them in terms of sharpness and match fitness but that is no excuse. In the first half we had too many unforced errors. We needed to be more dynamic, show more personality, and to try to drive the play. We need to get up to speed before the weekend and hopefully this game will let us know where we are at and what we need to do.” â€“ Mark Hughes.
Runner-up: “He [Gareth Barry] was in the right frame of mind and wanted to play. Nothing would have stopped him so that is pleasing. I have no idea what will happen between now and the end of August. He knew the consequences of playing tonight so the decision was very much his.” â€“ Martin Oâ€™Neill.
Today’s overview: The most intriguing story of the day comes from Jeremy Wilson in the Daily Telegraph: “A range of new research has shown that the credit crunch is having an impact from the boardrooms controlled by billionaire owners down to the loyal fans who provide the foundation for every club. ‘Across the country we are getting the same message: the credit crunch is hitting football â€“ and the effect is likely to be even greater next year,’ said Professor Tom Cannon of the University of Buckingham’s Business School.
But, as always you wouldnâ€™t know that there are any financial constraints for Premier League teams if you take in all the stories leading the backpages this morning.
Chelsea lead the way, with The Times claiming that “Chelsea are determined to complete the world-record signing of KakÃ¡, but they will have to wait until next year to do so.â€ And in a supplementary article Gabriel Marcotti suggests â€œAfter six years of holding back, the big clubs look ready to pull the trigger on the kinds of mega-deals that thus far have existed only in Football.”
The Blues continue to be linked with a 23 million pound swoop for Robinho and even a raid for Manchester City’s 18-year-old striker Daniel Sturridge. All this comes after Adrian Mutu was forced to pay the biggest fine ever handed down to a footballer to his former club.
It was only days ago that the papers were dead certain that Dimitar Berbatov would be a Manchester United player in time for their opener against Newcastle on Sunday, now the good news for United is that Wayne Rooney will be fit but Berbartov could be on his way to Barcelona.
With the new season just a day away Glenn Moore in the Independent provides a club-by-club guide to Premier League season 2008/9.
And The Guardian continue their analysis of every Premier League Team. Rob Smyth writes of Spurs: “Spurs are blessed with a plethora of attacking talent, and if they can keep their defenders injury-free, they could be unlikely title contenders.” And he also previews West Brom’s return to the top flight. “West Brom are certainly the most reliable of the three newcomers. They look good, too, but that doesn’t mean they won’t end their big night out going back whence they came with only Stoke and Hull for company.”
Finally, two other articles of interest include Jonathan Wilson (Daily Telegraph) on Premier League referees, Wilson writes of “The Impossible Job” – refereeing a Premier League match. And The Independent include a quirky feature in their football coverage today: “Becoming a professional footballer is every boy’s dream, including 26-year-old writer and Sunday league amateur Ben Welch. So how does he cope playing for League One side Swindon Town on their pre-season tour of Austria as they take on former European champions?â€
According to Jeremy Wilson (Daily Telegraph) “A range of new research has shown that the credit crunch is having an impact from the boardrooms controlled by billionaire owners down to the loyal fans who provide the foundation for every club. ‘Across the country we are getting the same message: the credit crunch is hitting football â€“ and the effect is likely to be even greater next year,’ said Professor Tom Cannon of the University of Buckingham’s Business School. The most obvious immediate impact has been on the amount spent in the Premier League transfer market, which is poised to show its first yearly drop for more than five years. Indeed, with just over two weeks until the summer window closes, the clubs have so far spent Â£300 million on transfers compared with a record-breaking Â£530 million for the full period last year.”
All the newspapers report on Adrian Mutu and the compensation he has to pay to Chelsea. Guardian: “Adrian Mutu can finally count the true cost of his positive drug test at Chelsea after Fifa yesterday ordered him to pay Â£13.8m in damages to his former club. It is the biggest fine ever handed down to a football player. The world game’s governing body calculated the compensation according to the value of the remaining period on a contract that was cancelled by Chelsea in October 2004, after he tested positive for cocaine. Mutu, now 29, is almost certain to appeal. He served a seven-month ban and paid a Â£20,000 fine at the time.”
Matt Hughes has the lead story in The Times that “Chelsea are determined to complete the world-record signing of KakÃ¡, but they will have to wait until next year to do so. Chelsea have not given up hope of completing the world-record signing of KakÃ¡ from AC Milan, but have resigned themselves to having to wait until next year to secure his signature. The club view the pursuit of the Brazilian as a long-term project, similar to the one that led to them luring Andriy Shevchenko from the San Siro two years ago, and, after being rejected this summer, will make a renewed attempt to secure their dream signing in 12 months’ time. The Times has learnt that Chelsea are working with several leading agents on a deal that could take more than a year to come to fruition. Milan have rejected several polite inquiries this summer and insisted that KakÃ¡ is not for sale at any price, but they indicated that they may be willing to do business in the future.”
And in a seperate article in The Times, Gabriel Marcotti argues that “Chelsea have laid the groundwork to move decisively for KakÃ¡ next summer… But perhaps times have changed. Perhaps the marginal impact of a superstar today is perceived to be far greater than it has been in recent years, not least because the globalised pie has grown and, at the highest levels, image rights are far more valuable than at any time in the past. After six years of holding back, the big clubs look ready to pull the trigger on the kinds of mega-deals that thus far have existed only in Football.”
The Sun claim that “Chelsea will lodge a new Â£23million bid for Robinho, who has told Real Madrid: â€˜I must goâ€™. The Brazilian superstar is even ready to strike in a bid to engineer a move to Stamford Bridge. SunSport can reveal the striker has told Real supremo Ramon Calderon he wants to join the Blues. And if he does not get his way, he will refuse to play in Realâ€™s game with Valencia this weekend His agent Wagner Ribeiro met Madrid officials yesterday. But Calderon rejected the 24-year-oldâ€™s plea, telling him he was a major part of their plans and that Chelsea must pay Â£30m if they want him.”
And the Daily Mirror report that Chelsea are also interested in Manchester City teenager Daniel Sturridge. “Chelsea are ready to raid Manchester City with an Â£8million move for teenage striker Daniel Sturridge – and make him the new Didier Drogba. Roman Abramovich’s club have the cash to snatch the 18-yearold prospect who has been on their wish list for a couple of seasons, and a three-man delegation watched him playing last night. The Stamford Bridge outfit know City have to wheel and deal to bring in new players for Mark Hughes and this could be the perfect time to try and snatch Sturridge. Birmingham-born Sturridge isn’t 19 until next month but is already shaping up as a star of the future.”
Ian Herbert (Independent) has an update on the Dimitar Berbatov transfer. “Berbatov trained in London yesterday and the prospects of him being at Old Trafford in time for Sunday’s curtain-raiser against Newcastle United do appear to be receding, since the paperwork would have to be completed by 5pm today. Though Ramos resolutely refused to discuss him or his future, he acknowledged that it was a time of uncertainty. Spurs have said Berbatov will not go before a replacement is found and that quest is far from complete. United are working on a deal for Berbatov and Spurs’ belief that Barcelona are also monitoring the 27-year-old could move negotiations along on the eve of the Premier League season.”
Antony Kastrinakis (The Sun) reports that Spurs would rather sell Dimitar Berbatov to Barcelona than Manchester United. “SunSport can reveal the Spanish giants have told Spurs they are ready to make a move for the wantaway striker. United remain favourites to land the Bulgarian â€” but only if they meet Spursâ€™ Â£30million asking price. So far, United have not budged from Â£25m and, if they do not up their bid, Spurs will listen to Barca. And they would be far more willing to reach a compromise deal with them, than negotiate with United.”
Many of the papers report that Wayne Rooney will now in fact be fit for Manchester United’s opener on Sunday. The Sun: “Wayne Rooney has won his fight to play in Manchester Unitedâ€™s league opener on Sunday. But crocked Michael Owen is OUT of Newcastleâ€™s line-up at Old Trafford. Rooney, 22, was hit by a virus during Unitedâ€™s pre-season trip to Nigeria. The England forward began training again on Monday, though, and is fit for the big kick-off after putting himself through tough double training sessions every day this week.”
Following their embarrassing defeat last night in the UEFA Cup, Daniel Taylor in the Guardian reports that “Manchester City will return to Blackburn Rovers with an improved offer of around Â£15m for Roque Santa Cruz. Even that is not guaranteed to persuade Blackburn to sell the Paraguay striker although the fact City are able to offer such a large sum will encourage the club’s supporters that Thaksin Shinawatra still has the money to compete at the higher end of the transfer market.”
Jason Burt in the Independent reports that City are now after two strikers. “Manchester City are to test Blackburn Rovers’ resolve to hold on to Roque Santa Cruz by increasing their offer for the 26-year-old striker to around Â£15m â€“ but, at the same time, are understood to have launched a Â£10m bid for Real Zaragoza’s Diego Milito. The moves represent a real statement of intent from City, who are desperate to land a striker â€“ given their injury crisis with Benjani Mwaruwari and Darius Vassell out while Jo is on Olympic duty â€“ within the next few days. That is unlikely to happen before their first Premier League game on Sunday away to Aston Villa.”
The double act of Darren Lewis and David McDonnell in the Daily Mirror suggest that Spurs and Manchester City are battling it out for Roque Santa Cruz. “Blackburn are bracing themselves for a bidding war between Manchester City and Tottenham, with the London club set to move in for striker Roque Santa Cruz. Rovers turned down a Â£12million bid from City for the 26-year-old Paraguayan marksman yesterday and the frustrated player is now ready to ask for a transfer. Spurs are waiting to pounce, with White Hart Lane boss Juande Ramos a huge admirer.”
Jon Barbuti (BBC) analyses whether Arsenal can win some silverware this season. “But will that challenge come this year or do Manchester United and Chelsea remain a class apart? ‘I think they will finish third,’ said [Lee] Dixon. ‘It pains me to say it because I want us to challenge and win it but I just feel we’re a little bit short.’ Arsenal’s wait for silverware, any silverware, might go on a little while longer.”
David Hytner (Guardian) features quotes from Emmanuel Adebayor, the Togolese striker said: “A lot of people talk about us and say we play good football, good football is good but we didn’t win anything [last season] and you play to win. What we are going to keep in our heads is that playing [good] football is good but sometimes you have to be tough on the pitch to win a game. We have learned a lot of things. Sometimes you have to be dirty to win some games. Against Twente, we didn’t play good football, we certainly didn’t play our best – but we won 2-0 and that’s what it’s all about. Sometimes you have to forget about playing beautiful football and just make sure you win.”
Ian Herbert in the Independent reflects on Liverpool’s “disjointed” performance against Standard Liege. “You can’t say they’re not trying. Fernando Torres and Robbie Keane even took up seats together on Liverpool’s flight home from Liege on Wednesday night, attempting perhaps to develop some of the telepathy which will be fundamental to their side’s hopes of progress this season. The combination of pigeon Liverpudlian and broad Dublin would have made for a curious conversation but the two certainly had some talking to do. A goalless draw was considerably less than Liverpool deserved from the Belgian steelmaking city and though Rafael Benitez spared the strikers from his uncharacteristically blunt assessment – ‘If the team don’t play well the strikers don’t get the chances,’ he said â€“ a night on the banks of the River Maas provided a telling reminder that a combined Â£40m of investment does not buy an instinctive understanding.”
Phil McNulty (BBC) wonders whether Liverpool can finally make a tilt for the title. “Liverpool fans are indulging in a familiar August pastime – namely pondering all the permutations to work out whether they will finally win the title for the first time since 1990. Earlier in the summer I made a written promise to Liverpool fans who accused me of forever running down their chances of winning the Premier League. I said I would return to the subject on the eve of the new campaign, study the summer’s events and assess whether this season would be any different from the last 18 years in title terms.”
Jonathan Stevenson on the BBC website features Hull City goalkeeper Boaz Myhill. “Sometimes in life you have to take one step back to take two steps forward. Take Boaz Myhill, for example: a promising young goalkeeper with Premier League side Aston Villa one minute; sold to Hull City and thrown into first-team action in the Football League’s basement division the next. A drop down three divisions can rarely have paid such remarkable dividends in the space of five years.”
Brian Viner interviews Gary Megson in the Independent. “The media had certainly written Bolton off, and it still sticks in his craw that no apologies were forthcoming when, against all the odds, the club stayed up. ‘There were a lot of articles saying we were relegated, including one from a well-respected journalist saying, ‘Bolton have gone and I’m pleased they have’. I’ve yet to see a retraction of that. We [football managers] get judged every seven days, but who judges him for getting that wrong?”
The Guardian continue their analysis of every Premier League Team. Rob Smyth writes of Spurs: “Spurs are blessed with a plethora of attacking talent, and if they can keep their defenders injury-free, they could be unlikely title contenders.” And he also previews West Brom’s return to the top flight. “West Brom are certainly the most reliable of the three newcomers. They look good, too, but that doesn’t mean they won’t end their big night out going back whence they came with only Stoke and Hull for company.”
Glenn Moore in the Independent provides a club-by-club guide to Premier League season 2008/9.
Jonathan Wilson (Daily Telegraph) writes of “The Impossible Job” – refereeing a Premier League match. “In their more rational moments, most people would accept refereeing is an impossible job, but I had no idea just how hard it is before being taken on a pre-season training day with the Football Association. Forget about dives and dissent, high tackles and shirt-pulling, have you ever tried blowing a whistle while running? Then, after an otherwise blameless match, you can ruin it all by seeing a clipped ankle, a player tumbling yards inside the box and awarding a penalty when replays will show that the contact was made an inch on the other side of the line. No wonder Alan Wilkie, once a Premier League official and now a refereesâ€™ assessor, speaks of ‘an obscene level of punditry’.”
Graheme L. Jones in the LA Times welcomes the return of the European football season. “The long months of waiting are over. Now it’s time for some real, honest-to-goodness, mud-slinging, in-your-face dust-ups. Europe’s 2008-2009 soccer season got under way this week with France’s Ligue 1 kicking off over the weekend. Today, the Bundesliga season starts in Germany and on Saturday the English Premier League begins play. In a couple of weeks, Spain’s La Liga and Italy’s Serie A will be up and running, and the planet’s most popular single-sport club competition, the European Champions League, will begin attracting the kind of global viewing numbers that the NFL and NBA can only dream about.”
The Independent include a quirky feature in their football coverage today: “Becoming a professional footballer is every boy’s dream, including 26-year-old writer and Sunday league amateur Ben Welch. So how does he cope playing for League One side Swindon Town on their pre-season tour of Austria as they take on former European champions? Here, he relives the pleasure and pain of life on the pitch.”
Gregory Sica in Sports Illustrated chews over Argentina’s performance so far at the Olympics, as a semi-final with Brazil looms. “Argentina has the potential to retain its Olympic gold medal, but to do this it must be prepared to adjust itself to the circumstances that lie ahead as the competition reaches its decisive elimination stage. The Argentines are still the team to beat, but must focus on its objective at all moments.”
Jeff Carlisle on ESPN Soccernet previews all four Olympics quarter-finals. “Come for Ronaldinho, stay for Gervinho. That is the message that emerges as the men’s Olympic soccer tournament heads into the knockout stages. Individually, players like Ronaldinho and Lionel Messi have done their bit to raise the glamour level of the competition, but it has also been lesser known players like Italy’s Sebastian Giovinco and the aforementioned Gervinho from the Ivory Coast who have added some sparkle.”