Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “If our opponents are in control from the first to the last minute [as claimed by AVB] and we win 5-2 I don’t mind too much. Tottenham made a good start, we were a bit nervous and they scored a goal where we made an adjustment. The turning point was the sending off. We came back and got what we wanted. It’s not always easy to win against 10 men.” – Arsene Wenger.
Runner-up: “They deserved it because they worked so hard for it. We had a lot of possession and one or two half-chances without having any great chances. It just wasn’t our night.” – Sir Alex Ferguson.
Arsenal beat Spurs 5-2, again
Adebayor red card made a difference, but can’t excuse Spurs’ performance (Gary Neville, Mail on Sunday) Both Arsene Wenger and Andre Villas-Boas will have questions after Arsenal’s 5-2 win over Tottenham. Of course, the sending-off of Emmanuel Adebayor had a huge impact on the game and ruined the spectacle because, at that point, it had looked like a serious contest for Arsenal. But Tottenham cannot point to the red card as the sole reason why they lost.
Emmanuel Adebayor selection rebounds on Tottenham in Arsenal drubbing(David Hytner, Observer) Adebayor has endured a difficult time since his return to White Hart Lane on a permanent transfer from City, after his season-long loan the last time out. He had expected to be the main man; instead, he has played second fiddle to Defoe and the frustration has simmered. Villas-Boas, however, still needs him – his options up front do not run particularly deep – and it was this knowledge that underpinned what was a remarkable post-match defence of the player. It would have surprised no one, least of all the travelling Tottenham fans, to hear Villas-Boas, at the very least, suggest that Adebayor had cost the team. Instead, he went to the other extreme and it was difficult to know which of his assertions led to the more acutely arched eyebrows: the one about how Tottenham, in his view, had controlled the game from start to finish or those that related to Adebayor.
‘Devastated’ Ade: It’s my fault (Antony Kastrinakis, Sunday Sun) Emmanuel Adebayor last night apologised for blowing Spurs’ hopes of beating Arsenal after he saw red in the North London derby. Adebayor — who gave Tottenham a 10th-minute lead but was sent off eight minutes later for a challenge on Santi Cazorla — exclusively told The Sun he was left “devastated”. He said: “I completely understand my sending off changed the entire outcome of the game and I whole-heartedly apologise to my team-mates, the manager and all the Tottenham fans for letting them down. “But I must stress that my challenge was not malicious in any way whatsoever. “I was genuinely trying to win the ball and probably stretched my foot out a bit too far in the heat of the moment. “Nobody could have felt more devastated than me as I walked off the pitch. “I so much wanted to help Tottenham win and thought for a moment that I’d actually set that win up when I scored, but football changes so quickly. “One minute a hero, the next a villain.”
Arsenal forward Theo Walcott shows Arsène Wenger why he is worth keeping at Emirates following derby victory (Henry Winter, Sunday Telegraph) The club are interested in England’s latest right winger, Wilfried Zaha, with the excited talk within certain parts of the Emirates of an imminent approach to Crystal Palace. Zaha’s arrival would either force Walcott out of the club or inside to a more central role, one that he craves. He is worth keeping. Saturday highlighted why. What we are seeing is the maturing of a natural talent, the addition of the little grey cells to the flying feet. Of course, it first needs acknowledging that Walcott’s contribution was inevitably overshadowed by the elegant touches over short and long distance by Santi Cazorla. It was also a display that must be viewed in the light of Emmanuel Adebayor’s early dismissal which allowed Arsenal to pass and move, to speed into space.
Can Arsenal keep Theo Walcott?
Arsenal won’t give up on Walcott, as Liverpool and Chelsea wait in the wings (Rob Draper, Mail on Sunday) Arsenal will make a last-ditch bid to keep Theo Walcott, who is wanted by Liverpool and Chelsea, in fresh contract talks next month. Walcott’s contract expires in seven months and negotiations have been deadlocked since Arsenal made a bid to press him to sign a new deal at the end of August. With Walcott delivering another excellent performance in the 5-2 win over Tottenham, scoring his ninth goal of the season, manager Arsene Wenger admits the need to secure the player is growing.
Manchester United to bid for Wilfried Zaha
Where there’s a Wil: Manchester United planning rival bid for Zaha (Alan Nixon, Sunday Mirror) Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson is planning to blow away his rivals with a bid for Crystal Palace sensation Wilfried Zaha, writes the Sunday People. Fergie has entered the chase for the exciting young forward – after a strong recommendation from his son Darren – and plans to win the race to land the new England cap. United will offer “what it takes” to see off Tottenham and Arsenal in the January window which includes handing the 20-year-old better terms to come to Old Trafford.
Chelsea favourites for Falcao
Pole position: Chelsea favourites to sign Falcao after Man City pull out of the chase (Simon Mullock, Sunday Mirror) Chelsea’s hopes of landing Rademel Falcao have been boosted after Manchester City turned down the chance to bid for the Colombian striker. Sunday Mirror Sport can reveal that Atletico Madrid General Manager Migel Angel Gil Marin and Falcao’s agent Jorge Mendes met with City’s new sporting director Txiki Begiristan after the champions’ 2-1 win over Spurs last week. Both men arrived at the Etihad without receiving an invitation from City and were told that Roberto Mancini’s interest in Falcao would not be firmed up with an offer. Cash-strapped Atletico were hoping that a bidding war between City and Chelsea would force up the price of a player who has a £28million release clause in his contract. City’s stance may alter if they can find a buyer for Mario Balotelli in the January transfer window.
Arsenal & Liverpool after Al Habsi
Glove and war: Arsenal will rival Liverpool for Wigan keeper Ali Al Habsi (Matt Law, Sunday Mirror) Arsenal will rival Liverpool to sign Wigan goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi in the January transfer window. Manager Arsene Wenger is desperate to strengthen Arsenal’s goalkeeping department and sees Al-Habsi as the perfect man to provide serious competition to Wojciech Szczesny. Wenger has been tracking Al-Habsi since last season and is now ready to make a move after being unconvinced by the displays of Szczesny’s current deputy Vito Mannone. Although Mannone made some good saves in Szczesny’s absence through injury, Wenger has decided he needs two top-class keepers – and the Italian remains some way short of that standard. Al-Habsi has produced a string of impressive performances since joining Wigan from Bolton in the summer of 2011, and the 30-year-old is now viewed as one of the best keepers in the Premier League.
PSG want Super Mario
PSG eye Balotelli (Phil Thomas, Sunday Sun) Paris St Germain are ready to slug it out with both Milan clubs if Manchester City show Mario Balotelli the door in January. The free-spending French outfit are hunting a striker in the upcoming window and have been checking out Atletico Madrid striker Radamel Falcao. But the Columbian hitman is likely to opt for Chelsea or City, which has seen them switch their sights to Balotelli. PSG, backed by the billions of the Qatar Investment Authority, made a casual summer enquiry about Balotelli after Euro 2012. Yet they hastily backed off when a £40million figure was mentioned for the controversial 22-year-old.
Mark Hughes on the brink
Hughes on brink as fans turn on team (Nick Szczepanik, Independent on Sunday) Tony Fernandes, the Queens Park Rangers owner, last night apologised to the club’s fans following their 3-1 home defeat by Southampton. The result left Rangers four points adrift at the bottom of the Premier League table and provoked angry scenes at Loftus Road with supporters rounding on manager Mark Hughes and his players. As well as “Hughes out”, the crowd chanted “You’re only here for the money” at the team, most of whom were signed this year on high wages. Fernandes has been resolute in his public support of Hughes in recent weeks but last night there was no mention of the Welshman in his regular post-match tweet.
Queens Park Rangers owner Tony Fernandes ponders Mark Hughes’ fate following Southampton defeat (Jason Burt, Sunday Telegraph) QPR owner Tony Fernandes has declared he has done all he could to “give support” to the club’s management and players amid angry calls from fans for Mark Hughes to be sacked. With QPR four points adrift at the bottom of the table, discussions will take place this week as to whether Hughes should remain in charge after overseeing a 12th consecutive Premier League match without a win. Representatives of Harry Redknapp and Rafael Benítez have already indicated to QPR that they would be interested in taking over should Hughes be sacked. But until on Saturday night Fernandes has been unswerving in his conviction that he has no intention of replacing Hughes, insisting he was the best man for the job, and it would still take a significant change of heart for the Malaysian entrepreneur to act now.
Who will replace Sir Alex Ferguson?
Jose is the only man who can replace Fergie (Harry Redknapp, Sunday Sun) Jose Mourinho returns to England this week for Real Madrid’s Champions League match away to Manchester City. I’m a huge fan of Jose, it should be a terrific occasion and hopefully, I will be able to get a ticket to see the game. It is hardly the greatest secret that Jose is planning — one day — to manage again in the Premier League and it wouldn’t surprise me if he ends up in Manchester. But I can picture him being at United rather than City. When Alex Ferguson eventually calls time on his amazing career, there will not be many serious contenders to take over. But Jose, I have no doubt, would be big enough to take on the ultimate challenge and succeed the greatest manager this country has ever seen.
Gary Neville & Sir Alex Ferguson on Cristiano Ronaldo
Brave, ruthless, relentless: Ronaldo redefined football (Gary Neville, Mail on Sunday) He showed it is possible to accommodate that kind of individual ambition within a team and marry the two together. To be able to leave United in his prime and still have his name sung by the fans tells you something. On Wednesday night, he will be at Manchester City, his first return to the city since leaving United. While he may receive the kind of stick reserved for former United players, everyone in that stadium, including me, will be thinking: ‘I’m watching Cristiano Ronaldo tonight’. If you’re a kid, it will be a reference point, something to talk about when you’re older. But, to be honest, for anyone who appreciates football, it will be a privilege to watch one of the great players of all time.
If only I had Ron – Fergie (Charlie Wyett, Sunday Sun) Alex Ferguson watched Manchester United squander the chance to regain top spot — then admitted he would love to re-sign Cristiano Ronaldo. Anthony Pilkington headed a shock winner and United boss Fergie said: “There’s every chance Ronaldo might leave Real, you never know. “I would like to think he could return to Old Trafford but I don’t think it will happen. “You’re talking about incredible amounts of money. “I speak to him quite regularly. He’s always wishing us well and we’d be the first team he looks for, there’s no doubt about that.”
Sean Ingle on Italian football on Channel 4
The days when Gazza was the ringleader in Channel 4’s Italian job (Sean Ingle, Observer) Gazzetta became as much a part of people’s Saturday mornings as a stomach-settling full English. The author Charles Cumming says: “I remember thinking that James Richardson had just about the best job in the world. I’d be watching Gazzetta from some freezing flat in Edinburgh, surviving on kebabs and baked beans, and every week there he would be in some upmarket Roman coffee house sipping a Campari and soda and talking Signori, Baresi, Maldini, Baggio – players that seemed impossibly gifted and unattainably cool.” It was not quite like that, according to Richardson. “Everyone always used to say I was the luckiest man in the world. But it was stressful, too – I wasn’t only presenting, I was trying to book interviewees. Sometimes I would be phoning around furiously trying to avoid a show that had little in it.”