Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “We will be trying to get some players in January but they will probably all be loans. We won’t be buying anyone, we don’t have those finances, I’ve always known that, it is not a result of anything that has happened this week, but it is getting harder all the time to keep up with the Joneses and I think you will see that in January… All my players should thank me and shake my hand for giving them the chance to play for this club. It is a privilege and some of them need to realise that wearing an Everton shirt might be as good as it ever gets… Liverpool have a stronger squad than we do, we know that, but I think we’ve clawed our way back a bit these past six or seven years. We started to get much closer. We’ve still not won enough derby games for my liking, but then we’ve not had the chance to spend Â£100m or Â£200m on players.” – David Moyes.
Runner-up: “So we get beaten by Wigan and to make matters worse my mum gets racially abused by a Sunderland fan. I won’t stand for that… The offender needs to hope I don’t find out his name or who he is.” – Darren Bent.
Today’s overview: It’s Super-Duper-Massive-Extreme Sunday, as the global football community gears up for the Merseyside derby, a London derby, and finally closing out the weekend with El Classico.
Beginning with Everton-Liverpool, Graham Chase ignores the fact the Jack Rodwell had been under-performing greatly of late to talk up the talents of the Toffee’s teenager. “If Jack Rodwelll is able to take the field for Everton on Sunday he will offer Liverpool manager Rafael BenÃtez yet another sharp reminder of why he has been so keen to give his youth set-up a complete overhaul in recent months.”
Henry Winter opted to focus on Everton boss David Moyes, showering the Scot with praise. “David Moyes demonstrated on Friday why he is so much more than the manager of Everton Football Club. Dismissing grapevine chatter about his future as ‘complete nonsense,’ Moyes showed why he is the track-suited protector of the blue faith, why he remains passionately committed to steering Everton out of the doldrums.”
Ahead of Arsenal-Chelsea, Paul Hayward details how Andrey Arshavin is an untypical Wenger player. “Andrey Arshavin is the antithesis of the Wenger prodigy. Bought at 27, in a January transfer window… Arsenal’s Russian rover is the counterpoint to all those youthful midfield products of the London Colney beauty school. He was not flown from an African village, coaxed by Wenger’s charm from France or enticed from Barcelona’s academy. Gunner No23 is beyond re-programming.” In a similar vein, focus is then poured on Arsenal centre-back Thomas Vermaelen by Jonathan Northcroft. “In looks, Vermaelen could pass for Nemanja Vidicâ€™s younger brother and the two approach their job with similar sensibilities. Strikers go into games versus Vidic thinking they may or not get the better of the Serb but knowing one certainty: whatever the outcome, arriving at it is going to hurt. Itâ€™s the same playing against Vermaelen.”
Away from the Arsenal features, Gerry Cox announces the latest setback for Robin van Persie which could see the Dutchman miss the rest of the season. “Van Persie had been Arsenalâ€™s main forward following the sale of Emmanuel Adebayor in the summer, scoring eight goals in 15 games… Wenger will look for an established striker, with Marouane Chamakh of Bordeaux a likely target. Real Madridâ€™s Ruud van Nistelrooy has been linked with a move to the Premier League in January but Wenger, who is renowned for unearthing talent at bargain prices, is understood to have little interest in signing him. Wenger is thought to have been monitoring the progress of the 23-year-old Toulouse striker AndrÃ©-Pierre Gignac, who was the leading goalscorer in the French first division last season.”
Latching onto pop-culture, Piers Morgan uses hindsight to reassess Arsenal’s decision to let Nicolas Anelka leave the Gunners. “We didn’t publicly mourn him. A bit like Jennifer Aniston losing Brad Pitt to Angelina Jolie, we preferred to pretend that our departing paramour was a sulking, whiny, greedy, high maintenance little brat, rather than concede what all our friends were telling us – that we’d been dumped by a highly desirable, hot piece of world-class footballing ass… But the truth is that when Nicolas Anelka runs out at The Emirates this afternoon and is, as usual, roundly booed, it will be because we Gooners will all be secretly wishing Anelka had never left us.”
Forecasting the outcome of the match, Steve Tongue fears for Arsenal should Chelsea emerge victorious. “A Chelsea win today would severely damage Arsenal’s hopes of a first title in six years, which had blossomed as they recovered in such fine style from successive defeats by the two Manchester clubs early in the season.”
Onto El Classico, where Sid Lowe draws great pleasure is explaining the significance of tonight’s Barca-Real match. “Between them they have won more than half of Spain’s league titles plus 12 European Cups, including five of the past dozen. This time, it is bigger than ever: first versus second, the world’s best team, unique treble winners, against the most expensive squad ever assembled.” Also found wetting himself with excitement is Duncan White. “Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Kaka, Xavi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic will all be on the same pitch â€“ it will be the highest concentration of football genius on the planet.”
Former Real Madrid wingerIâ€™ve played in plenty of Merseyside derbies, but this was something else. For the Catalan people, in particular, it really is more than a sporting rivalry… My loyalty is to Madrid but my money is on Barcelona.”
Taking a more broad look at Real Madrid, Ian Hawkey struggles to characterise the Galacticos 2.0 “The temptation is to describe them as a set of square pegs in round holes. The reality is that it is unclear what shape the holes are. Alonsoâ€™s costliest colleagues, such as Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo, inset, established their pre-eminence in recent seasons in teams, Milan and Manchester United, with well-developed counterattacking strategies. Madrid are some way off those standards and can appear confused about what sort of football they aspire to.”
He has only been in the job a matter of hours, but the fourth estate show no mercy as they welcome back new Pompey boss Avram Grant.
Paul Hayward is the first to put the Israeli under the spotlight. “[Grant] must prove that there is more to him than a talent for finding his way from an executive role to the manager’s chair. This was the route he took at Chelsea when Mourinho lost his poker game with an oligarch. Fairly or not, there is always an odour to dispel when a man comes to a club as director of football and ends up with the best seat in the dug-out.”
Spreading rumours, Aidan McGee chimes in with news that “Avram Grant has been accused of knifing Paul Hart in the back.Â The ex-Chelsea manager replaced Hart at Portsmouth this week – just 50 days after going to Fratton Park as director of football.”
Staying with all things Portsmouth, David James uses his weekly column in the Observer to explain what makes a great save. “So what are the criteria for a great save? I’m not sure how many people have a clue. I’m constantly hearing match commentators say: “Great save!” when it isn’t or banging on about “good shot-stoppers” as though diving around a goalmouth is what makes a great goalkeeper. It doesn’t. Anyone who knows about goalkeeping will tell you that diving should always be your last resort â€“ before that come organisation, communication, positioning and decision-making.”
Changing tracks, Rod Liddle picks up on Nottingham Forest’s decision to have a joint family enclosure during Saturday’s match with Doncaster. “Iâ€™ve sat in the opposing end maybe 20 times in my life, although Iâ€™ve usually kept pretty quiet (except at Arsenal, when there didnâ€™t seem to be the vaguest evidence of threat), and never experienced any trouble. Be interesting to see how this experiment works at Forest, anyway, before we reintroduce it for the next meeting between West Ham United and Millwall. Hell, who knows, maybe weâ€™d all get along perfectly nicely, exchange phone numbers and ask each other round for dinner.”
Turning to matters north of the boarder, Glenn Gibbons delivers the sad tale of how the Old Firm have performed in Europe this season. “If Rangers’ endeavours in the Champions League have been undistinguished, Celtic’s in the Europa League have been worse. They have been competing in the less exacting tournament, even allowing for the mediocrity of Rangers’ opponents.”
England’s floundering World Cup bid is assessed by James Corrigan, barking “and so it comes down to David Beckham’s pulling power. Sad to say, but it was always going to. Yes, England’s World Cup bid was always going to be a shambles and, yes, the shamblers themselves were always going to have to turn to Mr Celebrity to dig them out of a PR hole of their own shovelling.”
Roll up, roll up as the Sundays shower the nation with a host of transfer lies and unsubstantiated conjecture.
After Manchester City’s 7th straight league draw, Neil Ashton wasted little time before announcing “Mark Hughes is on borrowed time after chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak witnessed yet another dismal Manchester City display. City’s 1-1 draw with Hull – their seventh in a row – has left Hughes on the brink with Guus Hiddink, Roberto Mancini and Jose Mourinho all in the frame to replace him.”
Bob Cass will have Liverpool fans seething with his EXCLUSIVE. “The billionaire owners of Manchester City are to rock ailing Liverpool by launching an audacious Â£50million bid for star striker Fernando Torres. City aim to use their financial muscle to force Liverpool to sell their prize asset and believe that if the troubled Merseyside club fail to qualify for next season’s Champions League, they will find it hard to refuse a big offer.” Staying with City, Aidan McGee continues to spend the Citizens oodles of cash, penning “City are lining up a Â£20million bid for Argentina winger Diego Perotti. City directors quizzed compatriots Carlos Tevez and Pablo Zabaleta about the Sevilla star, who made his international debut this month.”
Manchester City are not just in the market for new players this Sunday, as Aidan McGee details how “City are ready to spend Â£3million to save Belgian club Royal Excelsior Mouscron from bankruptcy and use them as a feeder club. City want to buy into an overseas club to help their top youngsters gain competitive experience.”
While Torres’ departure may be doubtful, Rob Draper details the far more likely transfer of Spurs’ Russian forward. “Roman Pavlyuchenko has confirmed his departure from Tottenham and will instruct his representatives to meet chief executive Paul Barber this week to organise a transfer in January.”
The Mirror’s John Percy reports how Nottingham Forest’s “Billy Davies has lined up an ambitious double raid on Tottenham for Gareth Bale and Michael Dawson,” while, in news that will arguably convince Wolves fans that there are going down, David Harrison reports “Wolves will bid for Craig Gardner and Niall McGinn when the transfer window swings open.”
Fellow People hack Dave Kidd then chimes in with “Birmingham boss Alex McLeish made a midweek trip to Milan to check on Marseille striker Mamadou Niang. McLeish, armed with a hefty transfer kitty, is believed to be ready to test Marseille’s resolve with a Â£5million bid for the 30-year-old Sengalese star.”
And finally, the News of the World’s Dan Wootton delivers a classic, trashy, tabloid rumour scribbling “JUNGLE maneater Jordan has netted England star JERMAIN DEFOE – after the romeo secretly comforted her over her jungle hell.Â The glamour queen, who flew home from Australia yesterday, quickly fixed a date with the Spurs striker once she QUIT I’m A Celeb and DUMPED Alex Reid last week.”