Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “We’re very far behind now. At the moment you cannot say that [we are good enough to challenge the top three], because we are far away. But that’s what we have to show, and that’s what the target is at the end of the season. We’ve played away at United, City, Liverpool and Stoke – so we’ve many difficult away games. But we were poor defensively here. There’s no obvious reason for that, apart from the fact we didn’t start well and United have quality up front. They score goals against everybody and they are better than us. It’s as simple as that. Away to Manchester City we drew 1-1, a good result, and didn’t suffer by comparison. Here, I just think we were not on full cylinders and looked much more vulnerable defensively than we did at the start of the season.” – Arsene Wenger.
Runner-up: “I thought Luis was unplayable. When Coloccini got sent off he was frustrated. Coloccini is a good defender, he’s been a great player over a few years for Newcastle but Luis is so bright, so clever. He’s a real world class striker and on that form today he really provokes and frustrates defenders. We need to get goals form other areas but I can’t complain when we perform and play to the level we did today. It us gives us great hope that once we get that profile and that type of player in, then it is going to finish off a lot of great work for us. Luis is an absolute joy to work with. He’s aiming to get better every day he trains and he is still a young player. He’s committed his best years to us here, which is brilliant. He just has a real hunger for the game. We play him in that false number nine role. He is not your traditional number nine who stands up there, stood static. That’s why when we get a number of players in who can work off his qualities it is going to make us a real threat and allow us to penetrate behind him.” – Brendan Rodgers.
Pep Guardiola wants to coach Chelsea
Chelsea is dream job for Guardiola as Pep is attracted by new style at the Bridge (Neil Ashton, Daily Mail) Pep Guardiola wants to be the next manager of Chelsea. The former Barcelona boss plans to return to the game next summer and has made it clear to friends he sees his future at Stamford Bridge. After winning three La Liga titles and two European Cups in four seasons at the Nou Camp, Guardiola, 41, quit this year and is in New York on a sabbatical with his family. When he announced he was taking a year off he was sounded out by Chelsea about taking over but he rejected the club’s approaches. Roberto Di Matteo was made to wait more than three weeks after Chelsea’s Champions League final win last May before being appointed full-time manager on a two-year deal.
Arsene Wenger & Arsenal’s woes
Vile and unfunny: Wenger deserves our respect, not offensive songs which shame the English game (Ian Ladyman, Daily Mail) Wenger, we should note, is 63 now. He has served Arsenal admirably over the years he has worked in north London and his influence on English football and the development and growth of the Barclays Premier League should be clear even to those who are happy to deride him each weekend. Wenger is more than a football coach. He is a man who has done much to shape our sport in its modern form. Frankly, he deserves better. Ferguson understands this. Why can’t everyone else?
Is Arsène Wenger finally losing his grip at Arsenal? (Richard Williams, Guardian) If anybody wanted to see the evidence that persuaded Van Persie to move from the Emirates to Old Trafford, it was on show in the flaccid, error-strewn performance by an underpowered Arsenal team containing too many players seemingly destined to make no positive impact on the club’s history. It started at the back, with the third-minute error by the captain, Thomas Vermaelen, that invited Van Persie to open the scoring. By delivering a savage blow to Arsenal’s morale while encouraging their opponents to slip into a careless, overconfident mode, it was a moment that shaped the course of the entire match.
Arsenal’s best players left too easily – their replacements aren’t up to it (Alan Shearer, Sun) Andre Santos returned to London with Robin van Persie’s shirt under his arm. It might well be the only trophy an Arsenal player has to show for their efforts this season. Saturday’s encounter at Old Trafford brought into sharp focus the Gunners’ decline from title winners — even challengers — to also-rans whose main target now is to finish in the top four. Defeat marked Arsenal’s lowest points total after 10 games under Arsene Wenger. Is he working to a plan from above or is it down to him? What I would say is which other big club around Europe in the bracket of Manchester United, Chelsea, the Milans, Barcelona or Real Madrid would sit by and continue to employ a manager who has not won a trophy in 7½ years? Or do Arsenal no longer put themselves in their category?
Liverpool 1 – Newcastle 1
Col’s no coward: Pardew defends Coloccini over red-card challenge on Suarez (David Anderson, Daily Mirror) Alan Pardew last night defended Fabricio Coloccini after the Newcastle skipper was sent off for a “coward’s challenge” on Luis Suarez in the 1-1 draw against Liverpool. Pardew rejected this scathing condemnation from his former Crystal Palace team-mate Chris Coleman on TV and insisted Coloccini had not tried to hurt Suarez. The Argentinian centre-half caught Suarez’s ankle after lunging in late and high which prompted Coleman to say: “It’s a scandalous challenge, a coward’s challenge. Football is a physical game, but that was a coward’s challenge.
Silky Luis Suarez saves the day but Liverpool still look a one-man team (Tim Rich, Independent) When, before the game, he was asked for the easy quote, the one that would condemn Luis Suarez as a cheat, Alan Pardew hesitated. No, said the Newcastle manager, Suarez was a fabulous player “worth a highlights package on his own”. Here yesterday the Uruguayan delivered not just a package but a whole programme. This was not Luis Suarez versus Newcastle but sometimes it felt like it. Liverpool supporters used to talk of “having a team of Carraghers” as the ultimate in commitment. A team of Suarezes would be a considerable improvement on the one Brendan Rodgers currently manages, although it might not finish every game with 11 men.
Hansen bashes Manchester City
Roberto Mancini’s negative vibes send out the wrong message to the players and supporters of Manchester City (Alan Hansen, Daily Telegraph) Manchester City will need the mother of all comebacks to revive their Champions League ambitions this season – a miracle to eclipse Chelsea’s efforts last term. Frankly, I don’t think they’re playing well enough to achieve it. Winning the Premier League gave the club and Roberto Mancini kudos, but the difference between being English and European champions is a million miles. That’s how far away City are from competing for the top prize. If their disappointing first season in the Champions League was understandable as they readjusted to a superior tournament, there is no excuse for the poor showing this time. Yes, they have had a tough draw for two consecutive years – how they would have craved the ‘gimme’ of Manchester United’s group – but City have only themselves to blame for not stepping up a level having won the Premier League.
Is Mark Hughes under pressure?
Why Fernandes and QPR will stand by Hughes in tough times (Neil Ashton, Daily Mail) The QPR chairman is standing by his man, underwriting a multi-million-pound overhaul of the club and keeping his cool as Rangers continue to search for their first win. He made that clear on Sunday, peppering his programme notes with buzzwords — ‘stability’, progress’ and ‘plans’ — and backing his man to the heavens. Fernandes was in town again, watching his investment struggle to find the rhythm and the impetus to carry QPR over the line against an ordinary Reading team. Owner and manager talk every day, but there is nothing like watching the team in the flesh.
QPR and Reading showcase two very different ways to play 4-4-2 (Michael Cox, Guardian) With so many managers determined to dominate possession with the use of three central midfielders, Premier League matches featuring two proper strike partnerships have become increasingly rare. But with Jamie Mackie operating just behind Djibril Cissé, plus Jason Roberts and Noel Hunt working the channels at the other end, this was effectively a clash between two 4-4-2s. Despite the similarity in formations, Queens Park Rangers and Reading played completely different styles of football. Brian McDermott’s side started strongly with a somewhat basic, traditional gameplan – they fielded two tricky wingers, spread the play wide and attacked directly. Their two forwards drifted into wide positions, finding space in behind the QPR full-backs, and won corners when trying to beat centre-backs on the outside. Reading appealed ferociously whenever the ball crossed the byline after a tackle, suggesting a particular keenness to win corners – and with good reason. Mark Hughes’s side were disorganised when defending dead-ball situations, and floated deliveries towards the debutant Sean Morrison consistently caused problems.
Mark Clattenburg v John Obi Mikel
Chelsea had no option but to report Clattenburg (Sam Wallace, Independent) As the events of an extraordinary week have unfolded, the question of what Chelsea and Gourlay should have done keeps being posed. Increasingly, it seems obvious to me that, however painful the fallout, he and the club had no choice but to follow procedure and make the complaint about Clattenburg.
Bashing Stan Collymore
Stan Collymore’s radio show must be heard to be believed (Jonathan Liew, Daily Telegraph) Over time, you realise that Collymore has not the slightest interest in what anybody else thinks. This makes him a poor choice to host a radio phone-in, but something of a hero in the eyes of humanity. Somebody needed to take a stand against the torrent of fan-based football babble, and Collymore is that man. What better way to silence the ill-informed proles than by shouting them down loudly in a Brummie accent? Furthermore, when the show finally reached its conclusion, I realised that I had been sitting rapt and motionless for the last 15 minutes. Perhaps, I reflected, it is possible for a radio show to be compelling without being good. To have some sort of ethereal, addictive quality that worms its way into your brain, like a simple slogan or phrase. And with that, I went inside to try to find Arsène Wenger’s mojo, all the while harbouring a strong, latent desire to purchase a Hedgehog Gutter Brush.
Juventus finally lose
Juventus lose at last – but how significant will this defeat prove? (Paolo Bandini, Guardian) Nothing had changed, and yet everything had changed. The team who started the weekend top of the table were still top of the table. They were still the reigning champions, still the front-runners – with more points and a better goal difference than anyone else – and still heavily favoured by the bookies to retain their title. Juventus were, in other words, still the team to beat. But they were no longer a team who could not be beaten. By the time they faced Internazionale on Saturday, Juventus had gone 538 days without a league defeat. In that time they had moved into a new stadium, appointed Antonio Conte as their manager and signed Andrea Pirlo. They had gone from being a side which finished seventh, missing out on even the Europa League, in 2010-11 to one that claimed the Scudetto 12 months later. In total their unbeaten run extended to 49 Serie A games.
Solskjaer dreams of Manchester United
Ole dreams of Utd job (Mike McGrath, Sun) Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admits he dreams about becoming Manchester United boss. The ex-Old Trafford striker has turned down offers from English clubs to stay at Molde in Norway — and he hopes to follow Alex Ferguson’s footsteps in management. Solskjaer said: “I’m not naive enough to say I can do that job but in life you should have big dreams and big goals. “It’s a dream but let’s take just one step at a time. I want to become a manager in England. “At the moment I’ve just started and it’s been two years more or less in Norway. So the time will come. I’ve spoken to clubs and explained it’s a bit early as I want to learn and don’t want to jump too big a bridge at the start. “Managing is not easy but it’s very enjoyable when you are winning, it’s challenging when you have a bad start.”
Ron & Messi 869 riddle (Ben Perrin, Sun) A bizarre coincidence involving two of the world’s greatest footballers and their sons was revealed by fans on Twitter last night. Portuguese Real Madrid winger Cristiano Ronaldo is 869 days older than Argentina and Barcelona magician Lionel Messi. But astonishingly, Ronaldo’s son — Cristiano Ronaldo Junior — is ALSO 869 days older than 25-year-old Messi’s lad, Thiago. Messi’s girlfriend Antonella Roccuzzo gave birth to their lad on Friday while Ronaldo Junior arrived on June 17, 2010. Last night fans drew attention to the facts on Twitter.