Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “In my view, his time was up three or four years ago. He has got a massive ego because he’s a dictator when it comes to Arsenal. And he’s not allowing Steve Bould to do any work. He’s actually putting players backwards now. It’s no coincidence that when Cesc Fabregas goes to Barcelona, he says he is now learning about the tactics of the game. Tactically, Phil Parkinson showed he was a better coach than Arsene Wenger. He will rant at the fourth official, linesman and referee but he needs to start doing some coaching both on the training pitch and during games. I’m not just talking about the Bradford defeat, I’m talking about the last five or six years. When the team are making mistakes he doesn’t rectify them as he doesn’t know what the mistakes are. He runs the board. Arsene is a dictator and I think he was even part of the appointment of Ivan Gazidis. Last year Arsene said the Press were brain- washing the public into believing there was a crisis. The only person brainwashing the public in recent years is Wenger.” – ex-Arsenal midfielder Stewart Robson.
Runner-up: “I think I am frankly tired of getting up here and delivering the same message. Tuesday night was not good enough and it made us all upset and angry. I would like to apologise to all of you, especially the fans who travelled up there. It was unbelievable support as ever and you deserved better. That is something we will work hard to put right. We all work here and are desperate to deliver the success and trophies we all want. Look into the eyes of the staff here, look at the way they talk. We will get this right. I initially thought this would be a great opportunity to spread Christmas cheer. I don’t think it will be but I hope to speak to all of you.” – Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis.
Crisis Arsenal: Wenger Out?
Gunners aces fear Wenger rift (Charlie Wyatt, Sun) Arsenal stars fear Arsene Wenger’s relationship with his new assistant Steve Bould is breaking down. SunSport can reveal tensions are mounting and cracks appearing in the Gunners dressing room. Tuesday’s humiliating defeat to League Two Bradford has exposed the unrest, with some first-team players becoming increasingly sick of trying to play pretty football with no bite or cutting edge. Wenger went ballistic at half-time in the Capital One Cup tie, accusing his stars of “lacking focus and application”. The manager also tore into Gervinho for an atrocious first-half miss. But it was to little effect and after the shootout defeat the players talked of increasing strain between Wenger and No 2 Bould.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger’s relationship with Steve Bould questioned following defeat at Bradford (Telegraph) Bould, who was part of George Graham’s famously miserly back four as a player, had been allowed to work separately with the defence earlier in the season, but these sessions have since been stopped. It is also understood that, when Wenger was unable to take training on the day before the recent 2-0 defeat to Swansea, the session was not led by Bould.
Arsene Wenger faces greatest EVER crisis (Steven Howard, Sun) Even Wenger loyalists have arrived at the situation where they believe his time is up. Yes, he has been a brilliant, mould-breaking manager with, at one time, a conveyor-belt of outstanding talent producing the nearest thing to fantasy football. But seven years of famine at a club like Arsenal is too long, especially when there are few signs that seven years of plenty will follow. As Alan Shearer argued in these pages recently: Would a club like Chelsea, Manchester United or AC Milan put up with this sort of failure?
Is defiant Wenger reaching the end of the line at Arsenal? (Neil Ashton, Mail) It is time for Arsenal to move on, to do the unthinkable and thank him for 16 years of loyal service and look to the future with another forward-thinking coach. As charming as he is, Wenger is on the way out as the club’s manager. It is over and an increasing number of people within the game are beginning to recognise it.
Wenger has to quit (Sun) More than 34,000 Sun Online readers have voted on whether Wenger’s time is up following the club’s humiliating Capital One Cup penalty shootout defeat at League Two Bradford on Tuesday. The Frenchman has received a barrage of criticism in the wake of the quarter-final giant-killing — and so far 60 per cent of fans who voted in our poll reckon he should go.
Wenger is still a great (Shaun Custis, Sun) The saddest part of Arsenal’s decline is that we start wondering how good Arsene Wenger really was… Once he lost Dennis Bergkamp — the last of the players he did not sign — in the same summer of 2006 that Ashley Cole, who had come through the ranks, left for Chelsea, Arsenal accelerated downhill. Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Robin van Persie all saw the signs and jumped before it was too late. It is a sobering thought that Wenger has NEVER won a trophy with a team made up entirely of players he brought to the club.
On the way down: Arsenal fight to avoid catastrophe as new reality bites (Sam Wallace, Independent) The Arsenal Supporters’ Trust has long petitioned for the £70m it believes Wenger has at his disposal to be spent. Those around Wenger will tell you that the situation is nowhere near as simple. They argue his inspired player recruitment and management during the building of the Emirates, and the club’s first years there, kept Arsenal in the Champions League and their head above water. They say that the notion he is simply sitting on £70m unspent is nonsense. Yet when you look at those who are targets this January – Pepe Reina, Demba Ba, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Wilfried Zaha – they are not players, however talented Zaha might turn out to be, who are likely to transform the fortunes of the club immediately. That is not the business Arsenal are in.
We’re sorry! Gazidis apologises as Arsenal owner Kroenke backs beleaguered Wenger to solve mounting problems (Mail) Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke has given his total backing to under-fire manager Arsene Wenger amid the backdrop of training ground tensions… Kroenke will back up his support with a massive January transfer budget and will tell Wenger to spend heavily in a bid to transform the club’s faltering season.
Have faith! Wenger and Arsenal players deserve more time to rectify situation (Martin Keown, Mail) The future without Wenger at Arsenal is unthinkable. The manager has rebuilt his side, so we should give the new team time to show they can bounce back from adversity. Undoubtedly the talent is there. Young players such as Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade- Chamberlain, Kieran Gibbs and Wojciech Szczesny should be given time.
Arsène Wenger will not leave and he won’t be sacked. So Arsenal lurch on (Guardian) The pro-Wenger argument also asks who, realistically, could be brought in to successfully re-energise the club’s fortunes and whether Wenger is not the best man to fire the upturn. He did it last season, after arguably his lowest ebb – the 8-2 loss at Manchester United, which compounded the summer from hell in the transfer market. It is worth noting, too, that Arsenal’s travelling fans chorused Wenger’s name after Bradford had taken the lead at Valley Parade, in response to the taunt from the home crowd that he was “getting sacked in the morning”.
Why Manchester City’s Mario Balotelli is the footballer’s footballer who we will miss if he goes (Telegraph) The thing about Balotelli that makes him so appealing, despite such woefulness, is that there is more to him than irritable inconsistency, more indeed than batty extravagance. More to him, moreover, than the generosity of spirit evident in stunts like paying for a bunch of homeless men to spend last Christmas in a luxury hotel. What is so endearing about him is that he appears to have an amused appreciation of the absurdity of his position. Even as he stomped off the pitch at the Eithad, heading straight down the tunnel instead of to the bench, there seemed to be a smile playing under that scowl. Even if others are tearing their hair out about his faltering contribution, he is clearly more than enjoying himself.
Chelsea: Club World Cup
Benitez battling jet-lag at a Club World Cup that is still trying to wake up… a prize that should be football’s crowning glory, but isn’t (Martin Samuel, Mail) The perception is that the Club World Cup is a trifle, two matches, a matter of days. Actually it is the biggest slog in club football and not just in terms of the flight… There is a great tournament trying to break out here, with a wonderful accolade as its prize. Unfortunately, with the best teams allowed to delay entry until the semi-final stage, and the hosting rights farmed out to parts of the world that do not have football in the blood, FIFA undermine their own competition… So the Club World Cup is what it is. A sadly undervalued competition, with a prize that should be football’s crowning glory, but isn’t.
Rafael Benitez’s Chelsea go bowling to build team spirit before Monterrey clash (Telegraph) Chelsea enjoyed a team-bonding session here which ended up with Ashley Cole serving his team-mates supper as a forfeit for losing at tenpin bowling. “He’s a better left-back than waiter,” observed Gary Cahill.
Fighting Foul Fans
We’ll kick out the bigots… FA’s 92-point action plan to rid football of the scourge of racism (Mail) English football will introduce quotas for referees and coaches as part of an unprecedented campaign to tackle racism. The plan will be adopted early in the new year and include the demand that at least 10 per cent of entry level officials and coaches throughout the game are from ethnic minorities. There will also be moves to increase the involvement of women, ethnic minorities and disabled people in all forms of football, while Asian role models will be sought to encourage Asian children to play the game.
Reasons to be cheerful: Why Brendan Rodgers can be happy with his start at Anfield (David Maddock, Mirror) Between now and January 2 – when you would expect new faces to arrive – they face Villa, Fulham and Sunderland at home, while they visit Stoke and QPR during the same period. They are games in which points are available, and given a fair wind, they could even find themselves in the top four at the start of the New Year. That would be a remarkable achievement, even allowing for the fact it would be because of the frailty of rivals such as Arsenal and Spurs as much as their own improved form. Perhaps importantly, it would provide a platform for Liverpool to realistically press for a Champions’ League place next season.
Qatar promises fans to take the heat out of 2022 World Cup (Guardian) Qatar’s 2022 World Cup organisers have reiterated their commitment to holding the controversial tournament in summer temperatures of up to 41C (105.8F) despite a growing campaign to move it to the winter. They also claimed that not only would they successfully develop air-conditioned stadiums but would be able to cool entire neighbourhoods for fans… Qatar is believed to be investing £137bn over the next 10 years in infrastructure projects before the World Cup and al-Thawadi claimed that cooling technology would be used over wider areas than originally thought.
Everton in £15m twin striker raid (Sun) David Moyes is set to splash £15million on a pair of French strikers. Everton’s boss is keen to bring in Paris Saint-Germain’s Kevin Gameiro and Wissam Ben Yedder from Toulouse during January to beef up his side’s challenge for a Champions League place.
Lescott return to Toffees could spark string of deals by Moyes (Mirror) Everton are ready to take England defender Joleon Lescott back to Goodison Park… Mancini will attempt to bring in a centre-half in January, with his long shopping list including names such as Paris Saint-Germain’s French international Mamadou Sakho and summer-window targets Daniel Agger of Liverpool and Newcastle’s Fabricio Coloccini.
John’s Cat fight (Sun) Sunderland face fierce competition from Italian side Palermo for John Guidetti.
Aston Villa keep tabs on Heerenveen’s prolific hitman Finnbogason as Bent nears exit (Mail) Aston Villa are monitoring the impressive form of Heerenveen striker Alfred Finnbogason. Manager Paul Lambert has been alerted to the performances of the Iceland forward, 23, who has scored 12 goals in 14 Eredivisie games this season.
Tottenham enter chase for wantaway Wesley Sneijder (Mirror) Tottenham have been linked with a January move for Inter Milan playmaker Wesley Sneijder, according to reports in Italy… t is understood that Inter would be prepared to listen to offers of around £8million and, with PSG boss Carlo Ancelotti ruling the Ligue 1 club out of the running, it could be a three-way battle between the Premier League clubs.
Sunderland set to offload Bramble and Campbell in January (Mirror) Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill will move out Fraizer Campbell and Titus Bramble as part of a major overhaul in the window.