Chelsea’s massive losses invite a fire-sale at the Bridge, Newcastle want Steve Bruce & how Oldham planned to field a woman

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “He will be back here on 9 March, and we don’t want to entertain any more conversations now. It is a distraction to [Galaxy coach] Bruce Arena, the team and the fans, and we move on. That’s the last we’re going to talk about this. They’ll [AC Milan] come back [with another offer], sure they will. But we owe it to our fans [not to consider it]. They’ve been reading all these stories, and we lose credibility by the day. That’s not fair. We owe it to Bruce and we owe it to the rest of the team. We’re a month away from our season. They’ve never been in the ballpark. What they’ve tried to do is use David and use us. We’re not going to play that game any more. This has been extremely damaging and distracting for our team. I’ve been as courteous and as gracious as I possibly can out of respect for David, but now it’s time to move on. We need to get David excited about the team we’re building here and coming back.” – the chief executive of LA Galaxy owners AEG, Tim Leiweke.

Runner-up: ­”You can say we’ve lost Lassana Diarra and Jermain Defoe and that’s why we are where we are but that’s nonsense. The side that did well last season wasn’t about those players. This season’s side is fundamentally the same as last ­season but we weren’t set up to replicate the success. Players don’t pick the team. Pick the team right and you’ll get the right results… I can’t go too deep into it, it’s about ­managers’ personalities. Under Harry you also didn’t know the team selection until the day of the match and you also wouldn’t do much work on such-and-such but Harry had an idiosyncratic way of getting the team to perform. Just putting an arm around you, telling you you’re the best in the world – call it blowing smoke up your arse or whatever, but it worked.” – David James.

Today’s overview: The net appears to be rapidly closing in on Chelsea who are now seen by most commentators as being a club who must sell before they can buy.

With Chelsea announcing their 2008 financials (a £65.7m loss), David Conn and David Hytner whip our their abacus to work out the Blues’ financial footing. And the picture is bleak, as “instability, along with rising players’ wages, shows that Chelsea accept they are highly unlikely to meet their target of being free by this July from reliance on Abramovich’s fortune.” What the numbers fail to do however, is tell us “anything significant about Abramovich’s long-term intentions,” according to Paul Kelso.

The critiques of Chelsea keep on coming. David Lacey sets up the second half of the season as proving “whether Chelsea really are a big team or whether they are just a fair-to-middling side with big financial backing that occasionally tries on greatness for size.” While playing down expectations, Jonathon Wilson argues that Guus Hiddink’s focus until the summer is “to patch over the leaks, coax the club to the safe harbour of the top four and recommend a major refit in the summer.”

James Lawton advises that, for Hiddink to have any success at the Bridge, he must wrestle the club from it’s owner. “[Hiddink] is obliged to tell the oligarch and his cronies that, for a little while at least, Chelsea simply has to be a one-man show with someone, by way of both novelty and some basic football logic, who knows something about what he is doing being the man.”

Looking further down the line, Paul Kelso predicts that “Hiddink or his successor will have to fund the lion’s share of transfer spending from day-to-day income, selling players, and hope to reduce a wage burden that currently stands at 70 per cent of turnover.” Matt Hughes echoes that sentiment, citing “Didier Drogba, Florent Malouda and Alex as the most tangible assets. Drogba is likely to be sold, leading to the intriguing possibility of a swap deal with City for Robinho.”

Jason Burt goes further with his list of Chelsea players up for sale. “An end-of-season sale would involve the departure of players such as Didier Drogba, Nicolas Anelka, Florent Malouda and Deco while, with contract talks not resolved, the future of Joe Cole is also up in the air as is that of Michael Ballack, one of the three highest earners. And what would happen if Manchester City, as they have considered, tempted Chelsea with a mega-bid, £40m plus, for John Terry? It would certainly help Kenyon break even as he has pledged to do by 2010.”

Whilst most are looking forward, Terry Venables is still trying to understand why Scolari was given the boot finding a new reasoning to contextualise the Brazilian’s downfall. “The sales of Shaun Wright-Phillips, Wayne Bridge and Carlo Cudicini — and the failure to sign any quality replacements. Some may scoff that they were fringe players. But teams don’t win titles — squads do. And the decision to offload three players — who have walked straight into teams elsewhere — may have a potentially devastating effect on the Blues’ hopes of landing silverware this season.”

Ahead of the FA Cup fixtures this weekend, Ian Herbert pulls on the English heart-strings by talking up the Britishness of Everton-Aston Villa. “The most mouth-watering tie of football’s oldest club tournament will roll back the years tomorrow and offer up something as outdated as a winning captain clambering up the old Wembley steps to collect a trophy: two sides packed with Englishmen, going hell for leather for victory. British jobs for British workers on an FA Cup weekend, you might call it.”

The Mirror claim two inside scoops on the future of the managerial positions at Portsmouth and Newcastle. According to Alan Nixon, “Steve Bruce is ready to answer an SOS from Newcastle and become their next boss if Mike Ashley goes for a replacement for Joe Kinnear who has had heart surgery.” In a separate article, Alan Nixon claims “Roberto Donadoni wants to be the next boss of Portsmouth – and hopes to speak to owner Sacha Gaydamak this week.”

Charles Sale lifts the lid on a brilliant story that would have seen Oldham field the best woman footballer in the world, Brazilian striker Marta. “Marta, voted FIFA’s top female player three years in succession, agreed to take part in the publicity stunt that was the brainchild of Oldham managing director Simon Corney and a TV production company, who wanted to make a documentary about whether a woman could hold her own in the men’s pro game. And super publicity-conscious Corney, whose team are wearing pink shirts in a League match against Leeds United to promote a breast cancer charity, was hoping Marta’s match would help to put Oldham Athletic on the worldwide football map – such would be the interest.”

In other football news, Des Kelly explains why he believes Ryan Giggs to be the Premier League’s all-time leading icon, in a must-read for all Liverpool fans Tony Evans lists the top 50 Reds throughout the ages, while Gary Lineker, for no apparent reason and with no new information, decides to talk about Fergie’s future at Manchester United in his weekly column in The Times.

Tom Cary takes time out to praise David James, who today will “beat Gary Speed’s record of 535 appearances when Portsmouth meet Manchester City.”

In the Saturday interviews, Joleon Lescott tells Andy Hunter about having trials in his youth at Aston Villa, Chris McGrath meets Swansea boss Roberto Martinez (“it is impossible not to see traces of the young Arsene Wenger”), and Robbie Savage gives an insight on what it’s like to be hated – “I’ve had people spit in my face. I’ve had bottles thrown at me. My house has been attacked. I’ve had loads of things happen. People have written to me saying they are going to find me.”