Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “We do need players. It’s been obvious on this run, we’ve had an extended injury list, but even without that we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to rest players when they needed to. Therefore, we accept that we didn’t do enough in the summer and we need to do it now. We’ve made it clear we regret that… We’re going to have some tough decisions in the summer. We’ve got 17 games and at least two in the Europa League to go. I’ll have a lot of questions answered about what I think is under the first team here, because at the moment, what has been under the first team at the moment hasn’t produced as I hoped it would.” – Alan Pardew.
Runner-up: “What split the fans was Torres, and the moment when he came off. I’m torn, I could never boo a player in a blue shirt but I can understand those who booed him. We have backed him unequivocally for two years and made every excuse under the sun for him, perhaps he was not match fit. “A lot of fans think Benitez’s appointment was to get the best out of him and if anything he’s become more immobile, it’s like he has given up. There are a lot who feel like me [and couldn’t boo] but half the ground was booing. It did cause arguments and scuffles. There was a bit of pushing and some people moved to avoid scuffles. It was a sad state of affairs.” – Trizia Fiorellino, the chair of the Chelsea supporters group.
Chelsea: Lame Duck Benitez Is A Real Target?
Rafa’s blown his chances (Mark Irwin, Sun) Rafa Benitez is a dead man walking at Chelsea following the humiliating home defeat by Swansea. The interim boss will NOT be sacked by Roman Abramovich before his deal expires at the end of the season. But the Spaniard now accepts he has no chance of landing the job permanently — as the club step up their bid to lure Pep Guardiola.
Chelsea fans vow to stay away until Benitez is sacked… and Real Madrid may offer him escape route to replace Jose (Neil Ashton, Mail) Angry Chelsea fans have decided to boycott matches until Rafa Benitez is dumped… Real Madrid have targeted Benitez as a potential summer replacement for Jose Mourinho, should the Portuguese leave in the summer.
Rafael Benitez expects Real Madrid to come calling if Chelsea give him the boot in the summer (Paul Kelso, Telegraph) Rafael Benítez believes he could be a target for Real Madrid in the summer if his spell as interim manager at Chelsea finishes with the sack at the end of the season. The Spaniard has not entirely given up hope of being awarded the Chelsea post on a permanent basis but after a second home defeat in a week, by Swansea on Wednesday night, his slim prospects of winning Roman Abramovich’s long-term approval are receding.
Ditch Torres, keep Lampard (Steven Howard, Sun) Torres IS still very much at the heart of the Chelsea problem, one that the recent arrival of Demba Ba will highlight rather than resolve. Ba did more in his nine minutes on the pitch than Torres did in 81 — going close with a header, having a good goal disallowed for offside and being unluckily booked for an alleged dive as he tried to get round the keeper… [Frank Lampard] a player, a club legend, regarded it seems as good enough for Manchester United but not good enough for Chelsea. A player still operating at the highest level despite his 35th birthday looming in June. A player whose Premier League record this season reads: P12, W10, D1, L1. And a player Ferguson wants to use in filling not only the hole left by Paul Scholes but also in passing on all his huge knowledge to the younger United players.
EPL Is Too Pricey
Manchester City fans protest at Arsenal is right: major Premier League clubs’ ticketing policy is a disgrace (Paul Hayward, Telegraph) Football now sees itself as a branch of the entertainment industry selling tickets to the show. Its calculations are based not on social traditions but what it thinks it can get for each performance. Hence the scandalous hiking of Category A ticket prices, which penalises supporters of both clubs by linking cost to league position. The defence will be that a game involving Carlos Tévez and David Silva is of a higher entertainment value than one featuring Reading . If so, will Arsenal employees be waiting at the exits to refund you the difference if Sunday’s game against City is a dull 0-0 draw? No chance.
BT Versus Sky
BT to spend big as it throws down gauntlet to Sky over sports coverage (Owen Gibson, Guardian) BT is expected to earmark billions of pounds over the next decade to spend on sports rights in a sustained attempt to challenge Sky, as the new broadcaster gears up to launch two sports channels in July. The telecom company, which laid down a marker when it spent £738m on 38 live Premier League matches per season last year, will consider launching bids for a host of other major football properties including the FA Cup, Champions League and England internationals as they become available.
A new power of TV sport aiming to prove that Sky has a limit (Owen Gibson, Guardian) BT Sport senior executives, many of whom previously worked for Sky, are well aware of the scale of the challenge but say they should be judged in 10 years’ time rather than 10 months. In the short term, they are confident they can build and launch two credible, innovative sports channels along with all the support and back-up services required. If they fail in that, they will be dead on arrival. In the long term they must develop a strategy that can deliver a more meaningful volume of live Premier League games next time around and add other attractive football rights such as the FA Cup, Champions League and England internationals along the way, together with other secondary sports such as tennis and golf. Either way, Premier League clubs – and their players, agents and luxury car dealerships – are rubbing their hands at the prospect of an ongoing windfall. Whether increasingly squeezed fans, who may ultimately ultimately bear the cost through raised subscriptions despite protestations that competition will help keep prices down, will feel the same way is another matter entirely.
Ben Haim Suffers Anti-Semitic Facebook Abuse
Facebook trolls target R’s ace Tal (Sun) QPR’S new signing Tal Ben Haim has been bombarded with anti-Semitic insults — on the club’s OFFICIAL Facebook page… One Facebook troll asked how the club’s Moroccan star Adel Taarabt can “live playing alongside a Jew?” A genuine QPR supporter said on the site: “On Saturday, when Tal came on as sub and it was announced on Facebook, some comments were shocking and had nothing to do with football. Many of them are from Indonesia, the greater South East Asia region and the Gulf region. I don’t think many of them are QPR fans — they’re just here to stir their own racial s***.” A club spokesman said: “We are banning all posters who post anti-Semitic comments.”
Aston Villa: Troubled Times
Old heads needed (Robbie Savage, Mirror) After tipping Aston Villa for relegation back in August, I’m not going to rub their noses in it after they came a cropper at Bradford in the Capital One Cup semi-final. I happen to think Villa are still slight favourites to reach Wembley, especially if they make early inroads at Villa Park into their 3-1 deficit from the first leg. But they are crying out for Ron Vlaar to return from injury, or for an experienced old head to get hold of the game – or get hold of his younger, naive team-mates – by the scruff of the neck in the way Gary Jones was such a steadying influence in midfield for Bradford.
Is Michu the bargain of the century? Sportsmail gives its verdict on the players to rival him for the title (Mail) Robin van Persie (Feyenoord to Arsenal, £2.75m, 2004) Arsenal got him for £2.75million. Once he got over his injuries and attitude problems he proved to be genuine world-class talent. Sold for nearly 10 times as much and still getting better…Edwin van der Sar (Fulham to Manchester United, £2m, 2005) Sir Alex Ferguson fired plenty of blanks in his attempts to replace Peter Schmeichel. Massimo Taibi and Mark Bosnich, for instance, just could not cut the mustard. Enter Van der Sar. A colossus for United in his six years at Old Trafford.
The reign of Spain won’t last (Adrian Durham, Mail) The FIFA World XI is a total joke. They’ve basically done a La Liga XI because they don’t bother watching football. I’m not sure how many penalties Petr Cech has to save in a major final before he gets the vote. A team of 2012 without Ashley Cole is frankly laughable. He’s now up to 99 caps, he’s a European champion and performed at a consistently high level throughout the year. David Silva’s absence is stunning – perhaps the fact that he has had no history with either Barcelona or Real Madrid meant he couldn’t be considered. Maybe those who voted didn’t realise Juan Mata started out at the Bernabeu.
Mario To Milan
AC in £24m Mario offer (Sun) Manchester City are expecting AC Milan to make a £24million bid for Mario Balotelli — despite branding him ‘a rotten apple’.
AC Milan want Robinho out, then Balotelli in as San Siro club offer misfit Etihad exit (Mail) AC Milan will offer Mario Balotelli a way out of Manchester City if they can offload Robinho – another City misfit – during the transfer window… They have already sold Brazilian striker Pato to Corinthians for £12m this month and it is ironic that Robinho now stands in the way of a move for Balotelli. The 28-year-old, who had 18 troubled months at the Etihad Stadium between August 2008 and January 2010, has fallen out of favour at San Siro and the Serie A club are keen to move him on.
Newcastle in turmoil as captain Coloccini asks to return home (Independent) Newcastle United have been rocked by the request of their captain, Fabricio Coloccini, to leave the club during the January transfer window. The 30-year-old told club officials today that he wanted to return home to Argentina.
Arsenal make late move to land Loïc Rémy (Independent) Arsenal have joined the race to sign Loïc Rémy from Marseilles in a deal that could cost them £10m. Arsène Wenger has identified the 26-year-old striker as the forward his side needs to add quality and goals to their attempt to catch Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea and finish in the Premier League top four. Sources in France tonight insisted strong interest from Arsenal makes them favourites to land the France international.
Cole ramps up Real interest as Chelsea star’s agent flies to Spain for Madrid talks (Mail) Cole has set his sights on a Spanish swansong with Real or Barcelona, despite interest from cash-rich Paris Saint-Germain.
Lampard linked with Fiorentina as Serie A side show interest in Chelsea midfielder (Mail) Fiorentina president Mario Cognigni said: ‘Lampard is a player I have always liked and may be an example of today’s marketplace. A player who has passed 30 years, his contract is expiring, and he may be the right combination between experience and cost of the deal.’
Wes Gala day (Sun) Inter have agreed to Galatasaray’s £8million bid for Dutch midfielder Wesley Sneijder, 28. Galatasaray director Bulent Tulun said: “He will give us a response inside 24 hours.”
Tottenham in talks to sign Chelsea target Negredo after Sevilla president jets into London to sell striker (Mail) Tottenham are in talks over a £15million swoop for Sevilla striker Alvaro Negredo. The Spanish club’s president Jose Maria del Nido flew into London, via Madrid, on Thursday to discuss a potential deal for the Spain forward with Spurs officials.
Taison KO stuns Blues (Sun) Chelsea could miss out on Brazilian midfielder Taison because his club’s new owner does not want to sell to Roman Abramovich.
Sir Alex Ferguson fears late Arsenal bid could scupper Wilfried Zaha deal (Star) Sir Alex Ferguson is confident of striking a deal that could involve United loaning him back to Palace for the rest of the season. He will have to hold off a late charge from old rival Arsene Wenger, who is out to hijack his bid. Starsport understands Zaha has still to decide which club he wants to join this month.
QPR considering swoop for striker Habibou as Redknapp seeks reinforcements (Mail) Queens Park Rangers are weighing up a deal for Zulte Waregem striker Habib Habibou. The 6ft 4in centre forward has scored six goals in 13 games for the Belgian club this season and has been in London this week in the hope of securing a move.
Anelka tells pals: I quit (Sun) Nicolas Anelka could announce his shock RETIREMENT after leaving Shanghai Shenhua. The former France striker is just 33 but has told pals he has had enough.
Bring Bong! (Sun) Newcastle have tabled a bid for Valenciennes defender Gaetan Bong, according to the French club’s president.
Newcastle up the ante in bid to sign Rennes midfielder M’Vila (Mail) Magpies manager Alan Pardew has expressed an interest in the France international as he looks to breathe fresh life into his struggling side.