Crisis at Chelsea: “How long will Abramovich be interested in owning a team that is going backwards?” – Sam Wallace

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “You have to cut through the venom of it. That’s my only response. There was a lot of venom in what he said and I don’t understand where it has come from. I think he was an angry man. He was obviously disturbed about something but I think when he reflects on it he will surely realise it is wrong. Hopefully he will reflect and understand that what he is saying is absolutely ridiculous.” – Sir Alex Ferguson.

Runner-up: “It looks like we have a certain type of player right through. The bench have plenty of flair but we are in a relegation scrap and we need men, we need characters to get out of it. We have some but not enough and that is the problem. You would put your life on Ledley King, you would put your life on Jonathan Woodgate or Michael Dawson – we have some… Of course I am concerned. You look at Tottenham’s results in the last year and you would be concerned. When I came here they had two points from eight games. Scary, isn’t it? Look at their results after the Carling Cup final and see how many points they got.” – Harry Redknapp.

Today’s overview: Pot-shots at Chelsea are a dime-a-dozen this Monday after the Blues were torn to shreds by Manchester United at Old Trafford yesterday.

Oliver Kay commented on the Pensioners that “Chelsea are in a bad place right now, with only three wins in their past 11 games in all competitions, but their frailties were exposed quite brutally by a team who warmed to the idea of humiliating Scolari’s players as the game wore on.” Sam Wallace joined the doom-mongering pointing out that “Scolari looks utterly isolated, his billionaire employer staying away, only the teenager Franco Di Santo to call upon in the late stages when he opted for a third striker. How long will Abramovich be interested in owning a team that is going backwards?”

David Pleat attacked Scolari’s changes at halftime at Old Trafford. “By opening up his 4-5-1 system so quickly, having conceded from a corner on the stroke of half-time, Scolari emptied the midfield area. Anelka generally disappoints when playing with a partner, while Michael Ballack and Frank Lampard need Mikel John Obi to sit tight in behind as their insurance. Here they lost that compactness.” While the Blues’ abject performance lead Paul Doyle to conclude “Chelsea urgently need new blood, not merely to provide Scolari with more options but also to stimulate a listless team. Their problem is, however, that Roman Abramovich’s appetite also appears to have waned.”

Taking up his new role at the Daily Mail, Martin Samuel also lays into the Blues. “United have players of quality on the pitch and in reserve; Chelsea have a void. They do not look good enough to compete this season and the next generation will not be ready by the 2009-10 season. If Chelsea are to challenge in Scolari’s time — he only signed a two-year contract — it will need another vast investment from Roman Abramovich in the summer.”

Matt Hughes fails to mince his words over Chelsea arguing “if the performance-related contracts Chelsea are considering had already been in place then Didier Drogba, Michael Ballack, Deco and Joe Cole would have received nothing yesterday.” And an equally damning critique is served up by Alan Hansen who was left wondering “how does [Scolari] pick his team up from this? If they were Manchester United, I could see how they might recover from such a performance, but I do not see how Chelsea can.”

On the flipside, Manchester United are credited with a stunning performance. Handing out specific praise, Richard Williams gushed over Ronaldo’s performance against Chelsea writing “the winger irradiated a vital match with a spirit of invention that would have done credit to any of football’s famous free spirits.”

On Ryan Giggs’ performance, Scolari’s problem was that too many of his players [marvelled at Giggs], standing off the indefatigable Welshman and allowing him to pull the strings to wonderful effect in midfield.” United’s number 11 was also singled out by Kevin Gardside saying “the applause he received when Ferguson replaced those 35-year-old limbs with 10 minutes left was a measure of where Giggs sits in the affection of United fans. Are you listening Cristiano?” And James Lawton also took time out to credit Giggs writing “the legs aren’t so quick and the reflexes are maybe not so sharp, but in the matter of understanding the dynamics of a match that simply has to be won, Giggs remains in an exclusive class indeed.”

David Beckham’s AC Milan debut is analysed by a slew of hacks. For Owen Slot, while Becks “did not take the starring role – that was for Pato – but he looked as if he could belong.” The same sentiment was echoed by Jeremy Wilson commenting “Beckham was among Milan’s better players and fitted effortlessly into the team, while producing several passes of trademark quality.” A more negative analysis is offered by Oliver Kay who argued that “he no longer appears capable of bursts of pace, never mind the lung-busting performances that he produced in his prime.”

In a sign of the economic slowdown lubs are being forced to mount the biggest sales campaign in the history of the Premier League to prevent the credit crunch leaving thousands of empty seats at grounds.”

On the transfer front, Oliver Brown claims that “so stricken are Newcastle’s strikers with injuries that the club are poised to sign Peter Lovenkrands, the Danish winger and free agent, this week in an effort to enliven their attack.” But according to the Daily Mail, “Newcastle are interested in taking Jo on loan from Manchester City until the end of the season.” The Daily Mail also claim that “Emile Heskey has agreed a pre-contract to return to his old club Liverpool in the summer. Rafael Benitez is reluctant to pay £4million to sign the England striker from Wigan in the transfer windowand has decided to wait until he is out of contract.”

In the Sun, Gary Payne tells his readers that “Andrei Arsahvin will sign for Arsenal this month — despite Zenit St Petersburg turning down an initial £10million bid.” And on their North London rivals, Alan Nixon reports that “Jermaine Jenas has been axed from his job as Tottenham’s vice captain – and looks to be on his way out of White Hart Lane.”

In an offbeat article, Martin Kelner recalls stories from the legendary time of Bill Shankly remebering how Liverpool boss addressed injuries. “He feared any player carrying an injury might infect the others, so his solution was to banish him to the far corner of the training field adjacent, apparently, to a pigsty. If Shanks saw a player on the treatment table — even one of his trusted lieutenants — he would shun him.”

Lastly,Nicola Legrottaglie. “When asked about the violence in Gaza, he told an Italian newspaper: ‘I knew this was going to happen. It was foretold in the Bible. The people of Israel were once God’s chosen people. But they failed to recognise Him and now they’re paying the consequences.’ As biblical interpretations go, it is uncomfortably close to the “Jews-killed-Jesus” mentality that provided the flimsy intellectual basis for much of European antiSemitism over the past 2,000 years or so. Yet, because he wasn’t parading around the pitch wearing that message on a T-shirt, Legrottaglie escaped sanction.”