Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “For us to win the league we need Chelsea, Man United and Arsenal to mess up their season. It is very rare that three teams all mess up, so there’s no point waiting for our direct adversaries to slip up because it won’t happen. They all have a lot greater financial means than us. For me Valencia and Liverpool are similar – for them to win, the bigger clubs have to do badly. When I won La Liga with Valencia that’s what happened, Real Madrid and Barcelona were in transition, so it was easier.” – Rafa Benitez.
Runner-up: “Regarding Anelka, I didn’t really need him last season and I told him so. He has great ability but not always the desire to play. Most of the players improved under me… That was a day I will never forget. It was a powerful moment. Chelsea were in decline when I became manager and then we started a good period. After the match on Holocaust Day, I couldn’t believe what had happened. It was very difficult for me, with Holocaust Day and the win over Liverpool coming together. Some players asked me what the Holocaust was all about. There is a certain ignorance about some of them. Yet the players are extremely professional and provide the highest level of performance. But you would be surprised – there are problems with players at a club like Chelsea that you don’t see in a children’s team in Israel.” – Avram Grant.
Today’s overview: There is a real mix of articles this Friday morning, Manchester United strikers Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov dominate but it appears that there is a little lull before a weekend of football that holds a lot of promise.
The Independent pull out a real exclusive with “a rare interview” with Luiz Felipe Scolari. “So, are Chelsea playing the beautiful game Brazil are so famous for? I agree that Chelsea are playing well. But I hope they agree with me that it is also important to get to the final and to win that final, as well as play well. But to achieve that we still have a long road ahead. But it is true that are playing fine, working the ball well, showing a lot of creativity and also finishing power. We have a good tactical system and every player is trying to make life hard for their opponents. It is great to play beautifully but three points are always important.”
Matt Lawton (Daily Mail) writes of Wayne Rooney’s antics against Aalborg. “But Rooney is not, as Ferguson tried to argue in the summer, getting better at controlling himself. He has a major character flaw and only if Rooney can grasp as much will he ever have a hope of removing it from his game.” Jim White in the Daily Telegraph provides a guide how to “tame Wayne Rooney’s temper.”
Harry Redknapp in The Sun claims he doesn’t blame Dimitar Berbatov for leaving Spurs. “I was not manager of Tottenham when he left in August. But I doubt I would have been able to get him to stay anyway. Managers can no longer shout and bawl at players to get them to play better, to motivate them. You would not last five minutes these days. Likewise, if a player makes up his mind to go, you cannot order him to stay.”
Ahead of Dimitar Berbatov’s return to White Hart Lane tomorrow, Ian Ladyman in the Mail questions how well the Bulgarian is doing at United. “Some United fans refer to him as ‘Dimitar Veron’ after some low-key early performances, a cruel reference to the club’s most famous big-money failure, Juan Sebastian Veron, who cost United Â£28m.”
Daniel Taylor (Guardian) also analyses Berbatov’s contribution so far. “it is also undeniably true that the state of the Bulgaria forward’s fitness will matter more to the Tottenham Hotspur supporters than it does those of United ahead of his return to White Hart Lane tomorrow afternoon. If Berbatov’s sore achilles prevents him facing his old club, the average Spurs fan will breathe a sigh of relief. And as for United’s supporters? They will simply shrug their shoulders and look forward to seeing Tevez play.” Oliver Kay (The Times) writes of Manchester United’s wasteful strikers.
James Lawton lays into Arsenal and the Champions League in The Independent. “This week’s programme, so denuded of dramatic possibilities, did nothing so much as remind us of the arguments raised when the new ‘league’ was rushed through for season 1992-93.” Henry Winter previews the clubs that could cause problems for the “Big Four.”
Kevin McCarra (Guardian) argues that the English clubs dominance in Europe is taking the gloss off the Champions League. Andy Townsend in the Daily Mail beleives “United are still the most likely winners, although no team has won back-to-back Champions League titles since the competition changed its format in 1992. They certainly need more from Cristiano Ronaldo, who has not really got going yet.” Amy Lawrence in the Guardian praises the “more obscure sides” for their role in the group stages.
On the Premier League, an “exclusive” in the Daily Mail reports that “Gianluigi Buffon has asked for Â£250,000 a week” from Manchester City. And the scout who found Ashley Young, Chris Cummins, tells Stuart James in the Guardian how the talent of “the skinny lad from Stevenage” might have gone to waste.
The stand out article of the days comes from Tom Dart in The Times, who asks “Could Harry Redknapp manage Real Madrid?” “Yet it does not appear that Redknapp will ever be given the opportunity to become El ‘Arry. A shame. After taking on so many foreign tacticians, perhaps it is time for our game to give some in return. AC Milan are only third in Serie A and will need a feisty character now that the captain, Gennaro Gattuso, is injured. Two words: Neil Warnock.”