Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “In every club you find cases, like that [Ryan] Babel dive [for Liverpool against Arsenal in the 2007 Champions League quarter-final defeat] and we don’t want to claim we’re the only victims. Sometimes they happen for us, sometimes against, but this [Eduardo incident] did not have a big impact on the game. It is a witch-hunt. What else is it? If you took every game in Europe I could give you 10 cases every week in which Uefa can charge a player. I watch football from all over Europe. Diego Maradona scored with his hand against England in the World Cup and no one charged him.” – Arsene Wenger.
Runner-up: “What Arsenal did that day was shameful. I was asked if it felt like there was a contract out on me and I had to say ‘yes, yes, yes’. It’s not at all the way in which Arsenal normally handle matches because they usually play really good football and are not overly aggressive – it was a big change. That’s why I have to thank the referee. He came up to me and said ‘Look I don’t know what’s going on but since half-time all the Arsenal players seem to be out to injure you. Don’t get involved’. I particularly didn’t like the reaction Fabregas showed in that game when he knew full well we had a Champions League final to play that month. Yet he put in a bad tackle on me which could easily have robbed me of that final. We’ll meet again one day, hopefully off the pitch, and I’ll be able to let my personality tell him what I think.” – Patrice Evra.
Today’s overview: Manchester United versus Arsenal is the star-billing of the Premier League fixtures this weekend, and the fourth estate do their best to hype up the fixture.
Tracing the history of Fergie and Wenger is Oliver Kay. “Like all the great sporting rivalries â€” Ali vs Frazier, Borg vs McEnroe, Senna vs Prost â€” the enmity between Ferguson and Wenger arose because a competitive conflict accentuated a basic clash of personalities.”
Two of the less glamourous midfielders for United and Arsenal claim column-inches this Saturday.
Darren Fletcher is featured by Louise Taylor in the Guardian. “The Scot’s slow-burn metamorphosis into a midfield swan has startled many of those formerly sniffy Manchester United supporters who once routinely greeted his inclusion on Sir Alex Ferguson’s team-sheet with ill-suppressed oaths.” While, over in the Telegraph, Jeremy Wilson talks up the talents of Alex Song. “Song [is] an emerging force in that elusive ‘holding’ role and someone whose name will surely be among the first on ArsÃ¨ne Wenger’s team-sheet on Saturday.”
Song’s pivotal position in Wenger’s new 4-3-3 formation is also picked up by Glenn Moore. “Wenger’s new formation features a third central midfielder usually Alex Song, in a holding role. Song does not just protect the central defence, he also gives freedom to his fellow midfielders, and eases their workload.” However, bucking the Song love-in is Andy Townsend in the Daily Mail. “For Arsenal, their impressive start might take its first hit this evening at Old Trafford. I still have doubts about their lack of experience; whether players such as Alex Song and Denilson can handle things against the very best and their relative lack of firepower.”
Perma-tanned Terry Venables tells Arsenal fans that another season without silverware wqould not be disastrous. “Though I believe it will not be too long before they are collecting silverware again, it should be no big deal if they do not. As long as performances improve there should be no cause for alarm.”
Heading down a different tangent altogether, Henry Winter contrasts the weekend’s fixtures for Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo. “As the curtain rises on La Liga, as the arc lights pick out Ronaldo’s illuminating movements on his competitive debut, the English throw a party of their own, the ultimate in competing attractions in the meeting of stylish adversaries, Rooney at one end, Andrei Arshavin at the other. In commercial terms, this is ambush advertising.”
Staying onto the continent, Sid Lowe gives his verdict on Real Madrid’s summer spending in which “forget Kaka and Ronaldo â€“ it is the former Liverpool midfielder who will dictate Real Madrid’s play this season… If Kaka and Ronaldo excited supporters, [Xabi] Alonso allayed their fears.”
Moving onto France, Paul Doyle praises Lyon summer transfer activity which saw Karim Benzema leave for Â£35m and Lisandro Lopez brought in from Porto. “Lyon manager, Claude Puel, has already deployed [Lopez] in three different roles at his new club â€“ as a lone striker, wide on the left and loitering behind an orthodox centre-forward â€“ and in all three positions he has thrived.”
Changing tracks completely, Nick Harris rants against the lame financial rewards of being in the Europa League. “The Europa League winners will get around Â£6.5m in prize money and TV cash. The Champions’ Leauge winners get the thick end of Â£50m… It has been whispered in more than one club corridor that the Europa League can actually cost money if the fans stay away.”
Patrick Barclay reacts favourably to Michel Plantini’s calls for European football clubs to have financial restrictions imposed on their dealings. “The rich will always be with us, but for hundreds of clubs all over Europe, and not least those in England who, like Portsmouth, have crippled themselves trying to keep up with the hugely indebted elite, ‘financial fair play’ is the right way to go.”
that the Premier League has its own distinctive signature which means that supporters cannot expect a foreign player to be at their best straight away. “The idea of foreigners playing themselves in to our unique Premier League is another of those footballing myths.”
Mazel tov! With just a few days left of the transfer window Portsmouth have finally made some moves in the transfer market.
Tuncay Sanli has moved to Stoke for
It’s not all good news for Pompey, Sam Wallace reporting that Sunderland are preparing to move for goalie David James before the window closes. The Independent also report that the Black Cats “last night completed the season-long loan signing of Lyons centre-back John Mensah.”
Poor Andrei Shevchenko is today reported by Jason Burt as being on the verge of forgoing Â£5m in wages as the luckless striker is set to leave Chelsea to return to Dynamo Kiev. While in a separate article focused on Spurs’ revival under Harry Redknapp, Jason Burt scribbled “on Friday [Spurs] announced a tie-up with the Brazilian club Internacional which is likely to lead to the arrival of the 20-year-old defensive midfielder Sandro for Â£16 million.”
The Lilywhites also seem ready to offload Roman Pavlyuchenko before the window shuts, Ashley Gray noting that Spurs “have told Zenit St Petersburg that they are ready to accept Â£10.5million” for the forward.
Lasltly, stepping back from all the transfer lies Dara O’Briain prepares for the potential nonsense of the final day of the transfer window. “Was that Wayne Rooney picking up a Spanish phrase book in Manchester Airport? Later I heard him repeating the phrase “donde esta la BernabÃ©u?” over and over again in the urinals. Is that significant?”