Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “The linesman on that side of the pitch didn’t give us a thing all day. For me, it was a poor performance by him. Why he never saw the penalty kick from Wayne Rooney, some other decisions, I don’t know. We have got history with him. We remember him well from the Chelsea game a few years ago when Didier Drogba was three yards offside and he gave onside. He had a shocking game again and I’m disappointed in his performance, I really am.” – Sir Alex Ferguson.
Runner-up: “Hopefully, we can put a fight on for him between now and the end of the season to finish fourth and we make a decision for him. Only he knows what his ambitions and dreams are. Luis deserves to be in the Champions League — everyone has to admit that. Outside of Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, I’ll argue he’s as good as anyone else. He’s probably the best player I’ve played with and I’ve played with some top players in my career.” – Steven Gerrard.
Tottenham 1 – Man United 1
Clint keeps title alive as Dempsey nicks late point to give rivals new hope (Martin Samuel, Mail) So this was the test. Tottenham look a better team than Arsenal this season, and have already won at Old Trafford. Andre Villas-Boas is enjoying a happier time than he did at Chelsea, and has learned from a bad experience. No self-conscious crouching by the touchline, no strategies that fly in the face of logic. Villas-Boas plays to Tottenham’s strengths and there are plenty of them. As the game ticked towards its conclusion, United knew they had been in a battle and were about to record one of the landmark results of the season to go seven points clear.
Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson must decide whether to axe David de Gea after latest mistake (Alan Hansen, Telegraph) Manchester United’s hopes of regaining the Premier League title will always be in jeopardy if David de Gea keeps making mistakes like the one against Spurs and he must surely be on his last chance now. Without a doubt he cost them three points and this is a crucial stage of the season where Sir Alex Ferguson needs to decide whether to stick with him or take him out the firing line.
Ferguson was right about Rooney’s penalty… but he blamed the wrong man (Graham Poll, Mail) Foy had a clear view of this and it should have been a routine penalty kick. Replays showed the angle which Foy had and there was no need for him to refer to his assistant referee as Ferguson suggested. Foy is yet to award a penalty in 15 Premier League games this season and seeing him not react at all to the Rooney incident perhaps explains why.
Relax, Sir Alex! United have given City a sniff of a chance, but that’s all they’ll get (Mark Lawrenson, Mirror) The way Sir Alex’s men passed it and moved it was outstanding and they will be annoyed at not getting more from that first 45 minutes. The biggest problem United will have will be the Champions League. We don’t know how far they will go while as we know City no longer have that problem. But I expect United to go all the way in the League. They have the quality, they have the experience and they will bounce back from this.
Manchester United nullified Gareth Bale but forgot about Aaron Lennon (Michael Cox, Guardian) United, by focusing on Bale, left gaps for others to exploit – Clint Dempsey, for example, was afforded too much space… But the major beneficiary was Aaron Lennon, located on the opposite side to Bale. He dribbled at Patrice Evra, forcing the Frenchman into a couple of fouls that saw him booked before half-time, making him reluctant to challenge the Spurs winger after the break. Lennon could duck inside under no pressure and became increasingly threatening with his final ball – he set up a fine chance for Jermain Defoe who was thwarted only by Rio Ferdinand’s last-ditch block, and was fittingly the man to tee up Dempsey’s equaliser.
Last-gasp equaliser should offer grounds for optimism to Villas-Boas (Ian Ladyman, Mail) Here was evidence of genuine progress. This was Manchester United, the leaders of the Barclays Premier League; a team running hot on form, purpose and confidence. Tottenham, though, managed to match them. They did not succumb and they earned a point late in the game that they thoroughly deserved.
Chelsea 2 – Arsenal 1
Wenger: My Champs Lge fear (Sun) Arsene Wenger fears his 15-year Champions League run is about to come to an end. The ailing Gunners are now SEVEN points behind fourth-placed Spurs and, even though they have a game in hand, Wenger admits his team are running out of time to close the gap. After the 2-1 defeat at Chelsea, Wenger admitted: “We have lost two big games in the last week and that is very damaging.”
Blues avoid a Saints repeat as they cling on to a two-goal lead after Gunners’ second-half fightback (Matt Barlow, Mail) It was seven years ago that Cole nearly swerved off the road, trembling with rage at Arsenal’s £55,000-a-week offer. This week, he is set to sign a one-year deal at Stamford Bridge at nearly £200,000 a week. How better to celebrate than with a win against his old club to reinforce Chelsea’s superiority in the capital? They have given up on the title, misfired at home and been snubbed by Pep Guardiola, but at least they are secure in the top four.
Gary Cahill stars in the snow to give Chelsea that victory glow (Amy Lawrence, Guardian) Gary Cahill is an understated sort. He is not by nature a shouter, an organiser, a leader. But his performance was exemplary. He won header after header against Olivier Giroud, and was responsible for a match-winning clearance in stoppage time. Come full-time, he reached out to high five his central defensive partner, Branislav Ivanovic, then peeled off his shirt to throw it into the crowd.
Giroud is not the answer (Jacob Steinburg, Guardian) The game could have been so different if Olivier Giroud had taken a glorious chance to give Arsenal the lead after being played through by Walcott. Instead he dragged his shot wide and a minute later Juan Mata put Chelsea ahead. Giroud is a decent striker, clever in his movement and capable of troubling the best defences, but he misses far too many chances that would be taken by Robin van Persie. Selling the Dutchman was not necessarily a terrible decision by Arsenal; replacing him with a striker who would probably not get on the bench at Manchester United, Manchester City or Chelsea was.
Roman’s Manager Search: Moyes For Chelsea?
We know Moyes is ambitious, so why on earth would he choose Chelsea? (Martin Samuel, Mail) If English football operated at all rationally, the next major managerial job should go to David Moyes. Manchester United or Arsenal if the long-term incumbents step down, Manchester City if they choose to part company with Roberto Mancini, Chelsea once Roman Abramovich spins his wheel of random justice again. Moyes has more than earned the chance… One imagines with better players at his disposal it would grow again. In Spain or Italy a man with his track record would be given a chance. Only in England do we seek magical formulas from beyond. Yet progress is rarely that simple. Sir Alex Ferguson insists he is not about to leave Manchester United, while, with Ashburton Grove almost paid for, Arsene Wenger would be mad to quit Arsenal without first seeing if economic circumstances change. Some inside City suggest that Moyes’ falling-out with the club over the signing of Joleon Lescott was so spectacular he would not be on their shortlist anyway. So, for now, that leaves Chelsea. And why would Moyes go to Chelsea?
Moyes’ dilemma… take the Chelsea cheque or fight on at fragile Everton? (Independent) Moyes’ contract is up at the end of the season and he has said that he expects to sign another. But now another proposal looms on the horizon: could he be the first British coach appointed by Roman Abramovich at Chelsea? Chelsea are a big club that signs expensive footballers but it is a job that Moyes would surely have to think as hard about taking as Pep Guardiola did.
Frozen Roman returns to take full control and steer Blues back to sunshine state (Mail) Chelsea’s owner believed his next manager was in the bag, but they are back on the starting grid again after it was announced Pep Guardiola will join Bayern Munich. Abramovich is forced to turn his attentions elsewhere and the temptation to bury the hatchet with Jose Mourinho would win the vote with most supporters.
Toon In Trouble
Apart from Cabaye and Coloccini, Toon stars are hiding (Alan Shearer, Sun) It is time the Newcastle players rolled up their sleeves and showed a bit of fight. It is fine wanting the ball and expressing yourself when things are going well — as they were last season. The real characters come to the fore when things are going wrong and, right now, this team does not have enough of them. With the exception of Fabricio Coloccini and Yohan Cabaye, everyone is hiding. And the pressure on them will only grow the longer this perilous situation goes on. Much as I hate to say it, there are a few in the black and white who could learn a lesson from their rivals at Sunderland.
Get Graham in Toon (Jamie Redknapp, Mail) There is trouble ahead for Newcastle and I wonder, looking down their team sheet and seeing a number of foreign names, if they need a bit more local talent. Danny Graham is a Newcastle fan and is up for grabs from Swansea. Isn’t he ideal for Alan Pardew in the current climate?
Saints: Dark Clouds On The South Coast
Fears grow as Pochettino needs an interpreter to take his first sessions at St Mary’s (Sami Mokbel, Mail) New Southampton boss Mauricio Pochettino had to use an interpreter during a first speech to his new players as fears grow over his lack of English… Southampton players are said to have been impressed by Saturday’s session, but have privately expressed worries over Pochettino’s appointment, particularly regarding the language barrier.
Southampton fans plan handkerchief protest at Everton match (Independent) Southampton fans have been urged to wave white handkerchiefs at tonight’s home match with Everton to show their anger at the sacking of the manager Nigel Adkins on Friday. Despite a run of only two defeats in 12 games that dragged the club out of the Premier League relegation zone, Adkins was immediately replaced on his dismissal by the former Espanyol manager Mauricio Pochettino.
Football scouts used to trust intuition. Now they also use spreadsheets (Sean Ingle, Guardian) When it comes to the January transfer window – football’s irrational global hypermarket – clubs are realising that using advanced-data analytics is sensible soccer-nomics. Even the biggest clubs find it impossible to assess every potential target, let alone the Championship manager hunting for bargains to keep his team up. The analytics, for instance, suggested that Michu was hugely undervalued at Rayo Vallecano. But data remains a starting point, not a solution. As OptaPro’s Simon Farrant admits: “We can’t tell you how a player behaves off the pitch. But when clubs want to know whether a target could do a certain job, that’s something we can answer.”
Sneijder Goes To Gala: The Tabloids Weep
Sneijder agrees Galatasaray deal (Sun) Wesley Sneijder has agreed a big-money deal to sign for Galatasaray. The news will come as a bitter blow to Liverpool, who were keen on signing the Dutch star.
Sneijder finally leaves Inter… but Gerrard won’t like that he’s gone to Turkey, not Liverpool (Mail) The 28-year-old has been locked in contract talks with Galatasaray since Inter accepted an £8.3 million bid for his services two weeks ago, and has put pen to paper on a deal believed to be worth £120,000-per-week.
AC Milan Close In On Balotelli
Mario Balotelli could leave Manchester City for Milan this week (Jamie Jackson, Guardian) Mario Balotelli’s Manchester City future could be decided this week, with talks expected between the champions and Milan on Monday. City are said to want £31m for the striker but the fee may end up nearer to the £24m he cost them from Internazionale in the summer of 2010. Adriano Galliani, the Milan vice-president, has told Gazzetta dello Sport: “At the end of Friday, Manchester City still said €37m. We will see on Monday. Under these conditions, he will remain at Manchester City.”
Milan hope City will agree to sell Balotelli for £23m as Italians remain keen on striker (Mail) AC Milan want to pay for Mario Balotelli in six instalments. Manchester City value him at £30million but the Italians hope the price drops to £23m.
Wenger loses Llor war (Sun) Fernando Llorente is set to sign a pre-contract with Juventus this week — and Arsenal fans must be tearing their hair out. Llorente, a world-class hitman Arsenal badly need, could have moved to London for nothing in the summer as he is out of contract at Athletic Bilbao… Quite why Arsene Wenger has not offered Llorente £120,000 a week to take him to Arsenal is anyone’s guess. Olivier Giroud is similar, yes, but with Llorente Arsenal would have more options.
Arsenal eye 11th-hour move for Newcastle target Yanga-Mbiwa (Mirror) Arsene Wenger is weighing up a last minute move for Newcastle target Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa. Newcastle have agreed a £6.7m fee with Montpellier for the versatile French international defender who is due to fly over to discuss a move to St James’ Park. But Gunners boss Wenger may yet move for Yanga-Mbiwa – and that could mean another last-minute blow for Newcastle who lost out on Loic Remy when QPR came in at the 11th hour.
QPR want to end Malouda’s Chelsea misery but face competition for M’Vila (Mail) QPR are exploring a shock move for Chelsea misfit Florent Malouda… QPR will find out on Monday if they have won the battle for Rennes midfielder Yann M’Vila. The 22-year-old Frenchman is keen on England but has more lucrative offers from Rubin Kazan and Zenit.
Arsenal offered Gourcuff on loan as Wenger weighs up bid for Celtic star Wanyama (Mail) Arsenal are being offered Lyon midfielder Yoann Gourcuff on loan. The French club are keen to off-load the 26-year-old’s £80,000 a week wages. Arsenal have also joined Fulham in expressing an interest in Celtic midfielder Victor Wanyama, 21.
Rodgers planning £8m bid for Coutinho as Liverpool look to bolster midfield (Mail) Liverpool are considering an improved bid for Inter Milan midfielder Philippe Coutinho.
Liverpool told £8m too low for Inter’s Samba starlet Philippe Coutinho (Mirror) The 20-year-old has already appeared for the Brazil national side, and Inter believe he is worth around 12m Euros, even though he has struggled to make a first team impact at the Italian club and was farmed out on loan to Espanyol last season.
Celtic line up Burnley hotshot Austin as possible Hooper replacement (Mail) Celtic will make a move for Burnley striker Charlie Austin if Norwich’s pursuit of Gary Hooper reaches a successful conclusion in the coming days.
Carlos Tevez to leave Manchester City in summer of 2014 (Independent) Carlos Tevez has announced he will not seek a new contract at Manchester City when his current deal expires next year.