Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “Manchester United look untouchable because they’re 12 points ahead and have a game tomorrow against Fulham they’ll certainly win. Their results are very consistent. They win 1â€“0 and you think during the game that they may drop a point or maybe more, but they always manage to findÂ somewhere the resources to win the game. If they win their game in hand they’re 15 points in front, which means they need to lose five games. Say they lose one against us, then they still need to lose another four games. They haven’t lost four games all season yet, but we’ll try. I believe our basic target is to get into the Champions League.” – Arsene Wenger.
Runner-up: “The amounts of money that have been mentioned are incredible. I think that such incredible sums will take part in destroying football. They are creating too big a mental distance between what we call reality and then Manchester City. The hardest part for City is that they, by tradition, are not a big club and therefore all the money in the world does not make a difference. They brought in Bridge even though he is only marginally better than what they had already, and that says how hard it is to get the best players.” – FC Copenhagen coach, Stale Solbakken.
Today’s overview: Having watched Chelsea train yesterday, many hacks release their findings in today’s papers. On a more sour note, the tabloids act as the battle ground to determine whether or not Martin Taylor has truly said sorry for his tackle on Eduardo da Silva. While spurious reports also claim that Samuel Eto’o is again available in the transfer market.
Guus Hiddink opened Chelsea’s training session up to the public yesterday and Dominic Fifield was on hand to watch the Dutchman’s first standing ovation, although pointing out that many remain unconvinced. Matt Hughes tried to pick up on Hiddink’s tactics for Chelsea writing he “gave a clear indication yesterday of his desire to partner Nicolas Anelka with Didier Drogba… [while] the only other innovation made by Hiddink was the use of Deco as a holding player at the base of a three-man midfield.” The Daily Mail concluded that “Guus Hiddink is considering handing central defender Michael Mancienne a first Barclays Premier League start at Aston Villa on Saturday.”
By contrast, Sam Wallace believed that yesterday’s open training session taught observers very little. “The truth is that we learnt very little about Hiddinkâ€™s methods. We learnt that John Terry likes playing the piggy-in-the-middle, keep-ball game â€“ known as â€œboxesâ€ among the professional football fraternity â€“ as much as the average five-year-old likes eating chocolate ice cream… The biggest surprise of the afternoon was that Abramovich himself turned up in the press box.”
On why Manchester United will win the title over Liverpool, Martin Samuel makes his case plainly clear. “Take the best Manchester United XI and the best Liverpool XI and put them together: how many of Benitez’s team would get into Ferguson’s? Not many. And that is why the championship is again heading for Old Trafford. By my reckoning, maximum four, minimum two. Split the difference, call it three. Whichever way, there is nothing here to suggest that Liverpool can get the better of Manchester United this season, or next, without substantial upgrading in the summer.”
Reporting that Samuel Eto’o “refused to be photographed for a magazine interview wearing a Barcelona shirt, saying he did not want to be ‘one of those players that kisses the badge then leaves,'” the Daily Mail claim Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea are all vying for the Cameroonian’s Â£20 million signature.
Fatigue is set to derail Aston Villa’s season according to Stuart James. “CSKA Moscow’s visit in the Uefa Cup tonight is the 41st game of an unforgiving campaign that started in the middle of July and, for the sizable England contingent within Martin O’Neill’s squad, will end 11 months later… areas of the team are beginning to crack. Zat Knight and Curtis Davies are the only fit central defenders.” Keeping with Villa, Stiliyan Petrov’s stalled contract negotiations calling the Bulgarian “Villaâ€™s most improved player this season, providing the classy platform from which Barry builds the play.”
There is a distasteful war of words in the tabloids this Wednesday, opening up old wounds between Martin Taylor and Eduardo da Silva. The Daily Mail’s Neil Moxley caught up with Martin Taylor, spoke about seeing Eduardo “face-to-face [days after the accident] but he was obviously under the influence of a lot of drugs. I donâ€™t know whether he was aware I was there or not.” The Sun’s Pat Sheehan however quotes the Croatian saying “Some friends told me he was saying heâ€™d spoken to me â€” but he never did. Iâ€™ve never met him. And someone at Arsenal received an email from him when I played for the reserves at Barnet a short while back and it said he was pleased I was playing again.I have received lots of mail from other people. Iâ€™ve had around 25,000 emails â€” from Croatia, Brazil and England â€” wishing me a speedy recovery and Iâ€™ve had letters by the sackful. But heâ€™s never sent anything directly to me.”
The Telegraph’s Rory Smith wonders whether Mikel Arteta could make the England 2010 World Cup squad. “Sources close to the player have revealed he has not “closed the door” on switching his international allegiance in an attempt to prove himself on the world stage, though it is thought Arteta would have reservations about turning out for a land other than that of his birth.”
Touching on the frightening statistic that, on average, one manager has been fired every six days this season, Henry Winter reports on the League Managers Association’s proposed scheme to improve promising young English managers, creating a dozen-strong group of contenders for the FA to consider when Fabio Capello eventually leaves.
Dipping into the lower leagues, David Conn reports on the fears of Leyton Orient fans over the proposal from chairman Barry Hearn that “ownership of the club’s ground is to be transferred from the club itself to his own company, in exchange for wiping out the loans.”
In an offbeat article, Rob Bagchi wonders whether the only true tonic to achieve a settled squad is winning. “With Peter Moores, the England cricket coach, Tony Adams and Luiz Felipe Scolari all reportedly falling victim to ‘player power’ or divided dressing rooms this past month, it makes you wonder whether those sports psychology tomes chronicling numerous team-building exercises are now essentially redundant. Is winning the only glue that keeps a squad united?”
Staying off track, Giles Smith uses his column in The Times to talk about the wonderful camera angles seen during the Milan derby. “The overhead camera (or Crouch-cam, if you will) â€œoffers something differentâ€. Indeed, it’s the first camera in the history of outside broadcasting that routinely goes up for corners. Defenders don’t know how to cope with it. Go zonal, or mark it man-to-man? Chaos it causes – at both ends of the pitch. And not just at corners. Win a free kick in a ‘promising position’, and the camera drops in behind the shoulder of the player shaping up to take it. I knew I had seen that camera angle somewhere before, and I pretty quickly remembered where: on Fifa 09.”
Lastly, Matthew Fearon picks his best Real Madrid XI of all-time.