Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “In Italy we say a game like this is a brodino – a starter. I hope it can happen that we start to win in the Premier League again… This is possible [to win the league], but I think we should always be confident in ourselves, even when we’re 12 points behind at this moment. We lost seven points in [our last] three games and this can happen for any team. But now they [United] play a lot of games, at this moment they deserve to stay there because they have been better than us and scored more goals than us.” – Roberto Mancini.
Runner-up: “We [Chelsea] are surprised today by some comments in a newspaper [that Benitez and John Terry are at war]. It is totally rubbish. We didn’t have any problem. We were talking just about football with the team. We had a normal conversation.” – Rafa Benitez.
Wenger set for new 2-year Arsenal deal (Sun) Arsenal are preparing to offer Arsene Wenger a two-year contract extension. Fans turned on the Gunners boss following Saturday’s shock FA Cup KO by Blackburn at the Emirates. But the under-fire Frenchman has hinted he wants to stay to reach two decades in the hotseat, ending all talk he will go when his deal runs out in June 2014.
Arsenal back Wenger with £70m war chest (Telegraph) Arsène Wenger will be entrusted with Arsenal’s largest ever transfer budget in summer even if they don’t finish in top four.
Wenger Hate Crowd Grows
Beat Bayern or go: Arsene Wenger’s now on borrowed time at Arsenal (Mark Lawrenson, Mirror) Judgement time has come for Arsene Wenger. And if Arsenal lose badly over two legs against Bayern Munich as well as finishing outside of the top four then the time has come for change at the end of the season… Why on earth Arsenal rested the big guns against Blackburn is anyone’s guess. They don’t have enough in reserve and they needed to win the tie – and the trophy.
Fergie’s bounced back from every blow as Wenger continues to slide (Alan Shearer, Sun) It is eight years since Gunners manager Wenger was a serious challenger to Ferguson for the game’s great honours. The taste of glory seems like a distant memory now when that pair went toe-to-toe in epic encounters and title battles… While I would not join the celebrity clamour for him to go, he undoubtedly has to find a solution to a situation that has gone stagnant.
Wenger held 45-minute crisis talks in a bid to salvage Arsenal’s season (Sami Mokbel, Mail) Arsene Wenger held an immediate 45-minute inquest into his Arsenal side’s failings after the shock FA Cup defeat by Blackburn in a bid to salvage their season ahead of tomorrow’s Champions League clash with Bayern Munich. And the furious Arsenal manager is determined to replace struggling goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.
Soft in the head! Arsene Wenger blasts Arsenal flops and now plots summer spend (John Cross, Mirror) Arsene Wenger is ready to dump his FA Cup flops after being given the cash to spend big this summer… Wenger will have to give some of his players one last chance against Bayern Munich in the Champions League tomorrow night. But it is clear that keeper Wojciech Szczesny, Abou Diaby and Gervinho are most at risk of the players who kissed goodbye to their best hope of silverware.
David Luiz Should’ve Gone
Fifteen penalties a game is a price worth paying to end a crime everyone commits (James Lawton, Independent) There should be two items at the top of the agenda, both key to a much needed reappraisal of vital issues. One concerns the enshrined lunacy that because the referee at Stamford Bridge acted upon the gut-wrenching brutality of David Luiz’s foul on the young Brentford player Jake Reeves, and awarded a wholly inadequate yellow card, there is no reason for further action. This is quite appalling. Luiz, who was seen grinning as the Brentford player was led from the field as a precaution against concussion, had slammed his shoulder into the face of the unsuspecting Reeves. You hardly needed the reruns to confirm that this was a piece of gratuitous and extremely dangerous violence. Luiz made no attempt to play the ball.
Luiz ‘got away’ with a red card offence (Graham Poll, Mail) Of course it should have been a red card but was tough to call at the time for referee Neil Swarbrick, who issued a yellow card. Now the FA should charge Luiz but will instead hide behind the fact that Swarbrick gave a yellow card. Clear errors should be corrected; it is not re-refereeing incidents it is utilising technology which affords an angle not available to referees and FIFA do not disapprove of this strategy.
How The Sour The 5-Star Scousers
Liverpool’s Fabio Borini ruled out for rest of season after injury against Swansea City (Independent) Fabio Borini’s troubled debut season at Liverpool has become a lot worse with the news that he has been ruled out for the rest of the season with a dislocated shoulder.
Coutinho opens account as Reds hit five… but it feels so empty on the Kop (Dominic King, Mail) The statistics were impressive, the result even more so but rarely has Anfield witnessed a victory that felt so hollow… At the final whistle, though, there were as many empty seats as there have been at the end of some defeats here and a sense of ambivalence. Liverpool, undoubtedly, were impressive but what lessons did were to be gleaned from knocking over Swansea’s reserves?
Talking Bayern… Up
Jupp Heynckes tightens the screw on his Bayern Munich machine (Marcus Christenson, Guardian) [Bayern] have become a machine. All talk of Guardiola joining in the summer has not had an impact on the team – or the manager. No wonder Heynckes is proud, saying that this is the best Bayern side of all time, better even than the team who won three straight European Cups in the 70s.
Winning is everything and second best is not allowed at Bayern, claims Schweinsteiger ahead of Arsenal clash (Matt Barlow, Mail) Inside Germany, there has never been any doubt about the star quality of a club once dubbed FC Hollywood. The country’s best players gravitate towards Munich and those who do well find it difficult to leave.
A Word On Man United
Manchester United not as good as 1999 team? Don’t believe a word of it (Sean Ingle, Guardian) Here is the rub: when you compare United’s points tally after 26 games to the greatest English sides of the past 30 years, it is up there. In fact way up there. The United class of 2012-13 have 65 points – not only 14 points better off than the 1999 treble winners at this stage but, incredibly, more than any United side managed by Sir Alex Ferguson after 26 games. Their tally is also better than Arsenal’s Invincibles (64 points after 26 games in 2003-04). And equal to José Mourinho’s 2004-05 Chelsea side, who went on to smash the Premier League points record.
Racism In Football
Blatter’s late tackle (Anthony Kastrinakis, Sun) A FIFA insider told me: “We are talking swingeing changes, points deductions, matches being forfeited, and exclusions from competition.” Blatter may be doing it to wipe out the memory of his handshake-and-forget-it gaffe, or to leave a legacy after a reign dogged by accusations of corruption. No matter, at least he is doing it. And he has stolen a march on UEFA’s Michel Platini. Blatter is not worried about ruffling a few feathers as he steps down in 2015 with no re-election to face — unlike Platini, who wants to succeed him.
N-word slur by CBE ace (Rob Beasley, Sun) A football anti-racism champion has sparked a race row after calling another black man “n*****”. Ex-England and Chelsea star Paul Elliott, a leading light of the Kick It Out campaign, made the slur against another former player, Richard Rufus. Elliott, 48, launched the broadside in a text argument over a business venture that went wrong. He wrote to Rufus: “Ur a stupid man n*****” then added: “You dog. Ur history my friend.” The row ended with Elliott, recently made a CBE for services to equality and diversity in the game, warning: “This will follow you scumbag.”
Why Rio Is An England Outsider
I’m sorry, Rio… Hodgson’s just not that into you when it comes to England (Martin Samuel, Mail) Roy Hodgson must come clean over Rio Ferdinand is the current theory. He must tell the truth about his absence from the England team, give the real reason he is not selected. And here it is: he’s just not that into him. Sorry. If Hodgson was into Ferdinand, nothing would stop him making the England team… There is no conspiracy around Ferdinand… Plainly, some will not be satisfied until Hodgson trashes Ferdinand in a manner that would be hugely disrespectful to one of the finest English footballers of modern times.