Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “It’s something that is best done in pre-season but I think Fernando just needs two weeks when he hasn’t got to worry about playing on the Saturday and just put in a nice two-week training programme that I think would definitely bring the majority of his speed back. I’m sure I could fix him. It doesn’t have to be a lengthy process because these guys are already extremely fit. That’s the great thing about working with footballers and rugby players. You’re not having to worry about the base fitness so you just go in and teach the raw speed. “In the case of Fernando, I think he would also probably need to do a bit of weightlifting as well as the running and the speed drills to put some power back into his muscles. That’s why sprinters lift weights, to gain that explosive speed and power.” – Former Olympic sprint champion Darren Campbell.
Runner-up: “Guardiola has a pre-deal to be the next manager of Manchester City. No matter if Milan or whoever make offers to him.” – FIFA agent Francois Gallardo.
Jose Or Pep For City?
Jose waits on Man City job (Sun) Jose Mourinho is ready and willing to take over as manager of Manchester City next summer. With City boss Roberto Mancini on thin ice after crashing out of the Champions League, Real Madrid chief Mourinho is waiting in the wings. And even though Mancini has signed a contract through to 2017, City owner Sheikh Mansour might be tempted to sever ties with the Italian if he can get the former Chelsea manager. Mourinho’s agent Jorge Mendes recently met with City’s new director of football Txiki Begiristain in Portugal.
Guardiola shocker: Agent claims Pep ‘has agreed to be next Man City boss’ (Mirror) Pep Guardiola has a preliminary agreement to take over at Manchester City, a FIFA agent has claimed… FIFA agent Francois Gallardo has told a Spanish radio station that City are already plotting to replace manager Roberto Mancini.
EPL: The Title Race Between United & City
Two-horse title race? Rivals struggle to keep up with Manchester giants (Mail) For Celtic and Rangers, it’s City and United. The Manchester monopoly began to take shape towards the end of last season, when City overhauled what had looked an unassailable United lead and pipped them on goal difference with virtually the last kick of the campaign. It made for dramatic viewing but those taken in by the spellbinding theatre of City’s winner hitting the net while Sir Alex Ferguson and his players awaited news by the side of the pitch at Sunderland were overlooking one minor detail. Third-placed Arsenal trailed in a distant 19 points behind. Already, just 14 games in, it looks like being a two-horse race again, with United currently edging City and Chelsea heading an underachieving chasing pack, seven points adrift. Even more disconcertingly for the image of the Premier League, the two city rivals are not even performing like the thoroughbreds of old.
Robin Reliant? United would be languishing in 12th without Van Persie… while Suarez is saving Liverpool from the drop (Mail) Opta statistics show that without the Dutchman, United would have just three wins instead of ten and seven draws instead of none. Their goal difference would be just +2 instead of a healthy +14 and they’d have half the points of bitter rivals Manchester City.
Manchester duo pull clear of pack and set up derby of some significance (Guardian) The title race seems to be resolving itself into the two-horse affair everyone predicted it would be before Roberto Di Matteo’s new signings clicked so smoothly. There is still time for Chelsea to climb back into the reckoning, as long as Rafael Benítez can find someone to put the ball in the net and help ease the pressure piling up on him, though it already appears that Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal have no hopes higher than a Champions League finish while West Bromwich and Everton have just had bright starts put into perspective. Right at this moment it appears the title is going to stay in Manchester, and with United one point ahead of their neighbours going into the weekend fixtures the derby at the Etihad the following Sunday could be a showdown of some significance.
Crisis Chelsea: Tips For Rafa
Recall Lamps if you want to end boos, Rafa (Ian Wright, Sun) If anyone was in doubt quite how important Frank is to the cause, they only need a quick glance at the results since he has been out with a calf injury. He lasted just 18 minutes of the Champions League defeat at Shakhtar Donetsk and has spent the last six weeks fighting his way back. I believe that day is just around the corner and Rafa could even have Lampard chomping at the bit for old club West Ham tomorrow. I know Benitez is his own man, but he would be very wise listening to all those who reckon he should get Frank back as soon as he can. Since he was sidelined, the Blues have played six league games. That is 18 points up for grabs, and do you know how many they have picked up in his absence? Four — and not a single win.
Revealed: How Benitez could win over the Chelsea fans, by a Blues season ticket holder (Mail) Here’s part of what Benitez said in his programme notes: ‘Sunday’s game [against Manchester City] was never going to be easy, but we came out of it with a good point… we now want to build on this, create more chances and start winning games.’ Here’s what he could have said: ‘I know I am an unpopular choice because I was manager at Liverpool and due to some comments I made. But that was then and this is now. I need to prove myself to you and the club, which I am determined to do for short and long-term success. ‘All I would ask is you give me a chance. Roberto played for and coached Chelsea, winning the Champions League. So I understand why the fans chanted his name and gave me a hostile reception.’
Countdown: Chelsea give Torres a month, and line up a likely replacement (Mirror) Fernando Torres has a month to prove to Rafa Benitez that he can once again be the player he was at Liverpool. And Chelsea have already lined up a Brazilian striker who will be ready to step straight into the side after Christmas if Torres’ Stamford Bridge nightmare continues. Metalist Kharkiv star Taison was at Stamford Bridge to watch Wednesday’s goalless draw with Fulham, amid reports from his South American homelamd that he will sign a £10million deal next week ahead of the opening of the January transfer window.
Abramovich is the only man still in Fernando Torres’ corner (Martin Lipton, Mirror) More worrying, more damning, are the findings of a study of Torres’ Chelsea career to date – one that has brought just 18 goals in 88 competitive outings. Bad enough in itself – the much-derided Andriy Shevchenko, for example, scored 22 in 77 games for the Blues – but Torres has so far scored just one arguable “winner” for Chelsea, the third in the 4-2 victory over Reading in August (and he was a yard offside when he netted that). For any striker, let alone the most expensive signing in British history, that would be an embarrassment.
Rafael Benítez feels the heat as mutinous Chelsea fans crave new voice (Guardian) In many ways the past two matches have confirmed the concerns many fans had when Benítez was appointed. If the derogatory comments Benítez made about Chelsea in the past ensured that the former Liverpool manager was never going to be well received, the fact that he has a reputation for playing cautious football hardly helped. Two games into his tenure and Chelsea have failed to score in successive home matches for the first time in five years. It has been more of a turn-off than a charm offensive.
You’d be crazy not to sign on here, Raheem (Sun) Brendan Rodgers has warned Liverpool’s teen sensation Raheem Sterling: You’d be foolish not to sign your Kop contract… The wing wizard celebrates his 18th birthday a week tomorrow and, although no formal contract is on the table, the Reds have been talking to his representatives for weeks.
Suso falls foul of Twitter after ‘gay’ jibe at Liverpool team-mate Enrique (Mail) Liverpool starlet Suso could be in hot water after becoming the latest Premier League star to fall foul of Twitter. The 19-year-old Spaniard sparked controversy with his reply to team-mate Jose Enrique posting a bizarre picture of him getting his teeth whitened. Suso tweeted: ‘What f*** is he doing? This guy is gay… he does everything except play football.’ The Reds midfielder quickly realised he had made a poor error of judgement and deleted the tweet.
Arsenal: Pay Cuts
Arsenal tweaking players’ deals to cover Champions League ‘armageddon’ (Mirror) The club is understood to be inserting clauses into some new contracts which will require players to accept pay-cuts if Arsenal fail to reach European club football’s money-spinning top competition. Arsenal are currently doing a round of negotiations, which includes Jack Wilshere, Bacary Sagna, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Kieran Gibbs and Theo Walcott.
Arsenal want pay cuts for Champions League failure in new contracts (Guardian) An Arsenal spokesman said it was “normal practice” for players to have clauses that were linked to the club’s success both domestically and in Europe.
Arsenal plan January splurge as Wenger confirms he wants Henry on loan plus TWO more (Mail) Arsene Wenger has confirmed Arsenal want to sign two players in January as well as bringing back Thierry Henry for a third spell at the club… Among those being chased by Arsenal are Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha and Schalke striker Klass Jan Huntelaar.
Bale out with me at Real! (Sun) Luka Modric has told Gareth Bale to join him at Real Madrid — so they can rule the world together… The key to any move is 23-year-year old Bale’s desire to experience football at the highest possible level he can — and pit himself against the very best week in, week out.
Vrij magnet for Rodgers (Sun) Brendan Rodgers is tailing £3.5million-rated Dutch centre-back Stefan de Vrij, 20… De Vrij is already captain of Feyenoord and made his international bow three months ago. Rodgers will have to fend off Chelsea, Arsenal and some of the Bundesliga’s big guns, who are also interested.
Liverpool ready to move for Dutch ace De Vrij as fears grow over Coates’ future (Sun) Liverpool are in the market for a centre back with concerns over the future of Sebastian Coates. The Uruguay defender is attracting interest from Italian clubs. Juventus are thought to be among them as they look to replace 34-year-old Lucio.
QPR ready for £8m Rem-edy (Sun) QPR are lining up an £8million bid for Loic Remy… Chelsea, Liverpool, Newcastle and Spurs are also interested.
Fergie’s fine Mes (Sun) Mesut Ozil is back on Manchester United’s radar after reports the playmaker is considering his future at Real Madrid… Ozil earns £110,000 a week at the Bernabeu, which fits comfortably into the Old Trafford pay structure, as does his age in terms of sell-on value.
The answer to Chelsea crisis? Sign another Brazilian midfielder (Sun) The season is already slipping away but Chelsea have been busy making plans for the future this week. They want to sign Brazilian midfielder Taison Freda from Ukrainian club Metalist Kharkiv in January. Taison, 24, was invited to Stamford Bridge for the draw against Fulham and even that performance has not put him off. The move has been complicated by work permit issues because Taison has never represented Brazil but Chelsea will make an application under the ‘special talent’ rule in January.
Monaco lead the chase for Beckham after former England captain rules out Premier League return (Mail) David Beckham is set for talks with Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain about a lucrative move to France once he brings the curtain down on his six-season career at LA Galaxy this weekend.
Hammers to move again for out-of-favour Ajax winger Sulejmani after summer snub (Mail) Valencia and Bayer Leverkusen have also shown interest in the 23-year-old, who has failed to shine since moving to the Dutch capital in 2008.
Harry Redknapp to use lolly for Benfica’s Nolito (Star) Harry Redknapp s set to go head to head against one of his former clubs in the race to sign exciting Benfica star Nolito. The 26-year-old former Barcelona player is on the radar of Redknapp’s new club QPR, his former charges West Ham as well as Liverpool and Fulham.
Sunderland eye Swansea’s £5m hitman Danny Graham (Star) Chairman Ellis Short is ready to provide funds for O’Neill, but the pair are sweating on a £3m windfall which could determine his kitty.