Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “I knew he [Adebayor] was aiming for a collision because he changed the angle of his body to allow contact to be made. He moved backwards when his natural momentum would have taken him forward. I find that deeply disrespectful. He has shown a real lack of class today, to me and the fans. I do feel lucky that I have not suffered a greater injury. The contact was only centimetres from my eye. I have not received an apology from him, there were no words exchanged afterwards. He had his own agenda today and that is bad for football. It’s bad for the game we all love. I want to make it clear that this has nothing to do with the result of today’s match. We do not hide from that disappointment but I need to speak out about his behaviour.” – Robin van Persie.
Runner-up: “I’m all for the feelgood factor after England qualified for the World Cup on Wednesday night but letâ€™s put things into perspective here. This is virtually the same team that have been together for years and achieved absolutely nothing. Two years ago they were completely on their knees. They couldnâ€™t qualify for the European Championship finals and got battered out of sight by Croatia. Talk is very cheap and if I was [Rio] Ferdinand Iâ€™d save that for South Africa and then we will see how good this England team are. If they can go beyond the World Cup semis, even I might admit he could be right. The danger here is that people start to get carried away after England have qualified from a relatively easy group.” – Chris Waddle.
Today’s overview: After a breathtaking Saturday in the Premier League, Paul Hayward drew his conclusions for the Citizens and Tottenham. “This fourth weekend had the potential to define Spurs and Manchester City as contenders or pretenders. City passed their trial against Arsenal but Tottenham bounced off opponents.”
It was not all good news for City, as Emmanuel Adebayor may find that his behaviour lands him in hot water. According to Mark Ogden “Adebayor could face a double FA probe after marring his goalscoring display against former club Arsenal with a stamp on Robin van Persie and incendiary goal celebration in front of the travelling supporters.” Similarly, Ian Herbert described the match as “a kicking contest between City’s new Â£25m man and his old team-mates for much of the time… [in which] Adebayor had been abused by Arsenal supporters from the moment he stepped onto the pitch.”
Arsenal may also find themselves in trouble after fans misbehaved at Eastlands. As reported bynraged [after Adebayor’s goal and celebration], they hurled bottles and other objects onto the pitch, some fought with stewards and one steward was led away injured.”
Putting Adebayor’s bahaviour to one side, the fourth estate uniformly praise Manchester City for their impressive defeat of Arsenal on Saturday.
Paul Wilson commented “the positives for Hughes are a result against a top-four club at the first time of asking, and the response City found when one was needed.” Neil Ashton also found room to praise the Citizens. “Arsenal are all about top-four finishes and fantasy football, yet City are on the upturn after this exceptional performance. Even without Robinho and Carlos Tevez they were free-flowing going forward, full of flair and without fear. They picked up where they left off before the international break, suffocating top-class opposition with their high-tempo tactics.”
Keeping with the Gunners, the Sunday Express report that “Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger will discuss a new contract with defender William Gallas before the end of the year.”
Tottenham’s disappointing showing against Manchester United is chewed over by the hacks across the backpages.
“[Spurs] started explosively but faded in the second half and it was they not United who played as if they had 10 men on the field,” shouted Duncan White. Also talking down to the Lillywhites is Jonathan Northcroft, who commented “after their seasonâ€™s fabulous start, Spurs found they still have limits compared with the Premier Leagueâ€™s top sides.” Completing the trio, Mark Stenson concurred that “Spurs were given a reality check as United cranked up for another title charge.”
For Andy Dunn, Wayne Rooney again stole the plaudits. “After Scholes was dismissed, United were not down to 10 men. They simply had nine plus Rooney. And if my football maths is half-decent, that equals 11. At a time when Spurs had theoretical numerical advantage, Rooney brought a wonderful save out of Carlo Cudicini, hit a post and scored a stunning goal to kill any fanciful idea of a Tottenham comeback.”
But let’s not forget about Chelsea, Myles Hogson complimented the Blues last-gasp victory at Stoke jotting “if evidence were needed of Chelsea’s capacity to overcome the impact of Fifa’s transfer embargo and mount a sustainable title challenge, Florent Malouda’s injury-time winner provided it by continuing their 100 per cent winning start to the season… it was a victory which set down a marker to their Premier League rivals.”
Bring on the Champions league, where already Besitkas’ Rustu Recber is complaining about the movement of the new Adidas ball UEFA will introduce this season. (Doesn’t this happen every year?!)
The front-runners are assessed by Steve Tongue. “The Spanish pair, the holders Barcelona and the big spenders Real Madrid, top the odds list ahead of the Premier League quartet, in which Manchester United are sandwiched between Chelsea and Arsenal, with Liverpool the slight outsiders. Apart from the fact that nobody can yet predict how successfully Madrid’s new galacticos will gell, it is a fair assessment and one that arouses a sense of anticipation in all four managers of the English clubs.”
Paul Hayward asks the simple question “Is Zlatan Ibrahimovic worth 66 million euros?… Rather in the John Jensen tradition of I-was-there-when-he-scored T-shirt making, there are people who swear they have seen the giant-but-dexterous Ibrahimovic excel in a big game.”
After England booked their place in South Africa last week, several scribes waste their time talking about a competition which is still over eight months away.
First up, Paul Wilson looks for reasons why the Three Lions won’t triumph. “The first is that no team coached by a foreigner have ever won a World Cup. The second, flagged up by Fabio Capello himself in an attempt to keep everyone’s feet on the ground, is that England tend not to turn up for summer tournaments with the sort of early-season spring in their step they demonstrated at Wembley on Wednesday.”
Next, Henry Winter delivers “a World Cup checklist for Capello. Take only fit players. Watch what the players drink. Hope the officials spot any cheating. And practise penalties. Please. Don’t ignore the warnings from history.” While Steve Tongue states the bleeding obvious writing “the danger, after last Wednesday’s heroics concluded a run of eight straight qualifying victories with 31 goals, is that dreaming will detract from the work that needs to be done over the next nine months.”
Bucking the trend, Jonathan Northcroft boosts England’s hopes of laying their hands on Jules Rimet. “No country can expect to win the World Cup, but the purity of Capelloâ€™s professionalism gives England their best chance for a generation. He will go to South Africa untainted by the agendas, sentiment or suggestibility that undermined previous managers.”
Should Goldenballs go to Africa?
Piers Morgan makes the case for dropping David Beckham. “If he’s not going to start a game and is highly unlikely to be the preferred choice towards the end of one, then why even think about bringing his whole ludicrous Hollywood circus to town? On a scale of distractions, Beckham’s mere presence is like sticking Paris Hilton, Britney Spears and Katie Price on the team bus.” Gary Lineker delivers the riposte. “I would warn strongly against writing off Beckham. If Capello was naming his squad now, Beckham would be in it. He is clearly one of the best 23 English players he has to choose from and proven at the highest level.”
Neil Ashton also claims that Beckham remains in the England fold. “Even though Beckham plays an increasingly marginal role in the England team, the LA Galaxy midfielder remains central to Capello’s plans. He is convinced his attitude around the squad is an example to every player. Beckham, 35, travels halfway around the world to join up with the squad and his commitment will be rewarded.”
David Walsh reports on a survey of how the nation views England’s chances of winning the 2010 World Cup. “49% of people believe Englandâ€™s chances of winning are ‘excellent’ or ‘good.’ However, the YouGov poll also shows that 20% think the teamâ€™s chances are ‘poor’ while 12% say they are ‘hopeless.'”
Rather than looking at England’s chances in a vacuuum, Spain have been as rampant as England in qualifying for the finals, winning all of their eight group matches so far and conceding fewer goals: two to Englandâ€™s five…. [while] Capello has the Ivorians listed as a potential obstacle and does so from looking at the central spine of their team. Any side built around the Toure brothers â€” Manchester Cityâ€™s Kolo in defence, Barcelonaâ€™s Yaya in midfield â€” and Chelseaâ€™s Didier Drogba up front are a side to fear.” Hugh McIlvanney also assesses England’s chances in parallel with the other favourites. “Having [England] just a point-and-a-half longer than the winners of Euro 2008, Spain… seems scarcely objective. Brazil, currently supporting the genius of Kaka and the outrageously prolific goal-scoring of Luis Fabiano with an overall sense of fluent athleticism and power, also appear sure to be dangerous.”
Staying in the international arena, Rod Liddle plays the stereotypicial Argentina-hating England cardÂ when assessing the travails of Diego Maradona. “Watching that bloated old coke-head shepherd Argentina to footballing oblivion has given me almost as much pleasure as watching Millwall in the playoffs last season. What began as a vague stirring of excitement that Diego Maradona and the Argies might actually struggle a bit has developed into an almost constant state of euphoria these past few days.”
As standard, the tabloids spout sensationalist rumours to help sell their Sundays.
Paul Smith in the Sunday Mirror claims “Harry Redknapp is in pole position to lead the Great Britain football team in the 2012 Olympic games in London,” while Neil Ashton spikes interest by announcing “Kevin Keegan will this week battle it out with Mike Ashley over his Â£10million compensation claim from Newcastle.” Staying with the Magpies, Martin Handy toots “Chris Hughton has been told by his Newcastle bosses that he will be left in charge for the rest of the season.”
And then there are the transfers, kicking off with Aidan McGee’s claim that “Sir Alex Ferguson is planning a second attempt at signing Valencia playmaker David Silva in January with a Â£25million bid.” Elsewhere, Steve Bates chugs that “Brazilian striker Luis Fabiano is top of Manchester United’s January hit list – with the South American star ready to ditch Spanish side Seville.” The People also print that “Coventry City and Swansea City are among a clutch of Championship clubs who are waiting to see whether Wolves release Sam Vokes on loan.”
Lastly, Steve Tongue tells the offbeat story of “a painter and decorator who refuses to use red paint because he supports Leeds United is embroiled in a controversy over the city council’s plans to repaint three large gates on the main roundabout at Crossgates, in east Leeds.”