Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “It was no penalty. Both players were fighting for the ball. In the end Rooney literally fell into Cesar and I think it was a clear foul against our player. Maybe Rooney should have been yellow-carded.” – Slovenia keeper Samir Handanovic.
Today’s overview: We start with a simple and direct argument from Rod Liddle. “Englandâ€™s quest to win another major trophy seems as doomed to failure as Scotlandâ€™s attempts to qualify, and for the same reasons. We do not have enough people. The tournaments of the future will be contested between the countries with the largest populations; the days of Denmark and Uruguay winning stuff is, sadly, over.”
It is easy to forget to England-Slovenia was just a friendly, which England actually won, as the flak begins to build in the Sundays.
Looking at England’s problems, Jamie Jackson highlighted “a lack of control in midfield and the fullbacks, particularly Glen Johnson, being sucked inside towards the play. But as can so often be the way for England, a punt upfield became the catalyst for forward ascendancy.” The Liverpool full-back was also called out by he aberrant defending that has marred recent performances was present again, especially when Slovenia went near Glen Johnson.”
Jermain Defoe may be experiencing a purple patch for England, however consensus opinion still leaves the Tottenham striker outside the Three Lions’ first XI.
James Corrigan is the first to deliver the bad news to Defoe. “It seems cruel to say but Defoe’s international career seems destined to be spent largely among the substitutes… Despite Defoe’s moment of brilliance â€“ the one true piece of quality on an otherwise desperate night â€“ the smart money will remain on Heskey lining up against the Croatians.”
For Paul Hayward, “instinct says Rooney’s order of preference would be Heskey, Crouch, then Cole, the youngest and most callow of the trio.” Concurring, Duncan Castles also notes that Heskey appears to be Capello’s favourite partner for Rooney. “No matter that the big man rarely scores, nor that heâ€™s been relegated to Aston Villaâ€™s bench, Capello is not averse to mixing a passing game with the occasional lusty ball from the back. Heskey gets something on most of them.”
Standing alone as Defoe’s one-man cheering squad, Rory Smith believes that the Spurs striker has made a “watertight case” for starting against Croatia. Elsewhere, Gary Lineker wants Defoe to be given a chance whereby “if Defoe can bed in now, who’s to say he can’t go on and form the partnership with Rooney in South Africa we’ve all been looking for?”Â
Did Wayne Rooney take a dive for England’s penalty against Slovenia?
Duncan Castles bravely tackles the hot topic. “While Cesar clearly laid a hand on Rooneyâ€™s shoulder, the England striker responded by grabbing a generous handful of the centre-backâ€™s shorts… At best, the Swedish referee should have ignored the incident; instead he inexplicably awarded England a penalty that Frank Lampard converted with the minimum of fuss.” Fence-sitting, Duncan White confusingly argued “replays showed that both players had a grip of each otherâ€™s shirt at some stage, although Rooneyâ€™s seemed to be the clearer foul… This was no penalty but nor was it a dive on Rooneyâ€™s part â€“ he didnâ€™t even appeal.”
Thankfully, we can always really on the tabloids to stir up the controversy to the max. Removing all ifs, buts and maybes, Dan King chugged in the Mail on Sunday that “there was no question of Rooney having dived, but he made a half-hearted penalty appeal and the Slovenia players were furious.”
Who was England’s worst performer against Slovenia? Step forward short-stuff SWP, according to the player ratings.
The Mirror, handing out a 5/10 to the City wide-man, berated “the nippy Manchester City winger [for having…] twice as much pace as Becks but thereâ€™s no end product.” The Independent also gave SWP 5/10, while The Sunday Times served up the harshest criticism writing “absolutely anonymous for the first 45 minutes” in awarding Wright-Phillips just 4/10.
Looking at the wider World Cup picture, Paul Doyle considers the possible absences of Argentina and Portugal from South Africa 2010. “Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, ranked first and second in Fifa’s most recent world player of the year poll, could miss the finals. If they are absent, it could be the biggest setback in 50 years to the attractiveness of the biggest tournament in world sport.”
After the Gael Kakuta affair, the child-snatchers remain in sharp focus this Sunday.
Jamie Jackson and Louise Taylor join forces to offer a detailed report into the problems of signing teenage footballers. “Fifa estimate that there are 500,000 transfers a year, many of them across national borders, of under-18 players from one club to another. Many of them are the result of a youngster failing at one club only to try his luck elsewhere, but far too many, in Fifa’s view, are the result of rich clubs taking advantage of those less well off.”
Writing in his famous stiff-upper-lip style, The Sunday Times’tâ€™s heartening to find signs that the administrators of the game are seriously intent on making the most opulent seducers less contemptuously unscrupulous in racking up their conquests.”
Chelsea, the chief child-snatchers at present, are stripped down by Joe Lovejoy in the Observer for their failing youth policy. “It is a dreadful condemnation of the expensive academy at Cobham that it has not produced a single first-team regular since John Terry muscled his way to precocious prominence a decade ago… The Blues’ youth scheme has been a nursery not for their first team, but for others, usually in the Championship.” Duncan Castles also takes a swing at the Blues, finger-pointing Frank Arnesen as shouldering much of the blame for the Blues current predicament. “The current calculation for Chelsea is a grim one: Tens of millions spent and little in return beyond internal strife and a Fifa transfer ban. Abramovich is appealing the clubâ€™s sentence. Perhaps when that is over he should reconsider the appeal of Arnesen.”
Arsesen is also hung out to dry by Neil Ashton in the NOTW. “Chelsea’s failing football academy has cost owner Roman Abramovich a staggering Â£62million. In four years since Frank Arnesen swapped Spurs for Stamford Bridge, he has failed to produce a single first-team regular.”
Who is the biggest loser from the Kakula saga?
Duncan White extends a comforting arm around new-boy Carlo Ancelotti. “How can he put his imprint on the team if he canâ€™t sign anyone?… Ancelotti is stuck with what he has, a squad with undoubted quality but short on numbers and high on age.” However, it is left to James Corrigan alone to think of the teenager at the centre of the storm. “Quite clearly, it is the individual who should count here and that is why Fifa were so wrong to ban Kakuta for four months. He was 16 when he was ‘found to have breached his contract.’ You don’t breach contracts when you’re 16, unless it’s on a mobile phone. Like any kid that age he saw only the dream. Kakuta is an innocent in all of this and should be treated as such. Frankly, it is unethical to make an example of him, whatever the perceived crimes of Chelsea.”
Turning to more domestic matters, we start with big news in East London.
The Independent on Sunday’s Simon Evans has the skinny on a potential takeover at West Ham. “Ali al-Faraj, the Saudi property investor who recently failed in his attempts to buy Portsmouth, is believed to be considering a bid for West Ham United… Whoever takes over at West Ham will have to grapple with a substantial debt pile. Recently published accounts for the Hammers show they lost Â£37.4 million in 2008.”
Portsmouth keeper David James, who was reporting to be on the verge of leaving Fratton Park in the transfer window, clears the air in the Observer. “I know a lot of people are expecting us to struggle and I’ve heard the pundits say it is a foregone conclusion that we will be relegated. But I remember the same things being said the year I joined Portsmouth. It all feels a bit like starting over.”
Is this another false dawn on Tyneside?
Paul Kelso splutters that “the long-awaited takeover of Newcastle United could be completed in the coming days, with Tyneside businessman Barry Moat closing in on a deal that would end Mike Ashley’s troubled ownership of the Championship leaders.”
Onto the gossip, and Daniel King kicks off by reporting the details on Messi’s new contract at Barcelona. “The Argentine playmaker, almost certain to be recognised as the world’s best player by the end-of-year polls, will earn Â£230,000 a week until 2016, making him the best-paid player in the world.” In a separate article staying with the Catalans, Daniel King goes on to report “Barcelona are ready to end Robinho’s troubled Manchester City career as early as January, with coach Pep Guardiola closely monitoring the situation of the Brazilian.”
Simon Mullock dishes more dirt on the Robinho-Barca link in the Sunday Mirror. “Manchester City will tell Barcelona that the only way Robinho will move to the Nou Camp is if the Catalans agree to a swap deal that includes Lionel Messi… European champions Barca are willing to include Thierry Henry in part-exchange for Robinho.”
And there is more transfer gossip, Ralph Ellis claiming that “West Brom are poised to rescue former England defender Nicky Shorey from another season in the Aston Villa wilderness,” while the People announce that “West Brom boss Roberto Di Matteo wants to bring Diomansy Kamara back to the club on loan.”