Wednesday, April 24th, 2013
Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “Luis Suarez has today (Tuesday) accepted a charge of violent conduct, following an incident with Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic in Sunday’s fixture at Anfield. However, Suarez has denied the FA’s claim that the standard punishment of three matches is clearly insufficient for this offence. The incident was not seen by the match officials and has therefore been retrospectively reviewed.” – FA statement.
Runner-up: “From now on this is our new standard and we want to be champions every year. We want to win more. You could tell from day one that everyone wanted this and we did well. It makes me even more hungry. I want to win it again and win more stuff — the FA Cup, Champions League, League Cup — I want to win it all. It’s a great first step but I want more. It tastes lovely. I had to wait a long time. I have been thinking and speaking about it with Rio Ferdinand in the car. He has been telling me when it happens, that is the standard. He is right. From now on this is our new standard. We want to be champions every year.” – Robin van Persie.
Brilliant Bayern. Is the Barcelona era over?
Barcelona’s crushing blow at Bayern feels like a changing of the guard (Sid Lowe, Guardian) And so this Barcelona generation comes full circle. That, at least, is the conclusion many were drawing immediately after this astonishing defeat. For many this represented the end of an era. That conclusion is premature but there was a kind of seductive logic to it. Few teams have been as aware of their place in the club’s history as this one and, even at their lowest moment, there was a certain symbolism, a symmetry. Barcelona equalled their worst ever European result, their worst result for well over a decade. They also equalled the result that Barcelona fans will never forget, from 18 May 1994. The Dream Team were the model that Pep Guardiola said all subsequent Barcelona teams sought to emulate. This generation had done so in just about every way; perhaps all that was left was to do so in defeat too.
Muller stars as Bayern rout Messi’s Barca (Henry Winter, Daily Telegraph) This was both brutal and beautiful. This was Bayern Munich’s very modern machine at its very best, full of fluid counter-attacking, intelligent running and the appliance of good technique at pace. Bayern pressed hard, broke cleverly and did to Lionel Messi and company what Barcelona have been doing to others for years. Only time will tell but it felt like the end of an era for the team that Pep built. It felt like the 4-0 defeat inflicted by AC Milan on Barcelona, including Guardiola, in the European Cup final of 1994 in Athens. The team need refreshing, particularly in goal and in defence. They also need a centre forward. In the short term, Messi needs a holiday. He was clearly unfit, a shadow of his usual dazzling self, a yielding target for many of the ambush parties led by the buccaneering Bastian Schweinsteiger. This was a rout. Goals from the outstanding Thomas Müller twice, Mario Gomez and Arjen Robben heaped pain on Barcelona. The visitors’ misery was deepened by some hapless officiating by the additional assistant referees, who missed an offside for Gomez’s goal and an NBA-style block from Müller on Jordi Alba for Robben’s strike.
Javi Martínez the key weapon as Bayern cut Barcelona down to size (Michael Cox, Guardian) Bayern Munich’s strategy was all about striking a balance: they found a happy medium between patience and directness, between physicality and technique and between playing their own game and reacting to exploit Barcelona’s weaknesses. Without the ball Bayern pressed at goal-kicks, forcing Barcelona into misplaced passes inside their own half – but once the away side had possession in midfield, Bayern sat deeper and kept a solid defensive shape. Mario Gomez and Thomas Müller would not have been Bayern’s front two had Mario Mandzukic and Toni Kroos been available but they showed admirable defensive discipline, ensuring that Sergio Busquets was occupied and often unusually panicky with his distribution. Bastian Schweinsteiger was outfoxed by Xavi Hernández a couple of times in the opening moments but continued to close him down energetically.
Manchester United to get stronger…
Giving it 50: Manchester United plan summer signing spree to set up title No.21 (David McDonnell, Daily Mirror) Sir Alex Ferguson will build on Manchester United’s 20th title triumph with a mega summer spending spree costing upwards of £50million. Despite leading United to a 13th Premier League crown, Ferguson plans to invest heavily in his squad to ensure they stay ahead of their domestic rivals and push for Champions League glory. Among Ferguson’s targets include Atletico Madrid striker Radamel Falcao, Borussia Dortmund forward Robert Lewandowski and Everton left-back Leighton Baines. Those set to make way for new arrivals are Nani, Anderson and Paul Scholes, who will retire for a second time. The future of striker Wayne Rooney also remains unclear.
Manchester United title triumph shows how the Glazers have won in the end (David Conn, Guardian) As the key signing Robin van Persie volleyed Manchester United to their 20th league title watched by an Old Trafford crowd which did really look like 76,000 including two Glazer brothers in their cushioned seats, there was the sense that a rancourous era is ending and a new period of United strength beginning. After the fiery 2005 protests against the US family’s hostile, debt-loading takeover, renewed in 2010 when they spent more of United’s fortunes reorganising the source of their borrowing, Old Trafford has quietened.
Fergie in £120million lift (Neil Custis, Sun) Alex Ferguson could boost his title winners with a £120million overhaul this summer. The Manchester United boss would be able to generate £70m of that through sales, with another £50m coming from the Old Trafford coffers. United know Manchester City are eyeing a big summer spree, having missed out on Robin van Persie last year. Chelsea will also undoubtedly strengthen under a new boss. Now Ferguson is ready to do the same to stay ahead domestically, whilst making another concerted bid to win his third Champions League. The club are set to listen to offers for both Nani at £15m and Anderson at £10m. And while Fergie does not want to lose Javier Hernandez, he appreciates the Mexican striker may want more regular first-team football elsewhere. Hernandez has started only seven of United’s league games this season and there is plenty of interest in him from Spain, not least from Real Madrid.
How many games will Luis Suarez be banned for?
Luis was wrong, but before we hound him out let’s remember there have been other Liverpool legends who were not exactly saints (Jamie Carragher, Daily Mail) Before you carry on reading, it is important to make this point: this is not me trying to defend the indefensible. This is an attempt to put some perspective on the Luis Suarez saga. It was said in the aftermath of Sunday’s game against Chelsea, firstly by Graeme Souness as he began his analysis on Sky, that nobody is bigger than the club and that Liverpool should make Luis pay the heaviest penalty by getting rid of him. Now I am not for one moment trying to sugar-coat the incident in which Luis bit Branislav Ivanovic. It was wrong on all levels. You simply don’t expect to see a grown man bite another grown man — that is behaviour you would associate with nursery school.
Luis Suárez and Liverpool had no choice but to challenge length of FA suspension following Branislav Ivanovic bite (Chris Bascombe, Daily Telegraph) The Liverpool striker has shifted position from one where he expressed only remorse for his actions to one of added defiance at the suggestion he should miss more than the next three league fixtures. On the face of it, it seems to be a bold, borderline reckless response risking further censure for the South American. However, it should be noted Suárez will make submissions to an independent commission convened by the FA, not to the FA itself. It should have no negative impact on the panel’s deliberations. Nobody is disputing Suárez’s guilt, but he and his club feel they have a duty to ensure today’s hearing provides reasoned arguments both for and against calls for the striker to be banned for a disproportionate amount of time. The notion that Suárez should submissively agree to whatever penalty is thrown at him, regardless of how severe, is as preposterous as the hysterical screams for the player to be banned for life.
Arsenal fans set to protest the Guard of Honour
No Gunn Salute (Mark Irwin, Sun) Arsenal fans are threatening to turn their backs on Manchester United if the champions are given a guard of honour at the Emirates on Sunday. Supporters are ready to do a ‘Poznan’ and they have also warned former skipper Robin van Persie could get an ‘horrendous’ reception. Fans’ forums were last night urging a boycott of the tribute by taking a leaf out of Manchester City’s book. Many are annoyed by boss Arsene Wenger’s recent admission he knew United would win the title when he sold them the Dutch striker last summer. Pete Wood, from Arsenal blog The Grove, warned: “Van Persie is going to get an horrendous reception. “Every touch is going to be booed because no one can forgive him for the way he left.
Is Radamel Falcao heading to Chelsea?
Falcao is all but ours! Chelsea confident of tying up £46m deal for Atletico forward (Sami Mokbel, Daily Mail) Chelsea believe they have won the race to land Atletico Madrid centre forward Radamel Falcao. Talks with the Colombian’s representatives and Atletico chiefs have been ongoing for months, but Chelsea think they are close to signing him. Sportsmail can reveal the London club have turned down a potential summer move for long-term target Edinson Cavani to focus on getting Falcao’s signature secured.
Real Madrid don’t want to pay very much for Gareth Bale
Get Real! Madrid president sets £45m limit for buying £100m-rated Gareth Bale from Spurs (John Cross, Daily Mirror) Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has set a £45million limit on their pursuit of Gareth Bale. The Spanish giants are all set to make a big push for Spurs sensation Bale this summer – but can expect to be knocked back, especially at that price-tag. Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy has made it clear they are not going to sell Bale, even though Real are putting together a huge package in terms of transfer fee and contract. Perez is prepared to offer a straight cash deal of £45m or a player-plus-cash deal, which will include either striker Gonzalo Higuain or winger Angel Di Maria. Real are understood to have already made discreet enquiries – and have been sent packing by the north Londoners, who are determined to keep Bale.