Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “Against City in the first game you could see the perfect example of a real team effort by Ajax against a team of individuals. We noticed how the frustration got the better of them during the game. And we saw how the players were directing those frustrations towards each other. That is the danger of a club with so many big-name players and so many big egos. When the going gets tough, they are not prepared to do the hard work for each other.” – Ryan Babel.
Runner-up: “If I could, I’d vote for myself [to win the Ballon d’Or]. I am what I am and I’m happy with that. Being too humble isn’t good. In Portugal we say that too much humility is vanity. I play for the passion of football, and for the love of the teams I represent. If I was playing for money, I’d be at another club. All players love it when teams like Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United or Chelsea dream about them, but that’s not in my thoughts.” – Cristiano Ronaldo.
Mancini Gets Mad
Show me respect (Martin Blackburn, Sun) Mancini bristled when he was asked about links with other clubs and said: “My work is here. I’ve worked for two years and built this team with the chairman and owner. We’ve won three trophies in two years. For 35 years we didn’t win anything. I don’t understand why you continue to ask me this — why?”… Mancini also believes this season is far from a write-off — even if City do crash out of the Champions League tonight. He has been hit by injury problems — only 14 outfield players trained yesterday — while his strikers are not finding the net as regularly this term.
Raging Mancini feeling the pressure ahead of City’s crunch Champions League clash (Mail) On one hand, it is easy to sympathise and even be impressed by his unfettered emotion. Mancini is an obliging communicator who has done much to improve his English. He is also the manager of the champions and the only unbeaten coach in the competition this season. On the other hand, he needs to realise it is his own throwaway remarks and comments that often keep the news cycle turning. If he is surprised at the English media’s voracious appetite then maybe he should stop feeding them.
Mancini lashes out with Europe campaign on brink (Tim Rich, Independent) Mancini has consistently argued that Manchester City are not yet ready to win the Champions League. In this he is probably right. Not since Porto and Liverpool, in 2004 and 2005, won the competition has the European Cup been lifted by a club from outside the existing elite. However, winning and competing are two different concepts and you would have to go back to 1995 and Blackburn, another expensively assembled side, to find a more insipid English display in the Champions League.
Manchester City and Roberto Mancini face a must-win game against Ajax (Jamie Jackson, Guardian) When the Champions League draw placed Manchester City in a group with three other national title-holders, and two of these from the continent’s other strongest leagues, Spain and Germany, there was no dispute that Roberto Mancini’s luck was out again. This followed last season’s accumulation of 10 points – the generally accepted standard for progression – which still placed City third and eliminated them before Christmas in their inaugural Champions League campaign. Yet this term the domestic form of Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Ajax makes City’s return so far, one point, look significantly under par. Real trail Barcelona by eight points in La Liga; Dortmund’s Bundesliga deficit to Bayern Munich is 11; and Ajax lag Twente by 10 in the Eredivisie, with the Dutch champions’ only win in their last six outings against City a fortnight ago.
If Roberto Mancini can offer Manchester City only excuses, Pep Guardiola may bring answers (James Lawton, Independent) Mancini talks endlessly of the Champions League as some torturous, learn-as-you-lose exercise even as new-wave coaches like Ajax’s Frank de Boer and Jürgen Klopp of Borussia Dortmund light up the competition – and in successive ties utterly outplayed City… This is not a greenhorn manager nurturing a bunch of callow, ill-considered players plainly operating out of their depth. It is a coach who had four cracks at the competition in Italy, once with Lazio and three times with Internazionale, and finished bottom of the qualifying group once, and failed in two quarter-finals and one round of 16.
Samir Nasri needs to put team first and track back in Champions League showdown (Alan Smith, Telegraph) Perhaps it is not a coincidence that Borussia Dortmund’s right-back, Lukasz Piszczek, enjoyed similar room at City a few weeks before. In search of an explanation, City usually adopt a fairly narrow shape in midfield, often asking their full-backs to provide width. In Nasri, they had a player on that flank in both matches who sometimes forgets his defensive responsibilities. Drifting inside to get involved, the Frenchman failed to get back out when the full-back moved forward.
Chelsea v Clattenburg: Still Waiting For Evidence…
Blues torn over what Clattenburg said (Sun) Chelsea players are divided over whether referee Mark Clattenburg actually aimed a racist remark at John Obi Mikel. SunSport can reveal some Blues stars are sceptical about the shock allegations and pressure is mounting on the club to physically prove the remarks were made.
Chelsea jitters! Players fearing a ref backlash over Mikel race case as Clattenburg stood down (Neil Ashton, Mail) Chelsea stars fear a backlash from referees over their race abuse claims against Mark Clattenburg, who was on Monday removed from the match list for a second week… Some Chelsea players fear another year-long investigation into an allegation of racist abuse just weeks after the conclusion of the case involving Terry… Referees’ chief Mike Riley revealed on Monday that Clattenburg – accused by Chelsea of calling Mikel a ‘monkey’, which the official strenuously denies – is to be interviewed by police investigating the incident at Stamford Bridge.
Hypocrisy! Chelsea fuming at Fergie’s criticism of the Clattenburg affair (Mail) Blues chiefs are privately accusing Ferguson of “hypocrisy” after the Manchester United boss said he “refused to believe” Clattenburg had called John Obi Mikel a “monkey” during his side’s stormy 3-2 win at Stamford Bridge last month. Chelsea are pointing out that Fergie was the one who marched Patrice Evra to the referee’s dressing room at Anfield last season to demand Andre Marriner take back his accusations against Luis Suarez.
Sick Football Songs
I can deal with the sick chants – I just block them out, insists Arsenal boss Wenger (Sami Mokbel, Mail) Arsene Wenger insists he is strong enough to handle the sick taunts directed at him. For years the Arsenal manager has been the subject of disgusting chants from opposition fans around the country. But on Monday night Wenger said: ‘I know who I am and I’m the only person who matters.’ The songs often make reference to Wenger as a ‘paedophile’. And the abuse hit a new low recently with West Ham and Manchester United fans inventing chants comparing Wenger to Jimmy Savile.
Vile RVP vid… by boy, 3 (Jack Losh, Sun) A vile Arsenal fan has posted a YouTube video of his three-year-old lad singing a foul-mouthed chant about Robin van Persie.
Santos Sorry For RVP Shirt Swap
I’m so sorry (Sun) Andre Santos last night broke his silence on the Robin van Persie shirt storm to say SORRY to Arsenal fans… Santos declared: “I’d like to apologise to supporters who felt aggrieved by it. Did I think it would cause such a commotion? Of course I didn’t, otherwise I would have told Robin to exchange the shirts away from public view.”
Santos ‘sorry’ for RVP shirt swap but Arsenal defender will still be a fall guy (Mail) Wenger was on Monday plotting another option, removing Santos from his defence in a switch that would see Thomas Vermaelen shifted out to left back and Laurent Koscielny deployed as partner to Per Mertesacker in the heart of the back four.
Spurs consider Carroll in January with Liverpool open to offers despite Hammers loan (Mail) Tottenham are monitoring Andy Carroll’s form at West Ham as they consider strengthening their own attacking options. The 23-year-old England striker is on loan from Liverpool with the option of a permanent £17million deal next summer.
Lille ready to offer Cole an escape route from his Liverpool misery (Mail) Lille coach Rudi Garcia remains a fan, and is giving serious thought to taking Cole back. Cole was a big success at Lille and, with Eden Hazard, helped the Ligue 1 side qualify for the Champions League.
Fulham set for crunch Hangeland talks to prevent him leaving for free (Mail) Fulham want to call key defender Brede Hangeland in for showdown contract talks before Christmas in an attempt to prevent him leaving the club on a free transfer.
Reading are preparing to end Andrey Arshavin’s Arsenal misery by moving for the £15million outcast (Sun) Royals’ Russian owner Anton Zingarevich said: “Arshavin is interesting for Reading but he is only one of 10 players we are looking at.”
Liverpool closing in on January move for contract rebel Huntelaar (Mirror) Schalke are understood to be ready to let Huntelaar go in January if they cannot reach agreement although Liverpool’s £9million valuation is unlikely to be accepted even in those circumstances.
Chelsea cool interest in Falcao and turn to less expensive options (Mirror) Chelsea are going cold on Atletico Madrid hitman Radamel Falcao – because Roman Abramovich is no longer convinced the Colombian is worth his asking price… Marseilles’ France striker Loic Remy, who was on the Chelsea radar at the close of the summer window, is now understood to be back on the agenda, with the £15m tag not seen as too onerous. And the other potential target is Falcao’s fellow Colombian, Porto’s Jackson Martinez… Chelsea are scouting Wolfsburg’s Swiss international left back Ricardo Rodriguez.
United step up interest in Ince Jr as Nani nears exit (Mirror) Manchester United are stepping up their checks on Blackpool’s exciting young winger Tom Ince – ahead of a potential swoop.
Romelu Lukaku Chelsea row could end Liverpool bid for Daniel Sturridge (Star) With Liverpool keen on taking unsettled star Daniel Sturridge away from Stamford Bridge, the Blues hope to bring back Romelu Lukaku from his loan spell at West Brom as a replacement. But although there is a clause in the Belgian’s contract that allows Chelsea to end his year-long loan early, the 19-year-old is not as eager to return to his parent club as Di Matteo had hoped.