Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “Can we finish fourth? Yes, I believe we will do it. This was three big points. We have 22 points out of the last 27 but we know our target is to continue to do that until the end of the season. We know we have one target to win our games, then we don’t have to look at Tottenham or Chelsea. If we lose our games, then you have to look at the results of the others. Our attitude is simple, we have to win the games. ‘We are ready for the fight and we always tell the players, “Don’t look at everyone else, just focus on ourselves”.” – Arsene Wenger.
Runner-up: “We are playing Sunderland, not the manager. I don’t think the manager can make that much difference if they do not have the right players. They will be different on Sunday so we will have to concentrate. But we will play in the style and the way we can play and not worry about them. We just need to concentrate on our game.” – Rafa Benitez.
Jose Mourinho to snub Chelsea for PSG
A Bridge too far: Jose Mourinho set to stun football by snubbing Chelsea for PSG (Steve Bates, People) Jose Mourinho is ready to shock European football with a switch to Paris Saint-Germain as he prepares to quit Real Madrid this summer, writes the Sunday People. And that will keep alive his dream of managing Manchester United once Sir Alex Ferguson finally steps aside at Old Trafford. Speculation is growing that the Special One is heading to Paris to replace former Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti. PSG’s Qatari owners want to take the French club to the next level and win the European Cup – and Mourinho’s record in Portugal, England, Italy and Spain makes him their No.1 target. That will disappoint the Blues and Manchester City fans hoping Mourinho’s recent hints that he wants to return to the Premier League meant he was heading back. But Mourinho has an eye on PSG and believes a stint in France may be the ideal staging post before the chance to manage United materialises.
Hurry up and snap up Jose now Rom (Rob Beasley, Sun) Jose Mourinho is urging Chelsea to seal a deal for his return — or risk missing out. SunSport revealed in February that the Special One is set on going back to the Blues. But Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and AC Milan also want him — and will offer more than the £12million a year he gets at Real Madrid. A close friend of Mourinho said: “Jose wants to go back to Chelsea. It’s where he wants to be. “Every time Chelsea fans sing his name it makes him want to go back even more.”
Gary Neville on City v United
City must not think that spending ‘just another’ £150m will catch United (Gary Neville, Mail on Sunday) ‘Manchester City are on the verge of power shift in the city and the Premier League,’ said one report. ‘Balance of power takes critical shift,’ read another headline. ‘City’s dramatic crowning as champions yesterday represents a serious power shift in the game — unless United’s owners come up with the funds for Alex Ferguson to rebuild,’ said another pundit. But that was 10 months ago. I often like to reflect on headlines that were written in those moments. If I heard the phrase ‘power shift’ once, I heard it a thousand times. There was a real sense from lots of people at the end of last season that Manchester United might struggle to keep up with the money that City had and that there was an opportunity for them to dominate for years to come. United were described as an ageing team with nowhere to go, a team without a midfield. People who went down that route fundamentally misunderstand United and Sir Alex Ferguson as a person. Think of 1995 and losing the league to Blackburn and the FA Cup to Everton; think of 1998 and the Arsenal Double; think of Arsenal’s 2004 Invincibles; think of Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea in 2005 and 2006. Sir Alex Ferguson has shown time and time again that it is responding to disappointment that energises him.
The Manchester derby
Manchester United and Manchester City clash with eye on next season (Jamie Jackson, Observer) Of the gap with United, Mancini says: “In this moment it should be five or six points. Yes it will be closer on points next season.” Yet the Champions League is key to City’s ambitions. It is hard to see the manager staying if City miss the knockout phase for a third successive season, unless they happen to be 10 points clear in the league. However, a run to the semi-finals would be deemed by the club a quantum leap of progress.
Wenger wants to keep Rosicky
Rosticky with us (Rob Beasley, Sunday Sun) Arsene Wenger has pleaded with match-winner Tomas Rosicky not to quit Arsenal in the summer. The Czech veteran has been linked with a move away at the end of the season. But after Rosicky, 32, scored both goals in the 2-1 win at West Brom to lift the Gunners into fourth spot, Wenger said he hoped the midfielder would stay put. The Arsenal boss said: “I thought he was fantastic — he’s not a player I want to lose. I rate him very highly. “He has one year left on his contract but I hope he stays and finishes his career with us here. “He’s had a difficult season and been injured. “But he always seems to come in and gives us a lift at the end of the season. He’s a quality player.”
Arsenal want Loic Remy
Loic who’s talking: Arsenal will move for France striker Remy if QPR are relegated (Dean Jones, People) Arsenal plan to raid QPR for hitman Loic Remy if they are relegated – and Rangers will demand £6million for their strike ace, writes the Sunday People. The Gunners considered a move for the forward in January but decided a big money move was too risky because of his injury record. He ended up moving to Loftus Road from Marseille in an £8m move, and Emirates scouts have been impressed with the way he has fitted into the top flight. Now, as the Hoops move closer to the drop, he is back on their radar. Arsene Wenger is planning a summer spending spree with £30m forward Stevan Jovetic high on their wanted list, along with a powerful midfielder to fill the role of crocked Abou Diaby.
Harry Redknapp on Fernando Torres
‘Now please stop calling Torres a flop’ (Harry Redknapp, Sunday Sun) So, 19 goals from Torres is a good return. If you have a striker on your books who gets you 20 goals per season then you have to be satisfied. Torres is starting to score regularly again. I don’t think he is at the same level he was at with Liverpool, when he was an amazing player, but slowly it is coming good for him. And he should stay there at Stamford Bridge. Lots of people call him a ‘flop’ or a waste of money. But in this kind of form and with Chelsea in the position they are he can help get them trophies. Chelsea are in the semi-finals of the FA Cup, the quarter-finals of the Europa League and in position to get back into the Champions League. He should stay at Chelsea and help rebuild the club next season because you get the feeling they will be on a big bounce back. I think he will score again this season too, which will take him to 20 and a benchmark of success in the modern Premier League. He is certainly scoring more than any of our England strikers.
Paolo Di Canio
Unlikable and authoritarian, Paolo Di Canio has much yet to prove (David James, Observer) We’ve got a chequered past, Paolo Di Canio and I. Nothing to do with fascism, he just had a habit of behaving a bit like a dictator. He was a flamboyant “character”, as they say, but he certainly was not very popular in the West Ham dressing room. When I think back to those days, I remember a loud and extrovert person who was – despite all he had to shout about – very much on his own. He never seemed to gel with the team. It seems the feeling was mutual – Paolo described me in his book as a “moron” and a “cretin” after I refused to shake his hand following a League Cup game at Upton Park when I was playing for Aston Villa. Actually I did more: I called him a cheat. He had deliberately stepped into me and kicked me before going down for a penalty. It was outrageous and I could not believe it. I was livid. When I refused to shake his hand he went ballistic, effing and blinding, and stabbing his fingers into the back of my neck.
Sunderland’s new manager Paolo Di Canio will bring fireworks and fury to the Premier League climax (Jim White, Sunday Telegraph) At Swindon Town last season the fans enjoyed an almost fortnightly ritual. If their team had just won, they would wait in their seats until all the players and officials had left the County Ground pitch. Then, when he knew he would have the stage to himself, Paolo Di Canio would make his way to the centre circle where he would raise a red and white scarf above his head and salute each of the stands in turn. It was a moment of pure theatre, a gladiatorial intervention that the regulars relished. Although, pointedly, there was no sign of him when his team lost. Di Canio is not an easy man to ignore. Even without the furore of his supposedly fascist views, his arrival at Sunderland would demand attention.