Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “Everyone in Liverpool knows about this newspaper [The Sun]. We are top of the table and doing well away from home. At home we have made two mistakes [the goalless draws against Fulham and West Ham] but clearly we are playing with a lot of confidence and have players of quality. If we can finish this Christmas period at the top of the table, we have an 80% possibility of winning the title.” – Rafa Benitez.
Runner-up: “I am not going to discuss Wayne Rooney. I think you press guys have created most of it and you are not getting anything from this club on Wayne Rooney. So that’s it, finished. You play your part â€” donâ€™t get lippy. You sit there playing the innocent party but you know the part you play, you are never off that phone to Uefa. I would not be surprised [if Rooney gets a ban], I don’t think you do us any favours. That’s it, it’s over. I’m not discussing Wayne Rooney.” – Sir Alex Ferguson.
Today’s overview: Happy days could be about to return to the Toon, with fresh reports of a possible takeover bid which will bring some Christmas cheer to Tyneside. Also headlining the backpages this Saturday are continuing rumours of trouble at Arsenal, predictions over Berbatov’s return to Spurs, and analysis of how nice Gianfrano Zola is.
The headline grabbing story of the day comes from Rob Stewart in the Telegraph, reporting that multi-millionaire entrepreneur, Afzal Kahn (pictured), is masterminding an audacious bid to buy Newcastle United from sports retail tycoon Mike Ashley and bring back Kevin Keegan. And keeping with the Toon, Michael Walker reports that “Joe Kinnear wants to make West Ham’s Matthew Upson his first signing at Newcastle” with the defender available for Â£8m.
Once again trouble appears to be brewing at the Emirates, Ian Wright also picks up on the bad-blood circulating at Arsenal, arguing that Emmanuel Eboue has become a scapegoat while “God forbid the fans had a go at the board or Arsene Wenger for the decisions theyâ€™ve made. Theyâ€™re responsible if the team donâ€™t deliver any silverware, arenâ€™t they?”ome of the younger members of Wengerâ€™s squad were stung when Gallas questioned their attitude and professionalism and Almunia appears to share some of the France defender’s concerns.”
Many of the papers open up old wounds between Spurs and Manchester United, reliving the controversial transfer of Berbatov to the champions. But according to John Ley and Paul Kelso Tottenham fans have little to be upset with as, “Levy may have been indignant, but no more than Sevilla when they discovered Juande Ramos was directly approached by Levy without their permission. Unless clubs desist from destabilising the players they want they will find little sympathy when the same happens to them.”
On claims the Spurs fans are preparing to give the Bulgarian a hostile welcome, Mark Lawernson notes “Berbatov is thick skinned enough not to give a jot. You can tell by his rather arrogant pose that this guy is interested in one thing and one thing only. Himself.” And staying with United, James Lawton contests that the Red Devils lack a leader in the manner in which “Bryan Robson, Keane, Eric Cantona, Scholes, Giggs, have provided in different ways a thread of leadership which might have been made from steel wire.”
In the Saturday interviews, some of the Premier League’s more quiet stars were offered an opportunity to publicise their views. Titus Bramble gave a fantastic interview to Daniel Taylor, acknowledging “I know my reputation… Reputations stick, unfortunately. I can play well for weeks on end but if I make a mistake it’s ‘Oh, Titus has done it again.'” While Middlesbroughâ€™s Tuncay who offered his perspective on life – “I live life with a smile on my face. What else can you do? If you donâ€™t smile, youâ€™re bound to get distressed. You have to see good things in life. Otherwise, whatâ€™s the point of being here? I donâ€™t have time for being sad.”
Gareth Barry, still desperate to play at the highest levels of club football, tells Alan Smith that “If I’m playing Champions League football [with Aston Villa], thereâ€™s no need to look elsewhere. That would have to be a definite. I donâ€™t want to be eating my own words.”
With West Ham visiting Chelsea this weekend, Jason Burt fears that “Zola’s candour may come back to haunt him and he may well join that long list of great players who fail to cut it as a manager.” But in a second article Jason Burt goes on to reveal Zola’s long-term plan to “to reduce the size of the West Ham United first-team squad from 34 players to 21 plus three goalkeepers” with Craig Bellamy, Julien Faubert and Luis Boa Morte amongst those up for sale. Jonathan Wilson takes a different view on Zola’s security on tenure at the Hammers, arguing “his very apparent niceness fireproofs him from criticism, no matter how badly things go on the pitch; and, at present, things are going pretty badly.”
In a woolly article, David Lacey tries to argue that in the Premier League it is the “players, not the press, [who] put pressure on managers.” Terry Venables urges clubs to avoid knee-jerk dismissals, claiming “itâ€™s not tough to sack someone, itâ€™s tough to make the right decision. Getting it right is the hard part. Thatâ€™s where you need to be single-minded. The chairmen at these clubs have to be big and, if that means resisting pressure from fans, then so be it.” And focusing attention on a manager under pressure, a man who believes in repaying trust given when times are tough.”
Ahead of El ClÃ¡sico, Pete Jenson heralds the second coming of Theirry Henry, whereby “Henry is starting to look a lot less like the striker Barcelona should never have bought, and a lot more like the one ArsÃ¨ne Wenger should never have sold.”politics and image, pride and nationalism,” while
And lastly, in a brilliant article Simon Kuper puts forward the case that teams should think twice before shedding their fat players. “The Milan Lab, after measuring everything measurable in football, concluded that the key quality in the game was not body-fat percentage but ‘sensory perception’: the ability to assess the field of play in an instant. â€œRonaldo,â€ says the Labâ€™s director, Jean Pierre Meersseman, ‘can perceive a situation so fast and react to it, itâ€™s just amazing.'”