Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “Am I concerned about indiscipline? No, we’ll take care of our own house. We are good at that. Our players will be reflecting on their performances. They have got 10 days to do that. They go away for their internationals and they will come back with a clear mind. We will certainly do our homework as staff – the manager, the coaches, and we will be prepared for the next game. We have worked hard this season and we are in a position we want to be – top of the league.” – Manchester United assistant manager Mike Phelan.
Runner-up: “When you have a game like this and score two, three or four goals and after that they play with 10 players, it’s really important to take your chances because you never know what can happen with goal difference, so we wanted to score more goals. It’s something we can improve. Today [missed chances] wasn’t the key but some games it has been. Don’t get me wrong, I’m really pleased and happy; the players have done a fantastic job but always we can improve a little bit.” – Rafa Benitez.
Today’s overview: Two topics steal the main focus this Monday, reaction to Liverpool’s 5-nil thumping of Martin O’Neill’s boys and comments on Fabio Capello’s latest England squad.
On Liverpool’s trouncing of Aston Villa, Rory Smith comments how “hope, a fickle friend to a generation of the Anfield faithful, is reborn.” David Pleat picks holes at Aston Villa’s tactics at Anfield yesterday pointig out that “Villa needed a third central midfield player or one of their front two to drop back to help compensate for Liverpool’s clear superiority.”
Alan Hansen looks at the weekend from Sir Alex’s point of view noticing “one defeat is a blip, but after two you start to worry, and there is no doubt Ferguson will be worried.” James Ducker also picks up the analysis from a Manchester United point of view noting “if there was a positive for Sir Alex Ferguson to take from this, it is that Aston Villa are Manchester Unitedâ€™s next opponents.”
Some hacks just cannot avoid the opportunity to pan the Red Devils.
For Jamie Redknapp, “it won’t be the behaviour of his players that is alarming Fergie, more the decline in performances. Cristiano Ronaldo has played at his best only once in the last month (v Inter), and you can turn a blind eye to Dimitar Berbatov’s work rate if he’s producing magic, but he hasn’t for a while.” And Steven Howard is quick to bitch that “all round, significant players have gone off the boil – Vidic, Michael Carrick and Patrice Evra among them. And Dimitar Berbatov has never been on it. Fine and dandy – and Fancy Dan – when things are going well, heâ€™s as much use as a chocolate tea-pot when the heatâ€™s turned up. Ferguson likes to compare him with Eric Cantona. There is no comparison.”
Every paper, including John Ley, report on Fabio Capello’s latest England squad with the surprise call-ups being handed to Ledley King and Leighton Baines. However it is left for Sam Wallace to detail Tottenham’s unhappiness at King’s selection as “Spurs had privately expressed the wish that King would be left to concentrate on getting the most out of his club career.”
As if draped in the flag of St. George and exuding patriotism from every angle, Patrick Barclay announces that England will win the 2010 World Cup. “Premier League money has made for a more potent England, an England tactically equipped to crown Capelloâ€™s career. The ticket has been bought and football is coming home.” (Barclay’s England team is shown in the picture above.)
In his usual Monday column, Martin Samuel lifts the lid on drugs in football. “When athletes from some of the poorest countries have access to drugs, it is utterly foolish to presume that professional football clubs, among the wealthiest organisations in world sport, will be impervious to the practice.”
Matt Hughes tells Arsenal fans to prepare themselves for Cesc Fabregas’ departure this summer. “While no one can question the Arsenal captainâ€™s professionalism, his ego has grown along with his wages in recent years… Wenger would be able to reshape his squad with the money raised from such a sale, so will consider it seriously.”
Looking at the wrong end of the Premier League table Michael Walker spells out the trouble for the Toon. “With Newcastle lying two points below fourth-bottom Blackburn, their fate is not theirs to decide and the indefatigable fan base seems ready to explode.” And keeping with those suffering at present, Richard Tanner traces Robinho’s downturn in recent weeks. “Robinho’s nightmare shows no sign of ending. On the day the great Pele alleged he has had a drugs problem, British footballâ€™s most expensive signing contrived one of the worst penalty misses you are likely to see.”
Lastly, experiencing a wonderful season,I’m not interested in other clubs. Opportunities may arise, but I’m lucky enough to have an agent who only cares about my wellbeing, being fit and playing for my club, which is perfect for me.”