Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “Well I’m worried, of course. You can’t come off a defeat like that and the manner it was without being worried. I’m not going to criticise my players, I’m not going to criticise the team in any shape or form on an individual basis. It was a collective effort and we fell down collectively. We haven’t become a bad staff or a bad set of players overnight. But we definitely need to roll our sleeves up and make sure we make a really good fist of these last three games. Now we have got to show we have got the heart for this little scrap we are in because other teams certainly have.” – Alan Pardew.
Runner-up: “No I can’t walk on water. I can’t swim. But the day we stay up I’m going to dive into the sea. This is for sure to find out whether I can walk on water. I want to be able to walk on it.” – Paolo Di Canio.
RVP talks about his Arsenal return
I respect the Arsenal fans. Their reaction won’t hurt me (Rob Beasley, Sunday Sun) RVP: “I have always respected the Arsenal fans and always will. They love their club so I understand their feelings. Players, staff, managers and even directors come and go, but fans will always stick with their team. So I am looking forward to playing at the Emirates again. I have good memories there. And it will be good to see my old colleagues, staff and friends again.”
How could RVP hurt us like that? That’s what Arsenal players asked when Van Persie left to join Man United (Rob Draper, Mail on Sunday) When Per Mertesacker explains the influence Robin van Persie had at Arsenal last season, there are some obvious points for the big German defender to make. ‘Robin and Alex Song scored or assisted 75 per cent of our goals. That’s massive’, says Mertesacker. Yet there is so much more to it than that. For Van Persie was more than a great goalscorer for the club. He was a clear leader for the players, organising the social evenings and Christmas parties, hiring karaoke machines to encourage new players such as Mertesacker to bond. So successful was he that he once persuaded Mertesacker on to the stage to cover a track by Rihanna on the karaoke. ‘I can’t really remember it!’ says Mertsesacker, laughing. ‘I just thought, “Let’s get cracking and make it real fun”.’ The bond established that year between the German and the Dutchman remains, despite Van Persie’s £22.5million move to Arsenal’s great rivals, Manchester United, last August. In the eight months since, Van Persie’s performances for the new Premier League champions have shown not only what United have gained – but also what Arsenal have lost.
Would Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers take over at Manchester City?
Rodgers that! Manchester City want Liverpool boss to replace Roberto Mancini (Alan Nixon, Tom Hopkinson, People) Brendan Rodgers is the shock name in the frame to replace Roberto Mancini as Manchester City manager, writes the Sunday People. The Liverpool boss has significant behind-the-scenes support at the Etihad despite a hit-and-miss first season at Anfield. The Blues power-brokers believe the 40-year-old Irishman fulfils all the criteria they deem essential – like a willingness to blood young players early, media skills, and European experience – and the ace in his pack is that he is fluent in both English and Spanish. Rodgers was City’s first choice a year ago when he was at Swansea and Mancini was on the ropes – before the dramatic turnaround that saw his side crowned Premier League champions. Now the Irishman is back on City radar, with Mancini not safe even if he wins the FA Cup next month. Rodgers has two years left on his Liverpool contract so City would have to pay compensation – but that won’t deter them.
Mancini stays (Neil Custis, Sunday Sun) Roberto Mancini will be Manchester City’s manager next season — even if they lose the FA Cup final. Speculation is rife the Italian could be axed after a disappointing defence of the Premier League title. But SunSport understands Mancini has the full support of new City chief executive Ferran Soriano and sporting director Txiki Begiristain. The trio have already been making plans for next season to significantly strengthen the squad in a bid to get the title back from rivals United. Most importantly, chairman Khaldoon Al Mubaraak still backs the man he chose to replace Mark Hughes in December 2009. Victory for City against Wigan at Wembley on May 11 would be Mancini’s third trophy in three seasons with two FA Cups and last season’s title.
Man City leading Cavani chase
Cav a go: Manchester City leading the chase for £52m Napoli striker Edinson Cavani (Simon Mullock, Sunday Mirror) Manchester City believe they are winning the battle to sign Edinson Cavani. The Blues will trigger the £52million get-out clause in the Napoli striker’s contract to ensure they beat Real Madrid and Paris St.Germain to his signature this summer. Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentis has said that he will only sell his 23-goal striker to the highest bidder. And City have moved into pole position after making it clear they will meet the Italian club’s asking price and offer the 26-year-old £250,000-a-week wages. The potential British record transfer has been orchestrated by City sporting director Txiki Begiristain and sanctioned by chief executive Ferran Soriano. The Uruguay international is also at the top of manager Roberto Mancini’s wanted list.
Gareth Bale is the PFA player of the year
All hail Bale! (Sunday Sun) Gareth Bale will be crowned PFA Player of the Year for the second time tonight.
The Spurs flier has beaten off the challenge of Robin van Persie to join Alan Shearer, Thierry Henry and Cristiano Ronaldo in winning the prize twice.
Arsenal linked with Iker Casillas again
Super saver: Arsenal target Real Madrid keeper Iker Casillas after bust up with Jose Mourinho (Tom Hopkinson, People) Iker Casillas has emerged as Arsenal’s top goalkeeping target this summer, writes the Sunday People. The Real Madrid shot-stopper is out of favour with Bernabeu boss Jose Mourinho and has not played for the club since January. Gunners chief Arsene Wenger has tested the water to see if the 31-year-old can be lured away from the only club side of his career to Ashburton Grove. The decision rests with Casillas and Madrid chief Florentino Perez, but won’t be made until the end of the season and may rest on Mourinho’s future. The pair have had an uneasy relationship since ex-Chelsea boss Mourinho took over and it reached an all-time low at the start of this year when Casillas was dropped to the bench. Mourinho will speak with Perez after the second leg of the Champions League semi-final with Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday, which Real enter trailing 4-1 after last Wednesday’s defeat in Germany.
Gary Neville on Sir Alex Ferguson
Sir Alex will set his sights on those German thrillers now (Gary Neville, Mail on Sunday) Even in that moment he was looking ahead. The questions I’m asked most are both about Sir Alex: how long will he go on and what keeps him going? The only answer I can give is that the young people with whom he works seem to invigorate him, and the challenge of what’s next seems to re-energise him. On Monday night, he would have celebrated with his team and enjoyed the evening. But my guess is that on Tuesday night, he’d have been watching Bayern Munich v Barcelona then, on Wednesday, Borussia Dortmund v Real Madrid and he will have thought: ‘Right, that’s where we’re going; that’s where I’m taking this team. My young players have great ability, talent and energy. That’s the level I want to get to. We’ll be with Dortmund and Bayern in a year saying, “Come on! We’ll be having you at your own game”.’ And that’s why I cannot see him finishing. I don’t think he’s even thinking about it. He will be focusing on the next goal and it’s staring him in the face. Having watched a lot of Champions League football this season and having been at Borussia Dortmund’s 4-1 win over Real Madrid on Wednesday, it is clear that modern football is ever-changing and getting better. For me, the best teams in the world are now taking even more risks and playing with incredible energy. They are the teams that attack in great numbers and then get back into their defensive shape the quickest.
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is the unstoppable spirit behind Premier League champions (Jason Burt, Sunday Telegraph) Here are a few vignettes, from recent days, that shine a light on how Sir Alex Ferguson works and why his hunger for success will not be sated by his latest triumph. The first involves Tony Strudwick, Manchester United’s fitness coach who, when he was invited to the prestigious Isokinetic Football Medicine Strategies Conference in London last week, with 1,500 delegates from 77 countries, had to decline. Medical staff from all the Champions League semi-finalists were there but Strudwick was told he could not be spared. United had the Premier League wrapped up but there was a first-team training session. That came first, second and last.
Luis Suárez should concentrate on being a great player and a great man (Daniel Taylor, Observer) Perhaps, this being Luis Suárez, it should be clarified straight away that his anticipated non-appearance at the Professional Footballers’ Association player-of-the-year dinner on Sunday has nothing to do with that impression of Rod Hull’s Emu, as opposed to Branislav Ivanovic’s Michael Parkinson, at Anfield last Sunday. Suárez, according to Liverpool, was probably not going to be there anyway. It is not a snub, or a way of avoiding the cameras. It is as simple as the club suspecting Gareth Bale or Robin van Persie has won it. Nobody from the PFA has been in touch to arrange logistics, put it that way. If they are mistaken and Suárez does win it, it is probably hoping too much that he might emulate, in absentia, the response Marlon Brando delivered at the Oscars in 1973.
German football reacts to the famous triumphs without triumphalism (Rafa Honigstein, Observer) Unlike in the rest of Europe, there was surprisingly little appetite in Germany to proclaim a “power shift” after the astonishing defeats of Barcelona and Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-final first legs. Spiegel Online caught the prevailing mood well when it warned that “Germany isn’t Spain yet, not by a long way”, citing the Bundesliga’s considerable points gap behind La Liga in the Uefa coefficient rankings (the Premier League is sandwiched between both leagues in second spot), the Spanish national team’s recent trophy haul and the “extreme” nature of the two matches last week as reasons for caution: “Lionel Messi, the best footballer in the world, looked like the saddest footballer in the world”, while “Robert Lewandowski [the Borussia Dortmund striker] put in a performance that cried out for the invention of new superlatives.” At the same time, there was a kind of quiet, almost unspoken kind of satisfaction that on 25 May at Wembley, a German team looks set to lift the first international trophy since Bayern Munich won the European Cup in 2001.
Thomas Müller and Mario Götze shake up Europe in Champions League (Henry Winter, Sunday Telegraph) It was not simply the swashbuckling football and sensible, sustainable fan-friendly economic model of the Bundesliga arousing such admiration. It was not only the sleek conditioning of many of the stars in the land of a winter break or the clubs’ understanding of the need to cultivate talent for Germany’s benefit and their own. It was something else. What really stood out during Bayern’s 4-0 thrashing of Barcelona and Dortmund’s 4-1 defeat of Real Madrid was how many of the players were totally fearless. From Thomas Müller to Mario Götze, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Philipp Lahm to Ilkay Gündogan and Marco Reus, the midweek was graced by psychologically strong individuals quick to take responsibility. And those were just the Germans.