Comment & analysis round-up
Runner-up: “Agents would argue that they are brokers who provide a service. The movers and shakers. However, I believe that if clubs would talk to each other directly then less money would go out of the game… For the sake of smaller clubs I think the transfer window should be scrapped. But as managers, I think we should start to do more of our own leg work and save our clubs some agents’ fees.” – Mark McGhee.
Today’s overview: Themes which have been consistently hitting the backpages during January continue this Sunday, with the papers jam-packed with a raft of transfer rumours, criticism of Newcastle, Liverpool and Rafa Benitez in particular, while there is a split in opinion over whether David Beckham should stay in Milan.
With the transfer window closing on Monday at 5pm, Duncan White investigates how each Premier League club has tackled the January sales.
Alistair Grant and Geoff Brown report that “Bolton and West Ham have approached Henrik Larsson about a Premier League return. Larsson, 37, is a free agent.” The double-acts continue with Joe Bernstein and Bob Cass reporting that “Robbie Keane is on the verge of a Â£15million return to Tottenham after being ditched by Rafael Benitez for Liverpool’s most important game of the season against Chelsea today.”
In other transfer rumours, “Spurs are planning a mega-money bid to sign Roque Santa Cruz” according to Steve Bates and Alan Nixon, and Rob Beasley announces “Chelsea will sign Manchester City star Robinho at the end of the season and finance the move with the sale of Didier Drogba.”
Duncan White looks into whether Arsenal will in fact sign Andrei Arshavin. “Arshavin is desperate for the move and personal terms should not prove a problem, but Zenit president Alexander Djukov is determined to get the best possible deal for his club. With Zenit frequently changing their demands, the transfer seems to be going to the wire.”
In today’s Observer, Ben Clissitt launches the Guardian’s new online interactive chalkboards that give tactical analysis into every Premier League match. Included in the analysis are a raft of stats including “Scott Carson can only kick to his left (no really). Look at the pattern of his passing against Hull and see how many of them the defence cut out.”
Ahead of today’s meeting with Sunderland, Paul Hayward picks on Newcastle. “People are always looking to stick a pin on the chart of Newcastle’s agonies to mark the real nadir and they may yet find the right moment with the club’s relegation.” Ian Ridley also foresees a relegation battle for the Toon noting “forget playing football in the cavalier style that long suffering, short-changed fans crave; a scrap for Premier League survival is the best they can expect. And that is becoming dangerously uncertain.”
Having seen the Toon lose at Eastlands in the week, Michael Walker offers his sympathy with Newcastle fans. “Here were more than 2,000 people paying Â£30 each to watch a patched-up side deliver a rambling display that culminated in more serious injuries (Michael Owen and Joey Barton) and major personnel withdrawals (Charles N’Zogbia and Shay Given) than goals… Delusion is often a frequent accusation laid at these fans’ feet, but a lack of self-awareness was not in evidence on Wednesday.” While Duncan White plays down today’s derby, writing “Keane and Keegan have gone, Ricky Sbragia and Joe Kinnear are in, and both clubs feel the creeping dread of relegation. Sunday’s Tyne-Wear derby is less box-office, more B-movie.”
Bucking the trend of gloomy news around Anfield, Simon Mullock claims “Rafa Benitez is expected to sign a new long-term contract with Liverpool this week. The club’s American owners have agreed to give him full control over transfer policy… And the owners are ready to sanction the sale of Â£20million misfit Robbie Keane.” However Rafa’s future is far from certain according to The People’s Steve Bates and Tom Hopkinson who claim “Rafa Benitez is a shock target for Manchester City – with the club’s Abu Dhabi backers watching his Liverpool contract stand-off closely.”
The Benitez-bashing continues this Sunday. In contrast with Manchester United, Paul Wilson questions what it means to play for Liverpool these days. Houllier built up early goodwill only for it to disappear as his reign progressed. In his fifth full season, the point Benitez is at now, the demands of trying to deliver Liverpool the title caused a crack-up.”
Attaching great importance to today’s meeting with Chelsea,warns Benitez that “the stain on his CV will spread and deepen if the promise held out by Liverpoolâ€™s form earlier in the current league campaign disintegrates and there is yet another embarrassing finish among the also-rans.”
Paul Doyle rips into Manchester City for a shocking result at Stoke. Calling it a “display that verged on the shameful… to lose without truly threatening their opponent’s goal was an even more baffling feat.”
Such is the turmoil at Portsmouth that Joe Lovjoy reports “Adams was believed to be on the point of resigning just three months into the job and may have to go regardless of his intentions… Gaydamak is believed to be in favour of replacing Adams with Avram Grant.”
Its a case of pot, kettle, black as Piers Morgan slams David Beckham for wanting to renege on his contract with the LA Galaxy. “To walk away now would be the ultimate example of cowardly self-interest. And a massive slap in the face to his American paymasters. But all Becks seems to care about is what he usually cares about – himself.” By contrast, Sir Bobby Robson calls on Beckham to buy out his contract and continue in Italy – “David should come back to Europe full-time and fight for his place properly. He is still one of the best 25 English players around and nobody has come in and made that place on the right side of midfield their own.”
Gabriele Marcotti outlines the lack of a long-term role for Beckham at the San Siro. “Beckham, like Ronaldinho, has no logical place in this team. Milan play with three midfielders and, given that Andrea Pirlo and Rino Gattuso will always be first-choice if fit, that leaves one spot for Beckham, Clarence Seedorf, Mathieu Flamini and Massimo Ambrosini.”
Rio Ferdinand interviews British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in the Observer. “RF: Have you ever spoken to any other presidents or anything about teams and results? GB: Oh, all the time, a lot of them are big supporters. The Spanish prime minister, [JosÃ© LuÃs Rodriguez] Zapatero is a big supporter of Spanish football, and the Portuguese PM JosÃ© SÃ³crates is a big supporter of Brazil. The one country you would think [football] would have taken oï¬€ more in is America, at the highest level. All the new countries in eastern Europe, a lot of their status comes from the international football teams and all the prime ministers and presidents are determined that the football team succeeds. So it’s quite a big thing. And then in Africa, football’s really growing, there are some great players coming over.”