Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “We still have to buy. Thatâ€™s my opinion. We shouldnâ€™t set Everton as a benchmark, we should be looking at the top teams of Chelsea, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Barcelona. We should buy first-class players, regardless of their age. We should buy the ones who should improve our game. The top teams have much bigger squads than ours and that is why we have to buy.” – Andrei Arshavin from his interview with
Runner-up: “Fantastic goal, great run, the movement was excellent. Michael [Owen] has been Englandâ€™s best goalscorer over the last decade and he proved that today. It will do him the world of good.” – Sir Alex Ferguson.
Today’s overview: The News of the World kick off the Sunday paper-talk with an EXCLUSIVE scandal missed by their rivals.
According to Neil Ashton, “Chelsea are at the centre of an FA probe after a training ground friendly turned into a mass brawl. The practice game, arranged at short notice by Chelsea on Wednesday, was abandoned after just 35 minutes amid amazing scenes. Players, coaches and officials from Chelsea’s reserve team and United Arab Emirates side Al Alhi traded blows for five minutes. Chelsea players were assaulted with karate kicks, knee-high tackles and had their hair pulled out and their eyes gouged.”
As another weekend passes Portsmouth appear to sink deeper into the mire.
David Hytner records how “D-day for Portsmouth is looming. The club must find somewhere between Â£24m-Â£36m by Monday week to satisfy their creditors but as yet, they have no owner and, therefore, no financial support. Their hopes appear to rest on the chief executive Peter Storrie’s mystery backer stepping in to save them, rather than Sulaiman Al-Fahim, whose take-over, the club appear to accept, will not now proceed.” Adding to the gloom on the south coast, the Mail on Sunday fart “Portsmouth have been forced to renegotiate payments worth millions of pounds to clubs and agents in a bid to stay afloat as their takeover saga continues.”
Andy Dunn swoops in to continue the Pompey-bashing but arguing that the seasiders have succumbed to too lofty ambitions. “Portsmouth, a club which should have similar values to Burnley but were turned doe-eyed by the reported wealth of an exotically-named buyer, lost sight of its real reason to exist. And that is why its existence is threatened. Sad. Very sad.”
After their shock defeat to Burnley it’s all smiles again at Old Trafford, with the strikers all smelling like roses.
Taking the panoramic approach Daniel King crowed “Well, how about Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen? Yes, that would the same Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov who apparently could not play together and the same Michael Owen whose free transfer signing was supposed to be a gamble.”
Daniel Taylor focuses on Wayne Rooney’s superb start to the season noting the “England striker’s three goals in three games suggests he has taken umbrage at the idea that he cannot fill void left by Ronaldo.” Sharing round the love, ne sweet swish of his left boot and delicate application of instep to orb, Michael Owen was back.”
Bucking the United cheer-squad trend is Piers Morgan, who remains convinced that Sir Alex’s squad, at present, is not capable of winning the league. “If United want to win anything, I reckon they need a new top grade striker (Owen will score goals, but only play 20 games, and Berbatov’s too lazy), a midfield playmaker and a world-class goalkeeper. Which should cost about… well, Â£80 million, ironically.”
Reporting on Manchester City’s defeat of Wolves, Duncan Castles flags up the problem that the Citizens lack structure with their attacking unit. “The interchange of Cityâ€™s front six made it hard to assign fixed positions. Shaun Wright-Phillips and Robinho drifted across the attacking lines; Carlos Tevez played right, left, centre and shadow forward; Stephen Ireland and Barry regularly drove into the attack… Cityâ€™s goal exemplified the confusion.” Adding to downbeat reaction to City’s win is Clive WIlson, barking “Mark Hughes reckons the rest of the country is waiting for his side to fall flat on their face and on the evidence of this match they may not have long to wait.”
Paul Wilson jumps on the recent “Bloodgate” scandal which is dogging rugby union in England to argue that for all football’s ills, the Beautiful Game is still an upstanding sport. “Imperfect as footballers may be, they can at least con referees without resorting to smuggling extraneous substances on to the pitch. Please do not write in, that was a joke.”
Looking north of the border, Glenn Gibbons investigates how it is that “Scottish football is no longer producing the great players it once regularly churned out â€“ why?… What is clear is that a production line that once delivered international-class players at the rate of a car plant has been reduced almost to idleness.”
Heading further afield to Spain, Ian Hawkey pigeonholes Cristiano Ronaldo as Los Blancos’ Great White Hope. “While he has the assurance of sharing that responsibility with the other newcomers, notably Kaka and Benzema – Xabi Alonso should be equally important but he does not have top billing here – their presence reminds him daily that this is a Madrid team which is being not so much rebuilt as blitzed into shape, suddenly and even haphazardly.”
The transfer gossip this Sunday begins with the fourth estate ready to call Joleon Lescott a Manchester City player – finally!
The Sunday Times’ a deal worth about Â£25m, including add-ons, is understood to have been finalised yesterday, although City are unlikely to have heard the end of the matter… Everton are likely to report City for an illegal approach.” The fallout worsens in the Sunday Mirror where Simon Mullock bleats that Everton “will demand Â£10m in compensation and a points deduction if the Eastlands club are found guilty.”
Chris Bascombe claims that the Toffees already have Lescott’s replacement lined up. “Moyes now has a week to find a replacement, with City centre-half Richard Dunne likely to return to Everton.”
Despite repeated denials, Duncan Castles links Spurs with Celtic duo Aiden McGeady and Scott Brown with “Celtic understood to value McGeady and Brown at about Â£10m each.” Elsewhere, in another transfer rumour that will never happen, Steve Stammers claims that “Tottenham want to build on their flying start to the season by adding Joe Cole and David Wheater to their squad.” Amazingly Spurs are linked with even more signings this Sunday, Paul Smith naming the Lilywhites along with Everton and Stoke as in the market for Niko Kranjcar.
Paul Smith continues to spout seemingly baseless transfer gossip with the rumour that “Aston Villa and Hull are locked in transfer talks that could lead to a swap deal involving Michael Turner and Luke Young.” Staying with the Villains, the NOTW once again chug (as they seem to do every weekend) the rumour that “Martin O’Neill is plotting to prise Jermaine Jenas from Tottenham with a Â£12million bid.”
Wrapping up the rest of the gossip, Steve Bates looks to set pulses racing announcing “sources in Spain claim Sergio Aguero is on his way to Stamford Bridge in a Â£42million deal,” while the NOTW link Burnley with Newcastle’s Nicky Butt.
Finally, Paul Smith has the sad EXCLUSIVE that “Dean Ashton is set to announce his shock retirement from football. The 26 year-old West Ham and England striker is suffering from a degenerative ankle problem… West Ham are now in the process of lodging an insurance claim while negotiating a pay-off for Ashton.”