“The Dutch master, the fabled tactician… has finally arrived in English football” – Neil Ashton

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “There’s a 10-point difference but things can happen in the final stages of the championship. The players are very committed, but sometimes you can have a little bit different approach to get even more efficiency out of the players. The FA Cup is there, the Champions League and also the league. All the three roads are very important… I have to live, as soon as possible, in the depth of the club, I am not just here to add to my experience with the club and Premier League, but also I want to see these results as soon as possible… What happens after May is unclear, it’s difficult to make it work because the Premier League is challenging.” – Guus Hiddink.

Runner-up: “I have ambiguous feelings. On one hand I treat Guus very decently and cannot possibly wish him failures. But on the other hand Chelsea is our main rival at the moment. And I am also worried that if everything’s well in Chelsea he will prefer to stay there for a longer period and leave the national team. For me that is the worst nightmare because our national team depends mostly on the head coach. If he decides to leave suddenly, it could turn out to be the end for the team. I see no replacement for Hiddink. But he should decide everything for himself. If he feels he is able to help Chelsea, let it be this way.” – Andrey Arshavin.

Today’s overview: Guus Hiddink’s arrival in English football leads many of the papers whilst there is much comment on England’s footballing lesson in Spain with Capello backed and Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen singled out as possible answers.

Guus Hiddink’s arrival at Chelsea is chewed over. Neil Ashton in the Daily Mail builds up the Dutchman. “The Dutch master, the fabled tactician who undid Steve McClaren with his masterful substitutions at the Luzhniki Stadium in October 2007, has finally arrived in English football, the latest leg of his worldwide adventure.”

And there are some quirky pieces on Hiddink’s life story. Owen Slot in The Times reveals “Guus Hiddink’s father the war hero.” “By the time Guus was born, a year after the end of the war, his father had been personally recognised by General Eisenhower in an official declaration that marked ‘the gratitude and appreciation of the American people for gallant service in assisting the escape of Allied soldiers from the enemy.'” Laura Williamson (Daily Mail) also goes to Holland to Gelderland to see what Hiddink’s home town is like.

Sam Wallace in The Independent reveals what Luiz Felipe Scolari felt was wrong at Chelsea from an interview five days before he got the sack. “Scolari said he had lost faith in Didier Drogba, that Florent Malouda was ineffective and that he did not even have the right players to field a 4-4-2 formation. In an interview with France Football magazine published today, Scolari says that he had no relationship with his players beyond the training ground and complained that, having missed out on the signing of Robinho, he did not have any creative players in his side. Speaking on Thursday last week before his final game in charge, the 0-0 draw with Hull City on Saturday, he also said that he did not have enough coaching time with his players.”

Reaction to England’s defeat in Spain continues. Oliver Kay (The Times) questions wether Capello’s England will be successful in South Africa. “Strictly speaking, Capello’s team were not embarrassed on Wednesday night, losing 2-0 to the European champions, but they were taught a couple of harsh lessons. The first is that, while a flying start to the World Cup qualifying campaign represented clear progress, the reaction in some quarters to the friendly victory over a poor Germany team in Berlin in November was hysterical. The second is that, for all that Capello has done to make England competitive again, they still appear ill equipped to take on the very best, which means Spain, Brazil, Argentina and possibly Italy.”

Richard Williams (Guardian) also lays into the England side. “Just how unspecial England are became very clear when they were exposed to the quality of the best team in Europe. Those encouraged by recent results into believing that Fabio Capello had found the key to unlock long-hidden excellence and turned England into potential world-beaters found themselves swiftly readjusting their perspective as the men in white shirts laboured in the face of Spain’s elegent, incisive constructions.”

Steven Howard in The Sun puts together a classic tabloid version of England’s defeat. “Yes, of course, England will not meet teams as exceptional as Spain too often. But, when they do, it will be at pivotal points like the latter stages of major tournaments. Again, gracias, Espana, for showing us how much ground England have to make up.”

James Lawton in the Independent also sings from the same hymn sheet but beleives in Capello. “Whatever the technical, tactical and motivational wonders Capello hopes to unfurl on the road to Cape Town and the 2010 World Cup, they are simply not good enough to pass beyond the mediocrity of Eriksson’s quarter-final finishes. No doubt Seville produced plenty of evidence to support such a view. But was it conclusive? Not if you believe in the superior football intelligence, and the unswerving competitive honesty, of Fabio Capello. England have been dismantled often enough before, but this time they may just have the man to put back the pieces. At the very least, it is a little early to run up the white flag.” In the same paper, Sam Wallace revels over the performance of Xavi.

Henry Winter in the Daily Telegraph believes Wayne Rooney can be England’s saviour. “In a decent pack, Rooney remains Fabio Capello’s ace. He can create and finish. He can link up and lead the line.  Rooney’s phenomenal work ethic, although occasionally leading to tactical indiscipline as he chases too deep, remains an inspiration to others. He gets in opponents’ faces… But if Rooney turns lame again, England really will limp into another tournament like a labouring bull.” In the same paper, Kevin Garside feels the defeat was “cathartic not catastrophic.”

Whilst, Matt Hughes feels Michael Owen could be the answer. “so Michael Owen’s reputation actually increases. Capello has plenty of reservations about the Newcastle United striker and has no plans to hand him a recall in the short term, but as the clock ticks down towards the World Cup next summer do not bet against him making a return to the squad, even if it’s just as an option from the bench. In a tournament it really is a case of any goal will do.”

Charles Sale in the Daily Mail takes a longer term view of England’s inferiority against Spain. “The way European champions Spain exposed a second-rate England’s side lack of technique in Seville makes the building of the National Football Centre at Burton all the more imperative.”

Also on the international games this week, Joel Richards writes that “Diego Maradona drew the best from Argentina against France but he must not be consumed by petty squabbles.”

With the FA Cup returning this week, Oliver Kay in The Times previews the clash between the Lampards. Also on the Watford-Chelsea clash, Paul Newman in The Independent speaks with Watford manager Brendan Rodgers about facing his old club. And the Guardian provide a feature on Roberto Martinez, looking to cause another cup upset in their game with Fulham.

In other news, Owen Gibson reports that “Premier League clubs will find out early next week about the financial health of one of the media groups that bankrolls them with Setanta due to lodge a seven-figure deposit to secure the live rights it won in last week’s auction.” Ian McGarry in The Sun claims “AC Milan will make a £10.5million bid for David Beckham today.”

Other articles worth reading include an amusing interview with Ossie Ardiles who talks of Chas and Dave and Escape to Victory and Jonathan Wilson analyses how to score against Manchester United.