Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “I have to choose the players to play against Ukraine, not against history. You have to choose the players who’ve played a lot of games. It’s impossible to choose one player [Michael Owen] that played only 20 minutes [against Arsenal]. Why didn’t he play longer in the last game? Because he was dropped. So I have to choose the players in good form. I choose the best players who are in a very fantastic moment.” – Fabio Capello.
Runner-up: “I thought [Martin] Skrtel was my mate, but I went up with him, he kicked out at me and he gave me a dead leg. I think it was a little bit out of order, to be honest. We both went up for the ball and I think he kicked out a little bit. These things happen. Maybe he didnâ€™t have the best of days, but thatâ€™s for other people to discuss.” – Peter Crouch.
Today’s overview: England’s tacticalÂ options focus minds this Monday with hacks forensically analysing all the various areas of England’s team.
Dominic Fifield begins by waxing lyrical over Wayne Rooney. “Rooney has been revived at this level by Fabio Capello… Rooney has 49 [caps] and has scored as many goals in that time, 21, as Michael Owen managed in his first 50.” Sam Wallace also jumps on the Rooney bandwagon, bleating how not “since he starred at Euro 2004 has Rooney looked more ready to take the international game by the scruff of the neck and change England’s dismal record.” Neil Ashton backs up the hype with stats, pointing out that Rooney is the “first player to score in four successive matches for the country since Gary Lineker began an impressive sequence with a hat-trick against Poland at the 1986 World Cup.”
The fall guy this Monday is Michael Owen, and Jason Burt sticks the knife in arguing that even if the Magpie was match-fit he would still feature outside Capello’s thoughts. “England need a more powerful, stronger central striker who can occupy defenders and hold the ball up allowing Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney the freedom to get forward.” Henry Winter is the lone voice in support of Newcastle front-man, challenging that “Owen deserves to be England’s wild-card, the ace up Capello’s well-tailored sleeve.”
David Pleat switches attention to England’s left-flank, boasting how “Fabio Capello will draw huge encouragement from the mesmerising and clever running mustered by Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Ashley Cole down the left side which looked capable of unhinging the best of defences.” Patrick Barclay questions this last point, wondering “the question is whether it [Gerrard on England’s left] would work against a leading opponent, such as Spain or Brazil, whose Sergio Ramos or Daniel Alves would be delighted to accept the roaming Gerrardâ€™s invitations to counter-attack down the right.”
Refusing to count his chickens, Martin Samuel also remains unconvinced of England’s long term ability to win a trophy. “When it matters, in South Africa in 2010, will Capello be just another England manager reduced to patching and matching his way through a tournament?”
On England’s over-populated right-wing, Paul Hawyard argues that “Lennon, Beckham and Wright-Phillips are all only stand-ins for Walcott, who provides the best blend of right-sided thrust, incisive passing and cold-blooded finishing.” With that being said however, Lennon is tipped to start against the Ukraine, leavingÂ regards the direction of his crosses and cut-backs as someone elseâ€™s problem to solve… [although] whatever his failings, the Tottenham player did leave the Slovakia defence gasping.”
As if he has nothing better to do, Jeff Powell pompously takes England to task for how the national team introduced the new kit on Saturday. “Their timing was crass beyond belief. Revealing their new kit between the two national anthems at Wembley was as luridly commercial as any act performed by the pneumatic ladies at your local pole-dancing club. Upstaging the pre-match rendition of this country’s hymn to Her Majesty was low treason.”
Amid the problems facing Manchester United’s sponsers AIG, Patrick Barclay argues that the Red Devils should do the right thing. “They should forgo the Â£18 million or so still due on a contract expiring at the end of next season and put something admirable on their shirts free of charge, following the examples of Barcelona, who advertise Unicef, and Aston Villa (also American-owned), whose friendship is with Acorns, a childrenâ€™s hospice.”
Slapping the monkey around his neck, Steven Howard goes one step too far claiming no-one, except Wayne Rooney, can lead Manchester United to Premier League glory. “Carlos Tevez is too much a bit-part player, Patrice Evra and Michael Carrick both a little off form while Vidic could be having a slight crisis of confidence. Throw in defender Rio Ferdinandâ€™s fitness problems and the sands of time that are gradually running out for Scholes and Unitedâ€™s need for a revved-up but responsible Rooney are both paramount and obvious.”
For Gabrielle Marcotti, a European Super League is an inevitability. “Economic imperatives and the political and social evolution of Europe are pushing football towards a Super League. And, whether we like it or not, itâ€™s on its way. Letâ€™s hope it arrives later rather than sooner.”
By contrast, Martin Samuel uses his Monday column to take football’s governing bodies to task, angrily writing “Blatter and Platini keep straight faces while lecturing English football about greed, all the time accumulating reserves of wealth that, measured against their moral stance, are obscene.”
The Times’I discovered I did not know quite as much as I thought I did. Everyone involved in football â€” the players, coaches, commentators and pundits â€” should have to pass the referee exam before uttering an opinion or kicking a ball.”
Often football is labelled as the thugish sport when contrasted with rugby. Sam Wallace attempts to break that stereotype by flagging up the story of how two England rugby players have been found guilty of assault but nevertheless been allowed to continue to play the game. “English football is far from perfect and it has a much higher profile than rugby league but the profile does not make a shred of difference when you consider that there is always a right thing and wrong thing to do whatever the sport.”
The red-tops peddle a host of rumours, none appearing to have much in the way of substance.
The Sun lead off with Mark Gilbert farting that Jose Mourinho “has dropped the biggest hint yet that he is ready to take over from Alex Ferguson as Manchester United manager.”
On the transfer front, the Daily Mirror appear to write without basis that “Manchester City have been alerted after defender Fabio Cannavaro revealed he is ready to quit Real Madrid.” And the Mirror continue, going on to claim “Wigan boss Steve Bruce is closing in on a record Â£7million deal for Ecuador hit-man Cristian Benitez.”