Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “There was a lot of pressure to win, but from a motivation point of view, it wasnâ€™t a problem after what Phil Brown had said about our players underachieving this season. He talked about the prices we have paid for players and what we have achieved, and his comments annoyed us. I didnâ€™t need a team talk after that. We just played a video, spoke to the players briefly at half past 12 and stuck his comments up on the dressing-room wall. I donâ€™t think we have underachieved at all, and today the players gave their all and thoroughly deserved this win.” – Ricky Sbragia.
Runner-up: “It is not a pitch. When you build a stadium like this it is still not a pitch. It is laughable. The quality of the pitch is disastrous.” – Arsene Wenger.
Today’s overview: Didier Drogba is generally hailed in the Sundays, while others still find theselves almost blindly defending Arsene Wenger’s managerial style in the face of the Gunners FA Cup exit. But before all that there are rumours that the Premier League as we know it may be about to change.
The Mirror splash with am EXCLUSIVE this Sunday, Paul Smith revealing new proposals for the Premier League. “Gartsideâ€™s blueprint proposes two Premier League divisions, each of 18 teams. There would be promotion and relegation of two clubs between the divisions. There would also be one club relegated from Premier League 2 to be replaced by a club from the Football League. Perhaps most controversial of all is the idea of inviting two Scottish clubs to join Premier League 2. The clubs are not named but would be Glasgow giants Rangers and Celtic.”
Duncan White dissects how Hiddink, and Drogba, beat Wenger in a tactical battle. “Wenger had adapted his team selection to try and prevent the Chelsea midfield triumvirate of Lampard-Essien-Ballack from dominating the middle of the park… It was a valiant effort from the Arsenal manager – the two sides were evenly matched for much of this game – but there is no tactic for taming Drogba in full flight.”
Ian Chadband adds to the Drogba commentary writing “this was clearly not the ‘Incredible Sulkâ€™ who seemed to have lost all his old desire and prowess under the Luiz Felipe Scolari regime.” While Malcolm Folley seems to absolve Drogba of any previous wrongdoing farting “Drogba, who was marginalised and looking like a man determined to leave earlier in the season when Luiz Felipe Scolari was in charge, has become the lethal striker of old under Hiddink.”
Steve Tongue finds himself in the Blues’ cheering section as he reminds his readers “it is easily forgotten amid all the talk of Manchester United quadruples and quintuples that Chelsea can still achieve a notable treble.”
Jonathan Northcroft wonders “would the Petr Cech of two years ago have saved Theo Walcottâ€™s first-half effort in yesterdayâ€™s semi-final? Before he sustained a serious head injury… in October 2006, the keeper had conceded just 54 goals in 107 Chelsea games at a miserly rate of 0.51 goals per match… Since conceding twice on his return to action against Liverpool in January 2007, Cech, inset, has let in 74 goals in 112 games at a rate of 0.66 goals per game.”
Arsenal’s FA Cup exit was a result of their own doing according to Paul Wilson. “About as streetwise as the royal family and far too fair-minded for their own good, Arsenal failed to take advantage of the nervousness of Petr Cech, hardly testing him with a shot or a cross and never putting him under any pressure.”
Yet many hacks are still seemingly under Wenger’s spell this Sunday.
Slightly off topic, and talking about the Gunners Champions League win, Piers Morgan swallows humble pie admitting “Wenger has proved, yet again, that he is the smartest guy in the room. And I have proved, yet again, that I’m not. But if we do end up winning the Champions League, then I will be the happiest idiot in sporting and journalistic history.” While David Hynter highlighted every excuse possible scribbling, “yesterday, as his team were undone by Didier Drogba’s late winner and a dreadful Wembley playing surface, Wenger could justifiably savour triumph regardless of the result.”
A rather more sensible critique of the Wembley turf is offered by Paul Hayward. “Slick passing of the sort we see at the top club grounds is rendered impossible. See how the ball travels as if labouring through a shagpile rug. Players planting a foot produce divots and a loosening of large patches of soil.”
On Liverpool’s title ambitions Henry Winter instructs, “Liverpool need to hold their nerve, vanquish Arsenal and hope for United to run into problems during a congested Sunday-Wednesday-Saturday challenge… The odds rightly remain in United’s favour but any slip will have Liverpool believing it’s up for grabs.” While the big news in the tabloids for the Reds is, as written by Steve Millar, that “King Kenny, 58, will become a special adviser to Kop boss Rafa Benitez.”
While on Newcastle’s relegation scrap, whether more by hope or judgment Michael Walker believes “there is evidence that in a short-term situation Shearer is making long-term intentions apparent, and they reflect well on the 38-year-old.” Staying with the Magpies, Bob Cass delivers the flimsiest story of the day writing “Alan Shearer will be handed a transfer budget of just Â£10million if he decides to stay on as manager of Newcastle United after his stint in temporary charge finishes at the end of the season.”
In other Premier League news, there is more confusion over the future of the Hammers with Rob Draper announcing “West Ham have two potential bidders ready to mount an Â£80million takeover deal inÂ the wake of the financial meltdown of owner Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson.” While Gabrielle Marcotti argues that any comparison between Sir Alex Ferguson and David Moyes is “if not entirely, without merit.”
Paul Wilson gets on his soapbox to bark some home truths about the world of Premier League football. On modern day fans Wilson flagged the “number of managers and club officials who will privately admit to being disgusted or dismayed by the attitude of their own fans toward their own players. This is a new phenomenon. Every club has always had its share of nutters and negativists, but seats seem to be either encouraging them or giving them a more prominent platform.”
Another random rant comes from Andy Dunn who criticises Fabio Capello for the lack of young English quality breaking into the Top Four. “The future of the English national team is like global warming. We all know disastrous consequences lie in wait but what the hell? We won’t be around for them and we’re getting a better suntan in the here and now. So who cares? But where is the next Ferdinand? The next David Beckham? The next Ashley Cole? The next Gerrard?”
There is the usual over-hyped transfer nonsense in the Sundays.
Chris Bascombe unconvincingly farts in the NOTW that “Manchester United will target Brazilian superstar Kaka to replace Cristiano Ronaldo.” Following right behind is David Harisson barking “Tottenham have set their sights on a summer swoop for Blackburn Rovers striker Roque Santa Cruz.” Bob Harris claims that “West Ham are stalking FC Schalke’s bad-boy striker Kevin Kuranyi.” While aparently another peeping-tom is on the loose, with Rob Beasley disclosing that “a mystery American tycoon is stalking Tottenham with a view to a Â£300million takeover in the summer.”
In the Sunday interviews, Dan Rookwood speaks to Tim Cahill about loyalty to his family, respect for the fans and leading by example.