Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “We have not been good enough or had good enough game management coming into tournaments. We have lost too many players through injury and suspension. We continually play on high revs, like we do in England. In major tournaments you have to mix up your style of play to ensure players are fresh and available in the latter stages. It has been a long time since we have got to a final and you have to use that as a spur. We have a fantastic collectiveness, as good as I have ever seen in an England group. Win or lose this semi-final, there is a great camaraderie. But I am confident in my squad. They just have to reproduce the talent they have shown and I honestly believe they are getting better as games go by. But we need to break through a semi-final barrier and, not only that, we need to go and win something. This group can go through together and know what it is like to win together.” – Stuart Pearce.
Runner-up: “I’m not sure how many times I need to talk directly about my commitment to Arsenal as I continue to say the same thing over and over again, but it appears that every time I have spoken to the Spanish media recently, my words have bounced back to England, leaving question marks about my future. So, for anyone who is unclear or may have misunderstood what my position is, let me make myself absolutely crystal clear. I am wholeheartedly committed to Arsenal and my future lies with this great club.” – Cesc Fabregas.
Today’s overview: First we start with the transfer lies/gossip/news.
James Ducker in The Times believes Manchester City will capture Samuel Eto’o as David Villa is set to replace the Cameroon striker at the Nou Camp. “Barcelona need to sell Etoâ€™o to help to fund the move for Villa, who has confirmed that he will remain in Spain next season, with City ready to blow Inter Milan out of the water to secure the three-times African Footballer of the Yearâ€™s signature. If Barcelona manage to conclude a deal for Villa relatively swiftly, Etoâ€™o could be on board in time for the start of Cityâ€™s pre-season tour to South Africa in the middle of next month.”
The Daily Mirror, as is their style, come out of left-field with a story that goes against the grain, with United in for Villa, even though almost everyone agrees the Spain number seven will stay in his home country. Alan Nixon: “Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson is on red alert to make a Â£40million bid for Spain striker David Villa after Barcelona opened the auction last night.”
But, if The Daily Star are to be believed, Manchester United are actually closing in on Lyon striker Karim Benzema. “Sir Alex Ferguson took another step towards the Â£30m capture of striker Karim Benzema Âyesterday. But Manchester United could yet face fierce competition from bitter Âtransfer market rivals Real Madrid.”
A number of papers report how Alexandre Pato has “rejected” Chelsea to sign a new contract with AC Milan. In other Chelsea-Inter news, David Hytner writes: “JosÃ© Mourinho’s desire to be reunited with Ricardo Carvalho and Deco at Internazionale is still being stifled as the Italian club remain some way short of Chelsea’s asking prices.” The Sun also report how Chelsea have a battle on their hands to sign Maicon.
Other transfer gossip suggests Lee Cattermole is a target for Liverpool, Spurs and Sunderland, Tom Huddlestone will stay at Spurs and Dean Ashton may or may not be a target for Stoke. The Mirror also roll out claims that Chelsea are ready to snap up Charlton wonderkid Jonjo Shelvey, Steve Sidwell could be on the move again to Fulham and Nani could be on his way to Wigan as part of the Antonio Valencia deal.
Finally on the gossip, no day would be complete without the obligatory Carlos Tevez update. “Carlos Tevez’s move to Manchester City is a case of child’s play – thanks to his daughter. The Argentine striker has yet to officially decide where he is heading next, after turning down the chance of a long-term stay at Manchester United. Yet City, who are battling Chelsea for his signature, are red-hot favourites after it emerged hitman Tevez has enrolled four-year-old Florencia in a private school in Cheshire. She starts in September – effectively proof that the forward plans to stay in the North West.”
Mark Ogden analyses how Burnley will cope, with a pay ceiling of Â£15k a week. “Burnley will struggle to attract players to the club this summer if they stay loyal to their pay policy, but at least those that do agree to wear claret and blue next season cannot be accused of doing it for the money. In difficult financial times, perhaps the Premier League needs a club like Burnley to act as a reminder of the real world, albeit through football’s distorted lens.”
On Manchester United’s new kit, The Sun claim “Manchester United fans want their new rugby league-style kit kicked into touch – before it goes on sale next month.”
The Daily Mirror explain the thinking behind United’s new kits. “Manchester United’s new home kit reflects the centenary year of their famous Old Trafford home. The new red shirt features a large V-shape across the chest, echoing the same pattern United wore on their shirts during the 190910 season – their first at Old Trafford. The angle of the chevron directly replicates the one found at the bottom of the club crest containing United’s red devil.”
In one of the few pure opinion pieces today, Steven Howard in The Sun urges Mark Hughes to get it right in the 2009/2010 season. “He has to get it right now. Anything like a repeat of last season where just two away wins said everything you needed to know about the character of the side and Hughes will be out the door. And character is the operative word for City this season. Personally, I’m none too sure about some of the players he has signed and some he hopes to. Flaky is the word that springs immediately to mind. They don’t exactly reflect the iron will and indestructibility of the manager.”
On the Confederations Cup, Gabriele Marcotti looks back on the USA’s shock win over Spain, providing “four ways to stop Spain.” “1. Clog the middle, concede the flanks Spainâ€™s intricate passing can befuddle any opponent, but the short-passing style of Xavi and co. is most effective through the centre of the pitch. Thatâ€™s why it makes sense to tuck your full backs inside and defend more narrowly. This will make it far more difficult for Spain to work their way through into your area.”
Looking ahead to the England Under-21 semi-final with Sweden tonight, David Hytner previews England’s preparations for a penalty shoot-out. “Stuart Pearce understands the true meaning of the adage about penalty shoot-outs and lotteries. ‘In the past,’ said the England Under-21 coach, with a nod towards the infamous shoot-outs at Italia 90 and Euro 96, ‘the manager would ask ‘Who fancies it?’ Let’s be honest, that is not exactly a precise science.'”
A number of papers feature Blackburn defender Martin Olsson’s thoughts on Theo Walcott: “He is extremely fast but not as good as everyone says, it’s the players around him that feed him and make him good, so if we can shut them down, I think we can prevent him from getting those passes. Against Finland, he had almost no chances and wasn’t that much of a factor. There’s no Adebayor who can help him. The other players are young too and they also make mistakes.”
Finally, slightly off topic, Roby Smyth comprehensively details “The forgotten story of â€¦ Sampdoria’s only scudetto.” “And the sassiest. Sampdoria’s triumph was characterised by a rich and infectious sense of fun. Their team spirit was not, as Steve Archibald said, an illusion glimpsed in the aftermath of victory: it was in evidence throughout the season as they showed that no challenge should be faced without a little charm and a lot of style.”