Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “We’re clear on what we want and I’m clear on what Mark has identified as the areas that need to be supported. Funds will be available but we all know we’re not going to splash money around because that model, that formula, doesn’t work. You’re not going to buy 22 new players and then the next year you win the Premier League. It needs to be done sustainably, with quality management, quality infrastructure and a quality manager. That’s what we are doing. The players will come – and the results will come. Given what we have done this year and the ambitions we have this summer, a top-six finish next year should be a reasonable and achievable target.”- Manchester City chairman, Khaldoon Al Mubarak.
Runner-up: “If we stay up, of course I’ll stay. I’ve committed myself to the club. If we stay up, I am definitely going to be here. But, if we go down, I can’t say what’s going to happen tomorrow. Obviously things do happen in those situations. Tottenham have been linked with me quite strongly. I can only focus on the job I have now, trying my best and playing well to keep the club up. I just have to work hard and do the best I can for Sunderland.” – Kenwyne Jones.
Today’s overview: The hacks line up this Wednesday to sings the praises of Arsene Wenger, although the tabloid press refuse to give up on linking the Frenchman with Real Madrid.
Matthew Syde gushes “in the teeth of formidable obstacles, not least the financial constraints under which he willingly and selflessly operates, he has unleashed the kind of calypso football that at one time seemed destined to be strangled and smothered by route-one pragmatism. In so doing, he has provided a priceless service not just to fans at Highbury and now the Emirates Stadium, but to all of us.” Henry Winter continues the Wenger love-in writing “Wenger deserves another year of terrace trust. He has earned it. The legitimate Arsenal terrace discussion, the team’s absence of leaders, has ludicrously blurred into a debate about Wenger’s leadership at the Emirates.”
Turning on the Arsenal board, Martin Samuel continues the rally-calls for Wenger. “The image of Wenger as unshakable maverick, sacrificing the club on the altar of his principles, is overstated. Wenger is frequently advised by friends and allies to make the board come clean about the financial constraints… What needs to be dispelled is the misconception that Wenger is an arrogant fool who would rather see his team finish fourth than compromise his principles.”
On the size of Wenger’s war-chest, Jeremy Wilson announces “it is understood that he will have around Â£20 million to invest in the team.” Not so according to Neil Ashton who, after claiming an EXCLUSIVE that Wenger is staying, printed that “[Wenger] has been given the full backing of the board, although he has been told that he has as little as Â£12-Â£13million to spend in the summer transfer window unless he sells.”
It a separate article, Neil Ashton swims against the tide and defends the Arsenal faithful’s right to question The Professor’s leadership. “The club are taking their 60,000 supporters, who watch the team at the Emirates, for a ride at the moment, asking them to fork out anywhere between Â£900 and Â£1,300 for a season ticket in exchange for their silence. That, Mr Hill-Wood, is quite disgraceful.”
It is left to the red-tops to refuse to let the Wenger-Real Madrid link die.
Martin Lipton delivers the juicy, and likely made-up report, that “in addition to a salary of Â£6m a year, [Florentino] Perez will pledge to make Â£100m available for Wenger to bring in the players he wants.” But it is The Star’s David Woods who prints the most far-fetched story penning “It now appears the 59-year-old [Wenger] is seriously considering ending his 12-year love affair with the north Londoners… [Perez] has told Wenger he is ready to splash out staggering fees for AC Milan superstar Kaka (Â£63m), David Villa of Valencia (Â£35m) and Liverpoolâ€™s Xavi Alonso (Â£21m). A source close to Wenger admitted the Arsenal boss had been impressed by the ‘huge’ budget, which comes in stark contrast to the limited funds he has had at The Emirates over recent years.”
Only a couple of days after England launched their bid for the 2018 World Cup and it appears that the bid is already in a shambles, as the far-right British National Party have hijacked the opening days coverage.
After a BNP member was invited to the campaign’s launch, Matt Scott announces how “England 2018 will today attend a crisis meeting with the game’s leading black and minority-ethnic figures after the World Cup bid came under attack last night for a lack of awareness on Âdiversity issues.”
As the Carlos Tevez deal continues to unravel, Paul Kelso lifts the lid on how Manchester United have a business relationship with Traffic Football Management, a company whose “business model, based on buying playersâ€™ economic rights in order to profit from future transfer revenue, is identical in principle to the relationship between Tevez and Joorabchian.”
David Conn forecasts the likely scenario should Middlesbrough be relegated this weekend. “Boro were expecting to sell Downing before his ankle injury sustained on Saturday put him out for six months. Tuncay Sanli, this season’s brightest light, who is thought to be on wages of about Â£60,000 per week is likely to be sold, with Jeremie Aliadiere, Mido and probably O’Neil following.”
Turning to the Magpies, Oliver Kay assesses Newcastle’s chances against Aston Villa. “Beyond a hunch, there is nothing to tell you that Newcastle will get it right on Sunday – they have scored in only two of Alan Shearerâ€™s seven matches in charge and kept a clean sheet once – but their need is so great that they will surely give it a decent go. A win should keep them up, but a draw? The tears will flow.”
Staying with the Premier League relegation, Stuart James wonders “do you speculate to accumulate and risk a few extra million to chase the riches that accompany a second season in the top flight or adopt a more circumspect approach, ensure that the bank is kept happy and accept the almost inevitable consequences of ending up back where you started?”
With the Champions League final just around the corner, predictable warnings to fans of how to stay safe in “Stab City” Rome as slowly filtering through the wires.
Kevin Eason writes how “Unitedâ€™s fans have been warned by the Foreign Office of almost every kind of threat, from gangs of children acting as pickpockets to muggers at the railway and bus stations and even robbers targeting cars on the motorways. But it is the threat from the Ultras that the authorities fear most.” Tony Evans also picks up the slack in his article headlined “When in Rome, donâ€™t turn your back is the grim warning for Manchester United fans,” with the hack arguing that “picking unsuitable venues for its showpiece games seems to be the theme of the past few years. Istanbul, Athens, Moscow and Rome were questionable choices.”
Jamie Jackson picks up the thread of the lack of top English goalkeepers in the Guardian. “Once James was ruled out, one statistic leaped out from last weekend’s Premier League fare. The number of English goalkeepers considered good enough to start the penultimate round of games this season was three â€“ Green, Paul Robinson and Steve Harper â€“ enough for Capello to fill the requisite number of berths in his squad but hardly an overflowing cup.” Matt Hughes adds his observation that “[Robert] Green’s probable elevation represents a remarkable transformation after he was repeatedly overlooked by Capello.”
Onto the transfer gossip, and the Telegraph’s Richard Bright splashes with the news that “Barcelona are poised to make a Â£20 million move for Ashley Cole, though Chelsea are determined to fend off interest from the Spanish Champions as well as Manchester City and Jose Mourinhoâ€™s Inter Milan.”
How much cash do Liverpool have to spend, and on who? According to Rory Smith, Rafa Benitez, who “is likely to find his funds restricted this summer to just Â£20 million,” is targetting “Glen Johnson, of Portsmouth, and Tottenham’s Aaron Lennon, despite both recently signing contract extensions, while he is believed to be tracking both Yoann Gourcuff, of Bordeaux, and Heerenveen’s Daniel Pranjic.” But a completely different picture is painted by Shaun Custis in The Sun, farting “Tottenham were reeling last night after being told Liverpool are willing to shell out Â£50million for Carlos Tevez.”
No big loss for Spurs though, who already have already lined up another striker to recruit, with The Sun claiming “Harry Redknapp wants to nab Lazio striker Goran Pandev.” Other shorts include The Mirror reporting “Wolves boss Mick McCarthy is ready to swoop for Standard Liege’s Oguchi Onyewu.”
We end with the battle of the tabloids on Cristiano Ronaldo’s future. The good news for United fans is delivered by John Edwards, saying “Manchester United’s hopes of hanging on to Cristiano Ronaldo have soared after it emerged that Franck Ribery expects to fill the wide vacancy at Real Madrid.” But David Anderson publishes a completely different story writing “Real Madrid to offer Cristiano Ronaldo Â£200k a week to prise him from Manchester United.”