Why Everton should sell Lescott to City, Arsenal’s title challenge, Liverpool’s shallow squad & the problems in Chelsea’s diamond

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “Cesc will not come. He is an important player for Arsenal and they have already sold Kolo and Adebayor. I believe it will not be possible this season. He is a very interesting footballer but now he will play another year in England.” – Pep Guardiola.

Runner-up: “He needs to lose this image that has grown around him in the last year or so and what’s happened now doesn’t help him. He needs to lose that tag of ‘he’s another Beckham’. He’s not Beckham, he’s David Bentley. I’ll be honest, the lads call him Becks and I don’t think that helps him… He needs to look at Luka Modric, who just gets on with his job.” – Harry Redknapp.

Today’s overview: Why Everton should sell Lescott to City, Arsenal’s title challenge, Liverpool’s shallow squad, the problems in Chelsea’s diamond, and sensationalist news of a threatened Zola walk-out all feature in a jam-packed first Sunday of the new season across the backpages.

Despite Man City getting off to a flyer at Blackburn, Paul Hayward argues the Citizens need defensive tweaking if they are to reach their lofty ambitions. “The problem is, City are much better going forwards than backwards. The need to upgrade Richard Dunne so that Kolo Toure can work with a centre-half of comparable quality was sadly apparent.”

Linking City to Everton, Paul Wilson explains why David Moyes should sell Lescott after all. “Moyes appears to believe Everton should not be forced into becoming a selling club against their wishes, yet this is the club that sold Wayne Rooney, and Lescott is no Rooney. Some battles are worth fighting, some are not.” Taking a slightly different approach to the Lescott-City saga, Duncan White criticises David Moyes for his anger towards the Mancunians. “If Everton suspect that City have broken the rules [in tapping up Lescott], why not report them? It is not up to Everton to prove anything – let the authorities investigate. Otherwise, it is just slander.”

After crushing the Toffees, Arsenal are showered with praise by the Sundays.

Jonathan Northcroft crowed “Arsenal suggested that, despite being written off by most pundits, and priced at long odds by the bookmakers, they may prove genuine contenders for the title.” Rory Smith follows in kind barking “in place of the cacophony of criticism which has stretched through June and July, the only sound surrounding M Wenger’s side now is the hurried tearing up of all those pre-season predictions.”

Moving on to Liverpool, and Duncan Castles questions whether the Reds have the strength in depth to win the title. “In every department of the squad there is the same problem with depth. When Torres’s thigh muscles protest, Dirk Kuyt must come in from the wing or David Ngog be promoted beyond his experience. Should Gerrard be sidelined, Yossi Benayoun or the returning Andriy Voronin must ape the irreplaceable.” Concurring almost entirely, Rory Smith also expresses his doubts over Liverpool’s squad at large. “Liverpool have the best starting XI in the country, and if they all stayed fit all season they would win the title. But the disparity with the second XI, especially in the attacking areas, is vast.”

Liverpool’s squad may be about to shrink further as the NOTW claim that “Andriy Voronin finally looks set for a £3million move to Hertha Berlin.”

Many of the papers pick up on the news that Javier Mascherano is set for a pay hike in his Liverpool contract, but the tabloids are at odds to put a figure on the increase.

Looking not to lie, the Express’ John Richardson was content to simply state that “Mascherano is poised for a big pay rise at Liverpool after seeing a dream move to Barcelona blocked.” The Mirror’s Simon Mullock has no such problems, speculating that “Benitez has told Liverpool’s owners that they must now bring [Mascherano] much closer to £120,000-a-week top earners like Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres.” Offering a third way, Steve Millar chugs “Mascherano, who signed a four-year deal in February 2008, will hold talks on a two-year extension which will hike his £50,000-a-week pay to £100,000.”

Having seen Chelsea squeak past Hull, Alan Smith questions the Blues’ new diamond formation while tearing strips off John Obi Mikel. “It is difficult to see what Mikel actually contributes. His passing isn’t great, he doesn’t get forward and his defensive instincts can’t compare with someone like Claude Makelele. Mikel, in fact, tends to slow things down. He is a little too laboured with the ball at his feet.” There is also concern about Lampard’s role in the diamond, Steve Tongue explaining that “having Frank Lampard just behind [the front two] ought to provide a potent attacking triangle, though the worry is that the influential Lampard will not find space to do his best work. That was the case yesterday.”

Honest and plain-spoken, Portsmouth goalie David James expresses his fears for the South Coasters in the Observer. “This league is supposed to be bulletproof. But over the summer months, as we began to sell our players, those left in the dressing room couldn’t help looking round and wondering, ‘Who’s next?’… when a club starts selling off its assets the quality of the team inevitably deteriorates, meaning those remaining are left with a difficult task.” Sadly for Pompey even more players are set to leave Fratton Park, as Rory Smith claims that John Utaka and David Nugent are heading towards the exit.

Bye, bye Zola?

Sensationalist Paul Smith at the Mirror on Sunday today splashes with news that “Gianfranco Zola’s spectacular reign as West Ham boss could be about to end. The Hammers manager will not sanction the sale of his key players before the transfer window closes at the end of this month. Icelandic owners Straumur have demanded the immediate sale of key men like Carlton Cole, Mark Noble, Matthew Upson, Robert Green and Scott Parker to meet mounting debts.”

As seems to be the case every Sunday, Newcastle are once again rumoured to be the subject of a new takeover bid. Brian McNally writes in the Mirror on Sunday, “Sunday Mirror Sport can reveal that the final preparations are being made on a fresh takeover offer from overseas investors.”

Focusing minds back to England’s midweek friendly in Holland, pompous toff Piers Morgan is found tooting “can someone please explain to me why David Beckham is still playing football for England? He was about as useful against Holland on Wednesday night as Heather Mills at a Beatles convention.”

Onto the Sunday transfer gossip.

Sneakily slipped into his match report of Chelsea-Hull, Rob Draper announces that Phil Brown “hopes to add Real Madrid striker Alvaro Negredo to his squad tomorrow in a record £12m signing,” while in a second article Draper spouts the old news that Aston Villa are lining up a £7m swoop for Blackburn’s Stephen Warnock. Staying in the Mail on Sunday, fellow hack Joe Bernstein shouts that Arsenal are eying a £6m move for Rafael van der Vaart.

As usual, the Mail on Sunday then appear to simply make up transfer guff in an apparent attempt to sell more papers. This is achieved by Rob Draper’s sensationalist and never-gonna-happen article farting that Notts County are targetting Pavel Nedved, Luis Figo and Patrick Vieira! And continuing with over-hyped, little-substance transfer toss, Simon Mullock is found gossiping that “Manchester United are bracing themselves for a three-pronged bid from Barcelona, AC Milan and Inter Milan for Nemanja Vidic.”

Coming back to reality with a somewhat more believable story, Brian McNally announces that “Liverpool, Aston Villa and Fulham are all ready to challenge Everton for Newcastle United centre-back Steven Taylor and spark a bidding war.” Elsewhere in the NOTW we learn that Pompey need to shell out £4m for Lens striker Aruna Dindane, Spurs want £1.5million-rated Gillingham ace Simeon Jackson, while Chelsea’s Andriy Shevchenko is a loan target for Fenerbahce.

And there is more.

The NOTW publish that Mark Hughes is ready to spend £5m on Sporting Lisbon’s 15-year-old midfielder Tobias Figueredo, while over in the People Alan Nixon reports that “Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson is weighing up a shock move to take Ryan Shawcross back to Old Trafford from Stoke City.”

With end off with the Sunday interviews.

In a light-hearted chin-wag with Kevin Mitchell, Seventies showman Stan Bowles explains the problem with modern football. Bowles: “There’s some brilliant players, don’t get me wrong, but no characters. They can’t relate to the fans any more.” Over in the Independent on Sunday, John Barnes offers a far more serious interview in which the Tranmere boss wonders why there are so few black managers in the game.

Lastly, the NOTW have a sit-down with the Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore. “We will always be concerned by clubs who overspend, but we live by the sword and we will die by it. Manchester City aren’t overspending – they have the means to do it as they have unlimited funding, but reality is setting in at other clubs.”