Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “I apologise completely to Ryan Shawcross, my team-mates and to our fans at the game. There was a lot of pushing and pulling going on inside the Stoke penalty area and I didn’t feel I was getting any protection from the officials. Nevertheless I know I shouldn’t have done what I did. I’ve also apologised to the manager and the staff. I have no excuses. I was disappointed with the way I was being treated and I lost my temper, which was unprofessional.” – Marouane Fellaini.
Runner-up: “People are criticising the manager at the moment, but there will be a time when they look at the players and ask questions of us. We don’t want that, so we have to step up and be counted. I am talking to the club and I probably will be committing my future to the club in the next couple of weeks. We have to remember our strengths. I think technically we are probably the best team out there. We have to get the result, that’s the main thing. We know it won’t be easy, especially having just lost at Bradford. Reading are desperate for a win too, down the bottom of the league. So we need to roll our sleeves up, get stuck in and do what we are good at – keeping the ball. When we create chances we know we have to take them. We have got some great leaders in this team – people like Thomas Vermaelen and Mikel Arteta. But all the players can lead by example,” he said. “We all have to step up now, it’s a tough time but we have to stick together and be united.” – Jack Wilshere.
Fellaini: I’m sorry (Graeme Bryce, Sunday Sun) Marouane Fellaini last night apologised for nutting Stoke’s Ryan Shawcross. TV cameras caught the Everton midfielder punching, kicking and headbutting defender Shawcross during the 1-1 draw at the Britannia Stadium. Fellaini now faces a long ban and said: “I apologise completely to Ryan Shawcross, my team-mates and to our fans at the game. There was a lot of pushing and pulling going on inside the Stoke penalty area and I didn’t feel I was getting any protection from the officials. Nevertheless I know I shouldn’t have done what I did. “I’ve also apologised to the manager and the staff. I have no excuses. I was disappointed with the way I was being treated and I lost my temper, which was unprofessional.”
Everton midfielder Marouane Fellaini apologises for head-butt on Stoke City defender Ryan Shawcross (Sunday Telegraph) While Fellaini went unpunished by the match officials at the time, replays clearly showed him making contact with Shawcross as they jostled for position in the box for a second-half corner. Following the match, Everton manager David Moyes admitted the incident was “not acceptable” and tonight Fellaini issued an apology on the club’s official website. “I apologise completely to Ryan Shawcross, my team-mates and to our fans at the game,” said Fellaini. “There was a lot of pushing and pulling going on inside the Stoke penalty area and I didn’t feel I was getting any protection from the officials.
Jack Wilshere’s new 5-year Arsenal deal
Jack’s £20m Christmas present: Wilshere agrees five-year deal to stay at Arsenal (Rob Draper, Mail on Sunday) Jack Wilshere will provide a huge boost to ailing Arsenal — and under-pressure manager Arsene Wenger — by signing a £20million, five-year contract in the next month. And the 20-year-old England midfielder — the country’s brightest young talent — has vowed that the new generation of Arsenal players will bring the glory days back to a club who have now gone seven-and-a-half years without a trophy. Wilshere, who expects very soon to agree terms on the new deal, including a starting salary of £80,000 a week and staged pay rises, has also revealed that he wants to captain the club one day, indicating his commitment to a long-term career at Arsenal.
I’ll sign a new deal – now (Charlie Wyett, Sunday Sun) Jack Wilshere has given Arsenal a massive boost by announcing he will sign a new deal with the club within weeks. The midfielder’s admission is good news for fans at the end of a troubled week for the Gunners, which saw them lose in the Capital One Cup at Bradford. Wilshere, 20, back in action after 17 months injured, still has two-and-a-half years of his £50,000-a-week deal left but the new contract could see him tied to the club until 2017. He said: “I’m talking to the club and I probably will be committing my future in the next couple of weeks. It’s not a problem.”
Gary Neville defends Arsene Wenger
Yes, Arsenal are struggling but sensible people should be defending Wenger now (Gary Neville, Mail on Sunday) Arsenal are on the right track. They run the club in a sensible way. When I go there, I watch good players, good football and you sense the history of the place. There is a drop in quality, especially in forward positions. They were the best attacking team I played against and, at the moment, they don’t have that ruthlessness and devastation. But we should be applauding the fact a club have had a manager for 16 years in a world in which divorce rates get ever higher, in which loyalty isn’t valued and in which everyone demands everything instantly. Sensible football people should be defending Arsene Wenger and fighting for him to build another great Arsenal team. And we certainly shouldn’t be sat here saying: ‘Arsenal will never win another title.’ To me, that seems absurdly reactive.
Arsène Wenger’s way looks increasingly like path to Arsenal mediocrity (Paul Wilson, Observer) Six weeks is a long time in football and not many of the Arsenal fans travelling to the Madejski Stadium on Monday will be whistling a happy tune in anticipation of another carefree 12-goal thriller like the one in the Capital One Cup. In the light of what happened at Bradford even Arsenal supporters tempted to look back fondly on that crazy night will be more inclined to take a stern view of going four goals down to Reading in the first place than relive the Theo Walcott-led recovery. Reading have just dropped to the bottom as a result of QPR’s first win but that is roughly where most imagined the Royals would be at this stage. Arsenal, too, are doing what most of their supporters expected them to do – hover around mid-table with a view to making a late bid for the top four. Yet though 15 consecutive seasons of Champions League football is an achievement that has answered most questions about Arsène Wenger’s stewardship of the club, it is struggling to excuse daily disappointments, such as being outplayed at home by Swansea or kicked out of a cup quarter-final by a League Two side put together for around a 10th of what Walcott stands to earn every week if he would only sign his new contract.
No January signings for Manchester United
Fergie rules out buying Walcott or anybody else in January (Bob Cass, Mail on Sunday) Sir Alex Ferguson will not be buying Theo Walcott – or anybody else in January. The Manchester United manager, who saw his team maintain their six-point lead over neighbours Manchester City with a 3-1 win over Sunderland on Saturday, is adamant he will not be doing any business in the transfer window unless it is to allow several of his reserve-team players to go out on loan. Ferguson, who rarely takes advantage of the mid-season opportunity to augment his first-team squad, believes he has enough resources to cope with challenging for the Premier League title and the European and FA Cups. ‘I will not be bringing anybody in, in January – definitely not,’ he confirmed.
Does Chicharito want to leave United?
Javier Hernandez wants more games for Manchester United (Paul Brown, Sunday Star) Javier Hernandez is ready to quit Man United unless he gets more playing time. The hitman nicknamed Little Pea is wanted by Atletico Madrid, Porto and Fiorentina.
Mario Balotelli suing Manchester City
I won’t pay up! Balotelli taking Man City to tribunal over £340,000 fine (Simon Mullock, Daily Mirror) Mario Balotelli is taking Manchester City to a Premier League tribunal to overturn a £340,000 club fine. The controversial Italian striker will appear before an independent two-man panel in London on Wednesday after being docked two weeks’ wages by the champions. Sunday Mirror Sport understands that City handed down the fine after deciding that Balotelli was guilty of a series of breaches of discipline. But the 22-year-old believes that the punishment is unjust. After failing with an appeal to the club’s hierarchy, he instructed his agent to pursue City through a tribunal. If Balotelli loses his appeal, he faces paying the five-figure costs of the hearing, as well as the fine. The £170,000-a-week forward clearly sees that as a gamble worth taking.
Mario Balotelli snubs daughter’s birth to get his hands on Fanny (Sunday Sun) Soccer bad boy Mario Balotelli was out with a model called Fanny the night his daughter was born. He wined and dined Vogue magazine beauty Fanny Robert Neguesha, 22, who had jetted in from Brussels to visit him. And when the following day a Sun reporter called at the Manchester City ace’s Cheshire mansion to congratulate him on becoming a dad, she opened the door.
Kolarov in new race storm
Now Kolarov is caught in race storm (Martin Hardy, Independent on Sunday) Manchester City’s Aleksandar Kolarov will be investigated by police this week about alleged racist remarks made to an Albanian fan during his side’s victory against Newcastle yesterday. Kolarov, who was a substitute, was believed to have become embroiled in a verbal row with at least one supporter who was waving an Albanian flag as he warmed up on the sidelines during the game at St James’ Park. Northumbria Police confirmed they have received a complaint from a supporter alleging that racist language was used by the 27-year-old Serbian player. There is a history of tension between Serbia and Albania, particularly over the disputed Kosovo region.
City target David Villa
Sergio Aggro: Man City line up David Villa to replace unsettled Aguero (Steve Bates, People) Sergio Aguero could be on his way out of the Etihad – with Barcelona star David Villa already being lined up as a mega-money replacement, writes the Sunday People. Striker Aguero was a £38million signing from Atletico Madrid just 18 months ago. And he will remain forever in the hearts of all Blue Moonies after his sensational late winner against QPR on the final day of last season that snatched the Premier League title from Manchester United’s hands. Sources close to the Argentinian striker claim his spirits are low and he has become unsettled at the club this season after their Champions League exit and amid dressing room unrest. It is understood that City sporting director Txiki Begiristain and chief executive Ferran Soriano – with their strong Barca links – have identified Villa as a potential transfer target.
Raheem Sterling set to sign on at Liverpool
Sterling set to sign Liverpool deal but Kelly snubs £35k-a-week contract (Joe Bernstein, Mail on Sunday) Liverpool are confident they are close to persuading teenage winger Raheem Sterling to sign a new, long-term contract but have been rebuffed in their attempts to tie down a second young England star in Martin Kelly. Representatives for Sterling, who turned 18 last weekend, held fresh talks with club chief executive Ian Ayre last week to try to thrash out a deal. The two sides were a long way apart in earlier negotiations.
Frank Lampard considering QPR
Open Range: Lampard considers QPR move after being snubbed by Benitez (Dave Kidd, People) Frank Lampard is desperate for a January move from Chelsea after being snubbed by Rafa Benitez for the Club World Cup, writes the Sunday People. And the England midfielder is weighing up a move to Queens Park Rangers, where boss Harry Redknapp is ready to offer his nephew a two-and-a-half-year contract – as revealed in People Sport two weeks ago. Lampard expected to captain Chelsea against Monterrey in the semi-final of the FIFA event on Thursday but was axed from the side as centre-back David Luiz was moved into midfield. The England midfielder had trained the previous day in the with those expected to start but was told on the morning of the match that he would be on the bench.