Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the Day: “Last season was embarrassing for us and it wasnâ€™t nice. Last year was a failure. We didnâ€™t perform well and we finished right down the bottom of the table. This year we have to improve and get back up the table where we should be. Going off last yearâ€™s finish, it is not something to be proud of. Finishing down there hurts. It hurt me and the rest of the lads, they feel that as much as I do. Last year we had to turn it around and eventually we put a run together. It will be another tough year because every club is improving, everyone is throwing money at it and getting better, buying better players. We have to keep up with that. If you stand still you can go backwards.” – Nicky Butt.
Runner-up: “I was hoping to have added to the squad by now and brought a few in to give the players a lift. It’s not just a new face we need – it’s new faces. My big concern is that anybody we bring in now probably won’t be ready to start the Premier League season. It’s now getting to the stage where you are wondering how long it takes for new players to settle. I’m hoping we will have some in [before the start of the season] but I’m not going to turn around and say I am totally confident because you never know what happens.” – David Moyes.
Today’s overview: With no single story taking focus this Tuesday, the backpages have a varied selection of stories from across the Premier League.
The doom-monger is Ian Ladyman, who talks of a mutiny at Blackburn as rumours abound that Paul Ince has already lost the dressing-room.
Rob Stewart tries to convince his readers that despite the quotes ruling out Anil Ambani’s takeover bid of Newcastle, such a takeover may yet materialise. Other rumours doing the rounds are the transfer tales served up by Gary Jacob & James Ducker and Oliver Brown, who respectively claim that Vedran Corluka is targeted by Spurs while Arsenal have their eye on Ruben de la Red.
Both Henry Winter (“It does not make any sense”) and Sarah Winterburn (“ignore the bollocks about speading the word of the EPL, these games are about making money”) respond negatively to the plan of Premier League mini-competitions to be played during a new winter break.
Wrapping up the rest of the Premier League news, Ian Wright backs Liverpool’s strikeforce to challenge for the league, and the Guardian’s Paul Doyle and Barney Ronay separately preview the seasons of Arsenal and Aston Villa.Bill Kenwright is prepared to vacate Goodison Park if he can find wealthy investors who can turn the team into title contenders.”
Finally, with under a week to go until the lower league’s kick-off in England, Tom Dart previews every Championship side ahead of new season while Paul Fletcher asks “with the Football League starting on Saturday, just what has been the best bit of business during the summer?”
According to Ian Ladyman (Daily Mail), the storm-clouds are hovering over Ewood Park as “Paul Ince faces a battle to win over a significant number of his players who are not impressed by the way he has tried to impose his personality on the club.” “Some players have been less than enthusiastic about Ince’s approach to training, which is said to vary drastically from Hughes’s meticulous, scientific method, while others have complained that the former Manchester United midfielder is too egotistical. While it is not yet a full-blown rebellion, a good start to the season is crucial if matters are to settle down… One senior player said: ‘We’ve gone from a well-organised, well-drilled back-room staff to one that feels like it’s been patched together. A lot of us wanted to give him a chance to see how it worked out, but it’s not looking too good.'”
Andy Hunter (Guardian) prepares for the return of Cristaino Ronaldo to Manchester United. “Cristiano Ronaldo will undergo arguably the most gruelling examination of his career in Manchester this week. While Manchester United’s medical team assess the state of the Portugal international’s right ankle, Sir Alex Ferguson will look him in the eye and test his resolve, attitude and motivation. The answers may determine whether it is the beginning of the end of the tortuous Real Madrid transfer saga or of Ronaldo’s time at Old Trafford… RamÃ³n CalderÃ³n, the Madrid president, yesterday undermined his argument that Ronaldo represented all-or-nothing for his club in the transfer market this summer when the Spanish champions sealed a Â£10.3m deal for Rafael van der Vaart.”
The Sun’s Shaun Custis also focuses on Ronaldo, claiming that United will try and keep hold of the Portuguese star for one more year “by promising to then let him go for Â£65million.” “SunSport understands Unitedâ€™s owners are considering giving the Real Madrid target a contract get-out clause. But they will first have to sway boss Alex Ferguson who is dead against selling the Portugal winger… Boss Fergie has categorically refused to sell Ronaldo, who has made it clear he wants a move. And there is no certainty the Scot will accept a compromise.”
Moving onto Newcastle, Rob Stewart (Telegraph) would have us believe that despite quotes ruling out Anil Ambani’s takeover bid, such a takeover may yet materialise. “Experts on sub-continent affairs have greeted the announcement with a pinch of salt and refused to rule out a bid from Ambani, who is worth some Â£21 billion… City analysts believe that tentative third-party contact has been made between sports retail magnet Ashley and Ambani and that the telecommunications tycoon has backed off due to the publicity caused by weekend reports. It is also understood Ambani is unhappy about revelations on Sunday that his son attends a private school in Kent due to security concerns and has made a tactical retreat.”
Staying on the transfer front, The Times’ Gary Jacob & James Ducker combine with the rumour that Spurs are “on the verge of agreeing a Â£6.8 million fee to sign Vedran Corluka, which would take their spending on players this summer to more than Â£50 million. The Croatia defender was used at right back by Manchester City last season, but Tottenham believe that he can replace Ledley King in the long term as a central-defensive partner for Jonathan Woodgate. Tottenham, who were unable to complete deals to sign Fernando Meira or Fabricio Coloccini, have been looking at more than one centre back because of fitness concerns about King and the erratic form of Michael Dawson last season.”
The Telegraph’s Oliver Brown also splashes with a surprising transfer rumour, claiming Arsenal are targeting Real Madridâ€™s Ruben de la Red. “Arsenal, also linked with unsettled Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso along with Barry, have been tracking the progress of De la Red, who has just returned from an impressive loan spell at Getafe, prompting Madrid â€” who would be unable to deploy him regularly in their first team â€” to try to cash in on the 23-year-oldâ€™s talents.”
Responding to yesterday’s news of plans for Premier League mid-winter overseas tournaments to be introduced by 2011, Henry Winter begins picking away at the problems of the initiative in the Telegraph. “The worry within Soho Square is that such events will exhaust England players like Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Ashley Cole and may impact on the third round of the FA Cup… The Premier League, hitherto the main obstacle to a January breather, now want such a break but intend using it as an opportunity to expand their brand overseas in a series of mini-tournaments (instead of introducing the 39th game). It does not make any sense to Capello or the FA to have England players dragged off to Asia, Africa, Australia or North America during a supposed rest period.”
Under the headline “Mini Competitions Are Mini Disaster,” Sarah Winterburn (Football365) also chips away at the new Premier League plan. “In order to make it financially viable, tickets for the game were priced at Stamford Bridge style prices of Â£40-100 – that’s like charging English fans roughly Â£1300 for a glorified friendly. So ignore the bollocks about speading the word of the EPL, these games are about making money. And that’s making money at the expense of the host nations’ own leagues, at the expense of the quality of the Premier League, at the expense of the England players who will have played extra games and flown extra miles ahead of international tournaments and at the expense of Championship clubs who see even more money going into top-flight coffers to further increase that gap.”
Everton are the latest club to be associated with takeover speculation, withBill Kenwright is prepared to vacate Goodison Park if he can find wealthy investors who can turn the team into title contenders.” “Kenwright… does not have the funds to help the club to break into the top four. Russian, American and Dutch investors have expressed an interest in buying the club and Kenwright has turned to one of his friends, Sir Philip Green, the billionaire retail entrepreneur, who is the seventh-richest man in Britain, for advice.”
Ian Wright (The Sun) focuses his attention on Everton’s rivals Liverpool, who he believes now have strikeforce capable of winning the league. “In Fernando Torres and Robbie Keane, Liverpool have a strike force capable of bagging at least 40 goals between them. Enough to rival anything from Chelsea, Manchester United or Arsenal. Liverpool have always had a strong defence and, with the likes of Steven Gerrard in midfield, they are already a test for anyone. But if Keane and Torres get things right and click straight away, then it could be their year for glory.”
Paul Doyle (Guardian) offers his pre-season review of Arsenal’s chances this season. “The area where Arsenal are lightest is defence. The starting four are fine: Bacary Sagna is the best right-back in the league and GaÃ«l Clichy is on a par with Patrice Evra. But the differential between them and their deputies is huge. Cover for Kolo Toure and Gallas is equally threadbare. Fielding Djourou or Philippe Senderos might suffice at home to Hull, but against one of the big boys they’d be a gap waiting to be exploited. Again, it’s difficult to envisage Arsenal emerging from a full season ahead of Chelsea, in particular.”
Fellow Guardian journalist Barney Ronay, forecasts a tough season for Aston Villa. “The parameters within which a club like Villa operates in the Premier League remain extremely narrow. Last season’s sixth place finish might be as good as it’s likely to get for a relatively small squad playing in a mid-size stadium, with a relatively parsimonious billionaire owner (net spending over two years: Â£35.5m). Fifth this year is a possibility, fourth would be a step up into a different universe and anything lower an anti-climax. Against that it’s not immediately obvious in which areas Villa are likely to improve significantly from last time out. It could be a difficult third season in charge for O’Neill.”
Playing in the hole behind the central striker, he sparkled throughout with his sure touch and weaving runs. It was little surprise to learn that his role model is Ronaldinho, the AC Milan and Brazil striker. Not only because of his spell-binding trickery but also because of the way he has kept himself grounded amid all the adulation… With Robbie Keane having left for Liverpool, Dos Santos could play a key role for Ramos this season.”
With under a week until the start of the Championship season, The Times’ Tom Dart previews every Championship side ahead of the big kick-off.
Keeping focus on the Championship, Paul Fletcher (BBC) asks “with the Football League starting on Saturday, just what has been the best bit of business during the summer?” “A couple of veterans worth keeping an eye on are striker Andy Cole and midfielder Lee Carsley. Cole has moved to his home-town club of Nottingham Forest and the 36-year-old wants his final season as a player to end in promotion. A big ask. Carsley has joined Birmingham on a free transfer from Everton. He was a regular last season and I think he could prove to be a brilliant signing. The fact he has been made captain in the absence of Damien Johnson hints at the impact he has already had.”
In an offbeat article in the Guardian, David Foot reveals his barometer of judging a manager’s success. “I have always judged managers not solely by successes but by the generosity of spirit and courtesy they reveal. Brian Clough had few superiors but wantonly kept us waiting for ages in draughty corridors before making his waspish entry. Sir Alf Ramsey demonstrated his own complexes by once ignoring our arranged interview. He had seen us coming up the drive before he moved hurriedly to the hotel dining room. And, despite that seemingly avuncular image, Bob Stokoe was no longer a favourite after his dismissive two-word threat when I had chased across a car park in a rainstorm in search of a required quote.”
Tim Vickery (BBC) looks at the differences between football in Europe and South America and at the end of his piece questions how well new Blackburn signing Carlos Villanueva will do in England. “It will be fascinating to see how he fares in his new surroundings. The 22-year-old has a wonderful left foot and new Rovers coach Paul Ince has been singing his praises. But Villanueva is slight of build and not blessed with extreme pace. South Americans coming to England invariably confess themselves initially bewildered by the speed of the game and the amount of physical contact permitted – this will be especially true in the case of a player coming straight in from Chile. So in addition to the cultural adaptation to Lancashire life, Villanueva will have to modify the way that he plays.”