“If playing badly and progressing is the hallmark of champions, then Liverpool should be backed to claim the quadruple this season.”

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the Day: “In two 90-minute games against Liverpool, they didn’t score, and in two 90- minute games against my friend Mourinho’s team, Liverpool didn’t score. But we both suffered! It is the Mourinho story over again and so I think I should call him! I am very sad because we played so well and we deserved to go through. We were very well organised in both games. We didn’t see the real Liverpool in these two games but the team with the most luck and the biggest name won the tie. Not the best team. We had a lot of good situations, especially in the first half, but we couldn’t score. We had a very big guy in Reina in front of us, and congratulations to him! But my players are sitting in the dressing room trying to find the answers for how we lost this game.” – Laszlo Boloni.

Runner-up: “Me going to Chelsea? I’m staying as a Rossoneri player. I should help Milan to win the trophies we’re up for this season. The club have made some great signings and Sheva will fit in without any problems. I can’t say [if I’ve been included in the Shevchenko deal], because if someone has promised me to Abramovich, it wasn’t me. I’ve always said I’m happy at Milan and as long as my aims remain the same as Milan’s I’ll stay here. Until now it’s always been that way. My goal is to win, Milan’s is too. As long as we are like that, I’ll remain at Milan.” – Kaka.

Today’s overview: Today’s round-up begins with a statement from Manchester United (as reported by Jeremy Wilson), dismissing Nemanja Vidic’s rant yesterday as inaccurate. “‘Nemanja Vidic would like to clarify comments attributed to him in several UK newspapers, which have either been taken out of context or misquoted.'”

Liverpool’s performance in the Champions League is put under the microscope. Kevin McCarra argues that “so much was amiss in Rafael Benítez’s line-up,” but George Caulkin is more lighthearted saying “if playing badly and progressing is the hallmark of champions, then Liverpool should be backed to claim the quadruple this season.” Reacting to news that Steven Gerrard is about to have an operation, Glenn Moore concludes “Steven Gerrard is a patriot, but his heart belongs to Liverpool.”

As time continue to run out in the transfer window, the transfer rumours are hotting up.

On Chelsea, while everyone agrees that Robinho will join Scolari, Brian Moore takes a swipe at the Blues for their handling of Shevchenko, saying “the lack of transfer fee speaks volumes about just how bad a piece of business was his acquisition, rivalled only by Winston Bogarde.” In other news, Peter Ferguson claims that “Shaun Wright-Phillips is set to make a dramatic return to Manchester City,” despite quotes delivered by Richard Bright from SWP’s agent who stated “[Shaun] doesn’t want to join either of them [Manchester City or Everton].”

Sunderland’s squad comes in for special treatment this morning, having swelled to a whopping 50 players. Gabriele Marcotti notes how “Manchester United, a club who – I think we can all agree – probably needs a somewhat larger squad given their European commitments and their tendency to go far in domestic cup competitions, by contrast has just 21 players who are 22 or older,” while Jim White sarcastically comments “50 pros? What is that all about? 50 pros: when Keane turns up for training he must wonder who half of them are.”

In other transfer news, Mark Irwin links Arsenal to Feyenoord’s Jonathan De Guzman, Stuart James reports on why James Milner handed in a transfer request to Newcastle, Jeremy Wilson looks at the talents of Roman Pavlyuchenko, and Sam Wallace looks at how the Pavlyuchenko deal is set to affect the future of Dimitar Berbatov.

Taking a more expansive view of the transfer window for the BBC, Paul Fletcher looks at the difficulties that lower league clubs can suffer as a result of the current system in place.

In the best of the rest, Ian Plenderleith questions the merits of the League Cup, Louise Taylor investigates the relationship between the mind and the body in football and Fernando Duarte wonders how much longer Dunga can stay in charge of Brazil.

Following on from yesterday’s brilliant rant from Nemanja Vidic, in which the Serbian ruled out any long term future at United and complained about the rain, the Telegraph’s Jeremy Wilson reports how United have dismissed the quotes as inaccurate. “‘Nemanja Vidic would like to clarify comments attributed to him in several UK newspapers, which have either been taken out of context or misquoted,’ read the statement on manutd.com. ‘In the interview the defender did discuss how difficult he found it adapting to life in England – including the rain Manchester occasionally experiences – when he first joined from Spartak Moscow in January 2006. But he feels compelled to clear up other comments attributed to him in the UK press.'”

Reacting to Liverpool’s late late win over Standard Liege, Kevin McCarra questions the Reds’ squad in the Guardian. “So much was amiss in Rafael Benítez’s line-up. There is still no finesse on the flanks and it is a moot point whether the expected signing of Albert Riera from Espanyol will address that concern. It was unsettling, too, to witness Steven Gerrard in difficulties physically and dropping deeper as the game went on. His groin injury will now keep the midfielder out for at least a fortnight.”

George Caulkin was equally negative about Liverpool’s performance in his match report for The Times. “If playing badly and progressing is the hallmark of champions, then Liverpool should be backed to claim the quadruple this season. While their powers of tenacity and resilience can never be questioned, their performances remain stuck in the lowest gear, a frailty that came close to removing them from the Champions League before the tournament has truly begun. A narrow victory? More like size zero.”

Glenn Moore (Independent) focuses on how Steven Gerrard placed club before country while acknowledging that Liverpool’s midfield is short of bodies. “Steven Gerrard is a patriot, but his heart belongs to Liverpool. That was underlined last night as he put his club’s European ambitions ahead of his country’s World Cup hopes… Gerrard has continued playing in the Premier League because there is little alternative. With Javier Mascherano and Lucas in China at the Olympics, and Benitez unable to lure Gareth Barry from Aston Villa, Liverpool have been short of central midfielders.”

Oliver Kay (The Times) looks forward to today’s Champions League draw. “There is a strong chance that Celtic, among the third group of seeds, could be drawn against any of the Premier League entrants, who will be eager to avoid clubs such as Fiorentina and Atlético Madrid, who are lurking among the lower seeds. This evening’s draw will be preceded by an awards ceremony from last season’s Champions League, won by United. Ferguson is firmly expected to win the coach-of-the-year award and Cristiano Ronaldo the club footballer of the year, while Edwin van der Sar, Rio Ferdinand, Paul Scholes and Ronaldo will be among the favourites to win their respective categories.”

Reports abound today of news that Robinho will join Chelsea. However the more tasty article on the Blues’ transfer policy comes from Brian Moore (Telegraph), who contends that “it’s a good job Chelsea don’t have to reveal the loan details paid by AC Milan for the return of one of their most prolific goalscorers, Andrei Shevchenko.” “The lack of transfer fee speaks volumes about just how bad a piece of business was his acquisition, rivalled only by Winston Bogarde… Shevchenko has said that he thanks the fans for their support while at Chelsea; I should think so. The full opprobrium he deserved was withheld for two reasons; he at least looked as if he was trying and respect for his undoubted former brilliance. The nearest he got to public vilification was the chant ‘You’re so ****, that you let Sheva score.’”

The Daily Mail’s Peter Ferguson claims that “Shaun Wright-Phillips is set to make a dramatic return to Manchester City in an £8.5million deal — three years after a £22million move to Chelsea. It is believed the winger, who will undergo a medical on Thursday, has been offered a staggering £80,000-a-week deal to go back to Eastlands as one of manager Mark Hughes’ top targets. Wright-Phillips is anxious to move on from Chelsea where his first-team chances under Luiz Felipe Scolari look extremely limited.”

Peter Ferguson’s article however was noticeable for a lack of supporting quotes. The reason for this is simple, as seen in Richard Bright’s article in the Telegraph, who does quote SWP’s agent to get the inside story. “Wayne Lindsay, yesterday appeared to rule out a move to either Manchester City or Everton, both of whom have been heavily linked with the England international in recent days. ‘He doesn’t want to join either of them and we are now discussing the next move to see what we do,’ Lindsay said. ‘Because of all the problems there [City] and the uncertainty surrounding the place, he is unsure. He is speaking with the manager [Scolari] at the moment but he is settled in London. He would like to stay and that’s the bottom line, but it is up to the manager.'”

On The Times’ blog, Gabriele Marcotti takes Roy Keane’s Sunderland bloated squad to town. “Sunderland’s official website lists 49 members in the first-team squad. Throw in Anton Ferdinand, whose move from West Ham is all but sealed, and you’ve got 50 players. OK, so some of those are youngsters. Take out the 19 players aged 21 or less (even though that includes the likes of Anthony Stokes, who cost around £2 million) and you’ve stil got a whopping 31 senior professionals on Sunderland’s books. Let me say that again: THIRTY ONE. Manchester United, a club who – I think we can all agree – probably needs a somewhat larger squad given their European commitments and their tendency to go far in domestic cup competitions, by contrast has just 21 players who are 22 or older (and that includes the likes of Dong Fangzhuo and Manucho, both of whom probably have to buy a ticket if they want to get into Old Trafford on matchdays).”

The size of Sunderland’s squad has also not gone unnoticed by Eurosport’s Jim White. “50 pros? What is that all about? 50 pros: when Keane turns up for training he must wonder who half of them are. The bench at Sunderland must stretch halfway to Newcastle to accommodate them all. What makes it seem all the more peculiar is that Keane is not a man, you assume, who would have difficulty telling someone that their time had come and they needed to move on. Tough decisions were never something he shirked from in his playing career… Surely it is part of the job of being a manager is to balance the squad numbers, show the door to those you don’t want even as you bring in those you do… If anyone has any ideas how to remove a player you don’t want from the pay-roll please post it here and we’ll forward them to the big man himself. Frankly, right now he could do with some suggestions.”

The Sun’s Mark Irwin claims that Arsenal “are poised to land Feyenoord’s Jonathan De Guzman for £12million. Gunners boss Arsene Wenger has made his move for the tough-tackling midfielder, 20, who is known as the Dutch version of Owen Hargreaves.”

The Guardian’s Stuart James reports on why James Milner handed in a transfer request to Newcastle yesterday. “McGuire, who represents Milner, claims Newcastle have refused to enter into new contract talks with the midfielder, despite the 22-year-old earning significantly less than many of the first-team squad at St James’ Park. He believes that Newcastle have failed to reward his development in the past two seasons and, responding to a club statement earlier in the day, pointed out that the new contract Milner signed last summer was agreed almost two years ago, after a proposed move to Villa was called off at the last minute.”

Using the Milner saga as the backdrop, Michael Walker (Independent) claims that Keegan “is not being allowed to manage Newcastle as he did first time around between 1992 and 1997. His authority is diminished. That has seemed less relevant as Newcastle recruited Fabricio Coloccini, Jonas Gutierrez and Danny Guthrie, then made a fine start to the Premier League at Old Trafford and cemented that with victory over Bolton Wanderers last Saturday. But throughout the summer and even during these otherwise positive opening two weeks of the season, Keegan has repeatedly spoken of the need to strengthen the squad. With Mark Viduka out for another month and Obafemi Martins out of Saturday’s match at Arsenal, there could be a temptation to start Owen, who has made two substitute appearances since his calf strain.”

Jeremy Wilson looks at the talents of Roman Pavlyuchenko in the Telegraph. “Tottenham would clearly have needed to enhance their attacking options regardless of what happens with Berbatov, but it would appear that Pavlyuchenko has been bought as a long-term replacement. In terms of style and physical size, he is similar to Berbatov, while his preference is also to play as the main focal point in attack. During Euro 2008, Russia tended to use Andrei Arshavin running off Pavlyuchenko in a similar manner to Robbie Keane and Berbatov at Tottenham in recent seasons.”

Sam Wallace (Independent) looks at how the Pavlyuchenko deal is set to affect the future of Dimitar Berbatov. “Tottenham Hotspur have told Dimitar Berbatov that he can leave only if they sign two strikers before the transfer deadline on Monday and they hope that the second, after Roman Pavlyuchenko, will be Andrei Arshavin. Spurs have revived their interest in Arshavin, whom they now believe they can sign for less than £20m… For their part Tottenham have told Berbatov that they do not regard Pavlyuchenko’s signing alone as sufficient reason for the Bulgarian to leave the club.”

Taking a more expansive view of the transfer window for the BBC, Paul Fletcher looks at the difficulties that lower league clubs can suffer as a result of the current system in place. “Once the window shuts on Monday night, clubs cannot sell one of their players until it opens again on 1 January. Fry points out that this could be a disaster for a lower league club. If a side is struggling financially then selling a player can make a huge difference. As an example, the experienced and outspoken Fry argues that a few postponed games in succession as a consequence of poor weather can really strain the coffers at a lower division club… However, as Fry points out, if a late raid comes in some clubs will have their bank manager urging them to sell.It is this situation that saw, for example, Brentford sell striker DJ Campbell to Birmingham on deadline day 2006. Speak to Bees fans and they will tell you their prospects of promotion went with it.

Writing for When Saturday Comes, Ian Plenderleith questions the merits of the League Cup. “The League Cup is like the stalwart old pal you keep in touch with out of habit, even though you’ve both outgrown each other. Truth be told, you wouldn’t much notice if you stopped hearing from him. It would be hard to see the tournament laid to rest when it’s been a part of England’s football landscape for the best part of half a century, and also because it can still produce exciting games, as Newcastle and Coventry showed. But if, broadly speaking, most clubs and fans at all levels cannot be bothered with the competition, who does that leave who actually can? Newcastle’s desperation for any sort of silverware is no longer justification enough.”

In an offbeat article, Louise Taylor (Guardian) investigates the relationship between the mind and the body in football. “At one time hypnosis was all the rage among the managerial fraternity and Gareth Southgate – who, rather reassuringly, is somewhat uneasy about being called ‘gaffer’ by Middlesbrough’s players – recalls a hypnotist visiting Crystal Palace. His attempts to convince the Selhurst Park squad, Southgate included, they were world beaters failed and practising free-kicks swiftly replaced surrendering to a trance-like state on the training ground itinerary in south London… Which is not to say that the mind is any less important than a cultured left foot. I’ll always remember Mick McCarthy, then Sunderland’s manager, telling reporters that sports psychologists were ‘a bloody waste of time’ before, minutes later, Alan Stubbs, briefly one of his defenders, walked into the same room and announced that the team ‘badly needs mental strengthening.'”

Fernando Duarte (Guardian) wonders how much longer Dunga can stay in charge of Brazil. “In cold terms, a defeat to Chile would not necessarily mean tragedy for Brazil’s hopes to keep their record as the only nation to take part in every World Cup finals. There would be still 11 matches to go and even a fifth-place finish would give Brazil a shot in a repechage against a Concacaf side. Also, only four points separate the top-five South American teams at the moment, with Chile in third with 10. Teixeira, nonetheless, has never been shy of wielding the knife in the middle of competitions, which is proved by the fact Brazil had four managers in the 2002 qualifiers. He might just be sharpening the blade as you read.”

Click here for more Premier League betting tips