Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “What happened you have to consider to be an exception, even for players of 25, 26, to score three goals in an international is a one-off. But what is very good is that he has the confidence of [Fabio] Capello and he is playing at that level at 19. For me, it’s important he continues to develop as a team player, he’s become more of a man, and become more mature in his play. He’s developed his link play, his first touch, his commitment and that’s normal from 17 to 19. There’s still a lot to come. From 19 to 23, you become a real man – at 19 you’re still a boyâ€¦ Don’t set any limitations on any human being. Once you have talent, the rest is down to how much you want it and how intelligent you areâ€¦ I always believed he will be a fantastic player.” â€“ Arsene Wenger.
Runner-up: “I know I am not the most experienced manager, but I have ideas and have been involved in football for 20 years, it’s a great opportunity and I am sure I can do a great job for this clubâ€¦ Football is joy. The best part of the game comes when you are enjoying what you’re doing, so my first target will be to make it as enjoyable as possible for the players. Once they realise that I’m sure their performances will be better. The crowd will enjoy it more too. My philosophy is to play offensive football. I’ve always played that way because I trust it. It will be quicker for my philosophy to take effect than many people think. Once the players realise what I want from them and feel the freedom, it will happen quickly. But I haven’t seen the players yet. I need to judge the situation with my eyes. I’m aware of the high expectations of West Ham fans. This is a challenge but I like challenges. I’m not afraid.” â€“ Gianfranco Zola.
Today’s overview: It comes as little surprise that England’s victory over Croatia continues to dominate the papers this morning. In particular Theo Walcott is still the main talking point but Fabio Capello is not far behind.
Matt Lawton and Neil Ashton report in the Daily Mail that Walcott could start on the Arsenal bench on Saturday and he is expected to be offered a new contract and a pay-rise. The always excellent Simon Barnes (The Times) has a brilliant piece on young stars that are built up to be the next big thing.
In the Guardian Anna Kessel argues that Walcott is “free of [a] footballer’s ego” and brings the title quote of the day: “Never mind how many goals he might score for England, if there’s a footballer you would trust to leave your kids/wife/mother-in-law/boss or dog with, it’s Theo Walcott…” The other most hyped piece of the day comes from Matt Lawton (Daily Mail) who waxes lyrical over Walcott, in an article titled “After Gazza, Shearer, Beckham, Owen and Rooney, here’s Theo, England’s next big thing.”
Tactically on the young Arsenal winger/striker, Sam Wallace (Independent) looks at whether he can play down the middle and Tony Cascarino in The Times argues that Walcott could be better for England than Arsenal.
Many of the most established football commentators in England wax lyrical about Fabio Capello this morning. Martin Samuel in The Times looks at how Fabio Capello took the victory over Croatia in his stride. “Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of this result was what it said about Capello’s leadership. All international managers bemoan the lack of time with their players, but what unfolds when they get it tells the real story.”
James Lawton in The Independent, Kevin McCarra (Guardian) and Henry Winter (Daily Telegraph) also write about Don Fabio, the latter of whom writes “Even when asked to revel in the moment, to bask in the glory of one of Englandâ€™s greatest results on foreign soil, this coaching Caesar remained in control. Capelloâ€™s vocabulary expands by the week but one word he will never understand is complacency. Control is everything.”
Other pieces worth reading on England include Steven Howard who asks in The Sun “Who’s left to hurl abuse at?” following England’s stunning victory (“How were we going to cope in this new world?”) and Alan Smith is full of praise for Emile Heskey in The Daily Telegraph.
Gianfranco Zola’s appointment as West Ham boss takes a back seat, Barney Ronay (Guardian) looks at the “gamble” of appointing Gianfranco Zola, “does a great playing career provide any kind of preparation for management?” And Matt Hughes in The Times claims “Steve Clarke resigned as Chelseaâ€™s assistant first-team coach yesterday evening to pave the way for a move to West Ham United.”
In the best of the rest, The Daily Mail have yet more from Jamie Carragher’s autobiography, FA chairman Lord Treisman writes in The Daily Telegraph about how the ownership of English clubs must be regulated better, Fernando Duarte suggests that the heat is back on Dunga after Brazil’s 0-0 draw with Bolivia and the Gaffer at EPL Talk has an excellent article asking “Is Justin.tv The Killer App For Soccer Fans?”
Simon Barnes (The Times) has a brilliant piece on young stars that are built up to be the next big thing, with special reference for Theo Walcott. “So we should be wise about Walcott and say, well, perhaps we have already seen the best of him and that we should be thankful for what we have already received. And you are perfectly welcome to do that if you wish. Me, I prefer to take another direction. Naivety in short supply is destructive of the sporting experience. It is impossible to enjoy sport without a naive, even an utterly unrealistic, understanding of what you are watching. You have to think that sport matters, for a start, which is a ludicrous proposition from any grown-up point of view. So, more or less as an effort of will, I will retain the hope that Walcott will become a wonderful player for England, who will ignite England at the World Cup in South Africa in two years’ time, and will continue to do so over the next dozen years. I may have my fair and just and logical and reasonable reservations about the likelihood of all this, but I’m not listening to them. Instead, I’m wishing him an ocean of luck.”
Matt Lawton and Neil Ashton report in the Daily Mail that Walcott will earn a place on the Arsenal bench, alongside a new contract and a pay-rise. “Theo Walcott’s reward for his sensational hat-trick for England could be a place on the Arsenal bench. The offer of a new contract – and a considerable pay rise – should also follow in December. The 19-year-old is currently on about Â£15,000 a week and with his current deal running out at the end of next season, Arsenal will need to offer him considerably more to be certain of keeping him. Liverpool are among those known to be interested in Walcott, while Manchester City are sure to consider an offer with their new Arab money.”
Anna Kessel argues that Walcott is “free of [a] footballer’s ego” in The Guardian. “Never mind how many goals he might score for England, if there’s a footballer you would trust to leave your kids/wife/mother-in-law/boss or dog with, it’s Theo Walcott… So bring on the ‘Trio Walcott’ headlines, the ‘Wald Cup’, the euphoric vocabulary of ‘sensational’, ‘stunning’ and ‘super’. Walcott can handle it and all the celebrity shenanigans that go with it. Because after the party is over, just like after Zagreb, he will go back to his family home, sit in his kitchen and get excited about milkshakes, T-shirts, art sets and dog whisperers.”
Sam Wallace (Independent) looks at the Walcott dilemma, whether he can play down the middle. “When, if ever, will he get his chance to play in his best position for Arsenal? Against Croatia he was deployed on the right but was decisive when he drifted inside, twice picking up loose balls from an over-stretched defence for his first two goals, then scoring with a classic breakaway for the third. As for getting past Daniel Pranjic, the prototype for the modern left-back, he struggled. Put him up against Josep Simunic, the ponderous Croatia centre-back and he caused chaos. At Arsenal, Walcott is a goalscorer in a team that wants to play him as a winger. ‘He can play down the middle but I don’t think he’s ready for that,’ Wenger said yesterday. ‘The potential is there but don’t make him [the next] Thierry Henry.'”
Tony Cascarino in The Times argues that Walcott could be better for England than Arsenal. “Pace is even more effective in international football than the club game because at club level there is more familiarity with opponents and more time for a manager to work with his players on tactical plans, as well as a generally lower standard in most matches. Thatâ€™s a reason why I think Walcott will prove a better player for England than for Arsenal.”
In a seperate article Matt Lawton (Daily Mail) waxes lyrical over Walcott, in an article titled “After Gazza, Shearer, Beckham, Owen and Rooney, here’s Theo, England’s next big thing.” “By the end of last season, though, Wenger perhaps should have used Walcott more than he did. Not least in that Champions League quarter-final at Liverpool. Walcott was starting to impress but Wenger opted for Emmanuel Eboue, a decision that looked a mistake when Walcott eventually came on and created a goal for Emmanuel Adebayor with a stunning, surging run. Now Wenger might share the faith Fabio Capello clearly has in the 19-year-old. After watching his hattrick, England’s manager compared it to selecting a 19-year-old Raul for Real Madrid. ‘But he has to keep his feet on the ground,’ added the Italian. When he’s not in full flight, anyway.”
Chris Bevan (BBC) looks at the “coming of age” of Theo Walcott. “The boy wonder is back in the headlines – and with a bang. Theo Walcott’s brilliant hat-trick to sink Croatia in Wednesday’s World Cup qualifier underlined his quality and immense potential as well as establishing him as England’s brightest young star. But his virtuoso display was also a reminder that success does not always happen overnight.”
The main story in The Sun looks at the partnership of Wayne Rooney and Theo Walcott. “Wayne Rooney has warned the world to get ready for WAR â€” Walcott and Rooney. Rooneyâ€™s stunning partnership with hat-trick star Theo Walcott looks Englandâ€™s best since the SAS strike force of Alan Shearer and Teddy Sheringham in the 1990s. Croatia had no answer to the dynamic duo as England ran out 4-1 winners in their World Cup qualifier on Wednesday. And Rooney said: ‘Heâ€™s got frightening pace. Itâ€™s probably something different to what weâ€™ve had for the past four years.'”
Paul Hayward is full of praise for England in the Daily Mail. “To say England now command Group Six would be to display amnesia about what Croatia did them to at Wembley in November, and ignore the danger posed by Ukraine. Did Capello not admit that his players are daunted by playing in their Â£757m London palace? At least now the baying of a justifiably fed-up Wembley crowd will cease. Finally you ask yourself of Trio Walcott’s big night: did it look like a freak, a one-off Croatian collapse, coupled with a Roy of the Rovers cameo by a 19-year-old who capitalised brilliantly on his call-up? No, it was better than that. It made England interesting again. It made them credible.”
Martin Samuel in The Times looks at how Fabio Capello took the victory over Croatia in his stride. “Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of this result was what it said about Capello’s leadership. All international managers bemoan the lack of time with their players, but what unfolds when they get it tells the real story. England improved the longer they were with Terry Venables before the 1996 European Championship and floundered after several weeks with Kevin Keegan at the tournament four years later. Russia were a different proposition after two years under Guus Hiddink, as most teams are. This was Capello’s first opportunity to get his squad together for more than a week with a goal of victory in competitive matches and the team who emerged were infinitely superior for his attention.”
James Lawton in The Independent puts his faith in Fabio Capello to keep the England team grounded. “They were given leadership, a game plan, and, wonder upon wonders, at no point during or after an excellent performance did a single English player give anything other than the brilliant impression that he was fully aware that this was a very early stage of the business of making the nation’s international football truly respectable again. It meant that the ensuing flood of praise for Il Capo and his charges was, give or take the odd excess, as well founded as it was inevitable. All of it, that is, except for the chilling suggestion that what happened in Zagreb was â€“ apart from being the best possible confirmation that Capello is indeed a man of front-rank coaching ability and discipline and that the talent of the 19-year-old Walcott is both hard and clearly identifiable to anyone who understands that raw speed is one the most vital of assets at any level of sport â€“ another Munich Moment.”
Kevin McCarra (Guardian) also believes Don Fabio will keep the England team grounded. “The best thing about the triumph was its defects. A relentless Fabio Capello will be happy in the knowledge that plenty of work is still needed, with all the improvement that implies. This 4-1 defeat of Croatia was not a night when everything dropped serendipitously into place.”
Henry Winter (Daily Telegraph) also has high praise for the Italian boss. “Even when asked to revel in the moment, to bask in the glory of one of Englandâ€™s greatest results on foreign soil, this coaching Caesar remained in control. Capelloâ€™s vocabulary expands by the week but one word he will never understand is complacency. Control is everything. For a man who becomes so animated in the technical area, berating players and officials with equal gusto, Capelloâ€™s nascent England reign is actually an exercise in control. For 10 days, in training centres and hotels from Hertfordshire to the Balkans via Catalonia, Capello preached to his players the need for control: control the ball, control the emotions and control the temptation to chase the ball. The team shape must be maintained.”
Also in the Daily Telegraph, Brian Moore calls for England to drop Lampard or Gerrard. “Though the manager might want both, the Lampard/ Gerrard question has to be sorted. The evidence is now overwhelming: for whatever reason, and it matters not what it is, they do not coalesce. Either could do the job, but Capello must choose. At least he has the luxury of knowing he has an experienced replacement if the event of injury or loss of form. In addition, the residence of one of two very good midfielders on the bench will signal the end of nepotism and reintroduce one of the best motivational aids â€“ competition for selection.”
Neil Ashton in the Daily Mail has the lowdown on how Fabio Capello engineered the win over Croatia. “The Italian had spotted certain trends under Steve McClaren, the ill-fitting tracksuits that even poster boy David Beckham cannot look good in. Now they are suited and booted. Even Frank Lampard, interviewed by Setanta as part of their build-up to Wednesday’s clash, arrived in his FA blazer and smart grey slacks. It is a new era for England. In fact, make that Team England.”
Steven Howard asks in The Sun “Who’s left to hurl abuse at?” following England’s stunning victory. “How were we going to cope in this new world? Criticism of successive England teams had become so matter of fact, so pre-ordained, most of us had forgotten how to use words like â€˜impressiveâ€™, â€˜in controlâ€™ and â€˜well organisedâ€™. Or phrases like â€˜Rooney was inspirationalâ€™, â€˜the defence was rock solidâ€™ and â€˜the ball made its way unerringly to a team-mateâ€™. Plus â€˜the manager was totally in command of the situationâ€™. Worrying times.”
Alan Smith is full of praise for Emile Heskey in The Daily Telegraph. “They do say, you know, that when allâ€™s said and done strikers should always be judged on their goals. No matter how many assists they contribute, how much selfless work they might put in for the sake of the team, it all comes down in the end to hitting the back of the net. Isnâ€™t that what front men are paid for? I only ask because Emile Heskey is doing his level best at international level to disprove that long-held maxim, not just with the way he can provide England with a precious attacking focal point but also with his capacity to bring out the best in whoever lines up alongside him.”
Simon Austin of the BBC, wonders whether Gianfranco Zola is up to the task of the West Ham job. “The terms of Curbishley’s employment effectively changed once Nani joined the club as technical director in March. If Zola does prove a success at West Ham, the shadow of Chelsea is likely to loom at Upton Park. Earlier this year he admitted: ‘Let us put it this way – one day I would like to be good enough to manage Chelsea. It is in my heart.'”
Barney Ronay (Guardian) also looks at the “gamble” of appointing Gianfranco Zola. “Zola, then, is a character appointment, a reputation appointment and a nice-guy appointment. It’s a fascinating punt. And one that goes back to an old question English football club directors just don’t seem to be able to get past: does a great playing career provide any kind of preparation for management? … Nobody knows his preferred formation, his attitude towards a club youth policy, his ability to judge a top-class centre-half. Nobody knows if he’s lucky or not. West Ham have decided to find out on our behalf. It should, at least, be fascinating to watch.”
A report in The Daily Telegraph suggests Steve Clarke will follow Zola to Upton Park. “Steve Clarke, the assistant to Luiz Felipe Scolari at Chelsea, is expected to be appointed No 2 to new West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola, as the Italian looks to compile his backroom staff at the club. Zola had initially been expected to appoint colleague Pierluigi Casiraghi, another former Chelsea player and joint-coach of Italy’s under-21s, but Casiraghi has since rejected suggestions that he will join Zola at Upton Park.”
Matt Hughes in The Times claims “Steve Clarke resigned as Chelseaâ€™s assistant first-team coach yesterday evening to pave the way for a move to West Ham United, where he will work in a similar capacity under Gianfranco Zola, the new manager. The former Scotland defender has agreed a three-year contract at Upton Park and his appointment will be announced in the next few days, once the club have agreed a severance package with Chelsea. The West London club are demanding Â£1.2 million in compensation because Clarke has two years left to run on his contract.”
The Daily Mail have yet more from Jamie Carragher’s autobiography today. Money quote: “‘Ince was the unwitting victim of the most brutal exhibition of management I have seen at Anfield,â€™ he says. Liverpool were leading an FA Cup fourth-round tie at Old Trafford 1-0 but, after Ince limped off, United fought back to win 2-1. â€˜There was a team meeting a week later, and Ince decided, as club captain, it was time to take Houllier on. He questioned training methods and the response was furiously impressive. â€˜Fixing Ince with a stare, Houllier asked: â€œSince the day I arrived, how many five-a-sides have you won? Iâ€™ll tell you â€” four in six months.â€ â€˜Ince was bewildered, as we all were, by Houllierâ€™s memory and grasp of detail, and it didnâ€™t end there. â€œNow perhaps you can explain to the lads what happened to you against United. When my team are 1-0 up at Old Trafford in a cup tie, I donâ€™t expect my captain to limp off with an injury. If he has to come off, I expect it to be on a stretcher.”
Sachin Nakrani analyses if Manchester City can become a “brand” in the Guardian. “‘The Virgin model that City want to replicate is not compatible with football for the simple reason that the sport polarises people,’ said Alan Cooper, partner at HPI Research, a marketing consultancy that works with Virgin. ‘People establish allegiances in football which they don’t in the business world and this immediately shrinks a club’s customer base.'”
FA chairman Lord Treisman writes in The Daily Telegraph about how the ownership of English clubs must be regulated better. “The best club owners get it. They have bought into something special and they don’t want to destroy it. It is early to judge the whole impact of foreign ownership, but looking at the balance today it is hard to avoid the need to explore rapidly the case for better regulation. Speaking personally… I am not sure that the regulatory system is any longer adequate.”
Fernando Duarte writes in the Guardian that the heat is back on Dunga after Brazil’s 0-0 draw with Bolivia. “The South American qualifiers are a long tournament, played in a league system in order to please every football association, who are each given a chance to host big games – something that didn’t happen under the previous group format. And Brazil have been in the mire before, only clinching the 2002 World Cup spot in the last round. Though it is unlikely that they will dent their currently perfect record in terms of World Cup attendance, it’s a worrying sign when the national media starts doing the maths: apparently, Brazil need to win at least half of the next available 30 points to book a place in South Africa. It does not sound like merely a humble pie feast. Fear, anyone?”
Finally, the Gaffer at EPL Talk has an excellent article asking “Is Justin.tv The Killer App For Soccer Fans?” “While the Premier League has been busy trying to remove video highlights from YouTube and cracking down on P2P providers, the league is quickly losing that battle. Justin.tv, meanwhile, will be a whole new battle as they try to protect the TV rights of companies who have paid large amounts of money to show games live. Instead of trying to fight the unending and fruitless battle of preventing people from showing live games or highlights online, the Premier League needs to develop its own online product with state-of-the-art streaming quality at an affordable subscription rate. Instead of watching illegal streams that are poor quality, football fans – I believe – would flock to a site where they can watch matches legally with excellent picture quality and behind-the-scenes video content that they can only find from the Premier League. Again, the key is that this needs to be provided at an affordable price.”