“It is not hard to see England failing to qualify for 2010, just as in the 1970s when we missed ’74 and ’78 world cups through a mixture of arrogance, bad management, awful tactics, inferior skill level and an over reliance on the same old faces”

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the Day: “England must get over that psychological barrier. Sure, there’ll be games when we don’t play well, but you need to feel that – even when things aren’t going to plan -you’re going to win the game. It’s something we need to improve on. I wouldn’t say that any one player lacks confidence or belief when he puts on an England shirt, but I just think that, while you can improve your technical and fitness stuff, we need to improve our mentality as a team. We’re trying to do it. We’re not burying our heads in the sand. We’re going out there and trying to play, getting the ball down and trying to build. We need to stay cool and calm and keep going forward. It’s pigeon steps, going forward a little bit every time. The World Cup isn’t for another couple of years, so we don’t want to be peaking too early. We just want little bits of improvement every time and, by the time we get there, hopefully we’ll be in a better position than we are in now: technically, physically and mentally.” – Joe Cole.

Runner-up: “John Terry. One hundred per cent. I went on record before the last World Cup and nothing has changed. He’s still a great leader, a great footballer, a great man. I think you can see it on the pitch. John Terry can lead and organise better than anyone else. He’s a bit more vocal. He has communication skills. He attacks the ball, he’s strong, he’s quick, he has the experience now. I think he’s a good leader. If there is a captain there to help you win the football game then you make him captain. It’s simple. And if I want to win football games then I would have JT as my skipper.” – Tony Adams.

Today’s overview: Terry or Ferdinand? That is the question.

With the England captaincy up for grabs today, Kevin McCarra and Henry Winter come down on the side of the Manchester United centre-half, while Jason Burt and Matt Lawton take a punt on JT wearing the armband come tomorrow night against the Czech Republic.

But not everyone is sidetracked by the captaincy issue, with John Nicholson (who is responsible for the title quote) remaining steadfast in his critique of the Three Lions, calling for a “revolution, not evolution.” Jim White also focuses on one of the other problems in the England team, noting “[Rooney] is the best England have, but what to do with him?”

Still chewing over the first weekend of the Premier League, Paul Doyle casts his eye over some of the debutants, while Ian Wright gets excited about what he saw from Chelsea, and in particular the Lampard-Deco central midfield partnership.

Daniel Taylor investigates how many Manchester United fans have still not forgiven Cristiano Ronaldo for flirting with Real Madrid. There is also a split of opinion in the tadloids over whether any new faces will come into Old Trafford during the transfer window, Neil Custis headlines with “Fergie: I need four strikers” compared to the Daily Mail’s article titled “Sir Alex believes current United squad don’t need any new players to triumph this season.”

In the best of the rest, Rio Ferdinand, David James and David Beckham were on hand to lend their support to a government initiative against knife crime, Giovanni Spinella pays tribute to Roma’s greatest President, Franco Sensi, Chris McGrath sits down with Swansea manager Roberto Martinez, and Guillem Balague has an exclusive interview with Theirry Henry.

Like most who predict Rio Ferdinand to be the new England captain, Kevin McCarra (Guardian) looks at the leadership qualities of the United centre-back. “England’s most unflappable and immaculate captain, Bobby Moore, is the only one so far to have lifted a major trophy. The parallel with Ferdinand has obvious flaws, but the United centre-back is accomplished enough to be unflappable. And, with his anticipation and manoeuvrability, he is usually first to the ball despite the calm manner. He does seem stable, too, and served his punishment in full for that missed drugs test with his exclusion from Euro 2004. The odd lapse is still conceivable and it is a pity that a defender of his quality did not have sharp enough peripheral vision to spot a police car before passing it at 105mph. Ferdinand received a short driving ban for that offence in 2005.”

Henry Winter gives his reasons why he believes Rio should be captain in the Telegraph. “Before Capello informs Ferdinand and John Terry who will be England captain today, the coach must take into account Ferdinand’s broader appeal in a dressing room packed with disparate characters… Terry is a good leader, an old-school, sleeves-rolled warrior-type, and Capello has been impressed with the way the Chelsea captain has fought back from the heartache of that missed penalty in Moscow. Naturally vocal and combative, Terry does not need the armband to bring out his leadership qualities but the captaincy will make Ferdinand an even better player. It seems to accentuate his concentration levels.”

According to Jason Burt (Independent), John Terry may yet win the England captaincy. “There has been a growing sense around the England set-up in the past few weeks that Terry, with his strong displays at the end of last season and the way he has conducted himself, may have done enough to convince the Italian that he should be retained. If Terry succeeds in doing so it will represent a remarkable comeback for the 27-year-old after the débâcle of the Steve McClaren regime. He had clearly fallen behind Ferdinand in Capello’s thinking and, at one stage, was accused of moping around. Last night, however, sources continued to stress that it was too close to call between the pair.”

Matt Lawton (Daily Mail) also thinks John Terry may become England captain, although he justifications seems to be slightly apologetic. “The decision is not an easy one. Not least because he must know that Ferdinand and Terry would do a perfectly good job. But a decision has to be made and the Italian must have considered a number of factors before making his choice. Both players expect to be selected for England when fit, even if Ferdinand remains the better of the two centre halves, and both have displayed great leadership qualities… That said, missing out on the captaincy would be another heavy blow and Capello could opt for Terry in the knowledge that he would be lifting rather than crushing the spirit of a key player.”

But putting all talk of England captaincy to one side, Football365’s John Nicholson laments Capello’s England, calling for “revolution, not evolution.” “It is not hard to see England failing to qualify for 2010, just as in the 1970s when we missed ’74 and ’78 world cups through a mixture of arrogance, bad management, awful tactics, inferior skill level and an over reliance on the same old faces. We are still some way from the dawning of a new era for England. England’s darkest hours are now at hand and it calls for Capello to think radical, think revolutionary, not to do so will be to fail not just England fans but English football as a whole… Capello is showing very worrying signs that he not only doesn’t know how to do this, he isn’t even going to try.”

Eurosport’s Jim White focuses attention on Wayne Rooney’s role for England. “[Rooney] is the best England have, but what to do with him? He clearly loathes being used as a lone forward, he has yet to find a partner with whom he works effectively in a pair and it is a complete waste of his ability to use him on the left of a three. Perhaps it is time to recognise the player belongs in midfield. After all, if Euro 2008 taught us anything it is that a team will best prosper and thrive with a ball-playing number ten pulling the midfield strings. That’s Rooney. Play him in front of Gareth Barry and Owen Hargreaves, just behind Gerrard wide on the right and Walcott on the left and Gabriel Agbonlahor in the middle up front. Well, can you think of a better solution?”

Dedicating most of his article on Hull’s win over Fulham, Paul Doyle (Guardian) looks at some of the players who made their Premier League debut last weekend. “Amr Zaki arrived for next to nothing (albeit on loan) and showed real class; Deco was an ingenious delight – and palpably £8m well spent; Johan Elmander’s price tag means he’s less of a bonanza but his goal and all-round performance (against Stoke, admittedly) went some way to confirming expectations that he’ll be a significant upgrade on Kevin Davies; and Samir Nasri, more expensive than any of those, hinted that he could turn out to have a longer-lasting impact than any of them. It’s early days, of course, and the examples of Thierry Henry, Nemanja Vidic and Gretar Steinsson (whose goal may have been jammy on Saturday but whose performance was highly accomplished) prove that newcomers who don’t begin promisingly could still come good. And of course, the reverse is also true: bright debuts can raise false hopes. Just ask Ronnie Rosenthal, Serhiy Rebrov and Regi Blinker.”

The Sun’s Ian Wright gets excited about what he saw from Chelsea this weekend. “I’ve never seen the home team at Stamford Bridge play like this before. I was genuinely amazed by the midfield of Frank Lampard and Deco. This threatens to be one of the most spectacular partnerships of the season…They looked like they’d been playing together for years and Chelsea’s performance was certainly ominous for the rest. The fact they played with such style made the result even better. I don’t know of many players – however good – who have arrived from overseas and fitted in quite so quickly. Deco’s skill has always been obvious but physically, he held his own against the Portsmouth midfield.”

In the Telegraph, John Ley reports on Emmanuel Adebayor’s contract extension at Arsenal, while quoting former Gunner Alan Smith, who tried to play down the booing which the forward received on Saturday. “Telegraph columnist and former Arsenal striker Alan Smith added: ‘I think the booing on Saturday was down more to the fact he didn’t pass when he should and it was only a small section. Another section were calling his name. This is massive for Arsenal. You look around at centre forwards and players like Adebayor are at a premium. That’s why they are so valuable. He can do everything; he’s great in the air, fast and strong. If he had left you would have had to question the way things were going. The message it would have sent out would have been awful.'”

The Guardian’s Daniel Taylor investigates how many Manchester United fans have still not forgiven Cristiano Ronaldo. “If the fanzines are an accurate representation then it is fair to say Ronaldo is being viewed in a much different light and that, to some, the damage might be irreversible. Red News’s editorial describes the man who scored 42 goals last season as ‘a 23-year-old prima donna’. Red Issue’s columnists are more acerbic, one branding him a ‘conniving little shit’, another describing the player’s pledge to remain as ‘meticulously devised, all-round face-saving PR guff masquerading as an interview… it’s easy to be honest and remorseful after you fail to get away with something. Not trying it on in the first place is the difficult, and praiseworthy, bit.’ Football fans are notoriously fickle, of course, and when Ronaldo recovers from his ankle injury – his first game is pencilled in at Blackburn Rovers on October 4 – his goals will be cheered much the same as usual.”

Staying with Manchester United, there is a battle in the tabloids over rumours that Sir Alex will bring in any strikers. According to Neil Custis in The Sun – whose article is headlined “Fergie: I need four strikers” – Custis writes “Manchester United are due to launch a fresh bid for Dimitar Berbatov and their first for Roque Santa Cruz this week.”

However the Daily Mail, under the headline “Sir Alex believes current United squad don’t need any new players to triumph this season,” take the opposite position and tell readers “Ferguson seemed quite relaxed about the situation, even though United have already slipped a couple of points behind their main title rivals with just one match of the season gone.”

The Times’ Rio Ferdinand, David James and David Beckham were on hand to lend their support to a government initiative against knife crime. “You want tough views on law and order, ask a footballer… Football is a working-class sport and most knife crime affects working-class communities. Stephen Lawrence was a pupil at Ferdinand’s school; Damilola Taylor was from the same Peckham estate. When Beckham was 13, the older brother of one of his closest friends was stabbed and paralysed on an otherwise unexceptional day in the East End. He was about to sign professional forms with Leyton Orient. More than most politicians, these guys have seen knife crime from the sharp end.”

Giovanni Spinella (Football Italia) pays tribute to Roma’s greatest President, Franco Sensi, who died over the weekend. “Ebullient, outspoken, fiery and proud, Sensi was one of the last padre-padroni, owners who are like father figures to their players. This attitude worked well in the passionate Roman environment, especially with captain Francesco Totti, who Sensi worked long and hard [and paid profusely] to keep from succumbing to sirens from other clubs. It was Sensi who hired Fabio Capello after his first stint at Real Madrid. Under Capello and Franco Baldini’s guidance, Sensi bankrolled the squad that won the 2000-01 Scudetto, signing players such as Emerson, Gabriel Batistuta, Marcos Cafu and Jonathan Zebina, a side which pipped Juventus to the title by just two points.”

The Independent’s Chris McGrath sits down with Swansea manager Roberto Martinez. Money quote: “I think what we have given the fans a ‘no-fear’ factor. Our dream has always been Premier League football – not just now, but when we were trying to get out of League One as well. How long is it going to take? It could be five years, 10 years, two years, we don’t know, but what is clear nowadays is that you need to take solid steps in whatever you do, so that every day the club grows stronger. So that one day, when you get there, you will be able to compete. The fans, the players, the directors, everyone understands how difficult the road will be but so long as we are united, we shouldn’t fear anything.”

On his blog, Guillem Balague has an exclusive interview with Theirry Henry. Money quote: “This feels like a new year or a new beginning. The boss has brought in lots of his own players and others have left. You can really see that something is happening, you can see that we are already playing as a team. I’m not saying that we are going to win everything, but what I am saying is that you can already see that this is a different kind of team. We are playing with a lot of pressure high up the pitch, and that’s always good: we get the ball back earlier and that means we’re regaining possession higher up the pitch: not getting drawn back quite so deep. That means we’re getting the ball forward a lot quicker and we are also playing nearer the opposition goal so there’s less ground to cover to go and score goals.”


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