Are Arsenal out of the title race & does Ronaldo know about the recession?

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “I knew about him [Darren Bent] from last season but his confidence has improved. I think he might be the player we need to do Heskey’s job. There is also Peter Crouch. Bent is not completely the same as Heskey, but he is fast with very good movement…I can’t pick players who are not playing. He [David Beckham] might be in the next squad. I don’t know… I saw [Michael] Owen play for 20 minutes [last week] at Fulham. After a month out, that is not enough to establish his fitness.” – Fabio Capello.

Runner-up: “Maradona was in the doping room after the game [in Mexico], giving it all the high fives and the shouts and the screams and all that with his pals. And we sat there debating whether to fill him in. It still rankles with me that he has never really admitted to what he did, he’s never really put both hands up – the hands of God – and said, ‘Yes, it was the wrong thing to do.’ An English player would have said that, as far as I am concerned. It tarnishes the image to me. I have always said, and will say, that he was the greatest footballer I have ever come across, but I would just like him to have said it straightforwardly, that it was wrong.” – Terry Butcher.

Today’s overview: The Sundays are bursting with a variety of football stories, beginning with features on Liverpool and Arsenal, insight into Ronaldo’s wage demands, and a look ahead to England and Scotland international friendlies with Germany and Argentina respectively.

But, Andrew Warshaw kicks-off with his prediction of a future clash between the Premier League and UEFA following reports that Michel Platini plans to introduce a new ban on under-18 transfers by the start of next season in order to safeguard youth development.

On Liverpool, Mike Adamson cites the lack of tinkering as a root cause of the Reds success this season, saying “The manager who famously rotated his team for 99 successive matches is no more; now he merely changes the team when it is necessary.”

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Reporting from the Emirates, Duncan Castles summarised that “Villa had Arsenal’s measure, taking a firmer grip on a helter-skelter half the longer it went on.” Duncan White puts his neck on the line penning “just a week after that impressive defeat of Manchester United lent oxygen to their guttering title challenge, Arsenal’s championship hopes were all but extinguished.” Jason Burt is also looking for the fat lady, writing “a fourth loss of the season – a second at home – and a paltry two wins in seven League games for Arsene Wenger’s side just about demolishes their credentials.”

Piers Morgan blasts Cristiano Ronaldo’s new wage demands, complaining that “Britain is in the grip of the worst recession for a century. Millions of people are facing negative equity in their homes, the threat of losing their jobs and the very real fear of not being able to feed their kids.” Ronaldo is also on the receiving end of criticism from Ian Whittell, who wrote of his performance against Stoke that his “petulance and frustration he showed for so much of this game suggest it will take time, and presumably another summer of Real Madrid courtship, before he looks content playing for United again.” Rob Beasley reveals in the NOTW that “United will not contemplate a contract extension for Ronaldo, despite agent Jorge Mendes claiming his man deserved an improvement on his current £120,000-a-week salary.”

Following on from Ronaldo’s wage demands, and tying in the behaviour of Didier Drogba and Chris Morgan, Andy Dunn vents his anger at footballers. “Recession? What recession? Ten thousand people to be made redundant by BT? A million jobs under threat from the imminent collapse of General Motors? Fans selling season tickets on eBay? These things may as well be happening in another universe.”

James Corrigan goes on the offensive against the FA for their Respect initiative, arguing “the FA will not change [behaviour] with some say-little, do-nothing crusade. Punishments, bans, fines, deterrents. If the buggers don’t possess it anyway, then respect must be enforced.” Patrick Barclay, on the same topic, picks on the managers for undermining the campaign asking “[do] managers know the game well enough to do their jobs, let alone justify their lavish salaries?”

A week after his terrible injury, I had pleaded with the referee to give me some protection. I could have died.” Jamie Jackson speaks with Rio Ferdinand, who makes the point on TV pundits that “some ex-footballers on television, when you look back on their own CVs as players, they’re not nearly as good as the ones they’re criticising.” While Joe Lovejoy picks the brain of Frank Lampard (“I do believe we’re going to win the league this time… the belief running through the players and the quality of the manager, I think we’ll do it.”)

But the most odd interview of the day comes from Tony Adams who, speaking to Matt Lawton, admitted “I don’t actually like people. I’m a loner and if I had my way I’d just walk my dogs every day, never talk to anyone and then die.”

With Fabio Capello naming his England squad, Michael Mancienne, “an elegant, ball-playing defender who prefers to be a centre-half but can also operate at right-back and has been likened to Rio Ferdinand.” In grave danger of over-hyping the youngsterMick McCarthy, the Wolves manager, has compared him to Franz Beckenbauer, such has been his immediate impact as ball-playing centre-back at Molineux.” On the England manager himself, Patrick Barclay writes a positive article concluding that “the players are learning a team ethic and becoming aware that it is not necessary to understand a manager in order to perform for him.”

In other news, Dion Fanning explains why RTE football pundit Eamon Dunphy is “the Led Zeppelin of football punditry,” and ahead of Argentina’s visit to Hampden Park Graham Hunter features Sergio Aguero (“he now has Tevez’s upper body strength and quadriceps that even Roberto Carlos would kill for”), while Gabriele Marcotti focuses in on Argentina’s new left-footed attacking wizard, Ezequiel Lavezzi.

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