Arsenal open talks with 6 English stars, Chelsea to sell Sturridge to Liverpool & Manchesters United & City want a Shakhtar striker

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “For me we should have bought some decent players during the transfer window. Don’t get me wrong, I like my team-mates and we are working hard for each other and we brought some good players – but there is a big difference between being in the Championship and the Premier League. There is nothing to expect if you don’t spend any money to make the team better. Right now we are trying to fight our best and we won’t give up – but there is nothing to expect. Someone bought the club last season. We won the Championship – so surely we need to add decent players. We have some good players, but it wasn’t enough and we knew it. We’re behind the manager and we are trying our best. There is no miracle in football.” – Reading’s Jimmy Kebe.

Runner-up: “In the coming weeks Puyol, Xavi and Messi will sign their respective new contracts. This news means that FC Barcelona has secured its ties with three of its most important players.” – a statement from FC Barcelona.

Arsenal: Signing On Stars

High five (Sun) Arsenal are set to announce that five of their young stars have signed new contracts. But Theo Walcott is not among them… yet. Midfield ace Jack Wilshere leads the way, having agreed an £80,000-a-week, five-year deal, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Kieran Gibbs, Aaron Ramsey and Carl Jenkinson have also accepted terms.

It’s good to talk: Walcott makes peace as Arsenal agree deals with Wilshere, Gibbs, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jenkinson (Mail) Walcott may be some way from signing but Arsenal are convinced they have agreed new deals with Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Aaron Ramsey and Carl Jenkinson and it is thought they will sign by the end of the week… Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, Gibbs and Jenkinson have agreed five-year deals worth between £40,000 and £60,000 a week.

The new Mr Arsenal: Why Jack Wilshere will be the club’s heartbeat for many years to come (Matt Law, Mirror) Not since the days of Tony Adams, Martin Keown, Steve Bould, Lee Dixon and Nigel Winterburn have Arsenal had a real British leader in their ranks – but Wilshere is just that. He will not simply become the face of the club, but he will also be the voice of the team and that is why it is so vital Wilshere is on the verge of signing a new contract that will commit the midfielder to the Emirates for over five years.

Arsène Wenger’s decision to build next Arsenal team around a young British core is based on self-preservation (Paul Hayward, Telegraph) Arsenal’s new route is the Road to Damascus. The age when Arsène Wenger considered young English players to be too crude and clumsy to fulfil his creative vision has been abandoned in favour of long contracts for the new native “core” he wants to build the next team around. Wenger needs allies who will think with their hearts more than their wallets. But his lurch in favour of British qualities is one of the more striking about-turns in Premier League management.

Manchester United

United’s Pep talk (Sun) Alex Ferguson met Pep Guardiola in New York this week with the former Barcelona manager still undecided over his future… It is not clear whether the United boss, who turns 71 on New Year’s Eve, will extend his 26-year reign beyond this season. Guardiola is available and the Old Trafford job is his No 1 target ahead of Bayern Munich and Chelsea as SunSport revealed on November 25. He is United’s preferred option ahead of Jose Mourinho but Everton boss David Moyes, 49, is also heavily favoured by Ferguson and the board.

Barca’s Boys Sign On

Messi’s on the market… at, er, £312MILLION! (Sun) Lionel Messi would now cost Manchester City or Chelsea a mind-blowing £312MILLION. The world’s best player has agreed a new six-year deal with Barcelona worth an estimated £17m a year gross until 2018. That totals an amazing £102m in wages. Add in his £210m get-out clause and the total package is £312m. And that is only if the man many already acclaim as the greatest footballer of all time accepts to move to Manchester City or Chelsea WITHOUT a pay rise. Realistically, though, the chance of Messi, 25, ever coming to an English club appears to be zero. Midfield maestro Xavi, 32, and inspirational skipper Carles Puyol, 34, have also both agreed new deals.]

Lionel Messi agrees new Barcelona deal (Simon Rice, Independent) Lionel Messi has agreed a new contract to remain at Barcelona until 2018. The Argentinian international will put pen to paper on the deal “in the coming weeks” according to his club. The Catalans have also announced that Spanish duo Xavi and Carles Puyol had agreed extensions until 2016. The new contract for Messi means the world’s greatest player will remain at the Nou Camp beyond his 31st birthday – leading to an assumption that he will see out his career at the Spanish club.

It Wouldn’t Be The Papers Without Super Mario Stories

It’s time Mancini and Manchester City washed their hands of Balotelli (Neil Ashton, Mail) He’s a bad boy, no question. No-one doubt his ability, just his application after nearly three years in English football. He scored 11 times in the Premier League last season, but his dismissal against Arsenal in April 2012 ruled him out of the title run-in. This year his only contribution in 13 Premier League appearances is a goal at Wigan on November 28. He should be someone else’s problem, palming him off to the first club prepared to meet a transfer fee and match his wages.

Balotelli tribunal appearance in doubt as City star misses training through illness (Mail) Mario Balotelli’s appearance at the Premier League tribunal that will rule on his dispute with Manchester City today is in doubt after he was sent home from training yesterday with a virus.

Mario Balotelli’s legal challenge is latest chapter of mad story (James Lawton, Independent) If Balotelli’s time at City has had any purpose beyond fuelling a stream of bizarre headlines it may be that he has unwittingly drawn a line between mad indulgence and the requirements of a professionally coherent organisation. Should Balotelli win on the back of some legal niceties today it may just have the benefit of signalling the need not just for tighter forms of justice but also a deeper understanding of a collective responsibility for a desperately declining image.

How G Nev Does It

MNF star Neville takes Sportsmail behind the scenes of the TV show making fans fall in love with punditry again (Laura Williamson, Mail) It is no mean feat keeping Neville in check, that’s for sure. He revels in his Aladdin’s cave of touch-screen boards, slow-motion clips, high camera angles, statistics and league tables. The former England defender even had a screen installed in his Manchester home for nine days to practise before he started at Sky, only to go bonkers when he found out they had updated the technology when he arrived in London. ‘I’m obsessed with charts,’ Neville says, laughing at the nerdy nature of his words. ‘I’ll say, “Make me a chart, make me a chart”. They argue I don’t need one, just to say it, but I want everyone at home to know those statistics are there.’

Football’s Institutional Racism

Racism is still blocking the rise of black managers, says Ricky Hill (Guardian) Ricky Hill has lost count of the letters he has sent applying for coaching or managerial positions in England, covering every level from the Ryman Premier to the Premier League, across the past 20 years. The former Luton Town player has no problem, however, remembering the number of replies he has received: one. “Sir Alex Ferguson had the decency to phone me to let me know that he was going in another direction after I applied for the reserve team post at Manchester United in 2003. But I’ve never had a response from anyone else, even by letter,” says Hill, who was a stylish midfielder in the 70s and 80s and became only the fourth black player to represent England. “Richard Scudamore might turn around and say: ‘You’re not good enough.’ But hold on a minute – I’ve got three coach of the year awards.”

South African Corruption

Match fixing corruption shakes South Africa to the core (Paul Kelso, Telegraph) This week a darker and more troubling legacy of the tournament is revealed, one that leaves the administration of game in South Africa in crisis, and reveals the folly of any complacency about the threat of match-fixing. A report, compiled by Fifa and published by the South African Football Association this week, reveals in remarkable detail allegations of systematic fixing in the build-up to the 2010 World Cup. Preying on dysfunction in African football, the conspiracy was coordinated by convicted fixer Wilson Perumal Raj and his associates. It involved as many as seven matches and 10 international teams, with referees recruited to manipulate games to meet the requirements of gambling rings.

Football 2012

The football tactical trends of 2012 (Jonathan Wilson, Guardian) Passing and pressing dominates at the top table José Mourinho might at last have won the psychological battle against Pep Guardiola last season but he has probably lost the tactical war. Indulged individuals may be able to keep things together long enough to win occasional trophies, but egotism will eventually breed discontent. While Real Madrid squabble among themselves, Barcelona have managed the transition to a new coach smoothly. Tito Vilanova’s team looks more direct than Guardiola’s and is perhaps a touch more functional, but it is hard to make any real assessment until the latter stages of the Champions League. Even had Vilanova not stepped so calmly into Guardiola’s shoes, it is the Barcelona style that dominates. Football has undergone a process of bielsafication; pressing and possessing, passing rather than dribbling, intercepting high up the field rather than making last-ditch tackles, are in vogue.

Transfer Lies

Sturridge off to Dan-field (Sun) Daniel Sturridge will opt for Liverpool over Tottenham when he quits Chelsea next month.

Rafa’s Chelsea Spend-up (Star) Daniel Sturridge will complete his £12m move to Liverpool next month to spark a spectacular Chelsea spending spree… Porto star Joao Moutinho, who has a £28.5m buyout clause, is high on Chelsea’s wish-list, while Everton’s £20m-rated Belgian midfielder Marouane Fellaini is another under consideration. But Atletico Madrid’s goal sensation Falcao remains Chelsea’s top striker target.

City and Spurs face battle to sign Llorente in January as club insist striker will not be sold (Mail) Athletic Bilbao president Josu Urrutia has reiterated the Primera Division club have no intention of selling wantaway star striker Fernando Llorente during the January transfer window.

Wenger hints at January transfer swoop for Serie A top goalscorer El Shaarawy after refusing to rule out move for Milan star (Mail) Arsene Wenger could be ready to bolster Arsenal’s front line in the January transfer window with an audacious bid for highly-rated AC Milan striker Stephan El Shaarawy… Wenger is ready for a busy January transfer window, and has already been linked with a move for Barcelona right back Daniel Alves to improve his side’s defensive record.

United join City in pursuit of Shakhtar fire-starter Fernandinho (Mirror) Manchester City and United are locked in a battle to sign Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho, aka Fernando Luiz Rosa, in January.

Newcastle striker Demba Ba faces fine as club close in on a transfer window move for Marseille forward Loïc Rémy (Telegraph) Newcastle could fine Demba Ba for giving an interview in which he admitted he was interested in a move to Arsenal.

Bring me Beckham! Ex-Chelsea boss Ranieri confirms interest from Monaco (Mail) Ranieri, who is backed by Russian billionaire owner Dmitry Rybolovlev, also wants Chelsea’s Frank Lampard and believes Beckham can play a pivotal role in the development of Monaco’s emerging squad.

It’s all Gho for Faouzi bid (Sun) West Ham and Stoke are keen on St Etienne star Faouzi Ghoulam. Left-back Ghoulam, 21, rated at £3milliion, is on the brink of a senior debut for Algeria after switching allegiance to his parents’ birthplace.

Gary Hoops for Prem move (Sun) Gary Hooper is eyeing the Premier League after talks over a new Celtic deal stalled. Essex-born Hooper, 24, has hit 65 goals in 111 starts since joining Celtic for £2.5m from Scunthorpe in 2010. West Ham, Sunderland, QPR and Southampton could swoop.

We want Lew (Sun) Fulham boss Martin Jol is eyeing up a move for Nottingham Forest’s Lewis McGugan, 24. The midfielder’s £5,000-a-week deal ends next summer and Jol wants him to sign a pre-contract agreement.

Pulis turns to South Korean Lee as he bids to add some craft to Stoke midfeld (Mail) Stoke are showing interest in Bolton midfielder Lee Chung-yong.

Berg Embarrassed At Blackburn’s Xmas Party

Bah humbug! Berg storms out of Blackburn’s Christmas bash after being made to dance with a stocking on his head (Mail) Furious Blackburn manager Henning Berg stormed out of the club’s Christmas party after he was made to wear a stocking on his head and dance on stage. The humiliating incident on Monday night is bound to cast more doubt over Berg’s future at Ewood Park just seven weeks after he returned as manager.