Arsenal want Wenger, Michael Essien is “the jailer” & the North-East gets ready for the drop

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “In the 13 years I’ve been involved in the first team, this will be the biggest league game I’ve played in — it really is that important. This is a massive chance for everyone at the club and I’m sure the fans will create a great atmosphere because they know what is at stake. The incentive is there for us to go back on top of the league. It may only be for a few hours until United play, but you never know, it could even be for longer than that. That’s how big this game is and that’s why I honestly believe it’s the biggest we’ve had in the league since I’ve been at the club and maybe for even longer than that.” – Jamie Carragher.

Runner-up: “I didn’t learn anything from Wenger. All he taught me was how to doubt myself, how to doubt everything. Wenger never said a word to me until the day I left. He spoke to the others but not with me. I played only fifteen games and I did not have a good relationship with him [Wenger]. I respect the way he coaches but I learnt more with Mourinho. He looked me in the eyes when he talked to me. Mourinho showed me how to fight. If he had any problem, we discussed it. I feel like I never played at Arsenal. If people don’t remind me of that fact, I just forget it. It has been wiped from my mind.” – Lassana Diarra.

Today’s overview: There is a mixed bag of stories to chew through this Saturday, ranging from Arsenal’s plans to maintain continuity at the club, the latest speculation revolving around Chelsea, and analysis of the relegation dog-fight in the Premier League.

James Ducker questions the sense in Jamie Carragher’s rally cry (see the quote of the day) suggesting “there is putting pressure on yourself to perform and then there is putting so much pressure on yourself and your team-mates that there is the danger of it being too heavy a burden to carry.”

Looking for continuity, reports that Arsenal aim to tie up the long-term services of Arsene Wenger by offering the Frenchman “a new contract at the end of the season in a bid to entice key players to stay at the club… [Wenger] is the club’s best hope of keeping their crop of talented young players at the Emirates Stadium.”

After yesterday’s hype surrounding the Blues, today Chris Hatherall reports on how Guus Hiddink will leave at the end of the season, as well as denying stories linking Roman Pavlyuchenko and David Villa to Chelsea. Mark Flemming continues the analysis of Chelsea asking “the £700m question, however, is why it has been four years since Chelsea played as well as this.”

The Sun continue to peddle gossip over Chelsea, with Mark Irwin splashing with unlikely news that “Carlo Ancelotti has been promised £1million for EVERY trophy he wins as Chelsea boss. And that is on top of a contract worth £5m-a-year tax free.”

Still hung up on Chelsea’s victory at Anfield, Barney Ronay wonders whether man-marking will again come into fashion. “Inspired by Essien, a new language of man-marking has been minted. Already there has been mention of playing “the jailer” role. Suddenly man-marking feels like a movement, something tribal, like counter-capitalist direct action or walking around a suburban shopping centre wearing the crotch of your drainpipe trousers thrillingly low.”

Des Kelly looks to rile-up Manchester United fans over the manner in which the Glazers are managing the club. “The Glazers are basically using their American Express card to pay off the £699m shopping bill they ran up on their Visa card. And next year, they’ll shove it all on Mastercard. In the meantime, they are turning up at the casino and hoping the cards continue to be kind so they can cover the interest payments with their winnings.”

Turning to the relegation scrap, Patrick Barclay wonders whether Steve Gibson will prove that nice guys finish last? Michael Walker takes a more global view of the battle against the drop pointing out that “were it not for West Brom, and their Saltburn-born manager Tony Mowbray, the three North-east clubs, who can generate 120,000 fans between them at home, might all go down together. As it is, two seem destined to drop and the third will finish 17th.”

Louise Taylor adds to the sense of doom in the North-East of England. “The fear of a return to those dark, disillusioned days now stalks Mike Ashley, Steve Gibson and Niall Quinn, the owners and chairmen of the north-east’s big three, as they prepare for today’s potentially watershed games. After months of effectively adopting the childish habit of covering their eyes with their hands in the forlorn hope that approaching troubles will magically evaporate, all three face forfeiting the £30m in lost revenue that automatically accompanies relegation.”

The Times has a character assassination of the Manchester City backline. “Richard Dunne is out of form, Nedum Onuoha is inexperienced, Wayne Bridge is often injured and Micah Richards has forgotten how to defend. The right back was so poor against Hamburg that it was difficult to believe that he was one of the hottest prospects in the game two years ago.”

In the Saturday interviews Oliver Kay meets Sol Campbell who reveals his plans to enter management. Rio Ferdinand talks to James Ducker about his transformation from wild child to talisman and why he is frustrated by some fellow professionals. Ian Herbert has a chin-wag with Leon Osman tracing the midfielder’s progression through the Everton academy to the first team. While Theo Walcott talks to David Hytner about finishing the season on a high.

Tucked away in an article by Glenn Moore over the impending sacking of Jurgen Klinsmann from Bayern Munich is the aside that “Lazio president Claudio Lotito has threatened to make his players sleep at a club training camp away from their families indefinitely if they do not show better form in today’s derby against Roma.”

The Sun’s Anthony France makes public the latest sex scandal to involve footballers. “John Oster, 30, and Paul Wethers went to the girl’s home after a night out in London’s West End. The ex-Everton and Sunderland star allegedly groped the 19-year-old. Wethers, in his 30s, is accused of having sex with her against her will. Police are investigating whether the men planned to “roast” the student — a term used by footballers who have group sex with a woman.”

In today’s transfer rumours, Antony Kastrinakis invents the story that “Arsene Wenger is ready to make a summer bid for £12million-rated Paris Saint-Germain starlet Mamadou Sakho.” Geoff Tweet claims that Atletico Madrid are preparing a £9million for Chelsea’s Alex.

We end with focus on Hillsbrough, as James Lawton hears the story of one family’s long campaign for a simple apology. David Lacey goes over the lessons of Hillsborough, noting that “the result was a dramatic switch to all-seat stadiums and the abolition of perimeter fences which, as Hillsborough demonstrated, could turn grounds into death traps when people had no means of escape.”