As debate rages over whether Wenger can pull out the chequebook, Spurs plan a three-pronged attack, Chelsea perfect their diamond midfield (without Joe Cole?) & Pompey track seven new signings

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “[Back in 1958] Sunderland spent so much money that they became known as ‘The Bank of England club.’ They didn’t win anything and in the end they got themselves relegated. I am not saying that Real Madrid will get relegated but they will still have plenty of problems with balance. I do not know how [Madrid coach] Manuel Pellegrini plans to pick his side because it has no balance. I told Ronaldo before he flew out that he will end up playing centre-half because I don’t think they have one. Barcelona are different because they have grown their squad properly and added one or two players each season. They have a fantastic midfield and they will be once again a threat to everyone taking part in the Champions League.” – Sir Alex Ferguson

Runner-up: “You think you got quite close last season and suddenly another club has just stepped over you immediately before you can go on. It kind of punctures you. Still, I’m sure if you asked David Moyes [the Everton manager], he would think the same. The frustration comes from the type of player Manchester City have been able to attract. I wonder why they’re going to City. But I wouldn’t be the only one unhappy with that. They might not be favourites to win the league but they should be. If [Kolo] Toure comes to the club and they still haven’t stopped spending, they have as good a chance as anyone of winning it. All they have got is 38 league games and the League Cup and FA Cup, which doesn’t start until January.” – Martin O’Neill.

Today’s overview: Are Arsenal becoming a selling club?

It is common knowledge this Wednesday that Arsenal’s Kolo Toure is on the verge of becoming a Manchester City player, leaving Jeremy Wilson to wonder about Arsenal’s squad for next season. “The chances of signing Real Madrid forward Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, who is available for £16million, have increased… Fulham defender Brede Hangeland would also provide the imposing presence at centre-back… [Wenger though] will consider using Alex Song as a centre-back. Other options include William Gallas, Johan Djourou, Thomas Vermaelen and Mikael Silvestre.”

John Wragg also suggests that no new signings will be arriving at the Emirates, detailing how “sources close to the club claim Wenger sees his first-choice central defensive pair as £11m summer signing Thomas Vermaelen and William Gallas, with Johan Djourou, Mikael Silvestre and Alex Song all in reserve.”

In a supplementary article, Jeremy Wilson explains how “to some [Arsenal] are the most obvious ‘top four’ casualty, while others believe that this year could finally provide vindication for Wenger’s huge faith in his young squad.”

Mind games or plain speaking? Stuart James reports Martin O’Neill’s belief that Manchester City have created a Top Five in England in which “O’Neill is being a realist rather than a pessimist when he admits Villa ‘can’t compete’ with City.” However, not everybody believes the Citizens are all that, with Ian Ladyman poking holes in Mark Hughes’ squad. “What City need more than anything if they are seriously to consider a place in the top four this time is a reliable captain… In attempting to buy Terry, Hughes effectively tried to install a ready-made leader. Now that his plan has failed, there are not too many others around.”

Spurs have finally completed the signing of Peter Crouch, but Paul Wilson immediately questions how often the beanpole will start for Tottenham. “[Crouch’s physique] has persuaded a succession of coaches and managers to view him as a Plan B rather than an automatic selection in the starting line-up.” However, according to Jeremy Wilson Crouch will prove a regular starter for Spurs whereby “Harry Redknapp will consider playing Robbie Keane and Jermain Defoe alongside Peter Crouch in a new-look Tottenham attack next season.”

In other news for the Lilywhites, The Sun trumpets that Darren Bent has now become the subject of a three-way tug-of-war between Sunderland, Hull and Stoke. While the Mirror splash with the news that “Harry Redknapp is making a player-plus-cash £8million move for Hull City’s in-demand centre-half Michael Turner.”

With Crouch gone, David Hytner picks on Portsmouth and talks down their chances for next season. “If the season were to start today or, more pertinently, the summer transfer window were to close herewith, their team would appear a certainty for relegation… Portsmouth have resembled the Dutch child sticking his finger into the dam since the beginning of last season.”

But Pompey are on the lookout for a host of new talent, with Gary Jacob linking Antti Niemi, Steve Finnan, Ross McCormack and Mouhamadou Dabo to Fratton Park. The Daily Mail throw a couple more names into the hat claiming “Stephen Hunt is talking to Portsmouth over a £3.5m move,” while noting that Marseille midfielder Modeste M’Bami is training with the club. And a seventh new signing is proposed by the Mirror, farting “Portsmouth boss Paul Hart is ready to play with fire by taking bad boy Amr Zaki on loan.”

After yet another potential buyer walked away from Newcastle United yesterday, Louise Taylor lives dangerously by pairing the words “Mike Ashley” and “optimistic” in the same sentence. “Mike Ashley remains optimistic about selling Newcastle United by the end of the summer and will resist the temptation to place the troubled Championship club in administration.” George Caulkin explains the impact of administration for the Magpies, in which “the club [would incur] an automatic ten-point deduction from the Football League.”

Balancing up matters, Rob Bagchi sticks the boot into the Toon detailing “with 10 days to go before Newcastle begin their Championship campaign and with no new owner, manager or players in sight, the situation could hardly be more bleak or the barbs more cruel.”

Having watched Chelsea throughout their American tour, Matt Hughes details how the Blues will line-up tactically this season. “Ancelotti is planning to start the season with a diamond in midfield, two central strikers and the hope that his most athletic full backs, José Bosingwa and Ashley Cole, can maraud up and down the touchline providing some semblance of width. The Italian may have a plan B tucked up his sleeve, but as yet even his players have no idea what it is.”

Keeping with Chelsea’s diamond tactics in midfield, Matt Barlow questions Joe Cole’s role at the Bridge. “[Realistically, Joe Cole] is not going to oust Lampard from the tip of the diamond, the natural place for his undoubted talents.”

Staying with the Pensioners, there are still some who refuse to let the John Terry saga lie. Matthew Syed proves to be particularly prickly, barking “Terry’s comical protestations of loyalty tell us much about the cynical world inhabited by the Chelsea captain and his ilk. He takes his own fans for a bunch of suckers, and who can blame him when a fair few of them continue to buy into the mythology he and his agent have spent so much time and energy cultivating. JT, the personification of Chelsea. JT, the badge-kissing stalwart of Stamford Bridge. JT, the man who would rather jump under a bus than leave his beloved club. JT, the lionheart.”

According to Pete Jenson it is put-up or shut-up time for Xabi Alonso. “Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez has told Xabi Alonso to make a decision once and for all on his Anfield future in the next 48 hours… if the Spanish giants agree to pay the €30m up-front in one instalment, as Liverpool are requesting, then Benitez will immediately set about bringing in replacements, with Athletic Bilbao’s Javier Martinez and Valencia’s David Silva two possible options.”

As usual the Daily Mail appear to pride themselves on coughing up the bulk of the transfer rumours.

Proving that today is no exception we learn that Stuttgart have made a £9million move for Middlesbrough striker Tuncay, Hull are planning a double swoop for Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink on a free and Standard Liege’s £8m-rated attacking midfielder Milan Jovanovic, Chelsea are said to have posted “an £8.6million move for AC Milan midfielder Andrea Pirlo that would see Claudio Pizarro and Michael Mancienne go in the other direction,” and Blackburn are close to signing Algerian international Kamel Ghilas from Celta Vigo.

And there is more from the Mail, who also splutter how Sven Goran Eriksson is planning to bring “Didier Hamann” to Notts County and a player/coach and that “Manchester City have been linked with a move for Roma centre-back Philippe Mexes.”

The Sun also peddle a couple of transfer rumours, kicking off with news that Manchester City’s “Elano is at the centre of an £8million battle between both Milan giants,” while “Everton target Rasmus Elm will make a decision on his future today.”


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