“Benitez has effectively staked Liverpool’s title hopes on the fitness of Fernando Torres. Given the Spain striker’s record of hamstring injuries, it is a dangerous game of chance.” – James Ducker

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “I am disappointed with him. He is a player that I wanted in Milan but, unfortunately, he has not been able to overcome the criticism directed at him. Without confidence in oneself, it becomes more difficult. He needs to have the psychological strength to overcome the criticism that will definitely come his way. The first time he played at the San Siro he had an excellent game against Catania and scored. All of us thought it was the start of a great journey, but now we know that fans at the Meazza [San Siro] are demanding and Ricardo needs to have the mental strength to overcome the fear of playing.” – Jose Mourinho.

Runner-up: “I get goose bumps every time I walk out at Old Trafford. It’s great. Teams come here and stand off in the first ten minutes. I know what that’s like [because we did it] when I came here with Tottenham — you’re aware of the history, the stadium, the fans. We need to keep taking advantage of that. For us, it’s only about winning… I’m a perfectionist, I set high standards. Everything I do, I want it to be perfect. I know it can’t be perfect every time, but that’s my aim.” – Dimitar Berbatov.

Today’s overview: It’s over. Almost. A combination of snow and fax machines mean that the transfer window will effectively finally end today as clubs wait for the FA to ratify some of the last minute deals. Top of the tree is Arsenal, who look certain to have signed Andrei Arshavin. While the main topic of discussion today is the return of Robbie Keane to Tottenham.

Calling time on the transfer window, Martin Samuel calls for a change in the way in which transfers are currently conducted. “This past month, the majority of the Premier League would appear to have fallen out with Harry Redknapp, the Tottenham manager, while any creation that can provoke a slanging match between old comrades Mark Hughes, at Manchester City, and Steve Bruce, at Wigan, is surely due a rethink. There are many examples of nefarious conduct but the tales circulating of the way City have behaved in their desperation to bolster Hughes’s squad are shocking, if true. There is enough skulduggery in football as it is, without factoring in a week when the underhand is as good as officially endorsed. Nobody expects managers to act like angels, but we could at least remove this excuse for a pact with the devil each time we ring in the New Year.”

Making a mockery of the transfer window deadline is the Andrei Arshavin transfer saga. According to Jamie Jackson, “Arsenal tonight appeared to have ­succeeded in their attempt to sign the midfielder Andrei Arshavin from Zenit St Petersburg when the player’s agent ­confirmed a deal had been agreed but that the club must still wait for the Premier League to ratify the ­transfer tomorrow.” Fearing the worst, Ashely Gray reports “should Zenit still attempt to pull the plug, Arsenal are confident they will have recourse to take their case to FIFA.” Tom Dart exposes the details of the transfer writing “Arsenal will pay Zenit an initial £10 million, rising to £12 million depending on results. They will view that sum as excellent business.”

Jason Burt wonders whether Arsenal actually need Arshavin in the first place. “For Arsenal fans the signing Arshavin, who is expected to take the number 13 shirt vacated by Alexander Hleb when he left last summer, will come as a relief, even if many question whether or not they needed a player in his position, as a second striker or attacking midfielder, when there are obvious problems with the make-up of the rest of the squad.”

Reacting to Robbie Keane’s return to Tottenham, Dominic Fifield and Andy Hunter look at the implications for Rafa Benitez. “His exit marks a significant political victory for Benitez, the Liverpool manager who is seeking greater autonomy over transfers at Anfield.” James Ducker investigates the nuts and bolts of the Keane transfer. “Liverpool were offered Gareth Bale and David Bentley… in part exchange, but the Merseyside club favoured a straight cash deal… Liverpool are expected to take a hit of at least £4 million on the Ireland forward.”

Kevin McCarra though has reservations over Keane’s departure from Anfield arguing “Keane, in a sense, has to be replaced even if he did happen to be utterly unwanted when a couple of recent squads were being picked… With Keane gone, it will not suffice for Ryan Babel to be Albert Riera’s understudy.” The same sentiments are echoed by James Ducker, noting “Benitez has effectively staked Liverpool’s title hopes on the fitness of Fernando Torres. Given the Spain striker’s record of hamstring injuries, it is a dangerous game of chance.”

Henry Winter also looks at how Benitez’s hand controlled the Keane transfer. “Keane’s treatment simply exposes the reality that Benitez is a cold manager, clearly an individual raised at icy Real Madrid rather than in Liverpool’s more compassionate, family-driven atmosphere… Cold, cold, cold. Benitez is a one-man cold snap.” While Andrew Dillon works out how much Liverpool lost on the Keane deal – “Benitez wasted a staggering £8million on his Robbie Keane nightmare… A total of 1,578 minutes on the pitch under manager Benitez since July cost £5,070 a minute.”

From a Tottenham perspective, Jamie Redknapp used him column in The Mail to report “I knew that my dad wanted to sign him but I didn’t think Liverpool would allow him to leave in this window.”

Moving onto Chelsea, Dominic Fifield sympathies with Big Phil’s big job explaining “Scolari is working to new budgets and financial restrictions where Mourinho had none, and there is no suggestion that patience is running out at Chelsea.”

Take a more global look at activities during the transfer, Kevin Eason observed how “experts calculated that total spending on players in the Barclays Premier League last month had reached almost £160 million – £10 million more than the previous record set in the January transfer window last year.”

And keeping on the economic footing, the domestic broadcasters will continue to prop up their business to the tune of £1.7 billion” as the new broadcasting contracts are set to be completed.

Shifting topics, Sandy Macaskill traces back over the worst refereeing decisions so far this season, and James Lawton piggybacks on the same issue to ask “why is it that if American football, rugby, tennis and, to some extent cricket, cheerfully accept the role of instant video reappraisal, football cannot?… Riley’s madness could have been wiped out in less than a minute.”

Ian Wright makes an intelligent suggestion on how to imporve refereeing standards in England. “I would like the Premier League to call on the experience of Pierluigi Collina, the best ref I have ever come across… He could speak to all our referees, tell them of his experiences and maybe prove a positive influence.”

As is standard on a Tuesday, the Guardian have their European round-up. This week Sid Lowe salutes Real Madrid new all-time top goalscorer, Raul (“Raul will go down in history as the greatest striker Madrid had, a man whose talent took him a long way and whose temperament took him even further.”) while Leander Schaerlaeckens discusses how it was no surprise PSV won at the weekend following the departure of Huub Stevens, their worst manager statistically since 1968.


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