Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “I was absolutely nowhere near him. It’s a joke. I know I didn’t touch him and I said to the referee to book me or send me off. That would have made me feel better. I’m sure he has got a family but, if I went home having done that, I’d be embarrassed. You are supposed to be teaching your kids an example and this is just an embarrassing case of cheating. But the lad has taken a chance and got his team a point, so I’m sure they’ll be patting him on the back.” – Lee Carsley.
Runner-up: “We’ve won our two games against the ‘big four’ this season and I think that’s where we lost it last season, as well as having too many draws at home. It’s a good psychological advantage for us and I’m delighted we’ve played Liverpool and United now and come away with victories. Being honest, I think it’s between the three of us. Arsenal are looking good. They’re playing free-flowing football and scoring goals, like they always do. It’s just when they pick up injuries that they tend to miss a few key players. It’s interesting for everybody. It’s not just between us and Manchester United, though I do think Liverpool have slipped away a bit and it’ll be difficult for them now. I’m not ruling them out completely but the way the three of us are playing at the moment I think it will be between us, United and Arsenal.” – John Terry.
Today’s overview: After resorting to diving in order scrap a home draw on Monday night, Liverpool and their woes continue to dominate the back-pages. So in an attempt to shake things up, our focus is on Birmingham’s reaction to their 2-all draw at Anfield.
For Kevin McCarra, “Birmingham are far from callow and continued to show the composure with which a pair of goals can endow visitors to even this stadium. Alex McLeish, their manager, is fully entitled to his disgust at the equaliser. The fashion in which it was secured must have been galling enough but the Scot will know too that Liverpool, by then, were in no shape to score legitimately.” Similarly, Oliver Kay swung a comforting arm around the Midlanders in his post-match report. “This was the kind of backs-to-the-wall exercise that traditionally ends only in defeat for visiting teams at Anfield, but, with Christian BenÃtez and Cameron Jerome scoring their first goals of the season to give them a 2-1 lead, Birmingham left Merseyside feeling a sense of injustice.”
Rory Smith appeared loathed to credit Birmingham’s performance, rather opting to see the Blues’ point through the prism of Liverpool’s failings. “Liverpool were clearly a vastly superior side than their visitors. As they should be. Birmingham hustled and bustled, and they bear all the organisational hallmarks of a McLeish side, but they do not have the resources, the litany of top internationals, which BenÃtez can call on.”
Suggesting that Liverpool have no time for morals at present, Andy Hunter chimed “Alex McLeish will rightly rage against the injustice of Walton’s decision. Given his recent trials, BenÃtez will not care.”
Questions have to be asked of the woolly observations made by The Times’ hack Liverpool were trailing when Ngog went down in the penalty area under a challenge by Lee Carsley. It appeared that no contact had been made but Peter Walton, the referee, awarded a penalty.” By contrast, Henry Winter went out of his way to call a spade a spade. “David Ngog had zigzagged into the Birmingham City area, his pace soon carrying him along the goal-line. Lee Carsley slid in, seeking to nick the ball off Ngogâ€™s feet. The Frenchmanâ€™s response was shameful, throwing himself to the floor and conning the referee, Peter Walton, into believing Carsley had made contact. It was a dive and thatâ€™s a fact.”
Angry, Tim Rich wants to see David Ngog punished for his cheating antics. “It was arguably worse that Eduardo da Silva’s dive against Celtic that earned the Arsenal striker a two-game Uefa ban that was overturned on appeal… While the Arsenal manager, ArsÃ¨ne Wenger, always vehemently denied that Eduardo had dived, Benitez seemed to accept that Walton had made a mistake.”
Looking for solutions to minimise the extent of diving is Rob Kelly. “Another game, another dive, another injustice… Something must be done. After a weekend in which the actions of referees are once again under the spotlight following comments from Sir Alex Ferguson, isnâ€™t it about time they were given a hand? Isnâ€™t it about time that video technology was introduced at long last?”
Standing high on his soapbox, Kevin Garside rants against those who question referees. “Ferguson and the football family show what they feel about that every time they take aim at the men in black. There is no respect, which is why the beautiful game is often ugly to watch. It is funny how concern about the veracity of decision-making dissipates when the bad ones go in your favour. Tolerance is relative when it should be unconditional. The blame culture that pervades is the stuff of the playground.” Keeping with those who bash referees, Mark Fleming singles out Fergie for criticism. “There is a theory that sometimes Ferguson whinges on and on about referees to mask the failings of his own team, a theory that his reaction to Sunday’s defeat only added to. Rather than accept United defended poorly at the goal, Ferguson couldn’t wait to pillory Atkinson. Ferguson’s serial whinging about officials is in danger of tarnishing the legacy of his glorious reign that has incorporated 11 league titles.”
Keeping focus with Manchester United, Kevin McCarra makes the argument that Ferguson needs to spend his way back to the title track. “The Â£80m fee from Real Madrid ought to have been a potent consolation, but the manager has spent little of it… Ferguson has grumbled about transfer prices, but he will need full access to whatever remains of the Ronaldo fee if United are to be readied for the trials ahead.”
The travails for the Ferguson family continues this Tuesday, Nick Szczepanik writing that “Darren Ferguson was on the verge of being relieved of his duties as manager of Peterborough United yesterday… The move represents a considerable reversal of fortunes for Ferguson, who has been regarded as an increasingly promising managerial talent.”
Russell Kempson is the bearer of bad news, announcing “Dean Ashton, the West Ham United and England striker, has finally admitted defeat in his battle with a persistent ankle problem. It is expected that his retirement from playing will be announced by his club this week.”
Onto the transfers, where Jason Burt claims to have the skinny on Chelsea’s cheir transfer target this winter. “Despite the public protestations of manager Carlo Ancelotti that he is happy with the squad he has, it is understood that, following discussions with sporting director Frank Arnesen, who is assuming responsibility for transfers, Chelsea have decided to try again to sign [Franck] Ribery.” According to the Independent, “it’s reported that [bayern] would accept as little as Â£30m for the winger.”
The Daily Mail churn out a host of rumours. First there is the one about “Manchester United have run the rule over Bordeauxâ€™s Marouane Chamakh,” which is quickly followed by news that “Tottenham Hotspur are weighing up a January bid to land Vicente from Valencia. Spurs believe the want-away player would solve their problems on the left side of midfield.” Lastly we learn “Bolton are considering a Â£3m move for Everton’s young forward James Vaughan.”
Over in The Sun Shaun Custis shouts “Barcelona are close to agreeing a deal for Robinho with Manchester City… Initially, Robinho is expected to move on loan during the January transfer window for a Â£6million ‘arrangement fee’, with a view to a permanent switch in the summer.” John Cross though throws a spanner in the works claiming “Robinho wants to join Barcelona in January – but only on a permanent deal. The Spanish giants are sending a delegation to Abu Dhabi this week to try to thrash out a Â£34m transfer.”
Alan Nixon, the hack with the arguably the most hot air, today farts “Manchester City boss Mark Hughes is ready to let QPR have two players on loan – as part of a massive bid to land wonder kid Raheem Sterling. Hughes and his team are so desperate to get the 14-year-old boy genius that they have told Rangers they can have a couple of their fringe men plus Â£1 million to sign him now.” Alan Nixon then also toots “Sam Allardyce is chasing Bosnian star winger Senijad Ibricic as he looks to make a major shake-up of his team. Allardyce will watch the Hajduk Split ace in action during the World Cup play-offs with Portugal and is poised to bid for him in the next transfer window.”