Footballers get booked on purpose, Robbie Keane is a “shameless, mercenary treachery of a man” & where will Arshavin play in the Arsenal team?

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “As a fan, they f*****g rip you off. You don’t know half the things that go on… if they knew that, you’d be absolutely gutted, trust me… XXXXXX certainly said it to me. ‘I ain’t, I don’t want to play against f*****g XXXXXX’… He’s come in the dresser beforehand… he came into the dressing room on my mother’s life and said I need one more yellow card. So I gave him a yellow card and, ‘No, no, no, no,’ he says, ‘On the pitch.’ It’s up to you… Yep, he got sent off against XXXXXX. That’s why he made that tackle right? Right? But the manager says, ‘You ain’t going f*****g walkies. You are staying with the team and you will turn it in, f*****g good job. I was at XXXXXX on XXXXXX and XXXXXX sat in the box. He did not look happy. Between you me and the gatepost.” – Referee Steve Bennett tells the News of the World that players get booked deliberately to skive off games.

Runner-up: “As far as London’s citizens are concerned, I didn’t like them at all. They are very dirty, scruffy. London is a very dirty city. The women there don’t care about themselves and what they look like. They are very scruffy. Often you see a woman in a street gobbling up a hamburger with grease dropping on her dress. English food is disgusting. It doesn’t taste good and the price doesn’t correspond to the quality. I didn’t like English beer, either. I can’t understand how the whole of England can drink it at lunchtime. Although I was only there a few days, I was homesick. I wanted to go back to my St Petersburg home.” – Julia Arshavin.

Today’s overview: The Sundays are bursting with football chat, and outside the quote of the day, David Beckham’s England recall and future and Arsenal’s capture of Arshavin are the main topics of debate.

According to John Richardson, Rafa Benitez has been told he must win the league or find a new job. “[George Gillett] told Anfield insiders that he had been dismayed at Benitez’s recent attack on Sir Alex Ferguson… [and Gillett] refuses to bow to Benitez’s demands for complete control over transfer policy before agreeing to a new four-year contract, also believes that the Liverpool boss likes to be constantly linked with other big jobs.”

Paul Hayward reflects on Beckham’s recall to the England set-up saying “whatever your take on Beckham’s place in the hierarchy of great midfielders, in the club game his cv dazzles.” Calling him a man with more comebacks for his country than Peter Mandelson, Simon Hart predicts that in the “absence of the injured Theo Walcott means Beckham is likely to start” against Spain. But according to Steve Tongue, “Wright-Phillips should be the man in possession after an excellent performance in the stunning 2-1 victory over Germany in November.”

The tug-of-war between AC Milan and the LA Galaxy for Beckham has already kicked-off, Richard Bright penning that the “Galaxy have turned down a ten million dollar offer from AC Milan for David Beckham.” In a slight difference of opinion, Mark Ryan wrote in the Mail on Sunday that “a £6.75million bid” was rejected. Regardless of the offer which was tabled, David Harrison reports the Galaxy’s position as being “Cough up £18million or send him back.”

Ahead of today’s North London derby, Duncan Castles pokes holes in the Tottenham squad. “Redknapp still does not have the left winger he wanted to balance his midfield. He is still not convinced by his left-backs, is worried about his options in central defence, and is still looking for an English goalkeeper and an imposing centre-forward.” While staying with Spurs, Piers Morgan leads an all-out assault on Robbie Keane. “Short of re-signing Sol Campbell, and giving him back the prized cockerel armband, it’s hard to think of a more bizarre way to reward the shameless, mercenary treachery of a man who so loved to encourage his former moniker of ‘Mr Tottenham.'”

Looking at the Red Devils, Paul Wilson assesses the likelihood of Sir Alex winning all trophies on offer this season concluding “while a five-trophy clean sweep may still be a tall order, from this position it is not necessarily the mission impossible Ferguson is suggesting.” Schmeichel, arguing “Schmeichel was a commando, defending his box with muscle and a battle-cry. Van der Sar is more a caretaker, quietly tidying attacks away as if balls played into his area were litter.”

After a disappointing home draw against Hull, Ian Ridley explains how the noose is tightening around Big Phil’s neck. “Once invincible at home, Chelsea now look vulnerable and have dropped 16 points in 13 home league games. They have slumped to fourth in the table behind Aston Villa and have failed to score in their last two games.”

The transfer window may be shut but that has not stopped the hacks printing transfer gossip. For Duncan Castles, Barcelona are planning a summer raid for Robin van Persie, Emmanuel Adebayor and Cesc Fabregas as the Catalan giants “regard Arsenal as ‘a selling club’ and expect the London club to release at least one of their star names to raise funds for reconstruction of their own squad.” Convincing RVP to leave the Emirates may prove difficult however, with Patrick Barclay observing how “Arsene Wenger has seen the Dutchman change from a young rebel with ‘attitude’ into a respected elder with real leadership potential.”

Keeping with the Gunners and their capture of Arshavin, Amy Lawrence runs the risk over setting herself up for a big fall after writing “not since Dennis Bergkamp walked into Highbury in 1995 has a transfer been so important to the fabric of Arsenal.” Rod Liddle plays down expectations on Arshavin noting “he can easily be cowed by wars of attrition… [and] whether the Russkie is what Arsenal really need is another question entirely, one that Wenger, a likeable purist, seems unwilling to answer.”

Gabriele Marcotti wonders where Arshavin will play in the starting XI. “Employing him as a second striker would mean shifting Van Persie, who has been one of the Gunners’ most productive players this season… Arshavin on the left or even the centre of midfield looks like a non-starter, given that the incumbents, Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas, are both young and extremely gifted… This would suggest Arshavin on the right of midfield. which is fine, though it will test Wenger’s man management skills when Walcott and Rosicky return from injury.”

In other transfer speculation, Joe Bernstein stirs the pot saying “Tottenham are leading the chase for England Under-21 goalkeeper Joe Hart, who is set to quit Manchester City in the summer.”

In other news, the officials and everybody else in football should be happy to see television become their ally rather than their assassin.” A potty-mouthed Dion Fanning rants against the transfer window observing “last Monday, the day the transfer window closed, once again proved the day’s enormous capacity for bullshit.” Lastly, Joe Kinnear’s health is a major cause of concern for Newcastle this Sunday, Michael Walker reporting that “the fact Kinnear will be kept in ‘for a couple of days’ reveals how seriously the situation is being viewed.”

In the Sunday interviews John Barnes speaks to Amy Lawrence in the Observer, Gianfranco Zola has a one-to-one with Paul Smith, Harry Redknapp tells Steve Tongue of his Champions League ambitions for Spurs, while The Sunday Times sat down with Arsenal’s Gael Clichy (“I’m sure if you took Ronaldo, Rooney, Ferdinand and Carrick out of the Man United team for three or four months, their results would suffer, too”).


GAMBLING CAN BE ADDICTIVE, PLEASE PLAY RESPONSIBLY