If Arsenal miss out on the Champions League next year, will Cesc Fabregas be off?

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “We are more likely to buy in January but we have also internal solutions [to the loss of Fabregas] and we are not desperate because of that. We have a big game in front of us, and before January I believe it is more important to focus on our games. Of course we can maintain a challenge without Cesc.” – Arsene Wenger.

Runner-up: “Let’s hope he [Michael Owen] stays because morally he owes Newcastle. He has been injured a lot of the time since I signed him and he has barely played one in four games that he could have had he been fit. He owes Newcastle another year. Michael should remember what the club has done for him, particularly after his injury during the World Cup in 2006. We ensured he had the best care. He has been handsomely paid and there should be some return for Newcastle.” – Freddy Shepherd.

Today’s overview: Poor Arsenal, Arsene Wenger and Cesc Fabregas. With the news filtering through that the Gunners’ Spanish captain could miss the rest of the season having partially ruptured his medial knee ligament the future for the North Londoners is up for debate.

Looking forward, Russell Kempton claims that “[Wenger] has ruled out a move for Andrei Arshavin, the Zenit St Petersburg forward, and will be fortunate to find a replacement of calibre who will be eligible to play in the Champions League.” Keeping with the negative outlook, John Ley suggests that Arsene Wenger will be happy to welcome in the new year after the fact that “2008 will go down as one of his worst in English football.” The most negative forecast comes from John Cross, who suggests that if Arsenal now go on to miss out on Champions League football next season “it would be unthinkable for Europe’s best young midfielder not to be in the Champions League.”

Also cursing themselves this morning is Jermaine Pennant, with Simon Jones reporting that “Pennant has priced himself out of an incredible move to Real Madrid as his wage demands forced a £3.5million transfer to collapse last night… Pennant, who asked for £60,000 a week — almost double what was being offered by the Spanish giants — will now have to decide whether to accept a loan offer from Wigan or Stoke.”

Chelsea’s recent downturn is analysed by Kevin McCarra, who comments that Frank Lampard’s impact has declined “and a player with 20 goals to his name for Chelsea last season has eight at the moment. This is more than a personal issue when reliable scorers are difficult to identify.” Further black marks against the Blues are flagged by [Scolari] is a master of the like-for-like substitution, Nicolas Anelka rotating with Didier Drogba while Salomon Kalou and Florent Malouda take it in turns to come on for Joe Cole, but appears extremely reluctant to deviate from his favoured formation, with Mikel, Michael Ballack and Frank Lampard operating in midfield behind a central striker.”

Keeping with Chelsea, there are two very different pictures painted of Scolari today. Ashley Gray writes that “originally Scolari seemed to have a hint of Avram Grant about him because he was so understated. But he has traditionally put great stock in whipping up a unified, fortress-like team spirit – just like Mourinho… Silencing himself and his players after the Everton draw is perhaps an attempt to build fortress Chelsea and a siege mentality.” While according to Ian McGarry, “[Scolari’s] mood has often been dark and his behaviour around the players more introverted… He has tried very hard to improve his English but there remains doubt that when it comes to really motivating players and speaking from his heart, the words just do not match his feelings.”

There are a few articles which take a more panoramic view of football in the Premier League. David Hytner explores why home advantage is becoming less of a factor in the Premier League, pointing to “impatient fans and away teams’ negative tactics” diluting the influence of playing at home. While Jeremy Wilson argues that this has so far been the season of false starts – “with Aston Villa providing a welcome challenge, frustration seems to be the dominant emotion emanating from dressing rooms at Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal.”

On the latest mooted transfers, Sam Wallace looks at Harry Redknapp’s shopping list including “Glen Johnson, Stewart Downing and free agent Stephen Appiah” and £15m-tagged Craig Bellamy. Alan Dixon links Stoke with Ivorian striker Aruna Dindane, while the Mirror also suggest that Blackburn may swoop for Tal Ben Haim.

On the turmoil at Leeds with the sacking of Gary McAllister, Rob Bagchi notes “Bates cannot be blamed for deciding to make the change and despite the chairman being dubbed Bad Santa by the fans, he will not have relished the timing.”

Jonathan Wilson writes a brilliant article on the failed renaissance of Russian football. “The Russian league had transformed itself into a major European power on the back of investment from oil and gas companies; now, it seems, as the oil price drops, the days of plenty are coming to an end.”


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