Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day:Â “Ever since I came here the famous Anfield support hasn’t really been there. I have to hope the fans will become supporters because we need support – we are not deliberately losing… It was a sad way to end 2010 and a sad way to play the first game for a few weeks in front of our own supporters. We let them down and they showed us what they thought of it – and I would probably have done the same. Maybe we are lacking quality and lacking confidence, and the negativity doesn’t help. The players are not getting on the ball for fear of making mistakes.” – Roy Hodgson.
Runner-up:Â “What’s the difference between this handball and my one versus Spurs? Referees don’t want us to complain about them but they make life difficult for themselves… Is it a rule or just what they feel?” – Cesc Fabregas on a penalty not given v Wigan.
Carlo Ancelotti on Chelsea 1 – Bolton 0:Â “I’m not sure that everything now will be OK. We have to perform again. We are not at the best in terms of condition performance and atmosphere. We can improve, we have to improve and I hope we will in 2011. The most important thing was to change the atmosphere and come back to winning.”
Rio Ferdinand on the titleÂ race:Â “We need to shut games out like that and we didn’t manage to. We should have got the three points at Birmingham but we’ll be looking to the next one instead now. The title race is open for four or five teams to go and take it. But we want to be that team. Its a bouncy bobbly pitch at Birmingham and they get right into you, as you’d expect. But that’s what makes the Premier League such a great league. It throws up all different situations and you’ve got to be able to deal with them.”
Today’s overview: As reaction pours in from last nightâ€™s Premier League action and a frenzied few days of Christmas fixtures, Roy Hodgsonâ€™s head is firmly on the chopping block after defeat to Wolves.
All the papers pick up on Hodgsonâ€™s comments about the Liverpool fans post match and there is much reference to the Kopâ€™s chants of â€œHodgson for England,â€ and their chants for Kenny Dalglish.
Chelseaâ€™s win over Bolton is also analysed (Paul Hayward was unimpressed) as is Arsenalâ€™s draw with Wigan (Mark Ogden wonders why Arsene Wenger made so many changes).
Elsewhere, Manchester City are closing in on Edin Dzeko, David Beckham is linked with a move to Spurs again and â€œWest Ham chairman David Gold is negotiating 15 signings in an amazing game of transfer bluff.”
Woy is on shaky ground at Liverpool: Jason Burt compares the pressure which seemingly left Carlo Ancelotti and swept over Roy Hodgson. “As Chelsea gained a nervy, desperately-needed victory that lifted them back into the Premier League top four, Liverpool slumped to a home defeat at the hands of relegation-threatened Wolves. Hodgson, who had been forced to listen to chants for Kenny Dalglish during the game, then risked further antagonising the Kop by issuing a thinly-veiled criticism of the backing he has received from supporters since arriving at the club last summer.”
Tim Rich sums up the mood at Anfield: “When discussing the emotions of managing a club bottom of the Premier League, Mick McCarthy replied that he disliked the sympathy that came with it, a combination he described as ‘shit and caramel’. Since coming to Merseyside, Roy Hodgson has endured plenty of the former and been offered precious little of the latter. There was little sweetness in the air around Anfield last night. The chants of “Hodgson for England” rang out from the Kop, mingling in with the more ominous and menacingly rhythmic sound of ‘Dalglish’. This was the final Premier League game of 2010, for which, let it be remembered, that Hodgson was voted manager of the year. Long before its end, he was cutting a desperately isolated figure on the touchline. Two of his three substitutions appeared to inflame Anfield: Ryan Babel was jeered on while Paul Konchesky was almost laughed off.”
Dominic King writes along similar lines: “Pressure was mounting on boss Roy Hodgson as Liverpool slumped to a 1-0 home defeat against Wolves. Ironic chants of ‘Hodgson for England’ and calls for Kop legend Kenny Dalglish to take over filled Anfield after Stephen Ward’s goal gave Wolves their first win at Anfield since January 1984. Victory lifted Mick McCarthy’s men above West Ham at the bottom of the table and left the Reds just three points above the relegation zone.”
Ian Herbert also fears for Woy. “Hodgson’s grip on his job looked more precarious than ever after defeat to bottom club Wolves, and as Liverpool enter the New Year on their lowest points total since their relegation season of 1953/54, the decision for Liverpool’s new owners now appears to be whether they are ready to write off the season by persisting with him. Liverpool are three points off the relegation places this morning, but Hodgson insisted that ‘the belief I can turn it around comes from belief in my own ability. I have seen times like this before.’ He was subjected to ironic chants of ‘Hodgson for England’ after substituting David Ngog for Ryan Babel but said that was typical of Anfield’s persistently negative response to him since his appointment, six months on Sunday.”Â
Are Chelsea back?: Paul Hayward was not convinced by the 1-0 win over Bolton. “History says great teams tend not to die in a two-month spiral. Decline is more gradual. Of all their recent fixtures, though, this was Chelsea’s T-junction game. Their credibility as defending champions was in jeopardy. They were on the Liverpool highway to the Europa League. Spurs and Manchester City would be the eager beneficiaries of imperial decline. The autopsies would say Chelsea had stopped investing and placed all their hopes in a small core of ageing players supported by homegrown prospects who were still too busy being boys to perform the work of men. These elegies are postponed â€“ perhaps cancelled. Bad teams look over the edge and fall. Good ones peek and then pull back. Instinct and desperation tend to save them.”
David Hytner also failed to be convinced by the Blues. “The nightmare is by no means over for Carlo Ancelotti but at least the cold sweats might not have gripped him tonight. Having said that his faltering Chelsea team needed to ‘wake up’, in light of their dismal recent run, he watched them sleepwalk their way through the first half of what was a must-win game. When the boos grumbled around the ground at half-time, it was easy to fear the worst for Ancelotti, despite the club’s desire to stand four-square behind him. His team had looked creatively bankrupt, their confidence seemingly in tatters. Yet a second-half revival cut through the tension. Florent Malouda’s tap-in sparked fury in the Bolton Wanderers camp, who argued that Didier Drogba had been offside in the build-up. Yet it was priceless to the champions as it provided a first league win in seven and lifted them back up to fourth place.”
Arsenal’s dropped points at Wigan: Alan Nixon writes “Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger was fuming after his side were robbed of a last-gasp penalty after a Manchester United player escaped with a handball last night. Sub Samir Nasri cried foul when Wigan’s on-loan Tom Cleverley raised his arm in the wall to block his free kick as Gunners tried for the win that would have put them level at the top.”
Mark Ogden firmly lays the blame on Arsene Wenger for defeat at the DW. “It is still grim up north for Arsenal but, having made eight changes to his starting line-up before watching his side fail to retain a lead against 10 men, ArsÃ¨ne Wenger only has himself to blame for this latest failure in the North-West. Sebastien Squillaciâ€™s own goal, that gifted Wigan Athletic a point four minutes after Charles Nâ€™Zogbiaâ€™s dismissal for butting Arsenal substitute Jack Wilshere, prevented Wengerâ€™s team from moving level with joint leaders Manchester United and Manchester City. Having defeated Chelsea 48 hours earlier at the Emirates, this was a golden opportunity for Arsenal to confirm their title-winning credentials by avenging last Aprilâ€™s 3-2 defeat at the DW Stadium.”
Manchester City close in on Edin Dzeko: Ian Herbert reports: “Manchester City were last night moving closer to concluding a Â£30m deal to make Edin Dzeko the first big name signing of the transfer window, following talks over the Wolfsburg player. Though Sir Alex Ferguson ultimately decided against moving for Dzeko, who scored at Old Trafford for the German side last season, because he believed he lacked pace, the 24-year-old’s aerial power and ability to finish with both feet provides Roberto Mancini with another type of striker, as well as an insurance policy against the continued unpredictability of Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli. Dzeko’s probable arrival â€“ City want to conclude a deal within the next week â€“ represents reward for an 18-month pursuit of the Bosnian international, who has netted 84 times in 142 games for the 2008-09 Bundesliga champions.”
Spurs to win the Premier League: Darren Lewis is pretty confident about Harry Redknapp’s side: “I’ve thought it for few weeks, but now I am going to go on the record. I think Spurs can win the League. Laugh all you want and how much (or what) I’ve been drinking over the holidays but I believe Spurs have as good a chance as anyone in the top four of finishing top by May. And here’s why: It is absolutely true of Harry Redknapp to say that this is not a vintage year. Some people use that to decry the quality of the Premier League but I think it is testament to the fact that many of the teams outside the top four are a lot tougher to beat.”
Also in the Daily Mirror, we learn that David Beckham could be heading to White Hart Lane. “Spurs are top of an amazing list of six Premier League clubs trying to sign David Beckham. The former England captain could be back in Englandâ€™s top flight in the next few weeks after Tottenham made contact with Beckhamâ€™s advisers to register an interest about a two-month loan spell. Beckham is having discussions with LA Galaxy about a temporary switch to Europe to boost his fitness levels before the MLS season resumes. Boss Harry Redknapp will have to beat interest from Blackburn, West Ham, Sunderland, Everton and Newcastle, as well as enquiries from Italy and Spain.”
Houllier linked with Aston Villa exit: Neil Moxley reports “Gerard Houllier’s position as manager at Aston Villa is now under review after the club’s power-brokers left Eastlands in a shocked state on Tuesday evening. Villa owner Randy Lerner and chief executive Paul Faulkner were left reeling by the manner in which Houllier’s team rolled over against Manchester City and are now considering their next move. Both Villa Park decision-makers are reluctant to call time on the Frenchman after appointing him just three-and-a-half months ago.”
Transfer gossip: The Sun run with a few stories including “West Ham chairman David GoldÂ is negotiating 15 signings in an amazing game of transfer bluff.” Bari are poised to swoop for Mauro Boselli, Federico Macheda wants to head to Italy on loan, Arsenal are set to sell Havard Nordtveit and Manchester City have snubbed a bid from West Ham to take WayneÂ Bridge on loan.
The Daily Mail claim Robbie Keane will take a pay cut to join Birmingham or Wolves, Roberto Mancini has backed Edin Dzeko to win the Premier League for Manchester City and Aiyegbeni Yakubu is eager to join West Ham.
The Daily Mirror say Gerard Houllier is closing in on Colorado Rapids striker Omar Cummings and Big Sam Allardyce has his eye on a shock comeback at Burnley. Jason Burt adds in the Daily Telegraph “Mark Hughes will push ahead with plans to buy a striker in the January transfer window after the surprise 2-0 victory away to Stoke City which has secured him more time to continue as Fulham manager.”