Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “The title is won in May and we are in December. Mathematically we will fight until the end. I believe Liverpool will drop many points. I am convinced of that. They had four draws at home. That means they dropped eight points, why shouldn’t they drop eight more in the second half of the season? I’m convinced the team is in the right frame of mind to be a part of this title race. It looks like the title could be won with a points tally similar to when I won my first title in 1998. That year we got 78 points, five fewer than when we finished third last season, but this year no team has taken off.” – Arsene Wenger.
Runner-up: “I was kicked a lot but I tried to stay on my feet. I can show you the marks on my legs. I don’t think I deserved a red card but at least one of the Liverpool players did; Carragher was always fouling, so was Lucas in the middle. I made two fouls and got two yellow cards, which is not fair. If you try to protect strikers I would not have had a red card.” – Emmanuel Adebayor.
Today’s overview: Felipe Scolari may have been so angry as to have snubbed any post-match interviews last night, but Fleet Street seems unified in its consensus that John Terry’s red card was justified.
Oliver Kay explains why the Terry red-card was correct. “The sending-off? It was blatant. Terry, crossing the halfway line and overrunning the ball on the left-hand side, caught Osman with a tackle that left the Everton midfield player with a bruised ankle. It was only a split-second late, it was one-footed and it was an honest attempt to win the ball, but it was also wild and dangerous.” Ian Herbert concurred, penning “Terry’s fate was in little doubt from the moment he made the challenge,” while further support for the man in black was given by Graham Poll arguing “Phil Dowd showed immense courage to correctly send off John Terry.”
Turning tha tables on the Blues, Matt Hughes points a finger at Scolari, arguing that the Brazilian has “a seemingly inflexible game plan, a failure to alter the direction of a match that is slipping away to his slavish support for Deco, while last night an old problem regarding Chelseaâ€™s lack of discipline appeared to resurface.”
Tim Rich is confident over who the winners were from last night’s insomnia-curing draw between Everton and Chelsea. “United have returned from Japan to find the floor awash with their enemies’ blood… Seven points adrift of Liverpool and six of Chelsea and with two games in hand, Ferguson will back men who have won back-to-back championships.”
As a new year dawns, Kevin McCarra is gearing up for the fall of Arsenal warning “That scintillating period is over. Arsenal have not ended a campaign in the top two since the summer of 2005. There may be further deterioration.” And wondering whether Aston Villa came step into the Gunners’ void, Christmas Day 1998, Aston Villa sat on top of the FA Carling Premiership. John Gregoryâ€™s vibrant team, including Paul Merson, Stan Collymore, Dion Dublin, Gareth Southgate and a teenage Gareth Barry, had won ten and lost only two of their 18 matches. Gregory purred with satisfaction. Yet Villa capitulated… [winning] five of their remaining 20 games and finished in sixth place, 24 points behind Manchester United, the champions.”
On Michael Owen’s decision to hold off his contract talks until the end of the season, Rob Stewart weighs up the pros and cons. “Should he steer clear of injuries and score freely he will have all sorts of top-notch clubs seeking his services including possibly Manchester United. However, should he break down again, he might find that even Newcastle are not interested.” According to Sam Wallace, Owen’s decision is “the clearest signal yet that he will be leaving the club in the summer… [where] only one person who will benefit from Owen delaying his decision and that is Owen himself.”
In other Premier League news, having seen the back of Paul Ince and Roy Keane, Matt Dickinson fears for Tony Adams who “will soon be trying to dodge the punches.” And tensions are also building up at Eastlands, with Ian Herbert reporting a training ground bust-up between Hughes and Elano as well as the “bizarre behaviour of the Brazilian’s compatriot Jo… [who] trained on Saturday, phoned in sick and missed the coach to the West Midlands on Sunday â€“ but arrived under his own steam.”
On the transfer front, the Daily Mail link Aston Villa with a Â£10 million swoop for Jermain Defoe, Gary Payne suggests that Kolo Toure could move to Eastlands for Â£10, John Cross suggests that Andrei Asrahavin could move the the Emirates, while Simon Jones claims that Man City are set to splash Â£40 on Roque Santa Cruz, Craig Bellamy, Wayne Bridge and Marcos Senna.
On the European front, Paolo Baldini reports on Beckham’s arrival at the San Siro commenting “by and large people are happy to have him, but the fans would much rather have been welcoming a new centre-half or at least a younger, more dynamic alternative in midfield.” A cynical Jim White contests that “no-one involved can really expect us to believe this is anything other than the most cynical of commercial transactions. Except, perhaps, Beckham.” And in Holland, Leander Schaerlaeckens salutes NEC Breda manager Mario Been, “the next great Dutch manager… [who] fosters confidence, cohesion and a lust for labour within his squad. He has created a whole vastly greater than the sum of its parts.”