“On the surface, Liverpool’s Alonso-Mascherano partnership was one of the strongest in the Premier League, but a closer look at the statistics from last season suggest otherwise” – David Maddock

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “It’s a very happy day for me. It’s an important step in my career to come to a club like Real Madrid. I’m very happy to be part of this club and I was very excited for this day to arrive. It’s the best opportunity for me to develop as a footballer. I am very grateful to Liverpool fans, they were very warm during my five years. It will be really difficult to match their appreciation. I really enjoyed those five years. But a few months ago I took that decision as I thought it was the right moment to find a fresh challenge, to look for a new club. That’s when Real Madrid came along. Luckily a deal has been done and I’m very happy.” – Xabi Alonso.

Runner-up: “The landscape is changing. Manchester City, Aston Villa, Everton and Tottenham are not going to stand still, to say nothing of Manchester United, Chelsea… Wenger’s never had the luxury. Is it strong enough to compete with the likes of Barcelona and Milan? Compared to Manchester United, [Arsenal] are in the Stone Age. Have they [the directors] ever said, ‘Arsene, don’t have a conscience over the cost. We’ve gone past that stage now. We’ve got to be brave and bold in the market. Just tell us, how much do you need to win the Champions League?'” – David Dein.

Today’s overview: Could it be? Is the disastrous Mike Ashley reign of Newcastle about to end?

Before we get to the positives, the Daily Mail’s Colin Young delivers the EXCLUSIVE that “Just when Newcastle fans thought they had suffered enough, the good ship St James’ hit rock bottom on Wednesday night… David O’Leary rejected the chance to become manager on a two-year contract, despite spending the past three years out of the game.”

The ray of light is shone of Tyneside by David Hytner writing “Mike Ashley, the owner of Newcastle United, is being urged to accept a bid for the club from a consortium led by Barry Moat, a leading Tyneside businessman… If the sale goes through, it could be good news for Alan Shearer… Moat was chairman of Shearer’s testimonial committee.” Paul Kelso also trumpets the potential takeover claiming “sources said that while a deal had not yet been concluded, the negotiations with Moat represented the best ‘exit strategy’ for Ashley, who is facing losses of at least £100 million.”

However Scott Rutherford is quick to counter that Mike Ashely could yet refuse to accept the deal. “Should Ashley reject the offer, he intends to retain possession of the club for at least another season and is prepared to pump in a further £40 million to cover wages and other costs.” And, adding to the negativity Terry Venables questions: “Newcastle too big to go down again? Ask Norwich. Charlton. Southampton. Leeds.”

Digging the knife into the Toon further, Ian Murtagh pulls out the statistic that “Newcastle remain the only club in the Football League without a manager or even one new addition to their squad.”

Living life dangerously, David Maddock attempts to celebrate the departure of Alonso. “His departure may not be the disaster many Liverpool supporters believe it to be… On the surface, the Alonso-Javier Mascherano partnership was one of the strongest in the Premier League, but a closer look at the statistics from last season suggest otherwise… Between them, the pair scored just THREE league goals all season. Compare that to Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher at United who managed seven in a side who got goals from all over the field.”

No sooner has Alonso left Anfield than Roma’s Alberto Aquilani has been drafted into Merseyside. Andy Hunter details how “Aquilani has agreed a five-year contract worth £85,000 a week, with the move dependent on a medical on Merseyside… financial pressures at Roma have forced the club to sell the Italian international.”

On the new arrival, Sam Wallace asks “Is Liverpool ready for Aquilani?” “Last year Liverpool’s new £20m signing admitted a grudging admiration for Italy’s former fascist dictator Benito Mussolini which might yet take some explaining to his new fans… Aquilani is set to contribute fully to English football’s WAG culture – in fact his girlfriend, Michela Quattrociocche, might even give Steven Gerrard’s wife Alex Curran a run for her money in the celebrity stakes.”

The Guardian’s Premier League club-by-club analysis continues, with Dominic Fifield talking up the hopes of Chelsea. “Chelsea may be an ageing squad, but they retain their quality and their thirst to regain the Premier League title and secure their first European Cup.”

With Fabio Capello having been in attendance at Old Trafford last night, the claims of Michael Owen is another matter, even though the striker scored four goals in as many pre-season games.” Neil Johnson concurred that “Michael Owen may have to show more patience before earning an England recall after Manchester United’s new striker failed to impress in front of Fabio Capello at Old Trafford last night.”

Oliver Kay investigates the turmoil engulfing Pompey. “Eleven weeks after Sulaiman al-Fahim emerged as the saviour of Portsmouth, the alarm bells are certainly ringing at Fratton Park, with Peter Storrie, the chief executive, admitting to concerns that the South Coast club are drifting into seriously choppy waters.”

Better news is on the horizon at West Ham as Andrew Dillion claims that the Hammers may be poised to be taken-over. “West Ham are set to go Yankee Doodle Dandy with US tycoon Clark Hunt emerging as a shock contender in a £120million buyout… Hunt is a football nut and owns two Major League Soccer teams – champions Colombus Crew, who hosted West Ham in a friendly last summer, and FC Dallas.”

Arsenal receive some bitter news this Thursday as Charlie Wyatt reports that “Rosicky, 28, strained a hamstring in training yesterday and has been told he will be out of action until mid September.”

explores the new FA rule change which allows punishments for bad tackles to be increased after-the-event. “Common sense is an all-too-rare quality in football but the FA have got it right with their decision that punishments for some violent tackles will be reviewed and possibly made heavier or reduced… If football’s rulers make punishments fairer, matchday officials might suffer less criticism and there will be greater respect for the disciplinary process as a whole.”

Onto the transfers.

How many times can Spurs be turned down in one day? Multiple, according to Tottenham Hotspur’s offer of £12 million for Moussa Sissoko has been rejected by Toulouse…  Tottenham have inquired about David Luiz but Benfica have demanded about £35 million for the Brazilian centre half [while] hopes of signing Klaas-Jan Huntelaar appear to have ended.”

All those knock-backs have failed to deter Spurs from looking further afield, as Neil Moxley reports that “Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp has made a £2m bid for Sheffield Wednesday’s highly-rated defender Mark Beevers.”

In other news, Geoff Sweet makes the bold claim that “Manchester City expect to finally land Everton centre-back Joleon Lescott today,” The Sun publish how Jozy Altidore announced his loan deal with Hull on Twitter, the Independent link Sunderland with Lucas Neil and 21-year-old Egyptian Ahmed Al-Muhammadi, while a faceless and seemingly baseless Daily Mail article links Barcelona with a host of centre-halves including Vincent Kompany, Jonny Evans, Sao Paulo’s Miranda, Shakhtar Donetsk’s Dmytro Chygrynskiy and Nemanja Vidic.

Lastly, in an offbeat article Marina Hyde defends the rights of footballers to express themselves on Twitter. “Clubs micromanaging microblogging is little more than contempt for the supporters. If a player wishes to exhibit contempt for the same supporters with some brattish tweet or other, then that is a matter for him, and he will reap his reward in chants at the fans’ earliest convenience. But it shouldn’t be the club’s job to keep fans in the dark as to the true nature of their heroes/villains/underperforming strikers.”