Redknapp praised for QPR drab draw, Arsenal’s calender axe for Walcott & Sagna, Spurs’ AVB thinks Defoe is as good as Falcao

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “[Fernando Torres is] not exactly the same player now because he was at maximum level at Liverpool. But I think he can come back. How close to that? I don’t know. It depends on the rest of the team. I’m sure he can improve, but the team has to help him. Fernando needs some exercises that we will try to do for him. He had real pace. It’s not because he’s getting older or injuries. He has to train in a way that suits him. We will try to find this way. The movement he has to do will take some time. You have to work in the gym on strength. Maybe he needs to do that again.” – Rafa Benitez.

Runner-up: “As a footballer I think first and foremost that a homosexual colleague is afraid of the reception he could get from the fans. My impression is that the players would not have a problem accepting a homosexual. Homosexuality in football is a taboo subject. The atmosphere on the pitch and in the stands is tough. The mechanisms are primitive, and it is often expressed through a classic stereotype that a real man should be brave, strong and aggressive. And it is not the image that a football fan associates with a gay person. The problem for me is that a lot of football fans are stuck in a time of intolerance that does not deserve to be compared with modern society’s development in the last decades… Homosexuals are in need of a hero. They are in need of someone who dares to stand up for their sexuality.” – Anders Lindegaard.

Sunderland 0 – QPR 0

Harry Redknapp sees escape chance after Rangers make point (Independent) Harry Redknapp emerged from his first game in charge of new club Queen’s Park Rangers with a point and a renewed belief that he can mastermind a form of the Great Escape… His new club actually slipped a further point away from safety however the performance against Martin O’Neill’s side has given Redknapp heart that QPR, with just five points and no Premier League wins heading into December, can stay up… For Sunderland there were jeers from the crowd at the final whistle. They have won just four times in their last 27 Premier League games and their poor form has added a new sense of unrest to the Stadium of Light.

Harry Redknapp starts QPR reign with goalless draw at Sunderland (Guardian) Redknapp deserves credit. The man taking charge of his fifth Premier League club had resisted the opportunity to make wholesale changes but there were some key alternations, with José Bosingwa brought into defence and Samba Diakité and Esteban Granero added to midfield. Shaun Derry dropped to the bench and there was no place at all for Kieron Dyer and Alejandro Faurlín. The idea, Redknapp later explained, was that he wanted a stronger, more athletic midfield, with Diakité alongside Stéphane Mbia. And the ploy worked.

Harry Redknapp sees rare reasons to hope on opening night with QPR (Guardian) He turned down that [Ukrainian] national job for a west London club harbouring reputedly the most divided, discordant dressing room in the Premier League but a combination of “new-manager syndrome” and Harry’s galvanising charm seemed to have QPR playing with definite spirit if not exactly stellar sharpness.

Eye On Pundits

Gary Neville’s punditry is the best, but others need to raise their game (Michael Cox, Guardian) It requires considerable experience of watching British football coverage to understand why Gary Neville is such a celebrated pundit, for he has become universally popular for merely filling his job description. His step-by-step analysis of Stoke City’s goal at West Ham last week was masterful, yet so simple – he pointed out a hand signal, a couple of blocks and a clever run. Shouldn’t this be the general standard?

Theo’s Arsenal Calendar Cut

Theo is out of date (Sun) Theo Walcott does NOT feature in Arsenal’s official 2013 calendar — fuelling speculation he is ready to quit the club. The contract rebel has appeared on the front for the last FOUR years. But Walcott, 23, is nowhere to be seen in next year’s version after failing to commit his future to the Gunners. The England winger, whose current £65,000-a-week contract expires in June, has snubbed the North London outfit’s offer of a new £80,000-a-week deal.

Date with destiny? Walcott and Sagna aren’t pictured in Arsenal’s big 2013 calendar (Mirror) Theo Walcott and Bacary Sagna have both been left out of the club’s new 2013 calendar – but manager Arsene Wenger claims their omission is NOT a signal Arsenal are about to sell the pair.

Scrapping The Europa League?

Top seven finish could soon secure place in Champions League as UEFA consider scrapping Europa League (Dave Wood, Mail) Seven English clubs could soon qualify for the lucrative Champions League if UEFA decide to ditch the Europa League. UEFA president Michel Platini admitted talks were on-going about the future of the European competitions amid reports Europe’s top clubs were considering launching their own tournament. Asked about possible plans to extend the elite Champions League at the expense of the second-tier Europa League by the French newspaper Ouest-France, Platini said: ‘There is an ongoing debate to determine what form the European competitions will have between 2015 and 2018. We’re discussing it, we will make a decision in 2014. Nothing is decided yet.’

The Olympic Stadium

Get real with the Olympic Stadium… it’s West Ham or a white elephant (Martin Samuel, Mail) Boris Johnson, the London Mayor, is supposed to make his final announcement about tenancy a week today. If he does not award the Olympic Stadium to West Ham, what are his options? Not West Ham, basically. That is what is out there. West Ham or Not West Ham. West Ham or white elephant. There is no coherent rival plan. The Formula One future envisages a grand prix that does not currently exist and ignores a long-term contract with Silverstone. Leyton Orient’s average league crowd this season is 3,785, which should play well in a 60,000 arena. The University College of Football Business in Burnley would get some nice classrooms out of the executive boxes. There is only one serious bidder. There has been all along.

Transfer Lies

Hands off Defoe (he’s as good as Falcao), AVB warns new QPR boss Redknapp (Mail) Andre Villas-Boas has told new QPR manager Harry Redknapp he will not be able to bolster his struggling strikeforce with Tottenham striker Jermain Defoe… ‘He is one of the best strikers I have worked with,’ Villas-Boas said of Defoe, who has scored 10 times for Spurs this year. I certainly put him alongside Falcao. His hunger for goal is extreme. That makes things easier for you to work with because you don’t have to teach a lot.’

Man United target Strootman wants summer move to Premier League (Mail) Manchester United are on red alert after Dutch star Kevin Strootman set his sights on a move to the Premier League. The Red Devils have registered their interest in the £20m-rated PSV midfielder, who is also wanted by Real Madrid and AC Milan.

Arsenal can’t afford this Klass act (Sun) Arsenal have been told to forget signing Klaas-Jan Huntelaar… The Germans’ general manager Horst Heldt has goaded the Gunners by claiming they cannot afford the Hunter.

No Moyes contract talks until after the January transfer window (Mirror) David Moyes will wait to see how the January transfer window plays out before opening talks over a new Everton contract… “I would probably wait until we have got over January and see how things go. I want to see what we’re going to do, where the club are looking to move to in the future,” he explained.