“Since he joined Chelsea in August 2006, Ashley Cole has proffered more official public apologies than he has scored goals for the club” – Sam Wallace

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to the police officers on duty last night for my language. I fully appreciate that whatever frustrations I may have had with others that it was completely inappropriate to vent those in conversations with the police. However, I do want to make clear that I swore in frustration at the paparazzi’s behaviour. I would never disrespect police officers in any way. I take very seriously my responsibilities as a professional footballer, this includes keeping my body in the best condition. Although I had consumed some alcohol earlier in the evening on a night out with friends it had not been excessive. But I accept that the language I used on this occasion was wrong. I regret my actions and how it reflects on myself and Chelsea Football Club.” – Ashley Cole.

Runner-up: “Maybe we need to be stronger with our own players but sometimes you see the players make horrendous tackles and then say to the referee, ‘What’s wrong there?’ You think, ‘My friend, touch your head because you have completely lost touch with reality’. It is unbelievable but they know what they have done. An accident can happen when two people go for the ball but it is very rare. What I see is that guys go into the tackle to hurt the player. There is not sufficient punishment. They could create a special committee to analyse if three games is enough because, in some tackles, 10 is not enough. I don’t want to create a debate but when a player is not protected it’s not right. When there is a bad tackle you have to be punished and sent off… With Manchester United I’m a bit cautious because sometimes I feel they get too much protection and sometimes they don’t get enough, Ronaldo is a specific example of that. Sometimes his arrogance is provocative, and his class as well.” – Arsene Wenger.

Today’s overview: There is a whole heap of reaction this morning to Ashley Cole’s latest misdemeanour as well as the Premier League games that took place this week.

Sam Wallace reacts to the news that Ashley Cole was arrested for being drunk and disorderly. “It is a curious fact that, since he joined Chelsea in August 2006, Ashley Cole has proffered more official public apologies than he has scored goals for the club that made him the best-paid left-back in the world.” Matt Hughes adds his thoughts on Cole’s reputation, “He has been all over the front of the newspapers for the wrong reasons over the past 12 months and he will want to put an end to that. He certainly gets a lot of stick from fans at away grounds all over the country and has done so for a long time. I am sure this will only add to that. He certainly has to be wary that he doesn’t do any more damage to his reputation.”

Ian McGarry reports that “Ashley Cole is likely to escape further punishment after his arrest for drunk and disorderly conduct.  Chelsea have traditionally not fined players for incidents on or off the field.  And they will leave any action on this matter to the discretion of manager Guus Hiddink.” Jeremy Wilson in the Telegraph however disagrees and writes that “Ashley Cole is facing the prospect of a £164,000 fine – two weeks’ wages – and being dropped from the Chelsea squad to face Coventry City in the FA Cup on Saturday after receiving a fixed penalty £80 fine for being drunk and disorderly.”

Jim White argues that “Merciless Manchester United look unbeatable… for now.” “Whatever combination of youthful zest and grizzled experience Sir Alex Ferguson decides to employ in Saturday’s FA Cup quarter-final you suspect will be sufficient to overcome Fulham. If Jose Mourinho’s Internazionale are dispatched in Wednesday’s Champions League game, then United’s silverware annexation will be close to complete.”

Oliver Kay also analyses United’s chances of winning the clean sweep. “In eight days’ time, the bookmakers could be breathing a sigh of relief or they could, in desperation, be slashing the odds still further on a United clean sweep. There will be 11 weeks of this interminable season remaining, though, which is one reason why Ferguson has left his players in no doubt that, if the ultimate goal is somehow to be attained, it will be by showing the same kind of selflessness and team spirit that has enabled them to move seven points clear at the top of the Premier League, with a game in hand on Chelsea and Liverpool, the nearest challengers.” Looking ahead to the Fulham-United FA Cup tie on Saturday, Alyson Rudd profiles Roy Hodgson.

Also on United, Louise Taylor has high praise for Ronaldo, “All lovers of football should hope that Bryan Robson is correct in his recent assessment that the best of Ronaldo is still to come this season. The former Manchester United midfielder believes Ronaldo’s ankle operation proved far more disruptive to his progress than is widely realised but remains convinced “Cristiano will really hit top form again during the last few weeks of the season”. Let’s hope he is right because one thing is for sure: when he eventually, inevitably, leaves these shores, English football will miss Cristiano Ronaldo. Very badly.”

With the race for fourth now arguably swinging towards the Gunners, Steven Howard asks “Are you sure you want to write off Wenger?” “Like Villa, Arsenal still have to visit Anfield and Old Trafford. But, with players returning, who would you back to get a result?” Whilst Tim Rich analyses how Martin O’Neill is hoping to copy Brian Clough by taking his team to a break in Dubai.

Following a crazy game at the JJB on Wednesday night, Simon Cass reports “Controversial referee Stuart Attwell will not be in charge of another Premier League game for the foreseeable future and could even have officiated in the top flight for the last time this season.” Graham Poll adds his thoughts on the West Ham-Wigan match: “It was like a throwback to the 1970s watching Match of the Day on Wednesday night, in particular the Wigan versus West Ham game. All it needed was Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris and Norman ‘Bite Yer Legs’ Hunter and the tear-up would have been complete.”

Paul Wilson questions “Is Attwell the worst referee in the history of the Premier League?” “Steve Bruce said he felt sorry for Stuart Attwell after Wigan’s defeat by West Ham on Wednesday night, the sort of remark that will haunt the young Warwickshire official far more than any puce-faced vitriol from losing managers incensed at his alleged incompetence.”

The ownership issues surrounding Liverpool continue to dominate the backpages. Ian Herbert reports that “A Kuwaiti investment consortium has said there is still a prospect of Liverpool’s owners persuading them to buy the club, despite providing the most candid indication yet that Tom Hicks and George Gillett’s £500m asking price is way above the odds.”

The lead article in The Independent today is an interview with legendary BBC commentator John Motson. “The more football I see, the better qualified I am to comment with a bit of credibility. And I go to an awful lot of football when I’m not working, by the way. I don’t sit on the sofa and think I’ll watch the game on Sky. I go to all the games I can, not always in the Premier League, and every time I go somewhere I meet someone, or discover something I didn’t know about a player, or get a phone number. That’s the way I do the job. Others may do it differently, I don’t know.”

Laura Williamson (Daily Mail) writes of Brian Clough, to explain why Cloughie was so loved. “Clough transcends football. Not in a 1990s Brand Beckham way, but in the small-town-boy-done-good manner that made him a household name.” Also on Cloughie, The Sun provide a list of his ten best quotes.

Finally, The Guardian have a number of articles that are well-worth reading. Sky Sports chief executive Jeremy Darroch explains to Owen Gibson why Sky Sports is a force for good for British sport. Marcela Mora y Araujo remembers Martin Palermo’s three penalty misses and Harry Pearson sums up the problems with the UEFA Cup.


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