Wenger hints at end of season exit, Arsenal want Lampard & Man United linked with Sterling

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “Not at all. You make your assessment at the end of the season. I know we’ve got unrest everywhere. It’s a good opportunity to stick together and show we’re a strong club.” – Arsene Wenger when asked if it had crossed his mind to resign.

Runner-up: “We know that we have to win games to change things around. My concern is to improve the team to analyse what is wrong on the pitch. If we improve the team and start winning, it will be easy to turn things around. We have to improve on the pitch and the fans will be happy. If we improve on the pitch it will be easier for everyone. [On the job being more difficult than he envisaged] It could be . . . in terms of this being a top side and it being the middle of the season and obviously the results were not the best.” – Rafa Benitez.

Is Arsene Wenger off at the end of the season?

This is starting to hurt: Wenger hints at end of season exit as crisis deepens (Mark Ryan, Daily Mail) Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has admitted that he may consider his future at the end of the season after his misfiring team slumped to another defeat and he had to endure a torrent of abuse from fans. The 2-0 home defeat by Swansea City made it the club’s worst start to a Premier League season under Wenger – and it followed an angry protest by fans against what they claimed was the ‘greed’ of the Arsenal board. Wenger, criticised in some quarters for Arsenal’s seven years without a major trophy, has never even hinted that he might be close to quitting the club he loves.

Arsene: I will not quit now (Sunday Sun) Arsene Wenger has told protesting Arsenal fans: I will not quit. The Frenchman’s misfiring Gunners were booed off after Swansea’s deserved 2-0 win at the Emirates. It came just hours after hundreds of fans in the “Black Scarf Movement” protested outside the ground. The Gunners are 10th and Wenger knows that is not good enough. At the start of the season he said he would know when the time was right to step down — but insists it is not now.

Arsenal line up Frank Lampard

Let’s be Frank: Arsenal line up shock swoop for Lampard (Steve Stammers, Sunday Mirror) Frank Lampard is a sensational transfer target for Arsenal. Gunners boss Arsene Wenger is ­weighing up the astonishing move for the 34-year-old Chelsea ­midfield star. The England international is in the final year of his contract and ­Chelsea’s new boss Rafa Benitez has revealed that Lampard will be free to leave at the end of the season. Wenger, who has specialised in the recruitment of emerging young players, has instructed his staff to find some tried and trusted players to bolster emerging young stars such as Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Benitez will be happy to keep Lampard until next June when his deal expires and he can leave on a free transfer.

Who to blame at Chelsea? Rafa or Roman?

Bridge boo boys should be careful what they wish for… or Roman might end up giving them their old Chelsea back (Des Kelly, Mail on Sunday) Which Chelsea do the fans want back? What are they actually nostalgic for? Are they singing for a return to the ‘good old days’ when you could stand in The Shed and try to make out the players somewhere in the distance beyond an old running track. The days when you could kick bits of concrete about, dash from the police truncheons and wait to hear if the Greater London Council would allow Ken Bates to turn on his electric fence? Or are they pining for the Chelsea that just preceded Abramovich, the Chelsea where nobody really knew who the owners were? The one with shiny new stands and some shops, but teetering on the brink of bankruptcy with debts of around £80million? Or maybe folk are just nostalgic for those hazy, barely-remembered days when Chelsea were not only European Champions but top of the Premier League table as well. When was it now? Oh, yes. About five weeks ago. A golden age, I’m sure we can all agree.

Chelsea fans should turn their ire towards Roman Abramovich not easy target Rafa Benítez (Henry Winter, Sunday Telegraph) They tried a weekend trip away from home to see if they could kindle some passion but it backfired badly. Benítez is now caught in the perfect storm of fans’ protests, poor results and an alarming absence of fighting spirit amongst the players. All the resilience and unity that helped Chelsea survive challenges against Barcelona and Bayern Munich to win the Champions League have disappeared. They undoubtedly miss the leadership of the injured John Terry but the problems run deeper. Their confidence is brittle, their second-half collapse at a crowing, bubble-filled Upton Park raising legitimate questions about their character as well as well as Benítez’s ability to motivate them. Afterwards, Benítez’s press conference felt like a lock-in at a morgue, a grim post-mortem on a cadaver of a display. Echoes arise of Chelsea during the early days of Claudio Ranieri with fans still grieving for Luca Vialli. More worryingly for Benítez, faint echoes could also be heard of Brian Clough’s brief stay at Leeds United.

Have Anzhi seen Fernando Torres play lately?!

From Russia with love: Anzhi plotting to tempt Torres away from Chelsea (Dean Jones, Sunday People) Fernando Torres will be handed a route to Russia if Rafa Benitez fails to save his Chelsea career, writes the Sunday People. Anzhi Makhachkala are pushing to take the Spanish striker out of the Premier League pressure cooker. Manager Guus Hiddink has a good relationship with Roman Abramovich and the pair are understood to have discussed the difficult situation Torres has encountered at Stamford Bridge.

Manchester United want Raheem Sterling

Pounds Sterling: United want Liverpool wonderkid to replace Nani (Dean Jones, Steve Bates, Sunday People) Manchester United are considering an astonishing swoop to steal Liverpool contract rebel Raheem Sterling from their greatest rivals, writes the Sunday People. People Sport understands Sir Alex Ferguson is monitoring Sterling, 18 next Saturday, who could be a long-term replacement for unsettled Nani. Direct transfer activity between the two clubs has been non-existent for decades but Sterling has so far stalled on agreeing his first major contract, alerting United, Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea.

The Last Word: Sterling’s road from kid to commodity (Michael Calvin, Independent on Sunday) The closer we get to the deadline of his birthday, next Saturday, the more frenzied the speculation will become. Briefings, on or off the record, will intensify. Sterling gives the impression of having effectively surrendered control of his destiny. When he attempted to speak for himself, to his 250,000 followers on Twitter, his message was swiftly deleted. His official account, @Sterling31, was suddenly unavailable yesterday morning. The dispute between his advisers and Liverpool is increasingly poisonous. Handled poorly, his career could quite easily implode. He is already the subject of grubby gossip about how many children he has fathered. The consensus is two. The caution of Liverpool’s manager, Brendan Rodgers, about the toxicity of celebrity is understandable.

United’s crazy win at Reading

Comeback kings Manchester United rise from the madness (Russell Kempson, Independent on Sunday) Manchester City took over at the head of the Premier League, on goal difference from Manchester United, but it was only a temporary loan from their bitter rivals. United, after an astonishing seven-goal first half against Reading at Madejski Stadium last night, clung on to victory and went back to the top. After the pyrotechnics of the opening 45 minutes – in which both defences were little short of a shambles, though it made for fascinating viewing – United showed some semblance of sanity after the break. With the City-United derby coming up next Sunday, it is that resilience which they will need to exhibit at the Etihad Stadium, not the punch-drunk antics of earlier.

Reading 3 – Manchester United match report (Gerry Cox, Sunday Telegraph) After seven goals were scored in an extraordinary first half, Manchester United came from behind twice to beat Reading and move back to the top of the table over local rivals City, whom they play on Sunday. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side have been scoring for fun this season, but also conceding more goals than they would have liked, and the incredible first half at the Madejski Stadium highlighted those aspects of their game. Having started the game behind City, who moved top of the table on goal difference after a 1-1 draw with Everton, United regained a three-point lead after an enthralling game. It sets up a fascinating Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium, but that game will do well to match the free-scoring spectacular last night.

Mancini v Mourinho

Mancini takes swipe at Mourinho as Special One touts for new club (Joe Bernstein, Mail on Sunday) Now, ahead of the final round of Champions League group matches this week, Mancini has had his revenge, sarcastically quipping to suggestions Mourinho would be City’s next manager in the summer: ‘I am happy’. The Italian then added: ‘I read that one day Mourinho is going to PSG, one day he’s in Inter, Manchester City, Manchester United, then Chelsea. I think he works well for this. ‘It’s not important though. This is our job and I don’t feel any pressure.’

David Beckham’s final victorious match for LA Galaxy

From cynicism to people’s champion, Beckham heads back to Europe after his American adventure more acclaimed than ever (Ian Ladyman, Mail on Sunday) What began amid cynicism and courted controversy and suspicion along the way, ended here in California tonight with a standing ovation. David Beckham’s American journey is over and he heads back to Europe as a winner. It was six years ago that Beckham moved to Los Angeles at the age of 31 to play football. It seemed a peculiar thing to do for a man still with so many years ahead of him. The MLS was not a great league and LA Galaxy were a club  – or a ‘franchise’ – in a bit of a mess. But as Beckham took his leave a minute before the end of his team’s 3-1 win in the MLS Cup Final here today, few would contest his own view that America has been as good to him as, eventually, he has been to America.

LA Galaxy 3 Houston Dynamo 1: match report (Sunday Telegraph) David Beckham bowed out of Major League Soccer on a winning note as LA Galaxy retained their title with a 3-1 victory over Houston Dynamo in the MLS Cup final on Saturday. Galaxy had to come from behind after Calen Carr put Houston ahead a minute before the break but the Galaxy took control in the second half. Defender Omar Gonzalez headed in the equaliser on the hour before Landon Donovan converted a penalty five minutes later. Striker Robbie Keane, who had two efforts disallowed, got his reward in injury time when Houston keeper Tally Hall tried to bring him down and the Irishman rose to slot home the penalty. The game was former England captain Beckham’s final competitive appearance for the Galaxy after six seasons with the club and he received a standing ovation as he was substituted in the final seconds. 

David Beckham: a last hurrah for the one-man brand (Luke Bainbridge, Observer) Although Beckham’s footballing destination is unknown, his wife, Victoria, has already been house hunting in London, a useful family base if he decides to play in continental Europe. “I think we’ll spend a little more time in England,” Beckham said last week, “because it’s good for our kids to see their grandparents.” He’s unlikely to join one of the capital’s clubs, however, even though sources close to him say that three English teams have expressed an interest in him. Others suggest there are clubs on the continent, Australia, China and Brazil who would still love to welcome Beckham. “To have Carlo Ancelotti at Paris St-Germain, Harry Redknapp [manager at QPR] and Sam Allardyce [manager of West Ham] coming out saying they would like me to play for them means a lot to me,” says Beckham.

Harry Redknapp on the QPR job

Am I risking my health? We’ll soon know if I drop dead in 6 months (Harry Redknapp, Sunday Sun)  Sunday November 25: I had got in from Old Trafford the night before at about 10 o’clock. I didn’t have to be up as early as I was when working at Tottenham so I was out of bed at 7am, that’s a lie-in for me. When I was at Spurs it was 5am. Kevin Bond was waiting in the exact same spot at the M27 motorway services with two cups of tea in polystyrene cups and the Sunday papers. We chat all the way to the training ground about what we are going to do that day so we are nicely prepared and buzzing with expectancy when we do get there. Even at 65 and with years of experience in football, I still get that first day at school feeling when it’s a new club.

Sneijder heading to the Prem?

San zero: Premier League clubs on alert as Sneijder threatens to leave Inter for FREE (Simon Mullock, Sunday Mirror) Wesley Sneijder is ready to walk out of Inter Milan for free – sparking a Premier League scramble to sign the Dutch master next month. Sneijder, a £35million target for Manchester United 18 months ago, is taking legal advice to discover whether he can force his departure from the San Siro after being ordered to take a pay-cut by the Italian giants. Inter want to slash his £180,000-a-week wages by half – and have told him he will continue to be frozen out by coach Andrea Stramaccioni until he signs the new deal. Sneijder, 28, will ask FIFA to intervene but has already been assured he is within his rights to walk out on Inter for breach of contract and restraint of trade. 

David Conn on the Bundesliga

German model bangs the drum for club, country and the people’s game (David Conn, Observer) Now admiration for the German way, posing a challenge to Premier League assumptions, is stretching beyond the Mannschaft’s performance, to the nation’s clubs and the way it organises football. Even before this week’s final round of Champions League group matches, the three Bundesliga clubs have qualified for the knockout stage. Bayern Munich, Germany’s most prestigious and richest club, earning £290m in 2010-11 according to Deloitte, are always expected to qualify. But European football has been struck this season by Schalke, who defeated Arsenal 2-0 at the Emirates Stadium last month, and, in particular, by Borussia Dortmund, who top their devilishly difficult group after beating José Mourinho’s Real Madrid. Dortmund’s 1-1 draw with Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium is consistently referred to within German football for exposing the cultural gap between City – bankrolled by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan of Abu Dhabi – and Dortmund, rebuilt into a European power with several homegrown players at the core, and still supporter-controlled, in the tradition of German clubs.

Vile Liam Ridgewell

The vilest footballer in Britain (Ryan Perry, Sunday Sun) It’s a photo that will enrage hard-working football fans across Britain.
West Brom defender Liam Ridgewell, 28, squats over a toilet and wipes his backside with a wad of £20 notes. Scattered on the floor in front of him are dozens more £20 notes, totalling almost £1,000. The Premier League star, who earns at least £20,000 a week, is apparently using the cash instead of toilet roll. He claims the sick stunt was simply a “joke” to wind up a friend — but it will infuriate more than just his pal. Ridgewell’s weekly wage is equivalent to the average annual salary in the West Midlands — one of the most deprived areas in the country. The disgraceful snap — taken in the bathroom of Ridgewell’s £1.5million home in Barnt Green, Birmingham — was sent to The Sun by a West Brom fan who asked not to be named.