Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “I have a project here that I started four years ago and I wanted to reach the end of it. I could not leave this team at this stage of their development. The team we have now gets there, and by that I mean it wins the championship. At 22 or 23 I think a team is mature enough to deliver and it is a massively important year for our club. I am conscious of that. I know people have no patience any more but I agreed on a structure at the club that I believed could work, and we are at the period now when we will see whether I was right. To talk of winning the league is an audacious statement but I built this team and I want to deliver.” - Arsene Wenger.
Runner-up: “We have no problem beating Manchester United or Chelsea but it is games like Sunday’s at Tottenham where we need to show our real title intentions. Tottenham is not an easy place to go but these are games we must be winning if this is to finally be our year. I am not thinking can we win the title, I am thinking we have to win the title. We came so close last season but for many of the players it was their first time experiencing the pressure of a Premier League title race.” - Fernando Torres.
Today’s overview: Interviews Arsene Wenger gave yesterday are widely hailed in the press this morning, the transfer gossip continues (Ribery to the Prem?), there is yet more analysis on England and previews of the new season.
The Times lead with the exclusive interview with Arsene Wenger as the Frenchman reveals some of his thinking behind football. “The common denominator of successful teams is that the players are intelligent. That does not always mean educated. They can analyse a problem and find a solution. The common denominator of a top-level person is that they can objectively assess their performance. You speak to a player after the game and ask him to rate his performance and if he analyses well, you know he is the sort who will drive home thinking, ‘I did this wrong, I did that wrong’. His assessment will be correct and, next time, he will rectify it. That player has a chance. The one who has a crap game and says he was fantastic, you worry for him. This is also true in life beyond football.”
Further articles in The Times detail why Wenger rejected Real Madrid (“I want to go to the end of my job here. I built this team), how board statements put pressure on the Frenchman and the reasons behind the selective myopa.
The Daily Mail and Martin Samuel also claim an Exclusive with Wenger. “Even the most brilliant mathematic minds concede there is a stage in the explanation of life on earth where the sheer improbability of it all forces cold rationality and theology into a skirmish. And there comes a point in any discussion of football with Arsene Wenger when his polymathic concepts are exhausted and all that remains is faith. Blind faith. Chuckle-headed optimism, really. To rationalise his obsession, Wenger must believe. He must believe that the financial resources of a football club are not a predictor of its success; he must believe in youth over experience; he must believe in art over efficiency. For a man of reason, Wenger has to stay loyal to some highly paradoxical philosophies.”
Also on Wenger, Harry Pearson analyses how the Arsenal squad got so small. “Over the past few years he has been carrying out a process of miniaturisation in north London. Vieira, Henry and Adebayor have gone and in have come Eduardo, Rosicky and Arshavin. The more people tell the Arsenal manager he needs to buy someone muscular and imposing, the more determined he seems to field 11 pixies.”
The Sun have the headline of the day: “Smashed Bentley, Smashed Porsche,” to describe David Bentley’s latest problem at Spurs.
The main transfer thread of the day is how “Franck Ribery has put Chelsea and Manchester United on full alert after signalling that he is ready to force a departure from Bayern Munich. The France forward is also attracting interest from Inter Milan, Barcelona and Real Madrid.” According to The Sun, United may hold off on Ribery and pursue Atletico Madrid striker Kun Aguero. United could also be in hot water following attempts to sign young Italian talent, the national Under-16 captain Michele Fornasier.
Other transfer news from The Sun includes Fulham’s bid for Damien Duff and Nadir Belhadj’s come-and-get-me plea to Harry Redknapp. The Daily Mail suggest Sunderland will pip Everton for Philippe Senderos and Wigan are still interested in signing Mohamed Diame. Everton will instead sign Steven Taylor from Newcastle according to the Daily Star.
Looking back on England’s draw in Holland, Tony Cascarino describes Fabio Capello as a master of substitutions. “It’s an often overlooked art, the ability to make game-changing alterations - to earn your money by spotting something Joe Public would never see then making a switch that would leave you with egg on your face if it backfired. Capello is a master at it - the triple substitution that brought on Michael Carrick, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Jermain Defoe gave England instant momentum in Amsterdam and they recovered so well from a two-goal deficit that they could even have won the game.”
Oliver Kay hails Jermain Defoe. “If there was a bigger smile in the Amsterdam ArenA than Jermain Defoe’s, it was to be found on the bulldog features of Martin Jol. The two had a strained working relationship during their time together at Tottenham Hotspur, but after witnessing Defoe score two goals in a coming-of-age performance for England against Holland, Jol could not help but share his delight. ‘Did you see that first goal from Jermain? He never did that before,’ Jol, the new coach of Ajax, said. ‘Before, he would always shoot as soon as he got the ball under control. That is the first time I can remember seeing him take the ball on a bit and choose the right moment to shoot. The second goal was the sort he has always been able to score, but the first one was something new for me. Maybe he is growing up as a player.’”
Spurs manager Harry Redknapp also hails Defoe in The Sun. “Jermain Defoe ripped Holland apart the other night - and I’m tipping him to do the same to Premier League defences this season. With no Cristiano Ronaldo around, I wouldn’t be surprised if Defoe finishes as the top flight’s top scorer. He would be the first Englishman to do that since Kevin Phillips stunned us all with Sunderland back in 2000. And what a boost that would be for England in World Cup year.”
Kevin McCarra concentrates on Glen Johnson’s stuttering performance in Amsterdam. “On Wednesday, Wes Brown’s candidacy for right-back was enhanced. Indeed, players who are injured often find that their reputation rises steeply. The reality is that the Manchester United defender, when he next appears for England, will quite conceivably be chastised for not bringing the ball out of defence with the same fluency as Johnson.”
Looking ahead to the 2009/2010 Premier League campaign, Steven Howard analyses the pressures on top flight managers. “There has never been a Premier League season where the focus and pressure is so concentrated on the men in charge. The next 10 months will be the story of the Scotsman (Alex Ferguson), the Italian (Carlo Ancelotti), the Spaniard (Rafa Benitez), the Frenchman (Arsene Wenger) and the Welshman (Mark Hughes). The Five Horsemen of the Apocalypse. How many will be still be in the saddle when the race is run?”
Paul Wilson previews how Manchester City can usher in a new era to the Premier League. “If City are going to be the story of this season, now that they have settled down after the hectic flurry of activity last summer, then Hughes’s managerial future will be the most striking of many sub-plots. So much so that at a press conference this week he was congratulated on simply having survived the summer. The general supposition appears to be that a club in possession of a fortune must be in need of a managerial makeover as well as a new set of players, though Hughes is having none of it.”
Ian Herbert questions how well City will do, with Adebayor now an injury doubt for the start of the season. “It has been a summer of spending the likes of which Mark Hughes and Manchester City will never experience again, but the tension ahead of tomorrow’s Premier League curtain-raiser at Blackburn built up yesterday following injuries to Emmanuel Adebayor and Shay Given.”
Patrick Barclay feels the loss of Cristiano Ronaldo will cost Manchester United the title. “Manchester United have probably the biggest squad in the Premier League but they have an awful lot of young players in there, including the likes of Federico Macheda and Danny Wellbeck. They have some wonderfully gifted young players and the Da Silva twins look absolute certainties to become top players, but the question I can’t help asking is, are they all ready just yet?”
Brian Viner speaks with Wolves striker Sylvan Ebanks-Blake. “I’ve never played in this league but I expect to learn pretty quickly,” he says. “I will go in wide-eyed but confident. I don’t think I need to make drastic changes to my game. In and around the box is where I pride myself. I can hold the ball up, mix it in the air, and I’m predatory. I know I won’t get as many goalscoring opportunities this year, but I didn’t need a lot of chances to score goals last year. If I got two or three chances then more often than not I had a goal.”
Another promoted player, Burnley’s Wade Elliot whose goal took the club to the Premier League is featured in the Telegraph. “The most I’ve heard it valued was when we were on tour in the United States over the summer, there it was referred to as the $100 million goal. I like that. It sounds huge. The exchange rate is good for me at the minute.”