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Thoughts on Tottenham’s interest in Eden Hazard

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I think a healthy amount of scepticism is needed here.

Everyone’s heard the quotes from Eden Hazard now about wanting to move to the Premier League, and in particular to Tottenham.

From the Belgian’s perspective, Spurs probably are an excellent fit – he gets to be part of an upwardly-mobile club with an array of extravagantly talented young players around him. Who wouldn’t want to be involved in that?

Maybe part of the doubt arises from having Tottenham in such an unfamiliar position – third in the table, in touch with the Championship race, and bidding for the most desirable players on the continent. It’s all a bit alien.

Two things are for certain: Hazard will cost a fortune to bring to the club, and to keep at the club. Any transfer fee for him is going to be in the £30m-£40m range, and – Champions League football or not – do the club really have those kind of resources without asset stripping?

The merits of bringing a player of such calibre to North London are two-fold; the obvious footballing plus, but also the signal of intention to the rest of the league and to the current playing staff. All of a sudden, the elite members of the squad – Gareth Bale, Luka Modric etc – stop being quite so envious when looking at rival clubs’ talent pools. In Modric’s case, if he was playing for a Champions League-qualified Tottenham, with Hazard added over the Summer, why on earth would he want to move to Chelsea?

We’ve got a couple more months before there’s any resolution to this, so plenty of time to discuss other issues – including how Harry Redknapp accommodates another winger. By the way, as a premature guess, Hazard would probably be allowed a Van der Vaart-style free-role in London…

Anyway, here’s some video…

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Things we’ve learned – Arsenal, Man United, Everton.

Manchester United are a shambles

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Forwards being fined for poor training performances, no midfield to speak of, part-time full-backs, and no clear first-choice goalkeeper.

Sir Alex Ferguson is rightly given a lot of credit for adapting and evolving his team over the years, but all of a sudden this is a side that looks increasingly rudderless. Rather than just being a knee-jerk reaction to the chaos at St James’ Park, this is the long-term product of United being able to trade off their own success and the complacency that has brought with it. You can’t win a Premier League title without a properly defined midfield – and in United’s case, that area has become worryingly makeshift.

Michael Carrick, Ryan Giggs, Park Ji-Sung, Anderson; these are players that are being deployed in the middle of the pitch, but without any clear role – nobody seems to have any responsibility in that part of United’s team. There’s no ball-winner, there’s no creativity, and there’s a chasm between that bank of four and United’s forwards. There’s no specialisation.

You can argue that the future of the midfield is for it be fluid and the positions to be interchangeable, but then if so, you really need to possess multi-occupational players with the requisite talent level. United don’t have that, and in any case, the 4-4-2 that Ferguson persists with doesn’t really allow for it.

Ferguson needs to address the personnel at Old Trafford now, or he’s going to spend the rest of the season worrying about Tottenham rather than Manchester City.

David Moyes’ special status is under-threat

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How often are we told about the ‘incredible job’ that David Moyes is doing at Everton? Yes, I know, the club has no money etc, but at some point that has to stop providing immunity from criticism.

Why do Everton always start the season badly? Why do they so frequently fail to beat poor teams at Goodison Park? Why are talented players(Rodwell/Drenthe) misused? And why do previously influential players(Cahill) have such lengthy slumps in form?

These are not questions for Bill Kenwright’s Bank Manager, they’re questions for Moyes. I understand the limitations on what he can bring into the club, but that doesn’t excuse the apparent mismanagement of what’s already there.

Arsenal can have no complaints over Johan Djourou’s sending off, or their defeat at Fulham

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From Arsene Wenger’s post-match press conference:

“When Djourou got the first yellow card, they tried every time to get him a second yellow and the referee was naive enough to give it,”

I like Arsene Wenger, and I have the utmost respect for what he’s achieved in the game, but his excuses are beginning to grate.

Firstly, Arsenal lost the game – not because of the referee – but because they played so passively in the second half at Craven Cottage that concession was inevitable. Fulham deserved their equaliser, but only because the away side had spent the second forty-five minutes inviting their hosts on to them and allowing momentum to gradually build.

The sending off. It is a second yellow-card, and in fact Djourou was lucky not to receive it earlier for a foul higher-up the pitch on Kerim Frei. As for the incident that convinced Lee Probert to actually dismiss the Swiss defender? It’s more the product of Djourou finding himself in a bad position than any over-zealous refereeing – sorry Arsene, but that’s what happens when you play a centre-defender at full-back.

“We lost the game because we were down to 10 men.”

No, you didn’t, you lost the game because you were profligate in front of goal, Theo Walcott has no final ball, your goalkeeper dropped a cross, and your left-back gave Bobby Zamora the freedom of South West London to score the winner.

Andrey Arshavin needs to take responsibility for being ‘glued to the bench’ at Arsenal

Sometimes there seems to be real disconnect between players being left on the bench, and their appreciation for why that might be.

Some quotes from Andrey Arshavin:

“Right now I don’t think about changing clubs. If I will be benched for a very long time, then such an issue might be relevant. I still want to play for 90 minutes, but now I am glued to the bench. I wouldn’t like to play for a Russian club other than Zenit.”

The issue I have with this is that players make these comments as if they have absolutely no control over their own squad status.

If a player is of use, and is training well and can be an asset to the team, a manager is going to pick him. Sorry, but there are very few instances where that is not true.

If you ask most Arsenal fans about the Russian, I’m not sure that they’d tell you that they were convinced by Arshavin’s attitude in games – he plays with a flippancy that’s difficult to tolerate. It’s especially unpalatable given how good we all know he’s capable of being.

Maybe take some responsibility for your form, rather than just bleating about being left-out?

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Samir Nasri arriving at Manchester City

Manchester City have released footage of Samir Nasri arriving at Etihad Stadium this afternoon, on what’s actually quite an interesting YouTube channel – well-worth fifteen minutes of your time that would otherwise be allocated to working.

There’s a slightly awkward moment with Patrick Viera, and Garry Cook’s office really isn’t as big as he probably wanted it to be. Ca Va Samir? Oui, Ca Va bien. Probably give this one a miss if you’re an Arsenal fan…

Giovani Dos Santos most likely done with Tottenham

Sports Illustrated published an interview this morning with Spurs misfit Giovani Dos Santos, and it doesn’t look like he’ll be back in the Premier League any time soon.

Dos Santos is currently on-loan at Racing Santander – where he’s made 15 appearances and scored 5 goals – and as the extracts from the SI piece reveal, he’s not desperate to return to London.

‘I’m very happy because I’m going through a good patch – It might be the best of my career. I feel very comfortable at Racing. I’m getting lots of playing time and I’ve arrived here motivated for the Gold Cup. I’d love to stay in Spain and with Racing, Spanish football is where I grew up and, although I liked going to Tottenham, things did not work out. But now I am very comfortable.’

The ‘being comfortable’ bit is particularly accurate, because it’s been a bit of an anomaly as to why a player with so much obvious talent has shown so little of it in England. Most Spurs fans seem to be caught between thinking that he either hasn’t been given enough of a chance by Harry Redknapp, or that he hasn’t shown enough enough willingness to adapt his game to a more English style.

It’s most likely a combination of the two, as Redknapp’s distrust for him clearly stems from the players fondness for nightclubs and distaste for training. That he has also apparently found his level at Racing is quite revealing, because as a perennial under-achiever in La Liga the focus is very much on providing fleeting moments for the fans, not the week in week out consistency required at a Barcelona or a Tottenham.

It’s definitely a shame, because most would’ve hoped and expected his highlight reel to be a little bit longer from his time in London, or for him to have one at all, but it is now a little more obvious why Barcelona let him leave Camp Nou without much of a fight. Supposedly there’s a clause in his loan contract that will allow him to make his move to Spain permanent for between £5m and £6m, so expect that to be exercised in the very near future.

Where is Cesc Fabregas going?

If you’re not already, then you’ll soon be sick of hearing the speculation about where Cesc Fabregas is headed in the Summer – or whether he’ll stay at Arsenal. WIth that in mind, we thought we’d get in an early with a look at his most likely destinations…

Barcelona

The most obvious first. It’s a bit of mystery as to why when such financial restraints exist at Barcelona, they would so relentlessly pursue a player that firstly they don’t need, and secondly would cost them north of £30m. More and more, Fabregas is becoming the footballing equivalent of the Falkland Islands – something that you don’t really miss or need, but something you’ll fight bitterly to retain out of principle.
If anyone can shed any light on who Cesc would displace out of Xavi, Iniesta, and Sergio Busquets then we’re all ears. Truthfully though, Fabregas isn’t a like for like replacement for any of those players – he’s less attacking and creative than Iniesta, he hasn’t got the defensive discipline of Busquets, and he’s inferior in possession to Xavi.
They’ll be a bid at some point, and the player himself is showing more and more that he’d be willing to swim back to Spain – so if you’re a betting type then slam a big chunk of cash of seeing Arsenal’s captain sitting on the Barca bench next year.

The quickest way to derail a career – just ask Javier Mascherano.

Manchester City

I’m not sure that this has ever been realistic, and it’s more a product of City being linked with absolutely every first-class player that could conceivably be moving clubs in the near future. Every rumour which involves City is always slightly more believable, because purely through the resources on offer, every player can conceivably be attracted – everybody has a cash-breaking point. Additionally, there’s a habit at Eastlands that sees players bought to make headlines rather than necessarily to fit into the team – Adebayor, Milner, Balotelli etc – so reports of northern interest are probably close to the mark.

City may well try, but given the other options that are available to Fabregas – including staying at Arsenal – it seems highly-unlikely.

Arsenal

If Arsenal are without Fabregas for the two remaining games in the season, then he will have missed exactly half of their league games in the last two seasons. Interesting statistic, and one that seems to support the theory that’s growing amongst Arsenal fans that life would go on without Fabregas. Answer me this – in pursuit of silverware would Arsenal be better served keeping him, or cashing in and reinvesting in a solid goalkeeper, a dominant centre-back, and a destructive and physically-imposing holding midfielder. £35-£40m will go along way in a creative transfer policy this Summer, and a long way to giving them the steel that would see them reaching the tipping point between being talented and being a genuine contender for the title.

Not for any specific reason, but he already seems to have his foot out the door, and you just can’t see him still being in London in August. Ever since he returned from the jubilant scenes in Madrid after the World Cup, he seems to have played with a sulky demeanour, that of someone who had his heart set on being elsewhere.

Anywhere else?

Chelsea – which will be another link at some point, is a no go for obvious reasons, and because his position – like at Barcelona – doesn’t really exist within their system. There’s rumoured also to be some interest coming out of Italy, but more and more so, Serie A is slow-paced league where careers go to die – the current Champions are AC Milan after all, who were made to look so very ordinary by Tottenham in the Champions League. It’s also hard to believe that the financial clout exists in Italy to beat-out the advances from Spain and England.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic possibly Man City-bound

Because of who his agent is, we always treat any story that involves Zlatan Ibrahimovic moving clubs with a healthy degree of scepticism – Mino Raiola will leak just about any story to the press that leverages more money out of whatever circumstance he’s negotiating in. But after reading Roberto Mancini’s quotes in The Sun – yes, The Sun, we know – it doesn’t seem to be particularly far-fetched.

‘If Zlatan wants to come to City, I would immediately find a place for him.’

That place presumably would be right next to Mario Balotelli – also a Raiola client by the way – in a figurative bracket of players that hugely overestimate their own abilities.

In all seriousness, Ibrahimovic’s year-long loan to AC Milan is coming to an end, and he isn’t welcome back in Barcelona – hence, a new club is needed who will be willing to pay his astronomically-extravagant wages. Any guesses as to who that might be?

If you run through a list of clubs that could actually afford him, and then cross-check it with a roll-call of who would actually want him, then a big ‘Welcome to Manchester’ banner with Ibro’s incredibly long face might be in our future. Hated in one half of Milan, thought of as a Judas in Juventus, persona non-grata and not really good enough for either Barcelona or Real, and not rated high-enough by Chelsea or needed by Man Utd.

Maybe he could house-share with Balotelli…it’s probably tastefully decorated there.

Where is Ashley Young going?

We’ve discounted the notion that he might actually stay at Aston Villa – sorry, not happening – and have had a run down the runners and riders for the race to sign England winger Ashley Young in the summer.

Manchester United

Why?

Because he represents something that they don’t have at the moment. Nani is – although vastly improved – still far too fond of cutting inside his defender and shooting whenever in possession, and Antonio Valencia just doesn’t really look like a United player. Ashley Young has the pace, the trickery, and most importantly the delivery to be a real asset at Old Trafford.

Why Not?

Because there a doubts now about Young’s game. In fact, ever since Martin O’Neill’s laughably ill-judged ‘as good as Messi’ comments, the winger’s career has been on a downward trend and the halcyon days of rich form upon which his reputation is largely built are now a bit of a memory. Manchester United need a bona fide wide threat, definitely, but if Gareth Bale or a cheaper continental version of Young was to appear on the market, that would probably be seen as a better investment by Sir Alex Ferguson.

Liverpool

Why?

Again, very much in need of a proper winger to fuel the aerial threat that they now carry going forward. Given where he is now, Anfield is a preferable destination…

Why not?

…but it would be secondary if Old Trafford is an option to him.
The potential transfer fee is a possibly also a bit of a stumbling block – how much money are NESV actually prepared to sink into the club, and how much of that potential figure should actually be sunk into different areas of the team? It’s rumoured that it will take £25m to prise Villa’s crown jewell away, and have Liverpool really got those kind of funds without Champions League football.

Tottenham

Why?

Because Harry Redknapp has admitted to ‘liking’ him on more than one occasion, and that usually proceeds a bid of some kind. If Gareth Bale is sold then this becomes a much more likely destination.

Why not?

Spurs just don’t need him. Bale, Steven Pienaar, Aaron Lennon, and potentially Luka Modric are all capable of playing wide, and adding Young would surely represent money that would have been better spent on their porous defence.

Young & Jarvis wanted by Liverpool – But only according to The Mirror

The Daily Mirror goes all big and boasty this morning with their ‘Dalglish eyes wide boys Young and Jarvis to attend Carroll service’ story – clever play on words there, wonder how long they’ve been trying to crowbar that into a headline?

Anyway, the crux of the story is that Ashley Young and Matt Jarvis are wanted at Anfield to feed Andy Carroll. Quotes that mention Matt Jarvis? None. Quotes that mention Ashley Young? None. Percentage of the story which has nothing to do with the headline and is actually just a report on Steven Gerrard’s groin injury? About 40%

It’s a bit like when you were answering questions in GCSE exams that you weren’t really sure of the answers to, and instead you just waffled inconsequentially to fill the templated space for your answer. Nobody bought it then, nobody buys it now.

Also, hands up anybody that thinks Ashley Young is choosing Anfield over Old Trafford this Summer?

Man City braced for summer transfer raid

From the hand of the The Daily Mail and The Sun’s finest scribes comes some sensationally optimistic rumours this morning.

Supposedly Manchester City’s David Silva is homesick, and longing to be playing his football slightly closer to the equator. Anyway, The Mail has Atletico Madrid prising him away from City in the summer – which, given Atletico’s financial situation seems unlikely without Sergio Aguero being sold first.

Slightly more believable, but equally poorly supported, is the reported interest in Carlos Tevez from Inter Milan and Barcelona. The Sun is reporting that £257,000 per week is still not enough to satiate Tevez’s money-lust, and his advisers want to test the market on the continent. Inter sounds unlikely – big players do not want to be playing in Serie A anymore, and the Italian Champions already possess Samuel Eto’o and Diego Milito as attacking options. Barcelona? Maybe. Tevez would probably be an improvement on Pedro, but whether the Catalan club could afford either the transfer fee or the wages in their current economic peril remains to be seen.