January 21 roundup — wanting to sit in on the first Cantona interview with the Daily News

Looking for Eric? Guardian toothsucker-in-chief Paul Hayward theorizes why Eric Cantona is in New York trying to resurrect the Cosmos.

Gabriele Marcotti credits Hernanes and Cristian Ledesma with reviving the slumbering Roman giants Lazio.

Jonathan Fadugba questions why Samuel Eto’o has not made FIFAPro’s World XI in recent years to less successful strikers.

And finally, in homage to the debate about the merits of Darren Bent, here are the opinions of two pretty useful ex-pros, Kevin Keegan and Alan Smith.

Friday gossip

This is almost over, thank goodness.

Harry Redknapp rules out a move for either Giuseppe Rossi of Villarreal or FC Porto’s Hulk. “Rossi? He’s a good player but he’s not available. Incredible Hulk? No. Not going to happen,” the Tottenham boss says. (Press Association)

The wheeler dealer also took a pop at Brum for suggesting Robbie Keane’s wage demands sank that proposed move. And speaking of the second city’s second team . . .

Birmingham have told winger Sebastian Larsson they will only offload him “when it is right for the club”. The Swede is out of contract in the summer and is a target for Newcastle and Blackburn. (Press Association)

So he’s off on a free in January because Factory Farm FC or Ashley’s Comedy Club didn’t want to pay a fee to sign him in January, figuring they won’t be relegated.

Bolton centre-back Gary Cahill has been cleared to join Arsenal after the Trotters signed Middlesbrough’s David Wheater as his replacement. (metro.co.uk)

Cahill’s reported price of anywhere between £20m and £25m would put him outside of Wenger’s normal shopping range. If Cahill does want to agitate for a move through his agent (which is what this story smells like), Wenger could put the screws to Bolton and force down the price. I cannot see United going for him but it’s a risky move because it could attract Manchester City, who might finally have clued into the fact that the might have a chance at the league if they can find the right partner for Vincent Kompany. Cahill is young, promising and not cup-tied in Europe so he ticks all the usual boxes for Wenger.

Meanwhile, Arsenal have put a £15m price tag on Nicklas Bendtner after a number of Premier League clubs asked about taking the 23-year-old Denmark striker on loan. However, Bendtner’s father says his son is not interested in leaving the London club. (the Sun) Zenit St Petersburg are interested in taking Russia striker Andrey Arshavin back from Arsenal. (Daily Mirror)

Sounds like some gooners are projecting their fantasies in these rumours. For argument’s sake, there’s plenty of chatter about Wenger going in with studs showing for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Aaron Ramsey is returning from a long-term injury and , which would presumably push Wiltshere up to help fill the Arshavin role. So I can see Wenger looking at offers for a player who’ll turn 30 in May and has bitched about how much he pays in taxes in the UK. If Wenger finally tired of Bendnter’s act — both the incessant boasting as well as shanked shots bothering the second-tier in the Clock End (attractively priced at £75 for red-level members — call today!) — he’d still have both Chamakh and Robin van Persie, who is due for another breakdown in mid-April. So he could probably move the Dane and then put his bid in for the Lukaku auction in the summer.

Liverpool are still in negotiations with Ajax to sign Uruguay striker Luis Suarez, although the Reds’ offer is £8m short of the Dutch side’s £21m asking price. (the Independent)

If true, that one has the look of running down right to the deadline. My guess is Ajax is pissed about the initial offer and leaked this to the press, which is very spiteful. Poor old John Henry is going to wish he was dealing with Scott Boras before the end of this transfer window.

Manchester City are set to step up their interest in Netherlands right-back Gregory van der Wiel, 22, who has a fixed price of £17m written into his contract at Ajax. (Daily Mail)

There are no such impediments at Abu Dhabi FC, where this fee probably represents about three hours of daily production with the current spot price for WTI or Brent. It’s a lot of money for a fullback and will likely mean the end for one of the club’s 11 defenders currently on the books.

Chelsea’s Gael Kakuta could be sent out on loan to Fulham to get more first-team action. (Daily Mail)

Wow, Kakuta must be really struggling for Chelsea to ship him out to their bitter west-end rivals.

Tottenham target Giuseppe Rossi has a £33m buy-out clause in his contract but the Italian striker’s Spanish club Villarreal are willing to accept £16.5m for the former Manchester United man. (the Independent)

More fun and games with ‘arry. Having two transfer windows must be like having two Christmases every year for the wheeler dealer.

Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn has ruled out a move for Tottenham striker Robbie Keane, saying he “doesn’t quite suit us now.” (talkSPORT)

Really, your club couldn’t use a 30-year-old benchwarmer on £75k/week who wants a four-year-deal?

Sunderland boss Steve Bruce has upped his bid for winger Charles N’Zogbia to £9m, although it is thought Wigan want £10m for the French 24-year-old. (The Sun)

Not only does this transfer make sense in addressing a real need for Sunderland, every single neutral will want to tune in for the Black Cats next visit to St. James Park.

Wigan boss Roberto Martinez is lining up a £2m bid for Ipswich midfielder Grant Leadbitter, 25. (Daily Express)

When you are linked with selling your best player and buying a Premier League washout as a mooted replacement, all indicators point to your club circling the drain.


Phil Minshull reports on the end of a very noisy era as Galatasaray move from Hell (OK, the Sami Yen for pedants) to more modern, antiseptic digs with more revenue streams, the blandly named Turk Telecom Stadium.

Riccardo Rossi sees an out-of-sorts Duck in Milan.

Zonal Marking’s Michael Cox, an admitted gooner, explains why Arsenal will end its trophyless drought this year thanks to the Fab Four of Nasri, Fabregas, Walcott and van Persie.

We are one red card away from being forced to drop Alex Song back as a central defender. And his play has provided the platform on which those four can thrive. It’s no surprise to me that our worst performances have coincided with his absences from the team, when we drew with Wigan and lost at Ipswich (when he came on as a sub). With the long-term injuries to Vermaelen and Squillaci (who has nearly useless in his recent appearances), Wenger is taking a huge gamble, particularly as Koscielny who has already been sent off twice this season. We have a reasonable shot at the league and both domestic cups if he spends on a proven centre half.

Thursday rumours

I’m trying to cut back.

Arsenal and Manchester United are preparing to move for Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos. The Spain international is valued at £25m. (Caught Offside)

There are rumours of a major player cull at Old Trafford in the summer with up to 10 players leaving through retirement, expired deals or transfers (van der Saar, Neville, Wes Brown, Hargreaves, Owen and Carrick are among the names mentioned along with some uncertainty about Evra and Scholes) so it wouldn’t surprise me to see United make a move. Ramos has apparently had a spectacular bust-up with Cronaldo and is pouting that the club has shockingly backed their Portugese superstar. There is no chance in hell that Wenger would pay £25m for a full back. I doubt Fergie would either.

Everton left-back Leighton Baines and Benfica defender Fabio Coentrao have been lined up by Manchester United as possible replacements for Patrice Evra – if the 29-year-old Frenchman joins Real Madrid this summer. (Daily Telegraph)

Both are possibilities and both would cost a pretty penny. David Moyes will make Fergie pay through his teeth for Baines and Jack Rodwell, another oft-mentioned name among Fergie’s mooted transfer targets.

Manchester United have been warned off a summer move for Japanese star Shinji Kagawa, with Borussia Dortmund valuing him at £20m. (talkSPORT)

A fresh rumour and this will be presumably linked to whether the 36-year-old Paul Scholes signs up for another year. Kagawa has really shone for the Bundesliga leaders.

Sunderland manager Steve Bruce will approach his former manger Sir Alex Ferguson about signing Manchester United veteran Michael Owen this month as a replacement for Darren Bent. (Caught Offside)

That would solve a problem for Fergie but I don’t know whether bringing in an oft-injured former Newcastle player is the right move for the Geordie Brucie, particularly after the Black Cats were embarrassed by their bitter rivals earlier this year. This sounds like Owen’s agent doing his job.

Bruce has also enquired about Tottenham’s Russia striker Roman Pavlyuchenko but will not pay the £13.8m asking price for the 29-year-old and will instead turn his attention to Stoke’s Ricardo Fuller, Wigan’s Hugo Rodallega and Birmingham’s Kevin Phillips. (Daily Express)

Pavlyuchenko would be the best option but that price is a little steep. Of the other mooted names, Rodallega might prove the best fit.

Sunderland will also bring forward their pursuit of Wigan’s French winger Charles N’Zogbia but are not prepared to meet the club’s £12m valuation. (The Times)

Is Dave Whelan finally cashing out? I don’t know why Wigan would sell their best player while embroiled in a relegation battle. That price sounds similar to what Wenger stumped up for Samir Nasri a couple years ago, too.

Schalke 04 midfielder Ivan Rakitic is being chased by Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Bolton Wanderers and Everton. The Croatian will be out of contract in the summer. (sport.co.uk)

He’s looked good when I’ve seen him but there’s various reports that he’s a wee bit headstrong and could be another wasted talent along the lines of David Bentley or Jermaine Pennant.

Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti is weighing up £25m-rated Udinese midfield star Alexis Sanchez but has been unable to agree a fee for the 23-year-old Chile international. (the Sun)

Abramovitch must be unnerved as this is the second large bid being mooted in the press and sits in stark contrast to his zeal for fiscal responsibility that we were told about during the summer by Michel Platini.

Meanwhile, Chelsea have earmarked Manchester City’s Joleon Lescott, 27, as an alternative if they fail to prise defender David Luiz, 23, from Benfica. (Daily Mail)

Very solid with Everton, Lescott has been an unmitigated disaster since moving to the Eastlands for £21m a couple years back. He never settled and seemed to struggle with the expectations that come with a hefty transfer fee. He badly needs pastures new.

Tottenham Hotspur are weighing up the possibility of a £16.5m move for former Manchester United striker Giuseppe Rossi, 23, who is now established as one of the best strikers in the Spanish league at Villarreal. (the Independent)

Cos they only have four senior strikers (well, five, if you count van der Vaart when he plays off Crouchie). The wheeler dealer must feel like he’s down to the bare bones.

Manchester City striker Emmanuel Adebayor has been cleared to approach his old club Monaco with a view to a cut-price £9m transfer. (Daily Mirror)

Boy, Arsene Wenger didn’t do half bad on that deal, eh? If true Monaco gets him back for slightly more than they paid for him and I’ll be they be getting a hefty subsidy on his salary or Adebayor will get a sweetener as part of his kiss-off from Manchester and accept reduced terms in order to live in a tax-free haven packed with beautiful women.

Liverpool could be on the verge of sealing a deal with Ajax for 23-year-old Luis Suarez, with Dutch forward Ryan Babel a potential makeweight in a package worth about £18m. (Daily Express) Meanwhile, Paul Konchesky could rejoin Fulham on loan as Liverpool explore ways of offloading the left-back who only arrived at Anfield from Craven Cottage four and a half months ago for £4m. (Daily Mail)

Calling time on two mistakes. Signing Babel was forgiveable (he was being chased by Wenger, too) but the Konchesky deal was an portent of Very Bad Things.

Keisuke Honda’s agent is to discuss the Japan international’s future with Premier League clubs. Liverpool are leading the hunt for the CSKA Moscow midfielder but Arsenal and Aston Villa are also interested. (sport.co.uk)

He looks like a very useful player but I can’t see Arsenal’s interest in this one even if they sell both Fabregas and Arshavin in the summer as they have targeted Hazard. Villa are a convenient stalking horse to be put out by agents and selling clubs to jack up prices.

Aston Villa are ready to let unwanted midfielder Stephen Ireland join Newcastle on loan and are preparing a third, improved £4m bid for Blackpool playmaker Charlie Adam. (Daily Mirror)

Holloway’s pre-match presser when the Tangarines play Villa should be lively.

West Bromwich Albion are trying to seal a six-month deal for Aston Villa’s Norwegian striker John Carew, 31, in time for him to make his debut this weekend. (Daily Star)

The sometimes striker and, if reports are to be believed, full-time lapdancing enthusiast has been frozen out by Gerard Houllier. Air Marshall Pulis has also registered his interest after Hoffenheim striker Demba Ba failed his medical due to a wonky knee.

Blackburn boss Steve Kean hopes to seal a cut-price deal for Birmingham winger Sebastian Larsson this week, with the Swede available because his contract expires in the summer. (the Sun)

This seems out of character for Factory Farm FC because it sounds uncommonly shrewd. As opposed to floating bids for out-of-shape, high-mileage stars from the 2006 World Cup.

West Ham are targeting Sporting Lisbon’s attacking midfielder Simon Vukcevic, with the 24-year-old Montenegro player valued at £17m, although the Hammers only want to pay about £6m. (Daily Star)

Spare a thought for poor old West Ham supporters. The porno duo have turned one of the most respected clubs in England into a joke all in search of cheap headlines.


Tactics guru and Sunderland supporter Jonathan Wilson questions whether Darren Bent will be missed at the Stadium of Light.

Wilson’s first loyalty is to his craft as this is his usual well-researched, insightful commentary.

Talking of Sunderland and the wantaway Bent, James Dielhenn suggests manager Steve Bruce should not cast stones while living in glass stadia and spare the rest of us his homilies about loyalty in football. Very well put.

David Conn examines the Ronaldo deal in the second of his three-part series on agents, the misunderstood good guys in football. OK, I kid but this is pretty interesting stuff for fans interested in the business side of the game. And is guaranteed to have a lot of Arsenal supporters playing the “what if” exercise.

Sarah Winterburn lists the Premier League’s most unlikely regulars in their club’s starting XIs.

Wednesday rumours

Fulham and Newcastle have both made approaches for Manchester City winger Shaun Wright-Phillips, the player’s agent has confirmed. (Sky Sports) Manchester City winger Shaun Wright-Phillips is in advanced talks over a switch to Fulham. (the Guardian)

It’s almost certainly down to where the player wants to go. Which invariably translates into straight cash, the currency of whores, agents and footballers). If Wayne Routledge is getting a regular game at St. James Park, you’d think the Magpies will come in with studs showing in this battle.

West Ham’s Swiss midfielder Valon Behrami says he does not know whether his move to Fiorentina will materialise after the deal stalled. (Corriere Fiorentina) West Ham are proving their “commitment” to manager Avram Grant by selling midfielder Valon Behrami to Fiorentina to fund an £8m move for Tottenham striker Robbie Keane. (Daily Mirror) Alternatively the Hammers may recruit Paris St Germain striker Peguy Luyindula. (the Independent)

He sort of sounds a little desperate, doesn’t he? I’m sure the deal will go through but, as with any transaction involving the east-end pornographers, it needs to go through a certain amount of haggling and breast-beating. Oh and leaks to the press. It’s sort of like going to see an Andrew Lloyd Webber production — you need to sit through all three acts. As far as Grant goes, the gruesome twosome have already shown their colours, haven’t they?

A move to West Ham is of no interest to Arsenal’s Nicklas Bendtner, according to the striker’s father. (talkSPORT)

Which is disappointing news for Arsenal supporters, but I wonder where that rumour started and why Dad felt the need to address it publicly.

Liverpool owner John Henry met with Ajax striker Luis Suarez’s agent in London on Tuesday night as the Anfield side close in on a deal for the Uruguay international. (Daily Mail)

This almost certainly was leaked by the Suarez camp, likely to signal to other clubs that Liverpool’s interest is serous and inviting more bids so they can up their wage demands. Speaking of which . . .

Liverpool have been told that only an “obscene” offer will be enough to land Uruguay striker Luis Suarez from Ajax. The Reds are now likely to make Anderlecht’s Romelu Lukaku their primary target. (talkSPORT)

Well there are different community standards for obscene as anybody who has ever crossed the bridge from Ottawa to Hull after midnight will tell you. Lukaku would make more sense if they are looking for somebody to partner with Torres. Suarez would make sense if they are looking to sell Torres.

After being quoted a figure of £20m for Suarez, Liverpool may turn their attention to Sevilla forward Alvaro Negredo. (The Times)

That figure doesn’t sound obscene but it is awfully high for somebody who has only played in Dutch football. And the track record is somewhat patchy for free-scoring strikers in Holland in recent times. You’ve had successes (van Nistelrooy, Makaay) and failures (Kezman, Huntelaar, Alfonso Alves)

Blues manager Carlo Ancelotti has already been put off any approach for Bolton’s Gary Cahill after the Trotters placed a £25m valuation on the defender. (The Times)

The Daily Telegraph is reporting they’ve had a £21m bid accepted for Benfica’s David Luiz, who has struggled this season after really emerging last year. My question is how long it will take Luiz to acclimatize to English football. Even Nemanja Vidic took some time to settle in. It might have been worth looking for a domestic target, particularly in January.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has made Blackburn defender Christopher Samba his top target as he tries to patch up his injury-hit back four. (Daily Mirror)

I’ve blogged at length about this and can only hope it’s true. To me, he’s exactly what Arsenal need in order to push on for the title. I wouldn’t expect him to play against Barcelona but he’d be a fixture against the Premier League’s hoofball sides who like to get stuck into Arsene’s tika-taka midgets.

The Reds hoped to use the proceeds from the proposed sale of Ryan Babel to Hoffenheim to fund a move for Suarez but midfielder Babel is ready to turn down the transfer in the hope of securing a loan move to former club Ajax. (Daily Mirror)

Babel continues to let himself down. A huge talent that simply has not figured out how to put it together on the pitch even if his rapping and tweets are tight (or whatever the hell the kids say these days in 140 characters or less). He ought to serve as a cautionary tale to players who don’t realize talent without discipline is wasted.

Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho is preparing a substantial bid for Arsenal striker Robin Van Persie as he looks to address his lack of effective attacking options. (Caught Offside) Mourinho has set his sights on luring Manchester City forward Carlos Tevez to the Bernabeu. Madrid officials believe an offer of between £37.6m and £41.8m may be enough to prise City’s talisman away from Eastlands. (Daily Telegraph)

Another busy day for the omelet maker and his Boswells. That Mourinho has the gall to bitch about the depth and quality of his options up front amazes me. That the press doesn’t call him on this doesn’t surprise me. I have hopelessly low expectations and they always unfailingly are met.

Fulham are ready to swoop for Southampton’s highly rated teenage midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, with his proposed £10m switch to Arsenal on the verge of breaking down. (Goal.com)

lol as generation text-message (apparently, I’m supposed to call them Millenials) might peck out. Not. Going. To. Happen.

Sunderland are set to spend some of the money brought in by the sale of striker Darren Bent on Paris St Germain midfielder Stephane Sessegnon. (InsideFutbol)

Sessegnon has been unsettled since losing his place to Ludovic Giuly while Steed Malbranque has flattered to deceive this season so, yeah, I can see it.

Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic is a £5m target for Chelsea as manager Carlo Ancelotti hopes to bring in a deputy to first-choice Petr Cech. (Daily Express)

That’s exactly what Chelsea need right now — a back-up keeper. Dearie me. Begovic’s agent is obviously at it again.

Blackpool boss Ian Holloway has earmarked Peterborough playmaker George Boyd as Charlie Adam’s replacement – if the Scottish midfielder leaves Bloomfield Road this month. (the Sun)

Never heard of him but Holloway seems to do quite well with a squad of unfamiliar names who’ve made their mark in the lower divisions, hasn’t he?

Tottenham are locked in a battle with Benfica to clinch the signing of Marseille defender Taye Taiwo. The Nigerian international, valued at £5m, has also been targeted by Everton. (talkSPORT)

Do Everton have that kind of money and why would they spend it on Taiwo when they have more pressing needs and Leighton Baines — a similar player — in very good form? As far as Spurs go, well, it’s business as usual. Somebody at the FA might want to address the wheeler-dealer’s behaviour. The constant leaks seem to be a reflex action, like a puppy dryhumping the table legs and they need to housebreak him before he’s installed as the England manager.

Newcastle and Tottenham are believed to be interested in Italian World Cup winner Mauro Camoranesi, with Stuttgart having confirmed the 34-year-old midfielder is surplus to requirements. (Metro)

We all know Spurs will continue to be linked to every player under the sun. I think they made an unofficial approach to a kid on my u-12 team. Newcastle would presumably look at Camoranesi as an option in case Wright-Phillips proves too pricey.

Middlesbrough defender David Wheater is expected to make the switch to Premier League Bolton in a £4m move. (Daily Telegraph)

If Wheater moves to the Reebok, it should almost certainly signal its time for Arsenal, Chelsea and others to start bidding in the Gary Cahill auction.

Everton striker James Vaughan is joining Celtic on loan for the rest of the season in a shock move that includes a £250,000 ‘rental’ payment. (Daily Mirror)

Celtic seem to have come into some money. Vaughan showed a great deal of promise before constant, niggling injuries seemed to hamper his development.

Rangers striker Kenny Miller is set to seal a £300,000 switch to Turkish side Bursaspor, which will earn him a tax-free £50,000 a week. (Daily Record)

They must not watch Scottish football in Turkey. That’s an incredible amount of money for a 31-year-old striker who barely qualifies for the journeyman label.


Darren Bent’s proposed move to the Midlands has captured the attention of many pundits and I’ve included takes from Louise Taylor and Sandy Macaskill.

Paul Marshall traces the decline of AS Monaco from Champions League finalists to relegation bait in Ligue Un.

And finally, the ever-excellent David Conn profiles super-agent Jorge Mendes, who counts the omelet maker and (not the real) Ronaldo as clients, as part of his series on agents.

Tuesday rumours

Getting Bent out of shape at today’s prices.

Liverpool winger Ryan Babel is set to sign for Bundesliga club Hoffenheim (Bild)

Hoffenheim have reportedly offered seven million euros but there could be complications as wantaway forward Demba Ba has apparently failed his medical with the Stoke City Bombers. Air Marshall Pulis is said to favour a loan deal but the Germans are not terribly interested.

Liverpool’s midfielder Joe Cole will remain at Anfield despite links with a loan move to former club West Ham. (goal.com)

As it’s goal.com, it’s safe to dismiss this one. Which leads me to wonder if this should be seen as depressing news for Koppites given his form.

Ryan Babel is keen on a loan move back to Ajax – and believes the deal could form part of Luis Suarez’s potential transfer to Liverpool. “The transfer of Suarez to Liverpool opens the door for me to go to Ajax,” he said. (De Telegraaf)

Shouldn’t he let his boots do his talking for him? That’s an area where he could improve his communication.

Leicester City have made an audacious bid to land former Arsenal and France striker Thierry Henry. Manager Sven-Goran Eriksson has made an enquiry about signing the 33-year-old striker on loan during the American Major League Soccer close season. (Leicester Mercury)

I can’t wait for the take from Special One TV on this one.

Sunderland have made Tottenham’s Roman Pavlyuchenko their top target to replace Aston Villa-bound Darren Bent. (goal.com)

This sounds pretty shrewd but they’d have to pay top dollar to prise away the underutilized Russian from the wheeler-dealer, who can read the papers and does understand the Black Cats have come into some money. And let’s not even talk about “incentives” that could complicate matters.

Bent’s move to Villa could see forward John Carew leave the Midlands club to join West Ham. (Metro) Former Tottenham striker Bent will cost Villa £18m – which will smash the club’s transfer record – and his move will be completed on Tuesday. (Birmingham Mail) Or, Villa will pay £24m for the 26-year-old forward. (Daily Mail)

Carew is done at Villa Park.

But Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti is reportedly considering making an attempt to hijack Villa’s move for Bent. (caughtoffside.com)

Just because Gerard Houllier has lost his mind doesn’t mean that Ancelotti will give over to insane prices. He already has plenty of options at striker with more pedigree than Bent.

Chelsea are also pushing ahead with a £22m bid for David Luiz after Benfica secured a replacement for the defender. (Daily Mirror)

They need a defender and apparently he’s the hot commodity but that’s a lot of money for a centre back who’ll need to adapt to English football quickly.

Real Madrid have turned their attention to Manchester City forward Carlos Tevez after Hamburg blocked their attempt to re-sign striker Ruud van Nistelrooy. (talksport.co.uk)

The omelet maker’s search for a striker gets more surreal as he continues to freeze out Karim Benzema. Who strikes me as an incredibly useful player in need of some good man management.

West Ham and West Brom are locked in a battle to sign Paris St Germain striker Peguy Luyindula. (talksport.co.uk)

A signing for a club prepared to go down. He’s barely a squad player with PSG so he must have one hell of a good agent.

West Ham midfielder Valon Behrami is expected to complete a £4.5m move to Fiorentina on Tuesday. (talksport.co.uk)

The first of many to depart the sinking ship ably steered into an iceberg by a couple of pornographers with the help of a conniving harpy who apparently is undermining the manager. Hopefully all will get what they deserve, which is the full Statler & Waldorf treatment.

Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola has set his sights on capturing Manchester United right-back Rafael. (caughtoffside.com)
Dani Alves is only 27 so they must be thinking about switching the rabid hobbit to left back to replace the 31-year-old Eric Abidal. In which case, wouldn’t it make sense to look for a cheaper replacement who is left-footed?

United, meanwhile, are pushing ahead with attempts to sign Barcelona’s Spanish international midfielder Sergio Busquets. (caughtoffside.com)

And those attempts will be the source of plenty of laughter at the Camp Nou. If the Glazers didn’t have the cash to buy Yaya Toure, what are the odds they can afford the kid who made him surplus to requirements?

Bordeaux defender Michael Ciani is being touted for a move to Arsenal later this month. (Metro)

He’s an occassional French international but so was Squillaci. And didn’t Pascal Cygan win one France cap back in the day? Wenger should apply Occam’s Razor and just sign Chris Samba. Or would signing a hard man compromise the club’s integrity? Just curious because we did win silverware when we had Paddy Vieira and there was no wringing of hands and angst-ridden debates about his soiling of the commitment to purity. And there was no real worries about going up north and playing tough sides. They tended to calm down after the first Vieira reducer. And aerial challenges in the box were never an adventure with big Sol and Keown in the centre, were they? A property naughty defender such as Samba — who, like big Sol, can actually play a bit — tends to suck the venom out of the tactics of Air Marshall Pulis because those big burly forwards tend to have a bit of a rethink about the consequences of putting themselves about in a way that the likes of Ciani, Squillaci, Senderos and a host of frigging others don’t inspire. So let’s just call up Factory Farm FC and work out a price, Arsene. Pundits can go back to moaning about the number of Arsenal’s red cards under you and your hypocrisy. Yes, its tiresome but it sure as hell beats them pointing out the lack of silverware for the past five years. And counting.

Italian club Sampdoria have revealed that they were keen on bringing in Fulham forward Diomansy Kamara (tribalfootball.com)

Good news for Fulham supporters. The striker showed plenty of promise and delivered so very little of it during his time at Craven Cottage.

Newcastle manager Alan Pardew admits he faces a battle to hang on to in-form midfielder Joey Barton. (tribalfootball.com)

I wonder how Geordies are feeling about Pardew these days. Barton doesn’t look nearly as effective as he did under Chris Hughton, either.

Rafael van der Vaart has urged his Dutch team-mate Mark van Bommel to join him at Spurs. Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp is known to be keen on the 33-year-old Bayern Munich captain, but may have to battle AC Milan and Manchester City for his signature. (Daily Mirror)

Hmmm, ‘arry wants to add van Bommel to a pantry already stocked with Palacios, Sandro, Jenas, Huddlestone and O’Hara as options in central midfield. And that’s not forgetting that Modric and van der Vaart often play through the middle with Bale and Lennon used as the two wide players. He must choose a single striker from Crouch, Defoe, Pavlyuchenko and Keane. All of this suggests we won’t hear the old “down to the bare bones” from the wheeler dealer this season. Thank God.

Bolton are close to winning the battle to sign Middlesbrough defender David Wheater. (Daily Mirror)

Wheater is a defender who should interest a fair few clubs and this is a possible “tell” that the Trotters are listening to offers for Gary Cahill. Whom Martin O’Neill sold to Bolton because he didn’t think he’d cut it at Villa Park. That last bit is for the braintrust at Upton Park.

Fulham are hopeful of signing winger Shaun Wright-Phillips in a cut-price deal from Manchester City. (Daily Mirror)

This strikes me as a win-win-win for all three parties, assuming City pay SWP a sweetener to accept a deal for reduced wages for Fulham. He remains a very useful player but City need to clear their books for next year, when UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules kick in and they’ll need to limit their losses.

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish is reported to have identified Aston Villa duo Ashley Young and Stewart Downing as potential transfer targets. (Metro)

I can see Villa letting go of one or the other but not both. Downing is probably the more likely target for Liverpool given he would command a lower transfer fee than Young and would slot in on the wide left. Liverpool have plenty of options on the right side of midfield.

Or, Luis Suarez could become Dalglish’s first signing since his return to the club with Liverpool set to step up their bid for the Ajax striker. (Daily Mail)

Suarez seems too similar to play with Fernando Torres so buying him only makes sense if they are planning to cash in the Spainard to finance their rebuilding.

But Tottenham are also interested in the Uruguay forward and are tracking Sevilla striker Luis Fabiano as well. (The Guardian)

Luis Fabiano would be interesting except he’s 30 and would command a wage that would unsettle Daniel Levy’s salary structure. Levy is quite shrewd and has looked to signings with some resale value. Given that Fabiano would certainly seek at least three years, this deal is probably not going to happen even though it would probably improve Spurs’ chances at securing Champions League football.

Liverpool are lining up a move for £5m-rated West Brom winger Jerome Thomas. (the Sun)

This would excite Koppites about as much as Paul Konchesky’s signing and would only make sense if Woy were still calling the shots at Anfield. The Arsenal academy product is a decent player enjoying a fine season with West Brom but he’s not developing into the next John Barnes.

The race to sign Jay Bothroyd is intensifying after Cardiff turned down a bid from an unnamed Premier League club. Newcastle, Birmingham and Fulham have been linked with England striker. (Daily Express)

Sunderland has also been linked with Bothroyd, who appears to be a late bloomer a la Bobby Zamora and, ironically, is a similar player to the Fulham frontman.

This weekend gave us plenty to chew over so here’s some questions after a weekend spent watching football.

1. Would Spurs seriously challenge for the title with a better striker than Peter Crouch?

He looked worse than useless against Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand, bullied in almost every aerial duel with the big Serbian defender. He’s too limited to lead the line, which may explain the Andy Carroll and Emmanuel Adebayor links. Also since some experts tout ‘arry’s tactical nous and man management, would anybody like to take a crack at explaining why he persisted with this strategy. Or why he left Roman Pavlyuchenko as an unused sub?

2. Did Rafael deserve to be sent off?

The first yellow looked to be an orangish borderline call after a very high challenge. The second appeared a cheap, niggling foul that probably didn’t require a card. What is clear is United will miss him and I wonder if his protestations after seeing red — where he resembled a rabid hobbit — will earn supplementary discipline. He’s developing into a very good player and is much better than Gary Neville.

3. Why doesn’t Vincent Kompany get more recognition as one of the elite defenders in the Premier League?

He is, by some distance, the best player in City’s back five — and yes, I’m including keeper Joe Hart. An even better question might be why do some pundits wonder why Mark Hughes was fired after he paid £21m-plus for Joleon Lescott?

4. Has Gerard Houllier lost his mind?

£18m — rising to £24m based on appearances — for Darren Bent?!?!? I understand Villa need to find a consistent striker but that’s kind of money smells of desperation. It’s the kind of signing that has an inflationary effect on prices as clubs and agents ratchet up their prices by using Bent — who has one goal since the start of November — as a frame of reference.

5. How patient are the Anfield faithful willing to be with Kenny Dalglish?

Being a club legend buys you some time. So, too, does not being Roy Hodgson. But what’s painfully clear is the cupboard — while not bare — isn’t brimming with the kind of ingredients required to currently challenge for Champions League places. After a lively first half performance staked the home side to a deserved lead at Anfield, Everton bloodied their noses with a couple of simple goals that painfully exposed the shortcomings in a slow-footed and slow-witted central defence pairing. Shorn of Jamie Carragher and Daniel Agger, the Reds need to do some shopping there as well as finding a left back. The good news is Martin Kelly appears to be ready to push Glen Johnson forward from right back to winger, where his strengths as a player actually lie.

5. Is La Liga already decided?

It’s only the middle of January, but Barcelona don’t look like they are interested in dropping any points. Playing silky flowing football, the defending Spanish champions are machine-like in their efficiency as demonstrated by their mauling of Malaga. The omelet maker, meanwhile, is continued his strop about failing to land Emmanuel Adebayor by benching Karim Benzema — his one recognized striker — in favour of Kaka and saw his expensively assembled side draw 1-1 at lowly Almeria. While getting thumped by Barca probably wasn’t pleasant, I’m quite certain Manuel Pellegrini chuckled when he saw that result. Tim Stannard’s take is here.

6. Is age starting to catch up with Milan?

The Serie A leaders looked a touch jaded in a 1-1 draw with Lecce and their team sheet looked like a casting call for Thirtysomethings with Nesta (34), Ambrosini (33), Seedorf (34) and Gattuso (33) all starting. The aging legs of the rossoneri’s geriatricos seem to have faltered in January and coincided with the revitalized form from the current Scudetto holders under Leonardo, something spotted by Paolo Bandini.

Monday links

Zonal Marking’s Michael Cox breaks down the weekend action in the Premier League with his chalk talks. Anybody who watched Arsenal’s comfortable win with West Ham won’t be shocked to discover Wayne Bridge had a poor game.

Raphael Honigstein sees Borussia Dortmund resume their imperious stroll towards the Bundesliga title.

Alan Hansen hails Wayne Rooney’s selflessness as an explanation of why United are leading the Premier League.

Loved the stereotypical “pulled from the arse” stat that 95 per cent of “foreign” players wouldn’t put in that kind of shift. I also wonder how charitable Mr. Hansen would have been if Wayne would have been sent off for his protests of Rafael’s red card, where he referred to Mike Dean as something that rhymes with clucking spanker. I guess we’ll only point out a lack of respect towards refs when it’s those dirty, whingey foreign types that crowd the refs to protest decisions, eh?


“On a mental level, playing 10 games in Italy is equivalent to an entire season in England.” — Alberto Aquilani

Monday rumours

Tottenham are in pole position to land Steven Pienaar – even though Everton agreed a £3m fee to sell him to Chelsea. The South African has so far failed to agree personal terms with Chelsea and wants to push through a move to Spurs. (goal.com) Everton’s Steven Pienaar is to meet Chelsea again after Tottenham failed to improve their offer of £2m, plus £1m based on performances. Talks broke down with Chelsea on Friday after they had a £3m bid accepted by Everton last week. (Daily Mail)

What’s interesting is Pienaar might see more PT in Chelsea’s squad than Spurs, who have plenty of midfield options.

Newcastle United have turned down a transfer bid from Tottenham, in the region of £15m, for star striker Andy Carroll. (metro.co.uk)

This one is making the rounds with varying price tags of up to £30m. That price might tempt Mike Ashley but it’s difficult to see Daniel Levy paying that price.

Anderlecht striker Romelu Lukaku has revealed that he rejected moves to Arsenal and Chelsea in his early teens – but he would love to play for any of the big clubs in the Premier League and is ready to move this summer. (goal.com)

Lukaku will move this summer but I’m sure Real Madrid might have something to say about where he ends up as the omelet maker is a confirmed admirer.

Roma coach Claudio Ranieri has played down links with him taking the job of next permanent Liverpool manager. (insidefutbol.com)

I’m not sure how Koppites would react to this idea, but it sounds like a trial balloon being floated.

Newcastle and Bolton have joined Fulham in the chase for 29-year-old Manchester City winger Shaun Wright-Phillips. (Daily Mail)

Bolton are skint but St. James’ Park is a plausible destination along with Craven Cottage.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger wants to bolster his defence by signing Roma centre-back Philippe Mexes. (caughtoffside.com)

Mexes is roughly the tenth defender linked with the Gunners. What’s clear is Wenger will buy somebody as Thomas Vermaelen, whose initial diagnosis was for an October return, is now out another six weeks after surgery. Which is completely consistent with the results from the physio/medical team at Holloway Road Properties FC in recent years. They must have outstanding bedside manner. All of a sudden, it’s easy to understand why Robin van Persie went to the Balkans to have horse placenta rubbed on his ankle.

Southampton teenager Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has edged closer to a £10m move to Arsenal after Saints manager Nigel Adkins said they would prefer him to go to a club that would nurture him properly. (Daily Mirror)

This is the far more likely deal — they are just haggling over the fee, which — along with misdiagnosed injuries and attractive, flowing, silverware-free football — is one of the hallmarks of Hollway Road Properties FC.

South Africa’s Siphiwe Tshabalala – the midfielder who hit the World Cup’s opening goal – is having a week-long trial with Nottingham Forest as he bids to seal a £1.5m move from the Kaizer Chiefs. (the Sun)

Tshabalala scored a scorcher against Mexico but I’ve got little else to go on other than his World Cup performances.

Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven and Ajax are targeting Stoke forward Eidur Gudjohnsen. (Daily Mirror)

Gudjohnsen is clearly out of favour with Air Marshall Pulis, who prefers his strikers quick and burly rather than those fancy ball-playing foreign types, which also explains why Tuncay Sanli fails to get a game.

Blackburn Rovers are ready to let striker El-Hadji Diouf leave, with manager Steve Kean conceding the club is finding it difficult to handle the controversial Senegalese striker. (Daily Mail)

Wow, really? They just figured that out, did they? How very perceptive! I just realized Rovers might be in trouble.

Birmingham have been rocked by Robbie Keane’s wage demands after the striker asked for a pay rise to move to Blues from Tottenham. (Daily Mirror)

Here’s another startling epiphany. Do the words “due” and “diligence” ever occur to the people who run football clubs? Jesus wept. And Alex McLeish normally seems fairly astute.

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  1. AG you really do a fantastic job of summarizing the transfer wheelings and dealings

  2. And you do it with such a well groomed goatee to boot!

  3. That’s it — I need to find a more recent profile pic. I lost the goatee about a year ago.

  4. AG:
    - Which is completely consistent with the results from the physio/medical team at Holloway Road Properties FC in recent years. They must have outstanding bedside manner. All of a sudden, it’s easy to understand why Robin van Persie went to the Balkans to have horse placenta rubbed on his ankle.

    - they are just haggling over the fee, which — along with misdiagnosed injuries and attractive, flowing, silverware-free football — is one of the hallmarks of Hollway Road Properties FC.

    - Air Marshall Pulis, who prefers his strikers quick and burly rather than those fancy ball-playing foreign types…

    R.O.T.F.L. Hall of Fame stuff today, Will. You musta had some yellow Corn Flakes, or some oily birds again this morning. Whatever it was, please do it every day. (c; It’s nice to not be able to stop laughing once in a while.

    The whole Villa thing is curious. Lerner goes from sensibly culling his squad to ridiculous overspending in 4 months? Did he think Ged was gonnye fill in for Moron O’Neill and there would be no adjustment period? Does he not know his own squad, or trust his staff, to know that they have the quality to not be relegated? It’s pretty baffling IMO. I mean, if the ceiling was 18m, and it was a sure-fire way to prevent relegation, well OK. But this strikes me as one of those deals that will be seen as faux ‘saviour’ deal; they’re not gonnye drop, Bent will score goals, and therefore Bent and the money prevented disaster. Ends rationalizing means. I mean, Gabby just got back and is getting in shape. Just seems silly. And what are the wages gonnye look like……

    Hats off to Bruce tho. Maximizes yet another asset then moves him on for top dollar (well, he spent a lot on Gyan so that’ll be a tough one to profit from, but still…). Looking forward to seeing who Bent’s replacement is. Cannye see ‘Arry/Levy dealing Pavy to Sunderland, no chance.

  5. Oh, and as for LFC hiring Rainieri? They could do f’n worse. Esp. given that he seems to thrive in reclamation projects. Villa should hire him this summer if LFC doesnae shift Kenny back or bring Rafa home.

  6. @gorn

    Thanks for the kind words. Monday was a particularly filthy day in my shop and -35 C to boot. I hope I can wordsmith without having to endure those kinds of conditions regularly.

    About the Bent signing, I’m guessing Lerner got twitchy feet about the consequences and greenlighted a deal that even had my 11-year-old boy scratching his head and wondering whether he should be cheering. I actually like the Makoun signing, which sort of fits the profile of signings I’d expect to see from Houllier — technically proficient, seasoned pros who could step in and help along a core group of youngsters (Clark, Lichaj, Albrightson, Bannan, Young, Agbonlahor, Delfouneso). But Bent — reportedly on 80k (which destroys the notion of a sound salary structure at Villa Park) — doesn’t make sense from an economic point of view.

    From a footballing perspective, wouldn’t it have made more sense to get a bigger player who is good in the air to threaten those dangerous crosses being whipped in by Young, Downing, Albrightson etc. and who could flick on balls behind a high line for Agbonlahor to feast on with his pace? They moved for the wrong Sunderland striker in my opinion as Gyan seems more suited to the personnel and strengths in the current Villa squad. Just one man’s opinion.

    As far as Ranieri goes, I didn’t mean to dismiss the move but report it and question how it would be received. If you look at Ranieri’s track record with Chelsea, he did an excellent job in laying the foundation for the Chelsea side, particularly in the transfer market, where his record was at least as good as the omelet maker’s in terms of delivering value for money. He brought in Lampard, Gallas, Cech and Makelele, four crucial pillars for the Chelsea’s silverware, along with Robben and Joe Cole, who made valued contributions. Some of his signings — notably Veron and Crespo — never settled while Mutu’s failure was due to personal rather than footballing reasons. Chelsea recouped most of their fees spent on Wayne Bridge, Glen Johnson and Damien Duff.

  7. Claudio dinnae do too bad @ Juve or Roma either, mind, and neither of those were ‘plum’ jobs when he took them.

    As for Bent, Ged said in the presser that he’s wanted Bent for quite some time, he wanted to start by building around an ‘established’ (or was it ‘proven’?) striker, and that his philosophy revolves around that. So I’m guessing Heskey counts (@ LFC), but Gabby doesn’t…….

  8. @gorn

    He suffered from the same kind of poor press from Fleet Street accorded to Rafa, from the whole “Tinkerman” label to Peter Kenyon continually undermining his position by meeting with Sven, Jose, etc. Koppites will probably be inclined to give him a chance given his track record of producing successful, winning football and being able to work with both “British” and “foreign” players. Hell, Wayne Bridge actually looked like an effective football under Ranieri’s management. What more could you say?

    The long-term manager has to be somebody willing to work within the structure set up by NESV so they need be able to get along with Comolli.

  9. And Claudio, AFAICT, is happy to manage players and let others do the financial stuff, which would bode well for FSG & Comolli.

    I shouldnae wonder tho if he’s too ‘old’, and mebbe too costly, given their model @ Red Sox.

  10. Always nice to see Leeds take a kicking. Bendter’s cross was brilliant.

  11. So I have been arguing with Bobby M all day whether Darren Bent is worth 24M pounds.

    He claims that Bent’s scoring stats are well worth it for a proven EPL striker. I think that Houllier/Lerner overpaid by 5-10M and could have gotten a Santa Cruz, Podolski, Carrol or Hulk cheaper with money left for another key signing.

    Anelka’s transfer fee from Bolton to Chelsea was only 15M and the likes of Torres, Dzeko and Cavani cost around 20M. Is Bent in that category?


  12. @gorn

    Ranieri’s age probably cuts against him but I don’t know whether his salary would be a stumbling block for them. They just gave Woy a reported £4m handshake. My read is they will try to find the candidate that ticks the boxes and then worry about salary. Liverpool remains a hugely attractive proposition given the club’s history, the atmosphere at Anfield and the stability of the new ownership group. While the challenge is huge, so are the potential rewards.

  13. @ewtt

    Happy to oblige. Arsenal should have been about four goals clear by the half and allowed them to hang around after that wonder strike.

    I was impressed by the poise of Nasri, Djourou and Szczęsny, whom I am convinced will be our number one keeper by the end of the year.

    Bendnter stood up the ball nicely at the back stick for RvP to finish off the game but I’m not sold on his long-term future at the Emirates. Denilson played OK but Arshavin was also dire. I wonder if the links to Hazard, Lukaku and Oxlade-Chamberlain mean that one or more of these trio will be moving along in the summer.

  14. @SL

    Bobby really said Bent’s market value was £24m? Wow. Bent is a proven goal scorer in the Premier League but the price seems awfully high given that Drogba, Torres and Rooney all moved for around that price about five years ago. Even accounting for inflation, I’d suggest Villa overpaid. I’d have put Bent’s value right around £16m.

    A couple of things. Do we judge strikers solely on goals scored? LGB and I had a long-running argument about the value of this statistic with respect to Adebayor a couple years back on Bobby’s blog. Bent does offer goals but the likes of Drogba, Rooney and Torres offer far more to their clubs than just goals in terms of creating chances for others than Bent has shown in the past.

    I’ve already questioned how well Bent will fit into this Villa side. To me, it would have made more sense to look at a player such as Santa Cruz. His goal-scoring record isn’t as good but his style of play would appear to dovetail better with the teammates around him than Bent. He could have also been bought for a lot less money. Dzeko cost 30 million euros and wouldn’t have looked at Villa so that’s a non-starter. I couldn’t see Cavani moving to the Midlands for a relegation fight either. If Villa were fighting for a Champions League place, it might be a different story for both of them.

    One last comment. Bent scored loads of goals for Charlton Athletic and they still were relegated so the value of goals doesn’t always translate into wins. Villa have a much stronger supporting cast, obviously, but Houllier may have to tinker with his tactics and selection in order to accomodate Bent.

  15. I chuckle to myself everytime I see that Bent went for 24m. I’m with AG…the lad can score but his overall play isn’t impressive and at this point in time managers are looking for versatility from just about everyone on the pitch.

  16. Playing the devil’s advocate, other than score goals what significant contributions can a striker make? Movement without the ball can offer room for a strike partner, but after that don’t the opportunities to contribute get pretty slim pretty quick?

  17. AG, I loved the comment about Ottawa and Hull. I’ve never been there so I can’t say that I know exactly what you’re talking about. But I can imagine.


  18. I’d say Bent went for aboot the right price (£17-18m), and the add-ons are unknowable. Plus there’s the sell-on that THS get, don’tcha know. If the thresholds are really so easy that the price is £24m, I need Niall’s phone #…. Or Lerner’s. (c; Cuz that’s ~40% markup on a guy who’s never won anything.

    Charlton got relegated, but THS still paid £16.5m for Bent in 2007 quid. He dinnae get worse, so inflation favours Bobby’s side o’things, really. I wouldnae paid it meself for a few reasons, so I’m just being theoretically contrarian. (c;

    OTOH, yer boy ‘Arry thought he finished worse than an old woman.

    The hockey analogy would be that Bent is another Pierre Turgeon or Adam Oates; players who were super-productive from a points-per-game point of view, but did very little to help their teams be much more than average. Not to get all Buddy Ryan on you, but sometimes you need guys who do more than ‘just score touchdowns’….

  19. Gorn, I know what you mean. I was just thinking that the striker’s contribution to other parts of the game (defense and passing) are limited. Having said that, there are players that seem to offer more to their teams. Rooney and RVP come to mind as being more dynamic (from what I understand about Bent). To extend the hockey analogy, maybe Bent is a bit like Dave Andreychuk. Andreychuk was a consistent goal scorer but his teams didn’t win much. Except the Stanley Cup in 2004 ;)

  20. @gorn

    Even at an annualized inflation rate of five percent — which is unhead of in the industrialized world and would induce strokes among the Federal Reserve crowd — would push Bent’s value to around 20 million based on Spurs signing fee.

    This suggests two things. First, Spurs overpaid for Bent, something borne out by the market correction in Sunderland’s reduced transfer fee for him in the summer of 2009, which was an initial 10 million quid and a potential for another 6.5 million in potential add-ons. Second, football suffers from hyperinflation worthy of Bolivia in the 1980s because it is an industry where the market gets set by the desperate and/or the stupid.

    Randy Lerner doesn’t strike me as an idiot but might be a touch unnerved of where his squad currently sits in the table. Houllier, though, doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. I’m sure Villa will stay up and I’m also sure Bent will score goals. I’m not convinced this deal was a good one for Aston Villa or English football in general as it will have a knock-on effect, both in terms of salary demands as well as transfer fees.

  21. @shmish

    Modern strikers should be able to hold up the ball in order to link play with midfielders, espeically if they are playing up front. They must possess the pace to trouble defenders when balls are played over the top. The must be strong enough to battle centre backs in aerial duels in both boxes. They should be able to cross the ball into the box, as Drogba does with excellent effect. They need to possess the work rate to harry centrel defenders and disrupt their distribution.

    Bent does many of these things well but he’s not Drogba, Torres, Tevez or Rooney in those respects. He’s a player who largely puts the ball in the net from inside the box. He is a decent finisher but will not make anybody forget about Thierry Henry. I see him as more of an Andy Cole figure. He’s smart enough to get himself in the right position to get a couple of chances every game. He’ll score a goal every other game. If you want to look at another hockey player, I’d also use Tim Kerr.

  22. AG – By season’s end, we will have a good idea whether Bent is the real deal or a one hit wonder. I’ll also add that from what I have seen of Carrol, he still isn’t the finished article and is much more aggressive in the air and creates more chances for others than Bent. I for one believe that Bent lacks the mental fortitude of justifying his pricey transfer fee and all the media attention that will follow.

    Randy Lerner def isn’t a fool but he is a novice of the game and that kind of money for Bent can make or break a club. For every knowledgeable adviser Lerner had recommending the Bent deal there are just as many who would have said that is too much money and let’s go a different route (i.e buy a striker for 13M and another creative mid for the remaining 10M). We shall see how Lerner’s final seal of approval and business acumen affects his investment by end of this season or next.

  23. My thoughts regarding the Bent deal are Lerner needs a goal scorer, full stop. He’s got a lot of young talented players but as has been said time and again, young players can be brilliant, but they can just as easily lay eggs. It’s a difficult learning process to try and build consistent ability so it’s possible his rational is – bring in a proven (3-5 seasons depending on your perspective with 10 or more goals in the EPL with a variety of teams and quality around him constitutes proven in my books, your mileage may vary of course) goal scorer so that what chances Villa’s youth do create, can be put away in order to get wins.

    Yes they have Ashley Young or Gabriel Agbonlahor or John Carew or Emile Heskey but this year Carew is on the outs, Heskey has never been a goal getter and Young and Agbonlahor have either been injured or inconsistent. Taking steps now in the last chance they’ll have before the end of the season seems prudent even if they maybe paid over the odds.

    Could they have found a cheaper option? Probably, but not immediately available with a full CV worth of information available to anyone with a memory of the past 4 years of play. He’s a known quantity as far as any player can be at this level, there’s a very good chance that he will give Villa another 10-15 goals between now and the end of the season if he stays true to form. Randy Lerner could have gone with the striker+midfielder option as suggested by SL but since they’re in the middle of a rebuilding process and blooding all their young talent, I don’t believe that they’re currently really hurting in the midfield. They’ve got 2 or 3 kids who’ve been in and out of the side who’ve shown enough promise in the games I caught to deserve a chance to be provider to someone like Bent.

    Maybe they’ll prove my theory wrong but it’s tough to condemn this purchase as preposterous or inept. And really, what’s an extra 6 million dollars between greasy hands when you get right down to it?

  24. Rabid:

    The signing isn’t preposterous but I think it misses the point of why Villa are struggling. Last year in total they gave up 39 goals. This year they’ve already given up 39 goals. There’s nothing in Bent’s play that will help them in that area and Villa will continue to struggle if the team continues to defend poorly.

  25. A deeper look into the stats show that (understandably) they’ve been a much better side at home having netted 15 but given up 13 across 11 games. I agree that’s nor particularly good but at least it’s a +2. Their away form is where things really go sour, they’ve conceded 26 times and managed only 9 goals themselves over the same number of games.

    I suppose that can be read a few different ways and it’ll take someone more adept at statistical analysis than me but looking at other teams, only Blackburn has given up more away goals (27) but they’ve at least managed to score 14 while away from home and 15 (the same number as Villa) at home.

    Their defense has not been as stingy as the last few years, I agree but they might be suffering more from a lack of experience in the midfield exposing their defense or being judged as being toothless on attack and been taken to the cleaners once teams feel comfortable dealing with their game plan?

    Again, just theorizing here.

  26. ewt – Under MON, Villa had a pretty solid defense, no?

    Lerner obviously was willing to splash the cash but I guess he wanted a more attractive playing style than MON offered. Either way, there will be alot of pressure for Bent to score tons of goals as he really doesn’t create that many. Makoun was brought in and is a similar player to Petrov so unless Houllier plays with 2 defensive mids, I guess Petrov will be leaving as well. Villa def have a potent wing attack but without a central playmaker (as Ireland is out of favor) and perhaps a defender or two, it is a risky strategy as evidenced by Sevilla’s similar formation this season.

  27. @SL

    Bent’s track record of scoring goals is pretty consistent and I suspect that will continue. I totally agree with you about Carroll. He’s raw but has a huge upside. He’s a far better option than Bent but I don’t think Villa would have been able to woo him to the Midlands.

    Lerner may be a novice but he’s shown a willingness to back his managers. Ask Villa fans whether they would prefer the novice American or Deadly Doug Ellis. I can assure you that Lerner is among the most respected owners in England, although that’s something of a tallest midget contest when you consider some of his competition, such as Gold, Sullivan and Mike Ashley.

  28. @rabid

    I suspect you are right about Bent bagging around 10 goals from now until the end of the year. I also think Makoun is better than anything they currently have right now in the centre of the park. He should help address some of the issues with a “soft” centre and provide some time for Fabian Delph, who looks like a super prospect but has been slowed by a horrible knee injury.

  29. @ewtt

    A big part of the problem is the loss of form by both Dunne — who looks like he’s gone on the John Hartson diet — and Stephen Warnock. Friedel is also starting to finally show his age at times, too.

    I do believe the Makoun signing will help but it wouldn’t surprise me to see Warnock and/or Dunne sold.

  30. “Since 2005, Bent has scored 81 goals in the Premier League, with only Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney and Chelsea forward Didier Drogba ahead of him in the scoring charts on 82.”

    care of BBC.

  31. Bent 1 – ManCity 0

  32. My boy went absolutely mental — it was his birthday and a very nice gift for him.

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