Saturday January 11 2014

Forget Utd; here is who the real contenders should look out for

Former Leverkusen, Tottenham and Manchester

Former Leverkusen, Tottenham and Manchester United striker Berbatov would do well at Arsenal 


Manchester United are so dependent on an 18-year-old apprentice for creativity it would be laughable if it wasn’t just so sad as to draw a tear from beleaguered manager David Moyes (you have seen that infamous picture by now surely, the one with a mournful Moyes facial expression likened to that of a cat?).

It is however hard to feel sorry for Moyes when, after the window has opened, he announces that he might not be strengthening the team in January because the players he seeks after are unavailable.

That is to suggest that he is looking out for some big-name players from some of Europe’s elite clubs, who because they have already played Champions League football this season are Cup-tied, or who are tied down by huge contracts.

It only serves to confirm the misgivings I raised here last week about the ineptness of the scouting network at United, which evidently doesn’t spread wide enough beyond the obvious. Since then, predictably if you ask me, United have been linked with such unavailable players as the Atletico Madrid pair of Koke and Diego Costa, talents whom the Spanish club is heavily relying on to win a first La Liga crown in ages and make a splash in the knockout phases of Europe.

I foresaw this, which is why I veered outside clubs like Atletico Madrid and into the next best ones with midfielders of Koke’s quality or in some cases even better, as I played scout for United.

They haven’t taken the hint yet, but to borrow from one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s famous citations ( the irony), the Premiership bus waits for no one and so this scout moves on to the leading three on the log to hand out yet more unsolicited advice.

Man City
Just before their Capital One Cup semifinal against West Ham on Wednesday, Man City declared that Sergio Aguero had returned to training, and that Martin Demichelis and Micah Richard would be in the squad.

This the same outfit for whom Englishmen Jack Rodwell and Joleon Lescott can barely get a kick, in which super sniper Edin Dzeko is rarely allowed the opportunity to take aim. Oh, remember Stefan Jovetic? They don’t need any new faces. Not now, not in the summer.

They too do not need any January arrivals because - never mind what Jose Mourniho’s mind games - Chelsea’s squad is every bit as good and as experienced as City’s.

Mourinho has lambasted his strikers’ figures, but in the last two Premiership outings Samuel Eto’o scored the winner against Liverpool and Fernando Torres got the opener against Southampton, so they are responding. And as a supplement there are enough goals flowing in from Eden Hazard, Oscar, Willian, Frank Lampard and even Ramires, to not only sustain a title charge but clinch the whole thing (Obi Mikel got one too the other day!).

But if they have to go for a striker for long-term purposes with a view of chipping in in the short-term too, then linking them with Cup-tied Gonzalo Higuain sounds like ‘Unitedism’. The ‘sellers’ of Luis Suarez and Wayne Rooney will not do business I reckon, so the only ready-to-go candidate is Radamel Falcao, whose super agent also represents Mourinho. In more ways than one, Roman Abramovich also speaks the same language as the owner of Falcao’s current club Monaco.

Injuries to Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott, coupled with the vulnerabilities of Niklas Bendtner and Lukas Podolski who can get crocked at any time too, mean that Arsenal need another striker.

The rumoured pursuit of Diego Costa would be futile in January, but there are options elsewhere. The ones without European sanctions that spring to mind include Aston Villa’s Christian Benteke and Inter Milan’s Argentine double act of proven goal scorers Rodrigo Palacio and Diego Milito.

Arsene Wenger insists though that he is not looking for a Giroud replacement but just a back-up for the Frenchman, and no one would suit that sidekick role, Arsenal’s style, and the imagination of purists and romantics more than Fulham’s Dimitar Berbatov.