To be Frank, competition for places is good… unless my place is under threat
Top players for England and the biggest clubs frequently trot out the platitudes about the benefits of competition for places and how no-one feels their position in the team is safe.
Then one of them gets dropped and there is all hell to play.
Frank Lampard, to his credit, has acted professionally after falling out of the starting line-up at Chelsea. But he is clearly still irked that he could be left on the bench and let everyone know it as he said he didn’t know why he had been dropped after scoring against Manchester City on Monday night.
Benched: Frank Lampard has slipped down the pecking order at Stamford Bridge
Did he not see Raul Meireles’ goal against City What about the ground the Portuguese covered as he and the excellent Ramires eventually put their team on the front foot
Oriol Romeu was great in midfield, too, and further forward there can be no arguments that Juan Mata and Daniel Sturridge have not earned their places in the side.
Lampard himself said in September that Chelsea have ‘got a big enough squad, you have to respect the squad, respect the players that play when you don’t.’
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He added that when players get a chance in the team they have to show they should stay there with the way they play. There was no rider about applying pressure through the media.
Lampard is still an excellent player who will continue to make a useful contribution at Chelsea this season, as he did with his penalty conversion.
But no-one should be fooled into thinking he was the only Chelsea player who could have scored that spot-kick, nor should they forget that they also pulled off a significant win against Valencia without him.
It”s a squad game and Villas-Boas’ side have shown they manage quite nicely without the 33-year-old Lampard.
The midfielder has serious competition from Meireles and others and had better get used to it. Competition for places is good, remember Frank.
What price Robin van Persie Every goal he scores, every match-winning performance he produces his value rises.
The Arsenal striker must be worth a minimum of 35million right now and the fact that he could become available next summer, that his contract is heading towards its final year, will come into sharp focus on Sunday.
Van Persie and co face Manchester City, the team who have indicated they would like to buy him – and could easily afford him. City are also the team to beat in the Premier League, the side against whom others are measuring themselves.
Top Gunner: Arsenal once again had Robin van Persie to thank for the winning goal
So Arsenal have at least one point to prove. This game will be a test of their revival and a chance to show to they are a force to be reckoned with.
Arsene Wenger, who has made the usual noises about maybe, possibly signing somebody in January, needs to do more than make hints in the window. His talk about injuries having a bearing needs to be forgotten.
This intelligent manager, who endured a difficult summer in the transfer market, really has little choice.
Arsenal lose Gervinho and Marouane Chamakh to the African Cup of Nations in January and are already overly reliant on the goals of Van Persie.
The club’s transfer policy for this season has changed as a result of the way the summer turned and if they are serious about keeping Van Persie, about continuing as contenders, they need to act.
Juggling act: Harry Redknapp is favourite to be the new England manager after Euro 2012
Levy Spurs on Redknapp exit
Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy said all that could be expected of him at his club’s AGM when he addressed the potential problem of manager Harry Redknapp leaving them for England.
But if Levy sincerely wanted to dampen speculation, he succeeded only in doing the opposite.
‘As far as Harry is concerned, he is very happy here and that he doesn’t particularly want to consider England at the present time,’ said Levy. ‘We will worry about that situation if it arises in the summer.’
So, to recap. Redknapp doesn’t particularly want to consider it (but wouldn’t take much convincing) and Spurs will worry about it in the summer (by which time the manager’s position with regard to England will be abundantly clear). The shareholders must have felt very reassured.
Giving “the point” the finger
Neil Warnock, not for the first time, has missed the point.
In defending Liverpool striker Luis Suarez’s one-fingered gesture at Fulham fans last week he seemed to completely forget that he, his QPR squad and all their counterparts in the Premier League are supposed to be professionals.
Warnock claimed players should not be held to a higher standard, ignoring their high profiles and the fact that most have clauses in their contracts stipulating they will not bring the club or the game into disrepute.
If you follow his argument through there would be a lowering of expectations of players as well as fans, leading to lower standards.
Suarez may not have liked the fans’ chants about him (cheat was the gist) but he has a responsibility not to react the way he did.
Better times: Luis Suarez put recent bad headlines behind him against QPR
That is why the FA have charged him with improper conduct. He does not have a ‘normal’ job because he is watched by tens of thousands of people most weeks.
That number goes up to millions when games are shown live on TV, as the Fulham match was, and all the players have a duty to control their reactions.
Incitement of fans at stadiums is just one, albeit perhaps the most significant, element to consider. Players will not always manage to stay in control and of course abusive fans should be reprimanded, too.
Yet it is not that easy. Ask Chelsea, who tried and failed to identify supporters who chanted racist abuse about Anton Ferdinand.
Talking of players not controlling themselves, how about Jack Collison.
The way the West Ham midfielder angrily lashed out at Reading’s Jimmy Kebe for some ill-judged showboating at the weekend was more reminiscent of amateur Sunday league football than the Championship.
If it hadn’t been quite so irresponsible and potentially dangerous in terms of injury, it would have been funny.