Arsenal were fortunate to survive a second-half onslaught against Napoli to progress to the Champions League last 16. They cannot afford a repeat against Man City...
Jose Mourinho might be unhappy with the low number of goals from his strikers, but Nick Miller argues that he doesn't have to worry, because the goals are still coming...
It's difficult to know what to think of Leighton Baines. We're told that he knows his music, with his bushy sideburns and mod hairstyle, but then he brazenly admits to being a fan of Miles Kane. As though it's the most normal thing in the world.
We're also told that Baines is a 'true professional' and a pin-up for the traditional values being beaten out of the modern game after he spurned interest from Manchester United. "The two players have been true professionals and that is what I want, players that are dedicated to the club and dedicated to the team," said Roberto Martinez after United increased their bid for Baines and Marouane Fellaini at the end of August.
The manager's words have been echoed by journalists during a summer of speculation. While Fellaini eventually cracked and asked to leave, Baines' commitment to Everton has been lauded. He's not one to cause trouble, is a great example to youngsters and fully deserves his reported 50% pay rise. Because that's what loyalty is all about.
Although the reasons to respect Baines' actions are compelling, his stoicism this summer can be viewed in a different way. Rather than secure the biggest move of his career, and his only chance of challenging for the title and playing in the Champions League, Baines has seemingly been happy to just sit around listening to his Miles Kane records. As though it's the most normal thing in the world.
The term 'professionalism' is often used in football to applaud honourable acts, but it should equally apply to a player's desire to get the most out of their talent. It is impossible to claim that Fellaini acted unprofessionally by forcing through a move to United simply because Baines did the opposite.
And why should Baines feel the need to show more loyalty to Everton? He has been the Toffees' most consistent performer during his six years at Goodison and, had he departed for Old Trafford, it should have been with the club's best wishes. If Baines' form had plummeted at Everton to the extent that he was no longer good enough for the first team, then he would surely have been bombed out like Victor Anichebe on deadline day.
Instead, Baines has progressed to a level that could have seen him earn a move to the champions and yet, possibly owing to the fact that he's a local lad, his heart has ruled his head. Or apathy has ruled both. Whatever the reason, it could prove to be a decision he lives to regret.
Considering he missed out on a place in England's World Cup 2010 squad following an interview in which he implied he suffers from homesickness (he later denied this claim, but the damage was done as Fabio Capello selected Stephen Warnock), one would think that Baines knows all about missed opportunities. So it's a surprise that he didn't jump at the chance to join David Moyes when his former manager came calling this summer.
Refusing to do his utmost to make the transfer happen, and thus passing up his last opportunity to play at the very top, can only be seen as a mistake. What some may celebrate as a rare act of loyalty, others, such as myself, view as a crippling lack of ambition. But Baines, it seems, is happy to remain indifferent, listening to his Miles Kane records. As though it's the most normal thing in the world. And in five or ten years' time that's exactly how the rest of us will feel about a career that could have been so much more.
Matt Stanger - he's on the Twitter.
This has got to be a case of deliberate s**t stirring. No paid journalist could really be that much of a tool.- general_franco