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Scrunching up the eyes a bit, and using just a touch of imagination, watching Jack Wilshere on the ball for England against Denmark was almost like watching Xavi. It was quite a shock, in fact, to see a player in an England shirt pause, look up and think before picking out a team mate with a precise, considered pass.
Comparing Wilshere to the peerless Barcelona midfielder Xavi will be stretching it for some. I was pretty surprised, I must say, to read match reports on Thursday suggesting Wilshere had been a bit disappointing.
The conventional wisdom on Wilshere seems to be that Capello risks wasting his talent by playing him in such a deep role. Reporters in England clearly want to see Wilshere playing much closer to the opposition penalty area, wreaking havoc with his deft touch and eye for a pass.
The problem is that Capello’s England have a far more pressing problem than the need for a tricky midfielder to set up chances. As was made abundantly clear at the World Cup in South Africa, England must learn how to hold the ball with more assurance and for much longer periods of time if they are to mix it with the best.
When Alex Ferguson declares he is happy with his squad for the season remainder, it is time for Manchester United’s Premier League title rivals to start worrying.
The busy Christmas and New Year period is often important in the Premier League, as fringe players are called upon to help negotiate a sea of fixtures which put managers under increasing pressure.
Holders Inter Milan will face Bayern Munich, the team they beat to clinch the trophy last season, in the Champions League last 16 with a repeat of the 2006 final also due after Barcelona were drawn to meet Arsenal.
Bayern might actually be favourites given Inter’s struggles so far this term while Barca and Lionel Messi destroyed Arsenal in the quarter-finals second leg last season despite the two sides’ similar style of play.
Wayne Rooney, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Karim Benzema and Juan Mata are among the strikers up for discussion in the latest edition of our Reuters Sports Champions League podcast. Kevin Fylan is joined by Ed Osmond, Owen Wyatt, Paul Radford and Mark Meadows.
‘Plus ca change’ was the defining refrain of the Premier League’s opening weekend, but football fans tired of the established order will hope déjà vu is lurking round the corner for Manchester United and Chelsea.
Neither the champions nor the runners-up broke sweat as they strolled to opening victories that pointed ominously to another two-horse race for the Premier League title.
England midfielder Joe Cole sprang a slight surprise by choosing to sign for Liverpool rather than other suitors such as Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal.
The cynics are saying it is all to do with money and not about prestige given Liverpool will not be in the Champions League next season unlike the other two.
The Arsenal manager thought he was building, slowly but surely, an Arsenal team that could go one better than the 2006 side that lost the Champions League final to Barcelona.
Breaking news from Spain, where Barcelona have agreed a deal to sign David Villa from Valencia for 40 million euros.
The timing is interesting, coming as it does immediately after Barcelona successfully completed the defence of their league title, and before the distractions of a presidential election.