Insider Notes: Cech on Arsenal's title hopes; Future for Ancelotti, Platini
Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech is off to a good start in the Premier League, and as someone who has won the league (with Chelsea), he told me he thinks Arsenal does have what it takes to challenge for the title this season.
“We have players with experience, players with the motivation to win trophies, and young players who are very hungry,” Cech said. “This team has a really good balance … and if we keep progressing in our game we have a good chance to challenge for the title.”
Cech said he understood Arsene Wenger’s decision to play David Ospina in the Gunners’ first Champions League game (Ospina got the nod Tuesday vs. Olympiakos as well, with Cech nursing a minor calf injury), but he also said Wenger has not assigned them respective competitions and that each goalkeeper prepares for the Champions League games as if he will start.
Cech added that Arsenal’s higher defensive line means he does play higher himself than he did at Chelsea, but goalkeepers have to adapt to the way their team plays, and he’s enjoying it.
(Keep an eye out for my full interview with Cech on this week’s SI Planet Fútbol podcast, coming out Thursday. He addresses a number of topics, including the soccer philosophy differences between Wenger and José Mourinho, his take on modern goalkeeping, and his thoughts on whether enough is being done to treat head injuries in European soccer.)
Here are a couple of more items from around the soccer world:
Ancelotti: There's been no Liverpool contact
One of the world’s most accomplished managers is hanging out in Vancouver these days.
Carlo Ancelotti is on sabbatical after leaving Real Madrid, and his wife Mariann is from Vancouver (She has a Ph.D. in economics, which is kind of cool). Reports have emerged of Liverpool’s interest in Ancelotti, but he is telling people privately that he has not been contacted yet by Liverpool. He’s actually more interested in the Manchester United job eventually, though right now that’s earmarked for Ryan Giggs.
In the meantime, Ancelotti had dinner in Vancouver last week with two of his former players: NYCFC's Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard, ahead of the MLS club's 2-1 win over the Whitecaps.
Platini's FIFA candidacy less of a sure thing
We reported recently that several FIFA insiders expected UEFA president Michel Platini would win February’s FIFA presidential election, arguing there was no way Platini would have announced his candidacy if he didn’t have the votes in hand.
Well, all that’s up in the air now after Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber included a $2 million payment from FIFA to Platini in 2011 as one reason for starting criminal proceedings against FIFA president Sepp Blatter.
Platini is not accused of criminal wrongdoing, but as of yet he has failed to say why it took nine years for him to be paid after finishing his work for FIFA in 2002.
Blatter signed off on the payment to Platini in February 2011, soon before Platini decided not to run against Blatter in that year’s FIFA presidential election and support him instead.
As recently as Tuesday, Lauber said that Platini is "in between" a witness and an accused person in the ongoing corruption investigation. This story certainly seems far from over.