Arsene Wenger: Michael Owen Can Be ‘Fantastic’, Xabi Alonso Was Great, Chelsea Too Old

Owen is a good punt, Alonso could be irreplaceable and Chelsea might be too old, according to Wenger…

21 Aug 2009 09:45:34

Arsene Wenger has commented on a myriad of subjects, from Manchester United’s gamble in signing Michael Owen, to the age of the Chelsea team. Arsenal boss Wenger has seen his side make a flying start to the season, including a 6-1 trouncing of Everton and the establishment of a Champions League play-off advantage over Celtic. At the heart of the effort has been new signing Thomas Vermaelen, whose quality was doubted by many. The player has quickly slotted in at centre-back to dampen the effect of selling Kolo Toure.

Premier League rivals Manchester United and Liverpool have also let go of big names: Cristiano Ronaldo and Xabi Alonso respectively. The Red Devils, of course, snapped up Michael Owen as attacking cover, while Alberto Aquilani has joined Liverpool. Wenger has watched developments around the league with interest, giving his take on Sir Alex Ferguson and Rafael Benitez’s transfer gambles. “The question this season is, ‘who will cope the best with what has happened during this transfer market?’ – let’s make sure it’s us,” Wenger said to the club’s official magazine.

“The big task for United is replacing the goals that Cristiano Ronaldo scored. He had two fantastic qualities: he was never injured, and he put the ball in the back of the net. “I’m surprised that they didn’t reinvest more of the money they got for Ronaldo, but they may do so in January. They will continue to be a major force in the championship. “Michael Owen is worth a gamble, I think. I don’t believe he can be back to his complete best, but even if he gets to 95 per cent he will be a fantastic player – an impact player.”

‘The Professor’ is slightly less sure of Liverpool’s ability to replace Xabi Alonso. “Aquilani will be a good player [for Liverpool], but they’ve lost a great player in Alonso,” he noted. “He was the brain of the game for Liverpool last season. I don’t expect them to struggle, but people might have a little question mark over how they replace Alonso.”

Completing his ‘Big Four’ round-up, Wenger said of new London challenger Carlo Ancelotti and his Blues, “I still think that Chelsea will be a main threat for the championship, but their squad is a year older, which might have an impact.”

he rarely comments on anything. nice comments there and i agreed with what he said here.. article from

Blackwater Disclosure Adds to CIA Worries

News of ‘Targeted Killing’ Program Precedes Interrogation Report, Possible Probe.

By R. Jeffrey Smith and Joby Warrick,Washington Post Staff Writers.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The disclosure Wednesday of the CIA’s decision five years ago to let a private security contractor help manage its sensitive effort to kill senior al-Qaeda members drew congressional criticism Thursday on the eve of key decisions by the Obama administration that current and former intelligence officials fear could compound the spy agency’s political troubles. Those decisions include the expected release Monday of newly declassified portions of a 2004 CIA report that questions the legality and effectiveness of the agency’s harsh interrogations at secret prisons. Additionally, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. may order a probe of possible criminal actions by CIA officers and contractors during those interrogations.

“In September, you are going to have a hurricane coming through Washington that is aimed right at the intelligence community,” warned Porter J. Goss, the CIA’s director from September 2004 to May 2006. He noted that a Justice Department inquiry is also pending into whether laws were broken when CIA officers destroyed videotapes of the harsh interrogations.

Democratic House and Senate lawmakers and staff members have already described as inappropriate the Bush administration’s decision to hand management and training responsibility for the CIA’s “targeted killing” efforts to Blackwater USA, and they have reiterated their intent to press for speedier and more complete disclosure by the agency of such activities in the future. CIA Director Leon Panetta formally terminated the program in June, shortly before he first told Congress of its existence.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the intelligence committee, sharpened her previous criticism of the program. “It is clear to me that the failure to notify before now constituted a violation of law,” she said in a statement Thursday. She said she could not address the program’s precise parameters but emphasized that it “had, in fact, gone beyond the simple planning stage.” “I have believed for a long time that the Intelligence Community is over-reliant on contractors to carry out its work,” she said. “This is especially a problem when contractors are used to carry out activities that are inherently governmental.”

Democrats have previously pushed to ban the use of contractors to conduct interrogations, and some suggested Thursday that the restriction should extend to hit squads. “There is still too much being done by contractors that ought to be done by government employees,” said a congressional staff member who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the CIA program remains classified. In an interview, Goss said he had not been fully briefed on the details of the CIA activities in question, many of which are classified, so he could not confirm the reported involvement of Blackwater, now known as Xe Services LLC. A spokeswoman for the firm did not return a phone call Thursday, but two former intelligence officers familiar with the effort said the company had received millions of dollars for helping train and equip teams to undertake the killings. Goss alluded to that effort, stating that “my standing orders were ‘field-forward’ mission.” “We wanted to catch the people who brought down the trade centers and killed innocent people and wanted to kill more,” he said. “And we wanted to have every possible legal means at our disposal that we could to deal with them. That was certainly in my vision statement, and that is the briefing that was given to members of Congress” during his tenure. “In my view, we should constantly be looking at all our options in terms of national security,” Goss said. “Suppose you got a high-value guy, a terrorist, part of al-Qaeda, a radical fundamentalist trained to kill innocent people, who you cannot talk down from the tree. What happens when you actually find that guy? Do you send the FBI? That’s probably not the best option for the tribal areas” in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Political controversy over conducting lethal activities overseas stems from the fact that “we have not resolved the basic rules of engagement for covert forces in the world today,” Goss said. “It keeps getting pushed by the prevailing political winds.” He added that the CIA, when confronted by a particularly tough problem involving a shortage of manpower, too much regulation or political indecision, has “a tendency to say, ‘Let’s see if we can farm this out.’ That does not mean we are trying to evade a law, but to get the mission done in a creditable way.”

One motive the CIA might have for hiring contractors may be to add personnel without officially enlarging its bureaucracy, Goss said. “But it’s also the case that there are some folks at retirement age who still feel like they have some horsepower left, so they go off into a consulting business and make themselves available.” A former intelligence officer familiar with the effort said the decision to outsource a substantial portion of the effort to Blackwater stemmed partly from the firm’s close ties to the CIA, including top officials who were hired by the company after 2001.

Michael V. Hayden, Goss’s successor as CIA director, also declined Thursday to comment on Blackwater’s involvement in the targeted killing program but told reporters that the use of contractors had ended by the time he became head of the agency in 2006. At the time he learned about it, he said, the initiative was still in the planning stages and “never reached either the political or the legal threshold” that would have triggered a mandatory congressional briefing. “Somewhere in that mix, I probably would have gone down to talk to Congress, but . . . the threshold I probably would have first crossed was a political one, not a legal one,” Hayden said. There was no specific legal requirement, he said, but “the fact was that this was maybe of a bit of a different flavor than the kinds of things we had briefed the Hill on in the past.”

Presidential aides, as well as CIA officials, have said they fear that heightened controversy over the Bush administration’s counterterrorism efforts will push the Obama administration into a partisan debate it has sought to avoid while other polarizing issues, such as health-care and environmental reforms, are on Congress’s agenda. The release of the CIA report Monday — on a date picked by a federal judge in New York in response to a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union — will come as the president settles into his holiday at Martha’s Vineyard, increasing the likelihood that it will draw attention during a political lull. Senior administration officials said they are bracing for a renewed fight, perhaps with former vice president Richard B. Cheney, over whether the harsh interrogation tactics worked. Hayden said he expects the report’s release to damage CIA morale, even though some passages will bolster CIA assertions that the harsh interrogations had helped the country learn about “the basic infrastructure of al-Qaeda” and plan its counterattack.

Holder, speaking at a news conference in Washington, said the Justice Department has worked closely with the CIA in an effort to release only those portions of the report that will not compromise national security. “We will not be doing anything that will endanger the American people,” Holder said in response to criticism from Hayden and Senate Republicans.

Staff writers Ben Pershing, Anne E. Kornblut and Carrie Johnson contributed to this report.

hm i love covert stories. at times i do not know whether CIA is that powerful as in the movies. i would love to be part of espionage world one day. living dangerous and exciting. maybe not that exciting when death is lurking around the corner and being tortured like u wish u were dead.. anyhow, there’s other covert organizations in this world. mossad for example in which i believe is one of the best. brit’s MI6, russian spetsnatz (is this correct??), and germany got one too.. i forgot what they called them. i’ve heard of this blackwater team for quite sometime already. what do they do? asssasination? or perhaps they are the ones that bombed WTC back in 2001. conspiracy.. article from The Washington Post.

Manchester United supporters have good reason to worry, says Oliver Kay

The Times Football Correspondent says United are already missing the influence of Critiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez. He talks to Ben Smith

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Ferguson may go back into the transfer market after last night's defeat at Turf Moor(Martin Rickett/PA Wire.) Ferguson may go back into the transfer market after last night’s defeat at Turf Moor


How worried should Manchester United supporters be about last night’s result?

You should never react hysterically to one result or even one performance, but what last night did show is that a lot of the concerns and questions that have been asked about United over the past few weeks are justifiable. They had an awful lot of possession but didn’t really perform with any great authority and there was no real penetration out wide and no great spark in attack. What will also be worrying for Sir Alex Ferguson was that there appeared to be no real understanding between the strikers, Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen to start with and then Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov later in the game. It is only one match, just as Liverpool’s defeat by Tottenham was, but it does leave you wondering whether either team will be as successful as they were last season.

Are the supporters panicking because they know this is a game United would have won last season?

Carlos Tevez and Cristiano Ronaldo were always going to be missed. There has been some revisionism from United supporters in recent months about Tevez. The fans have gone from pleading that Ferguson sign him up at the end of last season to washing their hands of him after he joined City, but what they won’t forget is that he did score very important goals in away games at Stoke and Wigan last season. Ronaldo was the one they really missed last night. Even if it was just a case of having a cool head to take a penalty, or an aerial threat from set-pieces, which they didn’t have at all. But Ronaldo brought far more than that and they have lost a game that you can say statistically they definitely wouldn’t have lost last season. They only dropped two points against the bottom 12 teams last season, which was a draw against Newcastle. This time they have lost to a newly promoted team which is fairly shocking for United.

Traditionally United have been slow starters, so can this defeat simply be put down to that?

They have been slow starters in recent seasons, both in terms of performance and results. Ferguson made that point last night but he still said they shouldn’t be losing a game like that.

Will this defeat prompt Ferguson to go back into the transfer market, or would that be seen as a panic move?

It would be seen as a knee-jerk reaction, but there have been some rumours in recent weeks that they haven’t completely given up on the idea of signing David Silva from Valencia. There are certainly indications that they might try to sign him and they are also looking for cover in central defence. If you look at the performances in pre-season and the performances in their two league games so far, I would be staggered if Ferguson thinks that they are better off without reinforcements. The question is whether or not there is any value to be had in the transfer market. Silva wouldn’t be cheap but I do believe United are lacking a spark going forward.

Finally a word on Burnley, did last night prove they will be no pushovers this season?

I heard the local reporters after the game say that having beat Arsenal and Chelsea in recent seasons, Burnley now had the complete set. They have shown they are fantastic against top-class opposition. Their record in cup competitions has been superb and all the indications were that they are a pretty decent team. They are a team that shouldn’t be written off because they have an excellent manager, they play intelligent football and they have some good players. They will surprise a few people.

haha.. as usual, i knew this would come up as soon as the game against Burnley finishes. well they did play badly. but that’s only their 2nd game. those lads will bounce back. but at some point, i have to agree with others, Fergie should consider getting someone to spark the team again. when v.nistelrooy left, the team had some difficulties in getting someone to match what he did. i didn’t miss CR much. but i do miss tevez. his presence makes some small difference especially with him and rooney together. yup they don’t seem suitable to play as strike partner but hell look at what they did before.. berba did play well in the pre-season. his passing was quite impressive, yet he’s too slow in getting up. and he’s always in off-position. i have yet to see valencia made any difference since he came. but he’s just joined. let’s hope he’ll show us something soon. owen? not sure bout him. perhaps his predatorial touch is still there but its his confidence is not there yet. perhaps he had been down-under for quite sometime already. once he becomes more confident, owen will be rooney’s best partner. let’s just support him for now.. and latest saga coming up – Vidic to Barca. damn i hate that news.. just hoping that we won’t lose him.. anyway the article is from TimesOnline.