PLAY IT SHORT: Arsenal youth shocker; Wenger's Jenkinson treatment; Rafael repays Fergie faith; Sinclair and Sturridge swap places

IS ANYONE COMING THROUGH AT ARSENAL?After the weekend's results, Arsene Wenger will find it difficult to argue against spending all of his £70 million summer budget.
wenger1_bg

IS ANYONE COMING THROUGH AT ARSENAL?
After the weekend's results, Arsene Wenger will find it difficult to argue against spending all of his £70 million summer budget. A scratchy 2-1 win over a very green Aston Villa was the highlight of a dismal 48 hours for Arsenal. The U21s had four fired past them by a young Tottenham team, while the U18s were thrashed 6-1 at home by Aston Villa. For all Wenger's talk about not blocking the path of his young players, the weekend's results suggest there's little below the first team warranting a cautious approach towards summer spending.

IS JENKINSON WENGER'S FALL-GUY?
Did Carl Jenkinson really deserve the hook on Saturday? The fullback seems to be a fall-guy for Arsene Wenger. In the opening month of the season, Jenkinson was being watched by England coach Roy Hodgson and winning praise from the likes of Jamie Redknapp. But Wenger couldn't dump him quickly enough when Bacary Sagna returned from his long injury lay-off. And despite the Frenchman's disappointing form, Wenger kept Jenkinson sidelined. With contract talks on the brink of collapse, Sagna, when he plays, appears to be marking time. In contrast, Jenkinson produced a passionate, energetic performance against Aston Villa, only to be hooked by Wenger after a defensive error. Maybe the decision was tactical, but the timing will have hurt Jenkinson. Wenger's management of his young players and whether they're actually improving under him has come under acute focus this season. Jenkinson may not be silky-type so associated with the Gunners boss, but Lee Dixon, Steve Bould, Martin Keown and Nigel Winterburn also came by the same route and didn't do too badly for themselves or the club.

MANCINI LOOKS NAILED ON AT CITY
Amid the effin' and blindin', Roberto Mancini last week gave the clearest indication yet he would be sticking around next season. Comments about the likes of Luis Suarez (which will have upset those at Liverpool), Edinson Cavani and Neymar gave a clear indication that Mancini is very much part of Manchester City's planning for next season. Txiki Begiristain and Ferran Soriano are utilising the contacts built up while with Barcelona to keep City's hand in negotiations for Neymar, while Mancini's lieutenant, Angelo Gregucci, has been the most conspicuous of City's scouts checking on Cavani at Napoli. The scouting, on the surface, appears in synch. The Manuel Pellegrini rumours can't be dismissed. Sheikh Mansour and his advisors will want all their bases covered come the summer, especially with Franco Baldini, AS Roma's GM, making enquiries to Mancini about his readiness for a return to Italy. But all signs are that the Italian will remain in charge next season.

KOLO ROLLS BACK YEARS FOR CITY
It was the Toure show yesterday against Chelsea. Yaya Toure's opener for Manchester City was the stuff of genius, but older brother Kolo actually outshone his sibling with his performance at the back. Okay, he was at fault for Chelsea's penalty, but that apart, Toure rolled back the years for perhaps his best performance since his days with Arsenal. Talk of Kolo needing to wind down his career away from the Premier League appear premature on yesterday's form.

RAFAEL REPAYS FERGIE BACKING AFTER MADRID SHOCKER
Sir Alex Ferguson's backing of Rafael after the first-half horror show at Real Madrid appears a watershed moment for the Manchester United fullback. Many were surprised Ferguson did not hook Rafael at halftime in the Bernabeu after he found himself out of his depth against Real. But Ferguson stuck with the Brazilian, who tightened up his game in the second-half and since hasn't looked back. Against QPR, he not only scored his 'worldie', but produced a five-star performance going forward and defending. One moment summed up Rafael's game in the first-half, clearing Christopher Samba's header off the line, the Brazilian found himself clear down the flank and produced a superb, deep cross to find Robin van Persie, whose volley forced Julio Cesar into a scrambling save. Ferguson, yet again, is having his faith repaid.

WHY NO PREMIER LEAGUE INTEREST FOR RIETHER?
It's a surprise that the one threat to Fulham's hopes of signing Sascha Riether permanently comes from Eintracht Frankfurt. Is there a better attacking - and available - fullback in the country right now? The on-loan Cologne defender was outstanding for the high noon win over Stoke City on Saturday - as he has been for much of the season. With no set fee agreed between the two clubs, Fulham have left themselves open to losing Riether in the summer. But why no Premier League interest?

SINCLAIR ENVYING STURRIDGE WITH RODGERS
Scott Sinclair must watch good friend Danny Sturridge with some envy. This time last year, Sinclair was starring for Swansea City under Brendan Rodgers and had the world at his feet. Fast forward 12 months and it is now Sturridge who is benefiting from Rodgers' management with Liverpool, while Sinclair is suffering at Manchester City. After so much unfulfilled promise at Chelsea, Sinclair was flying at the Liberty - but then chose to leave for City. Can he really afford another 12 months of the same? A move to Merseyside has been mooted for Sinclair, though to Everton and not Anfield. But Rodgers will also be keeping tabs on his situation and if a deal cannot be struck to bring Thomas Ince back from Blackpool, then a reunion with his old Swans manager, along with good pal Sturridge, will be on for Sinclair.

Have your say