PLAY IT SHORT: Don't tinker with Ramsey, Arsene; Spurs get Townsend deal right; Mourinho goes Italian; Nigerian Royalty at Arsenal
TOWNSEND CONTRACT A COUNTER TO 'TOO MUCH TOO SOON'
The progress of Andros Townsend for club and country this season will be well worth following. And we're not talking about his World Cup prospects. Last week, Tottenham upgraded his contract from £6,000-a-week to £15,000-a-week for four years. Such terms would be entry level stuff for some teenage Premier League pros. But Townsend, even on the back of his England heroics, seems very happy with the agreement, which is sure to have been signed with the incentives built in based on his development. Many of his peers in the England U21 squad are on triple or even more money. In a week when it was floated in the London press that Wilfried Zaha had lost his drive since signing a big pre-contract with Manchester United in January, it will be worth watching if Spurs chairman Daniel Levy's policy of not rewarding potential too soon keeps Townsend hungry.
LOAN CRITICS SHOULD JUST GO AWAY
And to think there's plenty of critics eager to see the loan system dismantled! Where would England be now if Tottenham winger Andros Townsend had not gradually built his career spending time away with no less than nine clubs? Significantly, he came to Roy Hodgson's attention when with QPR. Yet, this is where those aligning themselves with FIFA want loans between top-flight clubs banned. It's madness. Along with Townsend, Manchester United striker Danny Welbeck and Liverpool's Danny Sturridge also started against Poland last Tuesday. It was at Sunderland, under Steve Bruce, where Welbeck proved to Sir Alex Ferguson he could cut it at Premier League level after a difficult spell with Preston North End. And with Bolton Wanderers, Sturridge, struggling to find room at Chelsea, offered us a forerunner to what we're now seeing at Liverpool. It's a good system. It works for England's young players. It would be a huge blow to the next generation for it to be scrapped by the 'tsk tsk' crowd.
MOURINHO LEANS ON ITALIAN EXPERIENCE
Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho called on his Italian experience to prepare for victory against Cardiff City. 'Ritiro' is still controversial in Italy, but former Inter Milan coach Mourinho was happy to move his squad into a hotel the evening before Saturday's home win. With his international players arriving from all corners of the globe barely 72 hours before the game, Mourinho wanted to focus his players' minds on the job at hand and was rewarded with a 4-1 win. Perhaps this is one part of Italy's football culture more Premier League managers will begin using to circumvent the frustration of international week.
JUST PLAY RAMSEY, ARSENE
Arsene Wenger should just play him. Aaron Ramsey was again outstanding for Arsenal in victory against Norwich City. The Olivier Giroud-Jack Wilshere combo was spectacular, but for an individual effort, Ramsey's goal was just as breathtaking. Wenger will argue with fitness records and physical tests that Ramsey was due a break. But you shouldn't take your form for granted and Ramsey has the hot hand right now. Why risk that momentum by withdrawing him? Wenger lucked out (in a way) with Mathieu Flamini being forced off in the first-half, so forcing him to introduce Ramsey. But why interfere with something that's obviously working. Just play him, Arsene.
TIOTE CAPTAINCY WAS INSPIRED DECISION
It was an inspired decision by Newcastle United boss Alan Pardew to hand Cheick Tiote the captaincy for the draw with Liverpool. Tiote repaid the gesture with his best performance for Toon in 18 months. He was back to his very best, visibly lifted by Pardew's gesture and thriving in the responsibility. There was so much for Pardew to draw from on Saturday. Tiote's form return, Yohan Cabaye's thrilling goal and performance, plus the resilience shown after Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa's dismissal. And all done with Hatem Ben Arfa still scratching around for form.
CLARK RAVES ABOUT LINGARD
Really interesting comments from Birmingham City boss Lee Clark over the weekend about Jesse Lingard. The Manchester United midfielder has just extended his loan at St Andrews and the news was greeted by Clark declaring Lingard in the same class as West Ham United's dynamo Ravel Morrison. Of course, the pair won an FA Youth Cup together at United before Morrison was famously jettisoned by Sir Alex Ferguson. Now, while Morrison is rightly winning the plaudits for his stunning Premier League breakthrough this season, Lingard is also quietly making his way with an impressive first senior spell at Brum. Roy Hodgson, in a recent press briefing, confessed he'd never heard of Lingard. You fancy he will be aware of him now with five goals from five appearances for his loan club so far.
NIGERIAN ROYALTY SHINING AT ARSENAL
There's Nigerian football royalty on the books at Arsenal. Alex Iwobi is the nephew of former Super Eagles and Bolton Wanderers captain Jay-Jay Okocha and looked every bit a player worth following in action for England U17 last week. A left-sided winger, Iwobi, all tricks and jinks, was superb as England thumped Hungary 4-0 at St George's Park. Lagos-born, Iwobi has been with the Gunners for ten years and scored in Arsenal's recent UEFA Youth League victory over Marseille. Definitely one to watch.
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