PLAY IT SHORT: Flamini as important as Ozil; Zaha never saw Januzaj coming; UK work permit madness; Adam Stoke form shows Hughes impact
FLAMINI PLUS OZIL EQUALS TITLE CONTENTION
Mesut Ozil is a morale booster, for sure. But a game-changer? Well, that tag belongs to Mathieu Flamini. It'll be the Frenchman who'll be winning and feeding the ball to Ozil, cajoling and driving his teammates. Flamini will do everything the Gunners midfield has missed since he left three years ago. Unlike Ozil, Flamini offers something completely different to what is available to Arsene Wenger - and cost Arsenal £42.7 million less. Yes, Ozil does have Arsenal fans buzzing and will lift the locker room. But without Flamini, he'd be a very expensive luxury. With the Gunners' new ball-winner, the combination is a definite game-changer for Wenger and Arsenal.
TIGHTENING UK PERMIT LAWS JUST CRAZY
Making the UK's ridiculous work permit laws even tougher, as the FA is now planning, isn't going to improve English football. All it's going to do is see even more money leave the local game. Millions have been wasted by Premier League clubs buying players they were previously blocked from signing by work permit panels chaired by poorly informed ex-pros. Michael Essien, John Obi Mikel and Oscar all could've been signed for next-to-nothing by English clubs if not for abysmal work permit rulings. Now the FA want to make it even tougher. Madness.
ADAM RETURNING TO EXCITING BEST UNDER HUGHES
Under Mark Hughes at Stoke City, Charlie Adam is already rediscovering the form which had Kenny Dalglish battling Sir Alex Ferguson for his signature at Blackpool. It's early days, but Hughes is obviously encouraging his players to express themselves more and for the stalemate against Manchester City, it was Adam who was all tricks and flicks (and not without industry), rather than the visitors' high-priced imports. One moment, involving Adam, captured the change in mood under Hughes. Just before the break, Adam, buzzing with Stoke on top, collected possession inside his half and attempted to pass the ball through a City's players legs. It didn't come off and possession was coughed up. But would Adam had even thought of such an attempt this time last season? Would he have been back on in the second-half?
HOW WILL ZAHA FEEL ABOUT JANUZAJ EMERGENCE?
So how is Wilfried Zaha feeling this morning? Many expected Manchester United boss David Moyes to play the England winger against his old club on Saturday. Instead, it was teenage Belgian Adnan Januzaj who was handed his debut against Crystal Palace. Not only did he shine in his substitutes' performance, but the 18 year-old basically gate crashed Maroune Fellaini's debut party. It's Januzaj we're all talking about and wanting to learn more of this week. Zaha is quickly learning at United that it isn't just those senior players ahead of him he needs to worry about, it's also the youngsters he thought were behind him.
SUNDERLAND ROBBED BY REF HOWLER
Despite all the buzz around Mesut Ozil's winning debut, it was a howler by ref Martin Atkinson. Sunderland and Paolo di Canio have every right to feel robbed. Jozy Altidore's goal deserved to stand. Even by pulling him back for the foul, that Atkinson failed to send off Bacary Sagna was a big mistake. Arsenal were 2-1 up, but the momentum and the crowd were all with Sunderland. Di Canio has been hammered by the usual suspects for his tactics in the first 45. But it was he who changed things at halftime, bringing on Craig Gardner and reorgonising their defensive structure. 3-1 certainly did not reflect the story over the full 90. And in Modibo Diakite, Sunderland certainly have found a class player.
CREWE CONTINUE TO PRODUCE TALENT - ON AND OFF PITCH
It's not just players Crewe Alexandra are successfully placing at higher levels. Another Crewe graduate made the big time last week. Neil Critchley was named U18 coach of Liverpool after moving from Gresty Road. His appointment came just days after Chelsea coach - and former Crewe manager - Steve Holland was named England U21 boss Gareth Southgate's No2. And at Kirkby, Critchley will have ex-Alex junior Daniel Trickett-Smith in his squad. Yet, for all their success, Crewe still have to jump through hoops and find millions for the Premier League's Elite Player Performance Plan scheme. Whose capable of doing more for English football? The people at Crewe, or a flashy academy complex at a Premier League club?
WILL KEANE RECEIVES UNITED BOOST
Good to see Will Keane named to Manchester United's Champions League squad last week. Keane suffered a serious knee injury last summer while with England U19s and missed the entire campaign. Sir Alex Ferguson had talked up the prospect of Keane being part of his senior squad last season and rates the centre-forward highly. With his European registration, there's obviously confidence inside United that Keane will make his playing return before midseason. Another United striker also has coaching staff talking with James Wilson not only scoring on his England U19 debut last week, but producing a wonder goal in the U18's win over Arsenal days later.
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