PLAY IT SHORT: Limp Arsenal waiting for Platini; Chelsea's baffling kids treatment; De Gea faces Reading acid test; Why would Bale choose Real chaos?
CUP DISASTER SUMS UP PASSIVE ARSENAL APPROACH
The irony can't have been lost on Arsenal critics. In the week that Arsene Wenger saw hopes realised of financial controls being forced upon Premier League rivals, that same desperate need for outside help was replicated by his players in defeat to FA Cup opponents Blackburn Rovers. Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott apart, there's no-one available to Wenger capable of taking a game by the scruff of the neck and changing it's destiny. On Saturday, the home players dominated possession, but were lacking individual inspiration and as the game was allowed to meander along, Colin Kazim-Richards inevitably took advantage to bounce home Rovers' winner. In 90 minutes, it summed up Wenger's Arsenal in a nutshell. Rudderless, seeking outside help and desperately waiting for Michel Platini's financial fair play to be inflicted upon the game.
DE GEA FACES READING ACID TEST
After all the plaudits, comes a real test for Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea tonight. The last time United faced Reading, the Royals put three past De Gea's keeper rival Anders Lindegaard, but still finished on the losing end of a 4-3 result. Royals boss Brian McDermott admitted they deliberately targeted United's defence in the air at set-pieces and corners - and De Gea can expect the same again tonight in the FA Cup. The Spaniard was outstanding in Spain last week, but as his coach, Eric Steele, admitted playing in England offers a variety of challenges for goalkeepers and we'll know more about De Gea's progress if he's steady tonight against Reading.
WHY WOULD BALE SWAP SPURS FOR CHAOS?
The name apart, why would Gareth Bale leave Tottenham for Real Madrid in the summer? Jose Mourinho will surely be gone, with a new coach needing to be found, Real president Florentino Perez will face re-election and there remains no sign of the contract stand-off between Cristiano Ronaldo and the club being solved. It's chaos. Contrast that to Spurs, where Bale and his teammates are fully behind Andre Villas-Boas, who also has the confidence of chairman Daniel Levy, and a team is being built to be a long-term top four contender. Bale only needs to speak to Luka Modric about the grass being greener.
THERE'S LIFE BEYOND CHELSEA FOR TOP KIDS
Romelu Lukaku has declared he wants to be a Chelsea legend. But he must be wondering just where he fits in Chelsea's plans with a deal for Radamel Falcao all but wrapped up. Demba Ba is already in front of Lukaku at Stamford Bridge and now the Belgian is sure to drop further down the pecking order when Falcao arrives in the summer from Atletico Madrid. At West Bromwich Albion, Lukaku has offered more than enough for Chelsea's coaching staff to be excited - but perhaps not those higher up. Madrid sources are convinced Falcao is on his way to London, which is sure to come as a blow to Blues mad Lukaku. With Danny Sturridge starring at Liverpool, Jack Cork being tipped for England at Southampton and Thibaut Courtois now leaning towards staying with Atletico, Chelsea's scouts have shown a good eye for talent, but management's treatment of these young players is baffling.
OLLIE WRONG ON RvP
Ian Holloway missed the mark on Sunday. The Crystal Palace manager declared it was the Manchester City board, not Roberto Mancini, who is to blame for this season's struggles after failing to go the extra mile for Robin van Persie. The problem, however, for City and Mancini was that Van Persie always had his heart set on signing for Manchester United. Both Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson are on record stating Van Persie turned down more money at City to move to Old Trafford. The problems at City run deeper than missing out on Van Persie. An obvious lack of motivation to 'go again' must lead to questions about the manager.
ANICHEBE REALISING HIS POWER
Has the penny dropped for Victor Anichebe? Just as he displayed against Aston Villa, Anichebe's goal at Oldham Athletic on Saturday night was all about power. The Everton striker out-maneuvered Yves Mvoto with a clever use of his body before lashing the ball past Dean Bouzanis in the Latics goal. Used largely on the flank by David Moyes, the Nigeria international is now getting his chance at centre-forward and finding himself more than a handful for centre-halves across the country - and up and down the leagues. Now 24, with an extended run of games in his favoured position - and staying injury-free - Anichebe must be recognising how much of a nightmare he can be for defenders just with his presence.
ENGLAND WHIZ DIER MAKING MARK IN LISBON
Eric Dier couldn't get a game at Everton last season. But under Jesualdo Ferreira, he's making an impact back at parent club Sporting Lisbon and is creating headlines in the Lisbon press. Dier, along with five of his B teammates, earned a call-up and were impressive in victory at Gil Vicente on the weekend. The England U19 international only made his first team debut in November, but already has his first goal at senior level and the confidence of Ferreira.