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PLAY IT SHORT: Lovren magnificent for Liverpool; Pulis out of order; Same Man Utd weakness; Can Chambers be dropped?

MAN UTD MIDFIELD STILL FULL OF HOLESIt was back to the future for Manchester United on Saturday. For all the excitement generated from Louis van Gaal's arrival and an unbeaten preseason, against Swansea City, United were undone by the very same weakness they struggled with under David Moyes. Two goals, both scored from midfielders (Ki Sung-Yueng and Gylfi Sigurdsson) arriving late, unmarked from central positions. Minds wandered. Communication lines froze. Even with three centre-backs, United were again exposed by a lack of defensive quality in midfield.

LEDLEY WRONG TO QUESTION ROONEY CAPTAINCYLedley King was out of order questioning Wayne Rooney's elevation as Manchester United captain. The former Tottenham skipper insisted during the week that Rooney would not have the same commitment to the club as a captain who had come through the system like Steven Gerrard at Liverpool and John Terry with Chelsea. But notwithstanding Rooney's obvious passion and drive - where would King's opinion leave leaders like Roy Keane? Or Bryan Robson? Rooney was the obvious choice and he's the right senior player to set the tone throughout the club after last season's disgraceful treatment of David Moyes and his coaching staff by veterans now long gone.

McEACHRAN NEEDS TO END VITESSE DELAYSIt's make or break time for Josh McEachran at Chelsea. He's expected to join Vitesse Arnhem on-loan this week and while it's a good move, the delay, with the Eredivisie already now two rounds old, has left him on the backfoot. There's a lot of goodwill within the English game for McEachran, a player regarded ahead of Ross Barkley only two years ago. Former Blues coach Ray Wilkins, speaking over the weekend, regards McEachran as talented as Arsenal legend Liam Brady. That's some endorsement. But he also warned it was time for Josh to start taking greater responsibility on the pitch. There's no doubting the player's class, but at 21, it's now time to show real progress.

DOES WENGER DARE DROP CHAMBERS?Two games. Two 5-star performances. And apparently out of position! At £16 million, Calum Chambers is looking like a snip for Arsenal. And making his impact all the more impressive is his two competitive games have been as a centre-half. He looks a real Rolls Royce of a central defender. But the question for Arsene Wenger, with Per Mertesacker now available, is: does he dare drop the 19 year-old for the big German? Barely months ago, Wenger was claiming his pairing of Mertesacker and Laurent Kosielny the best in the country. But the partnership must now be under genuine threat from Chambers, who had never played centre-half at first team level before his arrival from Southampton.

PULIS WOBBLER OUT OF ORDERGiven the club's recent history, you must side with the owners in the Tony Pulis fiasco at Crystal Palace. Pulis walked out on the club over transfer policy, but the names he wanted would've smashed Palace's wage structure. It's barely four years since the club was pulled out of administration by the current owners - and the support of fans in their campaign to buy back the ground. The players Pulis wanted, Michu, Steven Caulker and Gylfi Sigurdsson, were all demanding £40,000-a-week or more to move to Selhurst Park. With just one year of the Premier League experience under their belt, Steve Parish and Stephen Browett are right to continue to be cautious with their finances. Pulis made a massive impact at Palace and perhaps (rightly) felt he deserved a greater show of faith from the chairmen in his signing choices. But he was barely six months into the job and to throw a wobbler like he has, given the club could easily have been wound up less than five years ago, is well out of order.

LOVREN THE DIFFERENCE FOR LIVERPOOLDejan Lovren was the difference between Liverpool winning and losing on Sunday. If the Croatian had still been in a Southampton shirt, it would've been Ronald Koeman celebrating a debut victory at Anfield. Yes, Lovren was fooled by Dusan Tadic for Nathaniel Clyne's superb equaliser. But minutes later, the Reds defender produced a desperate and courageous block to deny a certain second Saints goal. Both of Liverpool's efforts, you fancy, would've been prevented if Lovren had been alongside Jose Fonte at the back for the visitors. Maya Yoshida wasn't directly responsible for the goals (and Morgan Schneiderlin should've been far stronger in that challenge with Jordan Henderson for Raheem Sterling's opener), but Lovren would've kept Clyne's mind from wandering for Danny Sturridge's winner. The early comparisons with Jamie Carragher ring true for Lovren.

WARD-PROWSE TO STEP OUT OF BARKLEY SHADOWRoss Barkley is out for five months - so step forward James Ward-Prowse. The loss of the Everton star is a blow for England, but Roy Hodgson is sure to have been impressed by Ward-Prowse's performance in Southampton's courageous defeat at Liverpool. If there is an opening for a young midfielder in Hodgson's squad, then Ward-Prowse must be the prime candidate. He wasn't overly impressive in Toulon (contrary to reports), but on Sunday, he was as good as anything on the pitch - including Raheem Sterling and Steven Gerrard. He doesn't just value possession, he looks to hurt the opposition with it. On the ball, Ward-Prowse was always a threat with his passing and Liverpool's midfield struggled to stay with him, as he regularly ghosted into the penalty area late and unmarked. The Saints have another real gem on their hands.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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