PLAY IT SHORT: Magnificent RvP; Luiz meltdown; Sahin Liverpool luxury; Clark outdoes Man Utd with Morrison
LAMBERT STILL WAITING FOR CHANGE OF FORTUNE
It was all looking so good for Paul Lambert on Saturday. His two big choices were proving decisive against Norwich City. With Darren Bent again benched, Christian Benteke had put Aston Villa into a first-half lead. And as Shay Given sat alongside Bent in the dugout, Brad Guzan pulled off superb saves from Grant Holt and Wes Hoolahan, twice. Lambert could feel justified. But then Eric Lichaj went walkabout and Michael Turner nodded home a late equaliser. Villa won't go down this season, but given the lack of experience added by Lambert, they won't be pulling up any trees either. It's a question of whether he can convince Villa fans to buy into what he's trying to build.
MBIA LEAVES SPARKY EMBARRASSED
Stephane Mbia has done his manager no favours. Mbia is a Mark Hughes signing, but the QPR manager must be having second thoughts after 24 hours of madness. The manner of the red card against Arsenal was bad enough, but to also be quoted in the French press slating the Rs, English football and admitting he thought the club was based in Scotland is just embarrassing for Sparky. It's the last thing the manager needs with QPR still winless and Hughes still pleading the case that his summer signings will come good.
WHOSE NEXT ON MANCINI HITLIST?
First it was Joe Hart, then Mario Balotelli (again) and now its Micah Richards. Throw in Brian Marwood and it seems Roberto Mancini is spoiling for a public stoush with anyone who disagrees with him. It does smack of a manager desperately trying to reaffirm his authority in a week when his tactics were ripped apart by a modest Ajax team in Amsterdam and then questioned by his players in the aftermath. For the moment, his targets aren't ones to rock the boat, including Balotelli, who for all the publicity, has never been critical of his manager in the press. But the low ebb inside the dressing room is now making it's way into the public arena and with a new chief executive (Ferran Soriano) and football director (Txiki Begiristain) both in place, Mancini needs to be careful of who else he isolates.
CLARK SUCCEEDING WHERE FERGIE FAILED WITH MORRISON
Sam Allardyce is beaming about the news from Birmingham City. The West Ham United manager knows he has a world-beater on his hands, but needed it confirmed at St Andrews. Sending Ravel Morrison to work with Lee Clark has proved a masterstroke. Clark has managed to achieve what Sir Alex Ferguson and his Manchester United coaching staff couldn't. Not by molly-coddling him, but by traditional man-management. Morrison has been a slow burn at Brum. He had to earn his place. And now that he has, Clark is giving him his chance. The former Newcastle United star hasn't shied away from comparing Morrison with Paul Gascoigne. And why not? At United, they say he is the best they've seen go through the Academy since Paul Scholes. It's exciting to see him turn things around. Another big hope shining on the weekend was Everton kid Ross Barkley, who struck twice and bossed Sheffield Wednesday's win at Ipswich. It's great to see two young lads grab their chance.
LUIZ SURVIVES MELTDOWN SCRUTINY
Can Chelsea win the league with David Luiz a first-choice? He's managed to escape scrutiny thanks to the Mark Clattenburg controversy, but the Brazilian appeared to be in meltdown mode by the end of their defeat to Manchester United. The own goal, allowing Antonio Valencia's cross to go through his legs, could be excused. But when all hell was breaking loose, Luiz was one of the main culprits. Being caught deep, deep out of position is one thing, but to be deliberately shaping like you're ready to swing an elbow was unbelievable behavior for a defender of his experience. Chelsea were still only a goal down. The result was still undecided, but Luiz's temperament let him down amid the chaos on Sunday.
ALLEN AND SAHIN A LUXURY RODGERS CAN'T AFFORD
You have to fancy Liverpool would've had the three points in the bag at Everton with a different midfield combination. Joe Allen AND Nuri Sahin in the same team appears a luxury and it's no coincidence Everton weren't breaking through the lines the way did in the first-half after Sahin was hooked at halftime. Sahin's fans will point to the game being the on-loan Real Madrid midfielder's first Merseyside derby. But it was also Kevin Mirallas'. And while Liverpool grew with the Turk withdrawn, Everton shrunk as Mirallas was forced off with injury at the same time.
VAN PERSIE PROVES MONEY WELL SPENT
Robin van Persie was absolutely magnificent on Sunday. A goal, two assists and his turn and pass which led to Branislav Ivanovic being sent off justified Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson's claims that his summer signings were better than Chelsea's. And to think, only last month it looked like Arsenal had done the better business out of the deal. But now the Gunners are ten points behind United and have scored ten goals less.