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PLAY IT SHORT: Man Utd winning without Scholes; Where'd Wilshere's friend go?; Chelsea flair players found out; Sabella hands Wigan transfer favour

MAN UTD WINNING DECISIVE GAMES WITHOUT SCHOLESRobin van Persie was outstanding and the defence held up. But the most significant development to come out of Manchester United's victory over Arsenal was the absence of Paul Scholes. Just as he did at Chelsea, Sir Alex Ferguson went with Tom Cleverley ahead of Scholes in a decisive game. And this time Ryan Giggs didn't even make the bench. United started like a house on fire last season before Cleverley was shunted by Kevin Davies, of Bolton Wanderers. After struggling at Everton and Southampton, he proved himself in the white-hot atmosphere of Chelsea. But the true test for Fergie's 'new' midfield will come at the likes Stoke City and West Ham United, with the crowd on top of them and the tackles flying in.

WHERE DID WILSHERE'S FRIENDS GO?If Gooners are wondering where it all went wrong, they only have to check the last time Jack Wilshere played in an Arsenal XI. Two seasons ago, he was running around with Robin van Persie, Cesc Fabregas, Alex Song, Gael Clichy and Samir Nasri. Now, Arsenal couldn't lay a glove on Manchester United and Tottenham are sitting above them on the table.

LIVERPOOL SHOULD HELP COLE GET RIGHT MOVEBrendan Rodgers has admitted he gave his players at Reading too much time to prove themselves - which ended up costing him his job. So his hooking of Joe Cole during the Capital One Cup defeat to Swansea City can be no surprise to Liverpool players. Rodgers is at Anfield for keeps and won't bend the rules for anyone, no matter how far they go back. But the epitaphs for Cole's career have been premature. This time last season he was winning great praise from both sides of the Channel at Lille. He hasn't become a bad player overnight and the one-off challenge thrown down by Rodgers was always going to be difficult to meet. If Cole wants a move in January, Liverpool should do the right thing and make it as easy as possible. You'd love to see him playing week-in, week-out for someone like Steve Clarke at West Bromwich Albion or Roberto Martinez at Wigan Athletic.

SABELLA HELPS WIGAN IN MARKETFranco di Santo's call-up to the full Argentina squad by Alejandro Sabella must have caught the attention of a player like Joe Cole. No wonder Wigan Athletic are celebrating. Roberto Martinez and chairman Dave Whelan know Di Santo's selection strengthens their hand in attracting not just players of the calibre of Cole, but also talented youngsters who would in the past not even have bothered to consider the Latics as a good career move. But the way Martinez has brought the best out of Di Santo, not to mention the development of the likes of James McCarthy and James McArthur, who were running around for Hamilton Academicals only a few years ago, places the club in a strong position when competing for talented kids.

FLAT SUNDERLAND NEED SPARKSunderland just haven't caught fire this season. All the excitement from last term is a long, distant memory. Martin O'Neill must be concerned. No matter how he paints it, defeat to Aston Villa was unthinkable going into the game. Where would they be without Steven Fletcher's goals? Over 40,000 were at the Stadium of Light - and they deserved better. As does Simon Mignolet, who along with Fletcher, is carrying the club this season. How O'Neill will have taken the 'vote of confidence' given by Villa's Paul Lambert is anyone's guess. But he must know something has to give leading up to the January market.

OWLS PROVING GREAT ENVIRONMENT FOR BARKLEYSheffield Wednesday has been a great move for Ross Barkley. The Everton youngster scored his third goal in two games for victory over Peterborough United. Barkley is not just developing his game at Hillsborough, he's also learning and taking on the responsibility of being a major player in a relegation battle. Barkley has had a big say in back-to-back wins for the Owls to lift them out of the Championship's dropzone. A player likened to Manchester United legend Bryan Robson, Barkley will return to Everton a readymade first teamer for manager David Moyes.

CHELSEA FLAIR ALREADY PREDICTABLEForget Roberto di Matteo. The most nervous about Chelsea's dip in form has to be West Bromwich Albion manager Steve Clarke. For all the flair of Juan Mata, Oscar and Eden Hazard, Chelsea are looking predictable. It was Swansea City who scored the sort of goal Blues' midfield should be crafting. Fernando Torres isn't playing as a goal scorer, but more as a playmaker. His best moments at the Liberty came when he was trying to play in teammates, which is really overkill given the wealth of creativity at Di Matteo's disposal. Romelu Lukaku, currently on-loan at the Baggies, would offer the manager something completely different to what he has. He doesn't like the Didier Drogba comparison, but Lukaku is the one player on Chelsea's books capable of playing with his back to goal. At the moment, Chelsea's biggest threat is coming from set-pieces. Their little creators are being crowded out and kept at arm's length by opposition defences. A recall for Lukaku would allow Di Matteo to shake things up.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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