LLORIS CAN LEARN FROM FRIEDEL THIS WEEK
Hugo Lloris can learn from Brad Friedel this week. There'll be no sniping from the American. No public complaining and no questioning the gaffer. Lloris' supporters will argue he could do nothing for any of the five he let in the Tottenham net on Saturday. But there was plenty he could've done about the barbs coming from across the Channel aimed at Friedel and Andres Villas-Boas. All Lloris had to do was pipe up, instead he's allowed the likes of Didier Deschamps to do his talking for him. Did the moaning get Lloris his spot at Arsenal? Only AVB knows. But one thing's certain, nothing from Friedel - both on and off the pitch - could've influenced his decision.
WALCOTT MAKES MOCKERY OF WENGER BENCH ROLE
Theo Walcott was at his best for Arsenal on Saturday. He tore Kyle Naughton to shreds in the first-half and produced a performance which has to raise questions about Arsene Wenger's refusal to give him an automatic start so far this season. Wenger argues it's had nothing to do with his contract talks. But it's hard to stand by that when Walcott produces form like he displayed against Tottenham. Can they keep him? It's difficult to see how when you have the likes of Chelsea, Juventus and Manchester City willing to pay 50 per cent (at least) above Arsenal's best offer. Throw in the way he's been treated by Wenger this season and can you really blame Walcott looking elsewhere?
CITY EURO FLOP BOOSTS TITLE DEFENCE
Roberto Mancini is blaming the seeding for Manchester City's Champions League flop. But there can be no excuse for his team's poor showing home and away against Ajax. The Dutch have some good players, but it's a team assembled on a fraction of the budget afforded Mancini by Sheikh Mansour. Borussia Dortmund are a similar case. The seedings excuse just doesn't cut it. But, ironically, with City now on the brink of another Champions League exit, the bonus for Mancini is Manchester United's qualification for the knockout round. The rout of Villa suggests City are again hitting their straps in the Premier League and with United's commitments split, Mancini knows they'll have a huge advantage without the demands of Europe in the second-half of the season.
AL FAYED HAS EVERY RIGHT TO BE FURIOUS
Fulham chairman Mohamed Al-Fayed has every right to be furious with rivals' plans of greater financial controls for Premier League clubs. Al Fayed has owned Fulham for 15 years and has never gambled with their financial future. The idea that other owners and chairmen will have a say on how he spends his money is an insult to Al Fayed and must absolutely infuriate the self-made multi-millionaire. Premier League clubs met last week to discuss introducing their version of UEFA president Michel Platini's financial fair play laws. But clubs like Everton and Newcastle United have to be careful. They're not going to attract the investor they seek if the prospect of transforming the club into another Manchester City is ripped from under them.
LAMPARD ABSENCE HURTING CHELSEA
Have Chelsea been found out? Defeat at West Bromwich Albion has compounded the problems facing Roberto di Matteo. Plenty of focus has fallen on the flat Fernando Torres, but the midfield also needs examining. Frank Lampard's absence leaves a massive void. Di Matteo attempted to change things at the Hawthorns, with John Obi Mikel and Oriol Romeu in holding roles, but neither boast the passing range of Lamps. Eden Hazard, Oscar and Juan Mata can all unlock a defence, but aren't the type to get their head up and hit a 30-yard ball over Torres' shoulder for him to run onto. That's the variety Lampard brings to Chelsea - and what Di Matteo and Michael Emenalo must replace if the England veteran is to leave in 2013.
CLAUDIO YACOB SIGNING OF SEASON
Is there a better signing, pound for pound, this season than Claudio Yacob? The Baggies midfielder has had a massive influence on Albion's stunning top four push. Yesterday, against Chelsea, with so much written about John Obi Mikel, Oriol Romeu and Ramires, it was Yacob who again had the biggest influence in the most important part of the pitch. Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson is eager to find himself a ball-winning midfielder and had a look at Yacob when he was still tied to Racing in Argentina. Given the manner he's settled in the Premier League, it's no surprise Fergie is having brother Martin assess the Argie leading up to the January market.
UNITED PROBLEMS EXPOSED AT NORWICH
It was always coming. A tight ground, with the fans on top of them and having to handle a bustling centre-forward, Manchester United's frail defence just couldn't cope at Norwich City. This time, unlike at Villa Park, there would be no rescue act. John Ruddy, Sebastien Bassong and Michael Turner made sure of that. Even an SOS to Paul Scholes couldn't break down the Canaries. Last week, Sir Alex Ferguson sent brother Martin to check on Borussia Dortmund defender Mats Hummels in action for Germany. United's defensive problems can't be papered over going into the second-half of the season.