PLAY IT SHORT: Redknapp, El Tel wrong to target ball-boy; Giroud brace no masterclass; Benitez helped by Morgan row; Man Utd kid winning admirers at Leicester
IT WAS NO GIROUD MASTERCLASS
His brace against Brighton was top drawer, but it was no centre-forward masterclass from Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud on Saturday. As much as his goals were outstanding, Giroud was still a passenger for much of the game. Immediately after his wonderful second, he made one great run off the ball to create an opening for Tomas Rosicky. But that was it. The jury still must be out on the Frenchman. And it must frustrate fans to hear Arsene Wenger in the post-match talking about the need to add to his attacking options in terms of "quantity not quality" and mentioning Gervinho in the same breath! Robin van Persie was much more than goal poacher at Arsenal, as was Thierry Henry before him. Giroud has to offer more than he is at the moment.
BRIDGE SAW OFF OX AS HE ROLLED BACK THE YEARS
So who was the England winger at the Amex on Saturday? Both Will Buckley and Brighton teammate Kazenga Lualua were outstanding - and exciting - at times. In contrast Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was flat and really struggled against Wayne Bridge. Bridge rolled back the years on the day and had the Ox in his pocket for much of the game. There was so much to like about Brighton and it wasn't until Arsenal threw on the big guns, Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott and Kieran Gibbs, that the Cup tie was settled in the visitors' favour. Before then, it was difficult to identify the Premier League presence - both team-wise and individually.
REDKNAPP, EL TEL WRONG TO TARGET MORGAN
It was all sorted on the night. Swansea City ball-boy Charlie Morgan admitted he was in the wrong and apologised to Eden Hazard - and the Chelsea star conceded he over-reacted and returned the favour. Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins was eager for the club to move on - as were Chelsea's officials. As far as all those directly involved, the issue was over. All parties had done something we don't always see from other sectors of society, admitted they were wrong, forgave eachother and moved on. Cue the earnest, finger wagging, bleeding hearts in the local press, so desperate to pillory any Premier League footballer who steps out of line. The unfortunate fallout from their actions is that Morgan is now being hammered by people this football-mad son of a millionaire will have looked up to. The furious criticism from the likes of QPR boss Harry Redknapp and Terry Venables was understandable, but missed the true target, which should have been those with a self-interest in keeping this story going to push their own agenda.
BALL-BOY ROW HELPED BENITEZ
The ball-boy controversy at Swansea City actually did Rafa Benitez a favour last week. The fact another trophy opportunity had slipped away from Chelsea was drowned out by the noise surrounding Charlie Morgan and Eden Hazard. And with it, scrutiny on whether Benitez is actually moving the club forward. Under the Spaniard, as they did in the Club World Cup final against Corinthians, Chelsea came up short against inferior opposition in the Capital One Cup. It's been a wasted year for the reigning European champs. They began the season with the opportunity of winning seven trophies and are looking down the barrel of finishing the campaign empty handed. A successful FA Cup defence, their last chance of silverware this term, now hangs by a thread.
UNITED, EVERTON SHOW UP RODGERS SELECTION
If it's good enough for Sir Alex Ferguson, why not Brendan Rodgers? There was no room for any U21 regular in Manchester United's squad for their FA Cup win over Fulham. Not even the last places on the bench. Ferguson reshuffled his line-up, but still played a very strong team. In contrast., Rodgers threw in Sebastian Coates and Jack Robinson at the back and were turned over by Oldham Athletic. Fabio Borini again raised doubts about whether he is up to task after being hooked before the hour. When you consider the attitude of near rivals United and Everton to this competition, it must be frustrating for Reds fans waking up this morning after events at Boundary Park.
QPR AND VILLA FACE BATTLE OF BOTTLE
Will Paul Lambert allow the transfer deadline to fall without adding any experience to his Aston Villa squad? QPR, propping up the table, are just five points behind the Villans and doing everything to help Harry Redknapp bring in fresh faces. And while Lambert has shunned the experience of Stephen Warnock, Alan Hutton and Darren Bent, Redknapp has taken the opposite approach - recalling Clint Hill and making him club captain, handing Shaun Derry a new contract and trying to convince Ryan Nelsen to put off his Toronto FC move for another few weeks. Redknapp is going with experienced know-how, Lambert is backing his kids. And if it comes to a battle of bottle, Redknapp's warriors are sure to hold their nerve better than Lambert's rookies.
KEANE SURPRISING MANY AT LEICESTER
Twelve months ago Michael Keane was in the shadow of twin brother Will and playing for the Republic of Ireland. Fast-forward to today and there's a growing buzz around the Manchester United defender as he makes impressive progress on-loan at Leicester City. Pundits and ex-players are taking notice of Keane, now a first-choice for England U19, particularly the way he's smoothly stepped up from low-key U21 football to the intensity of the Championship. Foxes boss Nigel Pearson knows a thing or two about quality centre-halves and if he's willing to stick 19 year-old Keane in the heart of his back four, then it's worth noting. Twin brother Will was being tipped for a United breakthrough this season before his summer knee injury and given Michael's achievements, the pair could be playing together in a Red shirt this time next year.