PLAY IT SHORT: Sterling best we've seen; Pellegrini gaffed with City XI; Moyes facing Rafa moment; Arsenal will regret Draxler dithering
BEST TEENAGE PERFORMANCE IN PREMIER LEAGUE HISTORY
Raheem Sterling. For a game of such magnitude, has the Premier League ever seen a performance by a teenager as the Liverpool midfielder produced on Sunday? That first 45 from Sterling was breathtaking. Everything was played through him. He wanted the responsibility. He demanded it. The opening goal was the stuff of men against boys - except it was the 19 year-old who was bamboozling Manchester City's Vincent Kompany and Joe Hart. And from there, he didn't look back. The word from Melwood is that Sterling has been head-and-shoulders the best performer on the training pitch since the New Year. At 19, to take your training ground form onto the biggest stage of all takes some nerve - and great support from his manager. Roy Hodgson and Ray Lewington were at Anfield for the five-goal thriller. Sterling must be nailed on for a World Cup place after Sunday's drama.
PELLEGRINI GAFFED WITH CITY STARTING XI
It was the day of the Englander on Sunday. In the Red was Raheem Sterling and for Manchester City, the man who inspired their second-half comeback was James Milner. Manuel Pellegrini has to be questioned why he went with the inconsistent Jesus Navas, bereft of a defensive game, ahead of Milner from the start. Did he simply underestimate Jon Flanagan - who has proved himself such a big match performer this season? City were transformed with Milner's introduction and the England man was at the centre of both their goals. Pellegrini knew what was coming before kickoff. Brendan Rodgers is happy to highlight Liverpool's intentions at Anfield to go for the kill inside those first 15 minutes. Milner, tough, enterprising and disciplined, would've kept his head when City were being blown away in that first-half. Pellegrini gaffed going with Navas ahead of the Yorkshireman.
ARSENAL WRONG DITHERING OVER DRAXLER PRICE
Joachim Low won't die wondering when it comes to Julian Draxler. If he feels the Schalke man can offer Germany something in the World Cup, he'll take him to Brazil - and play him. A stellar World Cup and Draxler's £36 million buyout clause will quickly look a bargain for Europe's heavyweights. And where that will leave dithering Arsenal is anyone's guess. On that last Sunday of the summer transfer window, Gunners chief Ivan Gazidis spent the day trying to broker a price with Schalke for Draxler. Then with the window shut, the German spent some time at London Colney looking over Arsenal's training facilities. But in January, again, though they tried, Arsenal refused to meet Schalke's valuation. And now it's emerged Arsenal are refusing to meet the player's buyout clause. Arsene Wenger has spoken about Yaya Toure being his biggest transfer regret. You wonder in five years' time where Draxler will stand in the pecking order if the Londoners continue to penny pinch.
WHERE ARE BARKLEY'S ENGLAND PEERS?
Everton boss Roberto Martinez was comparing Ross Barkley with Barcelona icon Xavi last week. And why not? The boy is an outstanding talent. But while the reporting of Martinez's comments have been about Barkley, the Everton manager's words should ring loud for his star midfielder's former England U17 teammates. "I am looking at footballers like Iniesta and Xavi who have that mentality and character and he has got that. To see an English player with that sort of focus is quite rare," said the Spaniard. Almost four years ago, when England defeated Spain in the U17 Euros final, Barkley was really part of the support cast. At the time, we were talking up Chelsea pair Josh McEachran and Nathaniel Chalobah, Sunderland striker Connor Wickham and Arsenal's Benik Afobe. But while Barkley's star is now exploding, his former U17 teammates have fallen off the map. When he takes the field, Barkley plays with a hunger and desire of someone fighting for their football life. How many of his peers can we say the same?
MOYES FACING HIS RAFA MOMENT AT UNITED
David Moyes is facing down his Rafa moment at Manchester United. When in charge at Liverpool, Rafa Benitez - and before him Gerard Houllier - made no secret of his frustration with the Boot Room working in the media. Tommy Smith, Alan Hansen, Jan Molby, John Aldridge, they were all ready to turn up the heat when the Reds were failing to meet past standards. Now, Moyes is facing his own Boot Room with Gary Neville, Roy Keane and Michael Owen all having a pop this season - and the fact they're former United players adds greater weight to the criticism. Then there's Paul Scholes, who didn't miss in his guest stint with Sky Sports. So far, Moyes has played the barbs with a conciliatory straight bat. But he has been short with the media this season. And a poor end to the season is sure to ratchet things up again for the Scot.
POLITICAL GAMES INSIDE ARSENAL ACADEMY
Has Steve Rowley won political battle at Arsenal? Liam Brady's departure from the Arsenal academy this season was greeted with mild surprise, though that's since been tempered by the announcement that Andries Jonker will leave Wolfsburg to take charge of the Gunners youth system in the summer. But thanks to a frank interview by former Arsenal junior Kyle Ebilicio with Voetbal International, it seems there was some friction below the first team: "For years there was competition between Liam Brady and Steve Rowley. I started feeling that players scouted by Rowley were favoured over others. They were allowed to train with the first team, when I didn't believe they deserved it". Certainly, for all the barbs fired at Arsene Wenger for not 'moving with the times', he has shaken up both the academy and scouting staff over the last six months. But Ebilicio's revelation is worth noting, particularly with him now a first-choice for Champions League aspirants FC Twente and attracting the interest of Italy's biggest clubs. Are internal politics costing Arsenal talent?
CITY ACADEMY GURUS SHOULDN'T BE BLAMED
First Jim Cassell. Now Scott Sellars. Seems that Manchester City's Spanish powerbrokers Txiki Begiristain and Ferran Soriano are happy to go local when it comes to scapegoats for their youth system. But the simple answer to the homegrown problem is for City to show faith in those now coming through. Burnley are on the brink of promotion with City graduates Ben Mee and Kieran Trippier key men in their back four. And certainly working with Sellars and his coaching staff hasn't stalled Emyr Huws' development - as Birmingham City manager Lee Clark will happily confirm. What should be more concerning for City than the personalities involved, is the local know-how that leaves with them.