LOWTON SCREAMER NO FLUKE
It was no fluke. Everything about Matt Lowton's screamer for Aston Villa was out of the top drawer. The manner he brought the ball down on his chest and shifted his bodyweight to catch it on the volley was textbook, straight from the training ground. Making it all the more spectacular was he had only eyes for the ball. Lowton would surely have seen from the corner of his eyes two Stoke shapes closing down on him, but he held his nerve, hit the ball perfectly and deservedly struck the goal of the season.
FFP KIILLING AMBITION
Perhaps more managers should take Sam Allardyce's lead and start preparing their fans for Michel Platini's Financial Fair Play laws. Allardyce has told West Ham United supporters that the improvements both he and the board hope to bring to the squad cannot be conducted as quickly as they'd like because of UEFA's ridiculous FFP. Unlike their nearest rivals, in West Ham's favour is their new stadium and the extra revenue it promises. Allardyce has told fans it won't be until the move to Stratford that they can spend big on new signings, otherwise they will be in conflict with Platini's measures. At least the Irons support have something to cling to. What of the likes of Fulham, Everton and anyother club of similar size? Killing off the chance for fans to dream should not be underestimated by the Premier League's decision makers.
MANCINI'S BALOTELLI MANAGEMENT DESERVES SCRUTINY
There has to be questions asked in Dubai about Roberto Mancini's man-management of Mario Balotelli. For all of Mancini's complaints about Manchester City's failure to beat Manchester United for Robin van Persie's signature, greater scrutiny needs to be made of his handling of Balotelli. Indeed, perhaps Ferran Soriano, if he has ambitions of bringing the world's best young players to the Etihad, must probe even deeper to find reasons why Balotelli, such a flop with City, can prove such a spectacular success at AC Milan. The striker is even in this year's 100 most influential people for TIME magazine! There has to be questions for Mancini why his methods failed with his fellow Italian, while at Milan the goals and the plaudits are flowing.
WHAT COULD CITY DO, ROBERTO?
As Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson pointed out yesterday, Roberto Mancini's complaints about failing to land Robin van Persie is strictly a "hypothetical" for Manchester City. Van Persie, as both Ferguson and Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger have confirmed, actually turned down a bigger offer from City to move to Old Trafford. Mancini can rant and rave about "mistakes" in the transfer market, but what else could City's directors do to beat their Manchester neighbours to RvP's signature?
PULIS PLAYERS NOT PUSHING ON
After seven years together, can Stoke City chairman Peter Coates show the door to Tony Pulis? Pulis placed his future in Coates' hands immediately after the defeat to Aston Villa. Despite drawing level inside the final ten minutes, Stoke always looked second best against a Villa team which had four players in their starting XI that were playing outside the Premier League this time last season. The style criticism apart, what stands out when comparing Stoke under Pulis with the likes of Wigan Athletic, Fulham and Sunderland are the lack of quality players that he's brought through and are attracting interest from bigger clubs. No player under Pulis has left Stoke for bigger things and for a club with ambitions of a thriving academy, that has to be a major concern. In the last five years, Stoke have spent £89 million and sold players for just £8.5 million.
WICKHAM, KILGALLON DID NOT LET DI CANIO DOWN
Connor Wickham didn't let down his manager at Chelsea yesterday. Paolo di Canio says he went with Wickham after Danny Graham had pulled up short in the morning and the new Sunderland manager will surely have seen something to work with after the youngster's performance. As the game went on, so Wickham's confidence grew and after a nervy start, he was soon pulling off fancy twists and turns that Stephane Sessegnon would've been proud of. Di Canio made a couple of statements in his selection, not only with Wickham, but also Matt Kilgallon's recall. The centre-half was unlucky with his own goal and like Wickham did not let down his new manager.
TORRES THE INSPIRATION FOR CHELSEA
Make no mistake, Chelsea NEEDED the inspiration of Fernando Torres to overcome Sunderland yesterday. It was the masked man who drove Chelsea forward for their early second-half goal and was at the hub of their best play on a frustrating afternoon. Sunderland were deserving of their halftime lead against a Chelsea which were lacking a spark. Torres provided that. The goals against Rubin Kazan had an obvious effect and you just fancy those close to the Spaniard will have also had him read the words of support and praise from Harry Redknapp and Terry Venables in the weekend press.