WALCOTT REWARDED FOR STAYING ON HIS FEET
Theo Walcott's glorious hat-trick on Saturday owed as much to attitude as ability. Shortly after sweeping home that wonderful first, Walcott was played through, but clipped by a Newcastle United defender inside the area. Instead of going down, Walcott kept his feet and forced Tim Krul into an excellent one-on-one save. That approach didn't go unrewarded, as in injury-time Walcott was flattened not once, but twice, by Toon tackles, but rather throw his arms up wailing for a penalty, he kept going and completed his hat-trick with a superb dink over the shoulder of Krul. We're very quick to point the finger when players go down too easily, so it's hoped that Walcott's five-star performance is remembered as much as the spirit he played with as the goals and assists (what about that cross for Olivier Giroud's header?) he produced.
WILSHERE AT HIS VERY BEST
Jack Wilshere was outstanding against Newcastle. The angled passes, the little turns, the slalom runs. It was all there. His play for Lukas Podolski's tap in was really Wilshere at his best. Winning a 40:60 tackle against Cheick Tiote, he stormed forward, interchanged passes with Podolski then from the touchline, somehow stood the ball up and over Tim Krul for Fabricio Coloccini to head it into Podolski's path. It was an almost unstoppable cross and something only the game's very elite are capable of producing. Wilshere's comeback has been a slow burn, a lot of praise has perhaps been based on promise rather than what he's been producing. But against Newcastle, he really did look the player we all hope he can be.
WHERE DID GAEL COME FROM?
This time last season, Gael Bigirimana was trying to break into Coventry City's first team. On Saturday, the 19 year-old looked every inch a Premier League player at the Emirates. It's amazing to think he only turned pro 18 months ago. Bigirimana didn't suffer in comparison with Jack Wilshere and actually outshone his midfield partner Cheick Tiote. And it wasn't just about keeping it simple. Time and again, Bigirimana would open himself up and spray a long, raking pass with the outside of his foot to a teammate, or cleverly lob a ball to the feet of Demba Ba. There's still a lot to polish, but young Bigirimana already looks a helluva signing. And in this frustrating Toon slump, which can be blamed on injuries to key men, the opportunities granted Bigirimana, along with Sylvain Marveaux and Gabriel Obertan at Arsenal, and the way they've grabbed them, can only mean good things for Alan Pardew's squad in the long-term.
SCHWEINI FOR CHELSEA?
If Roman Abramovich is so willing to throw the bank at Atletico Madrid for Radamel Falcao, then he should be doing the same for his midfield. Frank Lampard, with his brace at Everton yesterday, showed everything that is wrong with the Blues transfer policy. Take Lamps out of that Chelsea team and it would've been a comfortable three points for the hosts. So if he's so determined to push the England man out of the Bridge, then Abramovich needs to find a replacement, otherwise the problems that engulfed Chelsea at the start of the season, with Lampard largely sidelined, will return. Bastian Schweinsteiger, who has just refused to rule out leaving Bayern Munich, and the available AS Roma midfielder Daniele De Rossi, would be a good start. Ignoring the leadership and character Lampard offers will only come back to haunt Chelsea unless it is properly replaced.
TXIKI ENACTING HIS BLUEPRINT AT CITY
Neymar may've been a smokescreen for Manchester City sports chief Txiki Begiristain. The Spaniard was in Brazil last week, which sparked talk of an approach to Santos about a price for the star winger. But Begiristain's real mission was to sound out potential partners and scout locations for a City academy in Brazil. The blueprint is already on his desktop. It was Begiristain who drove Barcelona's push into Brazil three years ago. The sports director oversaw the establishment of Barca's Brazilian academy, which is already producing players for the club's youth teams. Begiristain has close ties to several heavyhitters in Brazilian football, including Bebeto and agent Mario Zagallo, who were both consulted for Barca's soccer school. He is also close to Traffic, though they have a rock solid partnership now with Manchester United through Desportivo Brasil. He will have been working his contacts again last week, driving City's push to emulate Barca's successful worldwide youth development system.
GUARDIOLA CAN'T DEMAND UNITED CHANGES
If Pep Guardiola is to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, it seems very unlikely he'll be allowed to shake-up the current backroom team. Talk over the weekend had Guardiola discussing with Ferguson in New York about taking the United job - and also demanding his own assistants and coaching staff to be added to United's academy. But it's seems a stretch for Guardiola to demand an overhaul of the staff which has brought so much success to United. Whoever does succeed Ferguson will have to do so on his own. It's difficult to imagine Ferguson, no matter how far removed he is, and United's football directors being prepared to accept his replacement ripping apart the coaching structure he's built up.
BALE NEEDS TO FORGET ABOUT INJUSTICE
Gareth Bale had a legitimate shout for a penalty at Sunderland on Saturday. The Tottenham ace did appear to be clipped by Craig Gardner. But the problem is the reputation he's created for himself. He's not a serial diver, but has admitted he's looking for 'contact'. If he's touched, he goes down, arms waving and head turning towards the ref appealing for the penalty. It's understood Prem refs are now reluctant to give penalties to players appealing as they go down, with the belief being that the time between the foul and hitting the turf isn't enough for such a reaction unless it was pre-planned. Bale needs to stop worrying about the injustice of it all and just play football. The histrionics just aren't working for him.