PLAY IT SHORT: Wenger can deliver Fergie triple transfer blow; Chelsea don't deserve CWC pelters; Kelly doing a Zeki at Liverpool; Benteke simply the best
WENGER CAN PULL OFF TRIPLE TRANSFER BLOW ON FERGIE
As he sees Manchester United runaway with the Premier League lead, Arsene Wenger, for his all problems at Arsenal, can stick one in the eye of Sir Alex Ferguson during next month's transfer market. Fergie wants Theo Walcott - and Raheem Sterling, who is also on Wenger's shopping list. The Frenchman can leave his great rival empty-handed by offering Walcott to Liverpool for Sterling in a swap. And should he really want to turn the screw, Wenger can also nick Crystal Palace dazzler Wilfried Zaha ahead of United. For all the pull of United, Zaha is a mad Gooner and given the chance would jump at the opportunity to play at the Emirates. By January 31, it could be Wenger 3, Fergie 0.
POTLESS CHELSEA MAKING PROGRESS UNDER RAFA
Rafa Benitez is sure to return to another hostile Chelsea welcome after failing in Yokohama. But it was more about an inspired Cassio than any Chelsea failings that swung the Club World Cup final in Corinthians' favour. Chelsea would have racked up a cricket score if not for the Corinthians goalkeeper. The defeat hit Chelsea's players visibly and Benitez will have to work hard to lift them, but the result apart, progress is being made. Fernando Torres was again impressive, from his wonderful control and volley in the first-half right through to his injury-time header, which was chalked off for offside. The Spaniard put in a real shift, but Chelsea's weakness was obvious. Chasing the game, Benitez had no-one on the bench capable of finding a goal for him. It was Torres or bust and it's something that needs to be addressed in next month's transfer market.
KELLY DOESN'T WANT TO DO A ZEKI AT ANFIELD
Martin Kelly should glance north if he insists on digging in his heels at Liverpool over new contract demands. At 22 and not a guaranteed starter, to reject £35,000-a-week is madness. Following on from the deadlock involving Raheem Sterling, it's a test of strength for manager Brendan Rodgers, who has made it clear he doesn't want to pay his young players too much too soon. Manchester United suffered similar problems in the summer, but didn't cave in. The result is Paul Pogba at Juventus, Ravel Morrison at Birmingham City, via West Ham United, and Zeki Fryers at, er, Standard Liege. Kelly should ask himself, at which other club, the size of Liverpool, does he see young players getting their chance like they've experienced under Rodgers?
BENTEKE SIMPLY THE BEST
Best signing? Best newcomer? Best unknown? However you label him, there's no arguing the impact Christian Benteke has had since arriving at Aston Villa. Against Manchester United, it was his sheer brute force which left us in awe. At Liverpool on Saturday, it was all about his footballing ability. A backheel in front of the Kop for Andi Weimann's goal followed on from the first of his brace. Benteke passed the ball, as thunderous a shot as it was, beyond Pepe Reina for the opener. It was all very considered and deliberate - and done with the sheer power he's becoming known for. Two goals and an assist on his Anfield debut is the stuff of dreams.
TAARABT CAN BE REDKNAPP'S NEW LUKA
Inside the first minute of QPR's victory over Fulham, Adel Taarabt had sunk his marker and played Djibril Cisse through for a decent early chance. Seconds later he was hitting a screamer just the wrong side of Mark Schwarzer's post. Taarabt was up for it on Saturday. He bossed the game and showed why he's been mentioned with the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal and Real Madrid this season. Yes, Fulham were flat. But Taarabt can only beat what's in front of him and he was outstanding on the day. You do want him to put his foot in like Paul Scholes and track back, but it just isn't in his game and when you consider what Harry Redknapp did for Luka Modric at Tottenham, another not known for diving in, there's no reason why Taarabt can't be QPR's answer to the Croatian - especially on Saturday's evidence.
ANITA GROOMED AS TIOTE SUCCESSOR
He's been portrayed as a destroyer, but Cheick Tiote is so much more than that. In a Newcastle United team hopelessly short on confidence, he could only do it in fits and starts against Manchester City, but Tiote still at times controlled the tempo. Yes, he snaps and snarls, but also, on the ball, quickens the pace of the game. Shifting the ball quickly amongst his teammates, dropping his shoulder and going past a tackle, even carving out openings for his strikers, it's no surprise the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United are such great admirers. But if they do lose Tiote in January (beyond the African Nations Cup), Newcastle appear to have a readymade successor in Vurnon Anita. The young Dutchman is still adjusting to Premier League demands, but in defeat to City, offered plenty of promise of what's in his locker. Give him 12 months and if he continues his progress, we'll be talking about Anita in the same breath as Tiote.
WHO AT VILLA WILL ARGUE AGAINST FORRESTER RETURN?
Harry Forrester's original release at Aston Villa did raise some eyebrows. Having fought so hard to land the teen ahead of the country's biggest clubs, to see the former Watford junior cut loose 18 months ago was a surprise. Now, after rebuilding his career at Brentford, which he chose ahead of an offer from Ajax, Forrester is wanted back at Villa Park by Paul Lambert. There's sure to be staff at Villa's academy well aware of why Forrester was originally allowed to leave, but whose going to argue with Lambert given his recent success? Matt Lowton and Ashley Westwood have both looked the part coming from the lower divisions. No matter the reasons behind Forrester's departure, if Lambert can see something in the now 21 year-old, then his progress will be well worth following in 2013.