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PLAY IT SHORT: Drogba exposed Rojo; LFC boot room biggest Balotelli moaners; Isco needs EPL stage; How can Reid leave West Ham?

DROGBA BOSSED ROJO AT OLD TRAFFORDFor all the euphoria from Robin van Persie's injury-time equaliser, the stark reality remains for Manchester United that their defensive personnel are the weakest link. Didier Drogba was excellent on Sunday night and deserved his goal to put Chelsea ahead. He's now closer to 37 years of age than 36, yet Jose Mourinho was happy to leave him on for the full 90. At this stage in his United career, Chris Smalling, at best, is a fourth-choice centre-half - and, ironically, Marcos Rojo is rated ahead of him, though as was proved against Drogba, he simply doesn't have the physical attributes to be a top class Premier League central defender. When the pair came together, it was Drogba, 12 years the Argentine's senior, who bossed the match-up. Chelsea barely moved out of third gear and it was David de Gea, with saves from Drogba and Eden Hazard, who was the most decisive performer for the hosts on the night.

BALOTELLI'S BIGGEST KNOCKERS FROM LIVERPOOL BOOT ROOMIt's like the modern Liverpool boot room have been waiting - desperately - for Mario Balotelli to fail. Jamie Carragher wasn't shy in declaring disapproval over the Italian's arrival and this past week has been joined by Jamie Redknapp, Graeme Souness, Mark Lawrenson and even Reds fan and former gun-for-hire Micky Quinn. But this criticism does not reflect the overall opinion of those inside the English game. There's a lot of goodwill and hope for Balotelli that he can fulfil his potential in the Premier League. Steve Bruce, the Hull City manager, and his players were queuing up before - and after - their draw at Anfield. Sergio Aguero gushed about his former Manchester City teammate in his book, released in English last week. It's just a shame that Balotelli's biggest knockers are those closest to the club he's playing for.

WHY NO SCRUTINY OF RODGERS' DEFENSIVE OVERHAUL?Pushing back against the Liverpool boot room in the past week, many supporters of Mario Balotelli claim he's been made a scapegoat for the Reds' failings this season. Brendan Rodgers, to his credit, has been supportive of the striker since the Pepe incident. But he has escaped scrutiny - again - over his transfer work this week. Victor Valdes, of Spain and formerly Barcelona, was expected to soon sign for the Reds to put pressure on the inconsistent Simon Mignolet. Yet, while the boot room was moaning about Mario, Valdes pops up at bitter rivals Manchester United - with no hint of explanation from Rodgers. And with his defence all at sea against Real Madrid, Martin Kelly is being mentioned for an England recall at Crystal Palace. Another local lad, Jack Robinson, was palmed off to Wolves with little protest and Dan Agger allowed to return to Brondby. Are the two Spanish lads, Alberto Moreno and Javi Manquillo, really offering more than what has been shipped out?

KANE MAKES SHERWOOD LOOK A GENIUSHarry Kane made Tim Sherwood look a genius last week. The former Tottenham manager urged his successor, Mauricio Pochettino, to select Kane over Roberto Soldado, rating the local lad the better prospect. And Kane didn't disappoint, hitting a hat-trick against Europa League opponents Asteras Tripolis. Pochettino, like Sherwood, does rate Kane and actually tried to sign him for Southampton last year. With January nearing, does the Argentine tell chairman Daniel Levy to put his chequebook away and back the Enfield boy? More significantly, will those at White Hart Lane accept Pochettino going with Kane over the prospect of a big money striker signing?

WHY WOULD REID WANT TO LEAVE?It's surely an easy decision for Winston Reid now? How can the Kiwi turn his back on what Sam Allardyce is building at West Ham United? Big Sam says the most common question he gets now is 'what's going on with the Reid deal?' The defender, who's played his part in the Hammers' top four surge, is still to agree new terms and could walk for nothing in June. But after victories over Liverpool and Manchester City at the Boleyn Ground - and the move to Stratford getting closer - why on earth would you want to leave?

ISCO NEEDS PREMIER LEAGUE MOVE TO FULFIL POTENTIALIsco is simply too good for the bench at Real Madrid. Like Yaya Toure at Barcelona, Isco needs a Premier League club - like Manchester City - to offer him the platform to fulfil his potential. Against Liverpool he was very, very good. But against Barcelona, Isco was the best thing on the pitch - including Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. However, he knows he'll again be the fall guy once Gareth Bale declares himself fit. Famously, Isco's father visited both City and Manchester United before his son committed to Real. The Premier League is on the family's radar and like Toure, Isco's ability is such that English football will benefit overall if he can be tempted away from Real.

CHELSEA LOAN POLICY MODEST COMPARED WITH EURO RIVALSSo how do the critics of Chelsea's loan policy tackle Juventus? The moaners are demanding rule changes with Chelsea having 26 players out on-loan this season and establishing further partnership agreements with continental clubs like Vitesse Arnhem and Besiktas. However, where do these same pundits stand regarding Juve and their SIXTY-FOUR players away on-loan? This is what Premier League clubs are competing against. Not just outright loan arrangements, but the part-ownership and co-ownership of players - which is outlawed in England. If the knockers of clubs like Chelsea get their way, all we'll see is more millions leaving the English game as Premier League clubs are forced to buy the readymade article, instead of getting them on the books at an earlier age - and for a much cheaper fee.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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