CITY HAVE FAILED TO IMPROVE ON MANCINI CORE
There's no great mystery over Manchester City's failures in Europe. It has nothing to do with Manuel Pellegrini and his tactics. The problem is that City have failed to improve on the spine of the team that won the Premier League title under Roberto Mancini. Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure, David Silva and Sergio Aguero. They're City's matchwinners. The celebrated Spanish duo Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain have failed to build on that core. They've found players to complement them, even challenge them in Hart and Willy Caballero's case. But unlike Mancini and the previous regime, Soriano and Txiki have been unable - or incapable - of bringing in the type of genuine worldbeaters needed for City to make that big leap in the Champions League.
RODGERS MAKING BALOTELLI SCAPEGOAT
Is it tough love? Or is Brendan Rodgers treading a dangerous line with Mario Balotelli? On League form, the Italian didn't deserve to be dropped for Liverpool's victory over West Bromwich Albion. He was excellent against Everton, particularly the defensive work he did off the ball. Rodgers appeared to make him a scapegoat for the dismal defeat at Champions League opponents FC Basel. But Mario wasn't alone in failing to meet required standards. It's significant that Rickie Lambert barely registered an effort on goal against Albion. As Liverpool scratch around for form, is it really about individuals or Rodgers' playing system? Balotelli may benefit from having a partner to work off - as he did at his best with AC Milan alongside Stephan El Shaarawy.
OSCAR'S AMAZING DEFENSIVE PERFORMANCE
For anyone doubting the magic of Jose Mourinho, you just had to witness Oscar's performance for Chelsea in yesterday's victory over Arsenal. Eden Hazard was the most dangerous player on the day, but the defensive shift Oscar turned in was amazing. A genuine No10, Oscar could easily be earning more money and having a team built around him at PSG. But he's bought into Mourinho's methods and the performance at the Bridge yesterday was just another triumph for the Special One's man-management. There is no way Oscar, upon arriving at Chelsea from Internacional two years ago, will have foreseen throwing himself in front of shots on the edge of the penalty area as he did on Sunday. An amazing performance. An amazing transformation.
TERRY HAD WELBECK IN HIS POCKET
Welcome to reality Danny Welbeck. Going into the game at Chelsea, he was the talk of English football after a first pro hat-trick in Arsenal's thumping win over Galatasaray. But John Terry had Welbeck in his pocket on Sunday. The veteran made at least two superb, stand-up block tackles on the Gunners striker, who was able skip past Gala defenders in similar situations during the week. Not since 2003, against Welbeck's former club Manchester United, have Arsenal failed to get a shot on target in a game - which is exactly what happened at the Bridge.
GOOD NEWS FLOWING FOR HAMMERS
Some great news below the first team for West Ham United last week. Defender Reece Burke, who was outstanding in preseason, signed pro terms, resisting offers from Chelsea and Arsenal in the process. And further back, Oscar Borg, the talented wing-back likened to Gareth Bale, signed scholarship forms with the Hammers. Borg spent preseason with Manchester United and did enough to warrant an offer. But West Ham refused to roll over during compensation talks and in the end Borg was convinced to return south and sign. It's just more good news for the Hammers this season. Next up will be Reece Oxford, with West Ham quietly confident of securing the young defender to new terms in the coming weeks.
BIG SAM RIGHT TO RAP LvG OVER DRINKS BAN
West Ham United boss Sam Allardyce is right to highlight Louis van Gaal's abandoning of the traditional post-match drink. It's a great tradition amongst Premier League managers and is part of a culture that has made the competition the most attractive in the world. As a flagship, that Manchester United, under Van Gaal, has chosen to give this tradition the cold shoulder is, at best, disappointing. But it also smacks of the feeling around LvG and his three-year hit-and-run, in-and-out approach to the job at United. Allardyce isn't alone, MK Dons boss Karl Robinson was also blanked by the Dutchman after their famous Capital One Cup win. Garry Monk, of Swansea City, spoke of picking the brains of the Dutchman for that opening day game - but was never granted an audience. Under Sir Alex Ferguson, Carrington was one of the bedrocks of British coaching. On any given week, you'd find out of work managers assisting United training. Ferguson took it upon himself to keep people involved. Yes, Van Gaal is employed by United, but it's a shame that while he's on English shores, he refuses to recognise the responsibility he has to local coaching in general.
HOW HAS MONK DONE IT?
Just how has Garry Monk done it? Yes, the Swansea City manager will be disappointed with two points dropped against Newcastle United. But would any Swans fan be saying the same in the final weeks of last season? The team's transformation under Monk has to be one of the great stories of the season. He only retired a couple of months ago. Had no previous coaching experience, not even with the youth teams at Swansea, yet Monk has his team inspired. He's seen Jonjo Shelvey become Swansea's first ever England selection and has Wayne Routledge and Nathan Dyer also knocking on the door. All three were at the crossroads last season under Michael Laudrup. As was Gylfi Sigurdsson at Tottenham. But back at the Liberty, under Monk, has the Icelander played any better in his career? Is it Monk? Is it the structure at Swansea? The players? Who knows? The truth lies somewhere inbetween. Though the bottle of chairman Huw Jenkins and his board to gamble on Monk cannot be discounted.
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