OLYMPIC SPIRIT ALIVE AND WELL AT CHELSEAIf the cynics are struggling to find the 'Olympic spirit' in football, then they need look no further than Chelsea. Twelve months ago, Sam Hutchison, at 22, was planning for a career outside the game after retiring due to knee injury. But the commitment of Chelsea's coaching staff convinced him to give the game another go - and a year on he's signed a new Blues deal and was on the Nottingham Forest bench for the win over Bristol City. Neil Bath and his coaching staff didn't have to go that extra mile for Hutchison - but they did - and the club and the game is better for it.
LUKAKU GAVE CLARKE PERFECT BAGGIES DEBUTIt was the perfect debut for Steve Clarke. A win on his first day in management - against the club that sacked him. But more importantly, Romelu Lukaku was on the West Bromwich Albion scoresheet. Getting a goal against a name club like Liverpool will have boosted Lukaku's confidence no end. The doubts coming from the football establishment in Belgium will have hurt the Chelsea man during the summer. But at Albion, he can find his feet under Clarke's guidance and begin showing why Chelsea were willing to part with £18 million for him last year.
WELCOME TO THE BIG LEAGUES, FEDERICIAdam, there's nowhere to hide in the Premier League. Reading goalkeeper Federici produced the big howler of the weekend. It was a shocker - far worse than Robert Green's flap at Michu's effort on his QPR debut. The goalkeeper can make or break the campaign of any promoted club and Reading need Federici to be at his very best to beat the drop this season. Barely days ago, after penning a new deal, Federici was described as "one of the best in the country" by chairman John Madejski. Reading need the Aussie to live up to those words if they're to survive.
LAUDRUP PROVING CANNY IN TRANSFER MARKETSwansea City boss Michael Laudrup has pulled off a coup with Michu. He struck 15 goals from midfield in a struggling Rayo Vallecano team last season and against QPR looked a player worth ten times the £2 million Swans paid for him. Laudrup has brought to the Liberty quality players - Michu, Chicho Flores and Jonathan de Guzman. All top drawer, but with a question mark over their long-term consistency. The same can be said for Valencia winger Pablo Hernandez, who is also on the Dane's shopping list. If Laudrup can get this lot performing week-to-week, the bitterness inside the club over the loss of Joe Allen will be long forgotten.
SONG AS BIG A LOSS FOR ARSENAL AS VAN PERSIEIt's like all the oxygen was sucked out of the club before kickoff. Arsenal's draw with Sunderland was uninspiring. Flat. Insipid. The whole day seemed to reflect the news of Alex Song's sale to Barcelona, barely hours after Robin van Persie's presentation at Manchester United. Plenty has been said about RvP's departure. But Song's exit, as much as Arsene Wenger insists otherwise, will hurt just as much. The United striker may've grabbed the goals, but it was often on the back of great work from Song - remember the efforts against Everton and Liverpool? It's baffling why Barca's approach was almost welcomed with the red carpet by Wenger. Gooners were bouncing over the deals for Podolski, Giroud and Cazorla. But after RvP and Song's sales were followed by the Sunderland result, the more things change, the more they stay the same for Arsenal fans.
SOUTHAMPTON WILL BE IDEAL STAGE FOR RAMIREZIf they can convince a stubborn Bologna to sell, there's no doubt Gaston Ramirez's arrival would be a coup for Southampton. But on yesterday's evidence, Saints will also be good for the Uruguayan. They were great value for their defeat at Manchester City, playing some decent stuff, with Nigel Adkins demanding they 'play football' throughout the 90. Ramirez, big, fast and powerful, will fit nicely into Adkins' system. He can play wide or through the middle and should thrive in a Saints team which appear determined to keep the ball on the deck this season.
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