The end is nigh! Of course, I mean the end of the Premier League season and the solitary reason so many people look forward to the weekend, to escape from their sad, lonely lives. Anyway, enough about me. There are only seven games left, so let’s put our hands together for the top, top performers of the last round of fixtures, and point and laugh at the ones who stunk up the place.
The Neutrals: Oh, you neutrals. You have it so good, haven’t you? You supposedly have no horse in the race and so you’re free to actually enjoy the football without fear of having your weekend ruined by a bad result. Spurs reduced the gap to leaders Chelsea to just four points, before Antonio Conte’s men made it seven points again, postponing the start of the ‘Title Race’ to next week. Everton and Leicester served up an old-fashioned cracker wherein both managers aged by a few years over the course of 90 minutes. I hope you enjoyed that, fence-sitters.
Dele Alli and Heung-min Son: The latest saviour of the England national side and the next Lampard/Scholes/Gerrard (delete as necessary) scored a peach of a goal and made Watford’s lives miserable. This got me thinking, why is it always a peach of a goal? Why can’t it be another fruit, like a mango? ‘A mango of a goal’ or a ‘mangoal,’ for short. I digress. Let’s get back to the South Korean, who is presumably sent onto the pitch with a simple message from his manager – “Go on me Son, get me a goal”. And that he did very well, cushioning the blow of Harry Kane’s absence and keeping Spurs within touching distance of glorious failure.
Marcos ‘Afterthought’ Alonso: Brought in for £24m as part of Chelsea’s annual left-back replacement scheme after they failed to land their primary targets, he filled the vacant spot left by Baba Rahman’s loan move to Schalke 04. Despite the fee, most people looked down on him as the guy Sunderland didn’t buy when he was on loan there. When expectations are so low, you can only exceed them. Which brings us to…
Simon Mignolet: When both of your goalkeepers are like sieves, the only option would be to put the one with smaller holes in goal. Or maybe buy a better goalkeeper. But heavy metal Jurgen doesn’t believe in buying when he could hack a DIY solution (see Milner, James). Against Stoke City, Mignolet drew gasps from astonished onlookers as he displayed the basic competence expected from the first-choice goalkeeper of a top six team. ‘Simon Saves’, anyone? No? Okay.
Fabian Delph: No, we’re not covering the Championship in this column. Delph now plays for Manchester City, remember? I wouldn’t blame you, most of us had forgotten he even existed. Turns out he’d just been struck with a bout of Wilsheritis, a rare disease that affects promising English footballers and causes them to miss vast chunks of the season through injury until they fade from public memory. But he has recovered now and is ready to strengthen City’s midfield, before getting injured in the last game of the season and missing half of next season.
Jose Mourinho’s Brain in Luke Shaw’s Body: The Special One put on quite a show at Old Trafford as he mind-controlled Luke Shaw’s body to a Man of the Match award. Suitably impressed by his own performance, Jose plans to try this on United’s record signing in the next game. ‘If you want something done right, you must do it yourself,” mused the Portuguese after the match, as Shaw, with his own brain in control of his body now, stumbled across the press room and got himself tangled in the wires.
Tony Pulis’ Baseball Cap: The sun shone in England this week and there was no one more pleased with himself than Tony Pulis. As goalkeepers tried to block the sun with their hands, and defenders, blinded by the giant ball of fire in the sky, sliced routine clearances towards their own goal, Pulis looked on with a smile. He adjusted his cap, looked towards the heavens and ascended to levels of smugness hitherto unknown to mankind.
Vincent Janssen: One-goal Vincent failed to take any sort of advantage of Harry Kane’s injury and will find himself back amongst the substitutes next week. He’ll probably leave Spurs at the end of the season, his only legacy being ‘Vinny was here’ etched into his spot on the bench.
Diego Costa: Since January, Costa has gone off the boil and he dropped below lukewarm this weekend. Maybe if he spent less time reading Chinese takeout menus and more time concentrating on his finishing…
Claudio Bravo: Recalled from the wilderness and placed between the sticks, this was a chance for Bravo to show Pep that he’s learnt from his mistakes, that he could be relied upon, that he could be his number one. Claudio promptly proceeded to concede a goal from the weakest shot during the game, and that includes the attempt by an old lady to whack a fly with her match programme.
Middlesbrough: Boro went back to being themselves, and bored the bejesus out of anyone unfortunate enough to watch their game against Burnley. The two goals they scored in midweek will probably remain the only time they’ll trouble the scoreboard until the end of this season.
Lanzini’s Dive: Dear Manuel, the best divers in the business will tell you that a dive should only be caught in the replays and even then there should be a lingering doubt. So to muster an effort so embarrassing that the referee spotted it immediately, not only makes you look foolish but also tarnishes the good name of diving. Hang your head in shame. 2/10.
Sunderland: I’m only including the rotting corpse of Sunderland here to remind everyone that David Moyes managed Manchester United. That is all.
Dele Alli and Heung-min Son: Guys, we get it. You’re tight, you’ve got swag and you’re the cool kids. But for the sake of humanity, could you, please, not inflict that monstrosity of a handshake on the millions of people watching you all over the world? There are impressionable kids who might pick it up and who knows what would happen next? I was so disgusted by your ‘handshake’ that I lifted my own hand close to my face and gave it a stern warning – “You ever try something like that, and you’re picking up dog poo without gloves”.
Nothing Else Comes Close: Seriously, Dele and Son. Guys, sort it out. No more of that handshake. Down with this sort of thing.