If anybody tells you the Premier League is the best in the world, sit them down and make them watch the 3 PM kick-offs from Saturday. Good grief. The Sunday fixtures were largely better, to the relief of everybody, so who stood out this week? Who can manage this collection of stars and stupid? I’m sticking with a 3-5-2.
Paulo Gazzaniga – How many third choice keepers have made their debut at Wembley? With Lloris injured and Michel Vorm catching an illness – presumably, some sort of wood dependancy issue having been asked to climb off the bench – Gazzaniga was thrust into the limelight. Palace gave as good as they got on Sunday lunchtime but more often than not they found the Argentine in fine form. Even when Zaha did round him, he was kind enough to screw his shot wide and preserve the clean sheet. Considering he first came to English football with Gillingham, it’s a strange old career path but surely the proudest day of his club career so far.
Steve Cook – A large slice of humble pie for me, as I’ve spent most of the last 2 years saying that Steve Cook isn’t Premier League quality. So as I sat in my seat at St James’ Park on Saturday afternoon, mulling over in my mind how I’d take a 0-0 draw after all I’d seen on the day, Steve Cook rose highest to head home a late winner for Bournemouth. He and Nathan Ake were both excellent on the day anyway, another reminder of just how wrong I am most of the time.
David Luiz – Conte left David Luiz out for “tactical reasons” on Sunday. Do you believe that? Tactical reasons meaning he can’t even be on the bench? Obviously, there’s something bubbling behind the scenes at Chelsea, but unlike previous managers, Antonio Conte seems in control of the situation, which will, of course, be helped by a hard-earned clean sheet against Man Utd. Whether Luiz is a pawn in the political game between owner and manager is up for debate, but you can be in our team for this week David.
Leighton Baines – There was a certain amount of poetry in left-footed defender Leighton Baines stepping up to score the penalty that ultimately won the game. Caretaker manager and former left-footed defender David Unsworth will probably not get the job full time based on what we’ve seen over the last few weeks but he clearly cares a huge deal for Everton so I’m pleased he didn’t finish with a zero in four record. Now we wait to see if it’s enough to give Unsworth the job permanently.
Anthony Knockaert – Some weeks ago some idiot said Anthony Knockaert hadn’t really played well since Brighton were promoted. That idiot was me. Knockaert has been fantastic in the last few weeks and laid a goal on a plate for Glenn Murray to…thrust goalwards on Saturday afternoon. That left foot is a wand.
Rajiv Van La Parra – What a goal! Whilst the purists debated whether it was a free kick or not, the reality is that about 20 seconds later the ball found it’s way to Van la Parra on the edge of the box and a swerving, dipping strike beat Ben Foster all ends up. It’s always helpful if you can defend as well as Huddersfield and have somebody who can come up with a moment like this too.
Mohamed Salah – It’s almost unfair how much better Salah is than most of his direct opponents this season. Not only is he rapid but the boy can finish (sometimes), and combine him with Mane and Firmino and Liverpool’s attacking trio will take some stopping. Salah helped himself to two more on Saturday night against woeful West Ham but he scores nearly every week. It’s not really a surprise anymore.
Granit Xhaka – People will think I have an agenda against Xhaka, but it’s impossible not to point out stupidity when you see it on a football pitch. Fresh off the heels of “standing and watching the opposition score” a few weeks ago, this week Xhaka gave a great lesson to kids watching everywhere. If you think the opposition are offside, just stop playing, and put your hand up. The linesman will understand. Obviously the old adage of “play to the whistle” isn’t taught in Switzerland.
Tom Cleverley – Oh, Tom. If you’re going to be the man to take a last minute spot kick against your former club, don’t put it wide. DON’T MISS THE TARGET! Still, you’ve got two weeks to dwell on it now, and who knows? When Everton win the treble under David Unsworth in 2019, people will point to you as the Mark Robins of this operation.
Peter Crouch – Crouchy climbed off the bench to snatch Mark Hughes a point, something I feel I’ve written many times already. It was a beautiful header though from the big man and afterwards, he talked about playing until he’s 40. It could feasibly happen, unless he plans to shrink anytime soon he’ll be a threat for another 20 years. That might be a slight exaggeration but he’s bailed his manager out a few times now.
Alvaro Morata – What a header! Morata has scored goals in patches so far at Chelsea, but a six-game goalless run came to an end on Sunday with a fine header that gave his side all three points. He was a constant nuisance to the Man Utd defence, although it is a huge shame that a foul was given against him which denied us the greatest own goal of our days from Phil Jones. Still, that’s what £70m gets you.
Tony Pulis – There were a few candidates this week. I couldn’t find a space for any Man City players but they’re all just so good. Slaven Bilic is in the process of being replaced, but that’s been coming. So instead I’ve opted for the hatted prince Tony Pulis. It seems the worm has turned for old Tony, with his own fans chanting for his head at Huddersfield on Saturday. But if you’re going to play five defenders, three holding midfielders and Hal Robson-Kanu, you’re always in bother. Live a little Tony, play some flair. Or even just Chris Brunt.
That’s it from me this week but there’s wonderful International football to get stuck into next week. I can hardly wait.