Yet another midweek team for you, as the Premier League fixture computer went into overdrive our thirst for things to point and laugh at shows no sign of abating. With matches spread across Monday and Tuesday (as well as one each on Wednesday and Thursday, which will just have to miss out here) there was plenty to get stuck into.
Karl Darlow – With Rob Elliot injured, Darlow has been given another chance to impress after rather fluffing his lines when given a chance earlier in the season. Darlow has responded with two clean sheets in 3 days and that included a string of impressive stops towards the end of Newcastle’s trip to Stoke on Monday. The end result was three vital points for the Toon whereas Stoke now reside in the bottom 3.
Ragnar Klavan – Everyone’s favourite Estonian centre-half must be worried about his place in the Liverpool squad – being third choice centre-half is a tough gig and he’s about to become 4th choice now Virgil van Dijk has rocked up for the princely sum of £75m. However, never to be deterred, Klavan combined with fellow disaster zone Dejan Lovren to score a late, late winner at Burnley on Monday and provide a timely reminder to his manager: He can play centre-half in the cup games where you don’t want to risk Virgil.
Christian Kabasele – Little tip sir; when you’re playing against one of the most rampant teams in Premier League history, don’t score an own goal in the first 15 minutes. Man City don’t need any help putting teams to the sword.
Davinson Sanchez – Tottenham were in total control against Swansea until Sanchez realised he couldn’t do it on a (very) wet Tuesday night in Swansea. Somehow, the Colombian escaped a second yellow card for a clumsy tackle on Martin Olsson before being hooked almost immediately to avoid further damage.
Adrien Silva – The transfer of Adrien Silva caused a mighty stir in August, as Leicester missed the deadline by 14 seconds, which has ultimately left the Portuguese midfielder sitting twiddling his thumbs for 4 months. He came on against Huddersfield, shortly before full time, wearing the number 14 shirt. Well done to whoever made that decision, I am in full support of it.
Jesse Lingard – The turnaround in form from this man almost rivals that of Raheem Sterling’s renaissance at Man City, although there is the obvious advantage that Sterling’s team win most weeks. That said, Lingard, Martial and Pogba combined to give Man Utd the win at Goodison on Monday evening and I really enjoyed Lingard’s finish. Nothing amusing about it, just a really good goal.
Xherdan Shaqiri – I wrote a few weeks ago that Shaqiri is far too good for Stoke but presumably can’t be arsed a lot of the time, and that much was in evidence on Monday when he flat out refused to chase a ball down the channel. He was subbed to a chorus of boos moments later. Maybe he was injured, maybe he was just thinking about where it all went wrong, but either way, a poor show.
Kevin de Bruyne – I think we all feared the worst when the Belgian midfield artist left the field at Selhurst Park on a stretcher, but he was back in action against Watford and even laid on a couple of goals in yet another Man City win.
Callum Wilson – One of the worst goals of New Year’s Day came in the lunchtime kick-off, where Callum Wilson bundled home the second equaliser for Bournemouth in their 2-2 draw with Brighton. I’ve included him because of the ridiculous stat that arose – Wilson has scored 16 Premier League goals but provided no assists, which took him ahead of the previous record holder super duper Branko Strupar. I just really wanted to mention Brano Strupar and this was the opportunity to do so.
Andy Carroll – Somebody turn up the AC! Eyebrows were raised when Carroll was recalled to the West Ham lineup but he repaid his manager’s faith with an equaliser and then the latest of late winners to keep West Ham heads above relegation water.
Shane Long – The drought is over! Long’s first goal for 34 games means he has more goals than Harry Kane this calendar year, which is the only thing that matters as I understand it. Unfortunately for Southampton, it was in a losing effort and they now sit dangerously close to the bottom 3.
Mark Hughes – By the time this article is published, it may well be farewell sweet prince. What I liked about Hughes’ interview is he played the old “well who else is going to manage Stoke?” card. The reality is, lots of people can and will do a better job than you Mark, so pack up your things and go without being a petulant little child.
I’ll be back soon with more fun and games, toodles for now.