Ah Premier League football, how I have missed you. Now the pesky International break is over we’re on a solid run in to the end of the season with wall to wall club football to enjoy, Saturday felt normal again for the first time in what feels like forever. As usual, I’m here to point out the sublime and ridiculous, which just about covers Zlatan’s LA Galaxy debut. Back on these shores though we had huge games affecting both ends of the table, as well as a couple of midtable booze-ups. Shall we?
Kasper Schmeichel – Saving his second penalty of the season is a sure fire way for Kasper to earn his spot in Team of the Weekend. He’s had a ropey few weeks recently, but he looked more like his old self on Saturday, saving a fairly meagre penalty from Glenn Murray. To steal a stat from Match of the Day, this was Schmeichel’s third Premier League penalty save which equals his dad. Who knew? What’s important for Leicester is it preserved their clean sheet and keeps their hopes of Europa League football alive.
Jose Holebas – I have so many questions about what happened in Watford vs Bournemouth on Saturday. It’s a decent save from Kazernis, and yes sure the Bournemouth player gets to the loose ball marginally quicker but Holebas’ decision to slap the ball away is just ludicrous. Throw yourself in the way. Defend properly. Don’t slap the ball away. The game has gone. My other question is how was this not a red card? Maybe the referee decided it wasn’t a red card offence because there’s no way Ibe would have scored from there and only a total idiot would handle the ball there. Is that in the laws of the game?
James Tarkowski – Although Tarkowski’s performance for Burnley on Saturday wasn’t particularly worth shouting about, this lad made his England debut on Tuesday. We’ll ignore the fact he gave away a penalty thanks to VAR and instead focus on the good news of another centre-half breaking through. Southgate is the president of the “anyone but Smalling” fan club and Tarkowski’s maiden cap is the latest nail in Smalling’s International career coffin.
Bruno Martins Indi – Harsh penalty call of the weekend? Stoke had put in a strong display to keep Arsenal to 0-0 before Martins Indi was adjudged to have fouled Mesut Ozil. The roof rather fell in after that but BMI can feel hard done by.
Sadio Mane – When people say they had an all-action game, they probably use Sadio Mane’s highlight reel from Liverpool’s trip to Crystal Palace as the definition. Let’s see. He got booked for diving, after doing the hard part of beating the defender and arguably taking contact he then waited 5 seconds before throwing himself to the ground. That was silly. After already diverting a goalbound Van Dijk header wide he then tried a similar trick from a Firmino header only to see his flick on be disallowed for offside. He then silenced the Selhurst boos by equalising and yet none of this is the main talking point from the game. After being caught when back helping out defending, Sadio decided to pick the ball up to take a free kick. Only problem is there was no free-kick given and this was essentially a deliberate handball. Can it be deliberate handball if you don’t know where you are? He got away with it and was subbed. What a day.
Marko Arnautovic – I swear I include Arnautovic for one reason or another most weeks, but there was an air of inevitability about the Austrian’s involvement this week. His long-running spat with Mark Hughes looked likely to boil over earlier in the season when West Ham defeated Arnautovic’s former club Stoke, who Hughes was then manager of. He gave a match-winning performance that day and did the same on Saturday, scoring twice and celebrated by shouting at Hughes from a safe distance of 80 yards. I don’t think they will be kissing and making up anytime soon.
Wilfred Ndidi – I really like Ndidi, he’s a vital cog in the Leicester machine, but his reaction to being sent off was nothing short of ridiculous. The second yellow was borderline, but still, take the decision on the chin son. Don’t roll around on the floor about it. Enjoy a week off.
Leroy Sane – I could have picked any of Man City’s team to be quite honest, they were even more outstanding than usual in the first 35 minutes against Everton. I’ve plumped for Sane though because his left foot volley was hit sweet as a nut and rounded off a lovely move. I think Sane will probably win young player of the year in the upcoming PFA Awards, just a hunch.
Christian Eriksen – Like the rest of the country I was torn over the choice of Jesse Lingard or Dele Alli, who both staked their claim for a starting position in England’s World Cup team with fine performances this weekend. However, unlike Gareth Southgate, I have the option of copping out and picking someone else, so I’ve gone for Christian Eriksen for his fantastic strike against Chelsea. Not only was it vital in the context of the game but it was a wonderful goal, a swerving, dipping effort that beat Willy Caballero all ends up. You don’t save those.
Ashley Barnes – I seem to be including Barnes most weeks, maybe I should be surprised by his excellence, but his finish at West Brom on Saturday was ridiculously good. If Burnley do end up playing Europa League next season they’ll look at Barnes’ development as one of the many reasons why, the question is how high a level can he go to? We scoffed when Chelsea supposedly bid for him in January, who is to say that won’t be his level one day?
Ayoze Perez – Newcastle won the game as a team on Saturday and whilst Jonjo Shelvey was the main driving force, I’m going to include Perez because he’s had a tough season trying to link a faltering midfield with Dwight Gayle or Joselu, which is a thankless task at the best of times. His goal was nothing special but it’s a win for hard work, so well done him. The Magpies are almost there now.
Mauricio Pochettino – He’s done it! He’s ended Tottenham’s long wait for a win at Stamford Bridge. They did it in some style too, this was no smash and grab performance. Of course the real achievement will be winning a trophy, which will surely happen soon, though the Tottenham wage cap looks set to cost them again this summer with rumours of Toby Alderweireld’s departure gathering pace. A big few months ahead for Spurs – or maybe the manager will look elsewhere?
That’s all for this week but I’ll be back next week with more. That’s meant to be a good thing. See you then.