By Tom Bodell, Football Whispers
Michy Batshuayi had a point to prove, so he wasted no time celebrating his hat-trick in Chelsea’s 5-0 League Cup demolition of Nottingham Forest.
The Belgian forward was soon on Twitter, asking EA Sports for a rating upgrade on FIFA 18. While the exchange was tongue-in-cheek, the game developers had challenged the Blues forward to ‘keep scoring goals’ to merit a boost.
And it isn’t too hard to imagine Chelsea coach Antonio Conte making a similar proposition to the former Marseille man after a frustrating maiden campaign at Stamford Bridge in which he made just one Premier League start.
The 23-year-old was not the only out-of-favour player to make a point in the League Cup third round, though. Our friends at Football Whispers have come up with five who threw down the gauntlet to their bosses.
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Crystal Palace have become the first side to lose their first five Premier League games of the season without scoring but in the League Cup their progress continued with a 1-0 win over Huddersfield Town, giving new boss Roy Hodgson his first win.
While the former England coach would have traded cup progress for a point in the league, a win over top-flight rivals will be a welcome boost to his beleaguered Eagles squad.
And for match-winner Sako, who has been afforded just 11 Premier League starts since signing in 2015, the timing could not have been better. The Malian winger has explosive pace and directness which could be vital in Palace’s battle against the drop.
Ask who Leicester City’s record signing is and most would assume it’s one of their new crop – perhaps Wilfred Ndidi, Vicente Iborra or Adrien Silva. But it’s actually forgotten man Slimani.
The Algerian forward cost an incredible £29million when he joined the Foxes from Sporting Lisbon in the summer of 2016 as part of Claudio Ranieri’s doomed recruitment drive ahead of the club’s Champions League debut.
Slimani struggled for starts and returned just seven goals for Leicester, only two of which came after Christmas. With no one really winning the battle to start alongside Jamie Vardy, the 29-year-old has made a compelling case by scoring the second in Tuesday’s 2-0 defeat of Liverpool.
The one-time saviour of English football completed 90 minutes for Arsenal for the first time in 1,093 days as the Gunners squeezed past League One side Doncaster Rovers on Wednesday evening courtesy of a Theo Walcott goal.
And while a cup win over a third-tier side shouldn’t be used as a yardstick, the signs from Wilshere were very encouraging. After failing to pull up any trees on loan at Bournemouth last season this is very much last-chance saloon for the midfielder who is out of contract next summer.
Reportedly a Crystal Palace transfer target since Hodgson’s appointment at Selhurst Park, Gunners boss Arsene Wenger might well be having second thoughts about Wilshere as the England international came through unscathed to complete 90 minutes for the North Londoners the first time since December 2014.
There’s no doubting Rashford’s ability but while £75million man Romelu Lukaku hogs the headlines at Manchester United, the 19-year-old hitman continues to go under the radar.
However, as Jose Mourinho rotated heavily for the visit of Championship side Burton Albion on Wednesday evening, Rashford was handed a rare start leading the line. And the England international gave a timely reminder of exactly what he can do by opening the scoring after five minutes with a deft chip.
Rashford doubled up soon after with an even more impressive finish, lashing past helpless Brewers stopper Conor Ripley with a ferocious near-post effort from 25 yards. Lukaku remains Mourinho’s man but this was a performance which underlined Rashford’s enormous potential once again.
Signed for a club-record £20million – with a further £5million dependent on meeting certain clauses – the Austrian has endured in inauspicious start to his West Ham United career, getting needlessly sent off in a galling 3-2 loss at Southampton.
But the hot-headed Austrian showed exactly why Hammers boss Slaven Bilic sanctioned a move for him with his best performance in claret and blue in a 3-0 win over Championship side Bolton on Tuesday. Arnautovic supplied the assist for Angelo Ogbonna’s headed opener after four minutes and set up the second soon after with the pass which Diafra Sakho stroked home.
Discipline and off-field issues have followed a player nicknamed the ‘mini Ibrahimovic’ throughout his career and Jose Mourinho went as far as to say he had the attitude of a child while at Inter Milan. But this was a display which highlighted precisely why clubs continue to sign him.