What’s sexy, and what isn’t, in football this week…
There was little sympathy for Jose Mourinho (is there ever sympathy for Jose Mourinho?) when he complained that Manchester United would have beaten Chelsea in the FA Cup last month were it not for the first-half dismissal of Herrera. In hindsight, he may have had a point. The Spanish midfielder was key to Mourinho’s brilliant winning strategy against the Blues on Sunday, nullifying the visitors by man-marking Eden Hazard out of the game, providing the delicious through-ball that teed up United’s opener and, finally, sealing the 2-0 victory with his first league goal of the season. Will we give Mourinho some sympathy next time? Obviously not.
It’s not by chance that Manchester City’s most convincing defensive display of the season coincided with their captain completing back-to-back matches for the first time in more than a year. But while Kompany’s assuredness at the back against Southampton caught the eye, it’s the image of his celebration after heading City into the lead that will live longest in the memory. A leaping, screaming, right-hook throwing explosion of pent-up injury frustration, it’s not clear whether the 31-year-old Belgian was happy to have scored, or angry with the last two years of his career and permanently ready to have a fight about it. His team-mates wisely kept their distance as he had his “moment”, just to be on the safe side.
— Stud dô Tart (@BlueTweeter69) April 16, 2017
The Potters are rarely credited with being sexy, but each one of their goals in Saturday’s 3-1 win against Hull was exactly that. Marko Arnautovic started it off with an unstoppable drive, then Jon Walters showed sublime control and crossing ability to set up fellow substitute Peter Crouch, before Xherdan Shaqiri topped it off with a swerving 30-yard strike into the top corner that few other Premier League players would be capable of. Stoke will probably never be fully embraced as a sexy outfit while they retain the services of Charlie Adam and Glenn Whelan, but they continue to show glimpses of their extreme makeover under Mark Hughes.
Goal of the month for me.. Shaqiri stunner pic.twitter.com/apcnv1Xs5G
— Bottlers (@Cechque) April 15, 2017
There’s no point pretending that injuries (or more specifically, a lack of them) don’t influence the destination of Premier League titles just as much as ability and tactics. Antonio Conte suffered two shortly before the Blues’ defeat by Man Utd, and his side looked a shadow of their normal selves. While Thibaut Courtois (injured playing basketball, apparently) would be a loss to any team, it was the width and shape provided by left wing-back Marcos Alonso (taken ill in the pre-match warm-up) that was missed most at Old Trafford. Conte has relied on the same formation and players throughout Chelsea’s charge to the summit, but Sunday’s display suggested a fragility to disruption that offers Tottenham hope.
Shane Long’s least enjoyable season for a long time hit a new low when he was brought on as a substitute with 30 minutes remaining of Saturday’s 3-0 defeat by Man City, only to be hauled off again 22 minutes later. The striker didn’t think he had played that badly, and his displeasure was shown by a lingering, disdainful look at the Southampton bench after his removal. It quickly transpired that the Saints medical team had advised manager Claude Puel to take off Long because they thought he had aggravated a hamstring injury, which he hadn’t. Shambles. (Even if, admittedly, the chances of Long netting a late hat-trick were low.)
Shane Long gets subbed on at 60' and subbed off after 82'. Cue intense stare down with management… pic.twitter.com/Vb6HJ1AoHs
— Sean McMahon (@Sean_McMahon89) April 15, 2017
West Ham’s goalkeeper
In a season as bad as this one, Sunderland have to be grateful for small mercies, and Black Cats fans owe a small debt to Darren Randolph for the fact they are not yet definitely definitely relegated. The Blacks Cats had failed to score for 11 and a half hours before meeting West Ham, but they found the Hammers’ goalkeeper in a generous mood. First he stood on his line as Wahbi Khazri’s corner flew straight in, then he raced off his line to fumble a cross and allow Fabio Borini to net a 90th-minute equaliser. On both occasions Randolph claimed he was obstructed, and maybe he was, but your excuses don’t count for much when you’ve also made mistakes leading to goals in two of the previous three matches.