What’s sexy, and what isn’t, in football this week…
Luke Shaw and Fabian Delph are possibly on first-name terms with most of the shop staff at the Trafford Centre given the amount of Saturday afternoons they’ve had off in Manchester this season. But this weekend, there were two fewer customers roaming the aisles of Debenhams, Piccadilly, because Shaw and Delph were playing football – and with some distinction.
Delph capped a fine display in City’s 3-1 win against Hull with a thunderous goal, while Shaw’s display in United’s 3-0 triumph at Sunderland was so accomplished that Jose Mourinho even said some nice stuff about him after the match: “He played solid. I thought about a half-time change but that was too harsh.” OK maybe not nice, but it’s a start.
Harry Kane’s injury was meant to blunt Tottenham’s attack. But since the supposedly irreplaceable striker hobbled out of an FA Cup tie against Millwall last month, Spurs have won five straight matches and scored 17 times.
Seven of those goals have been scored by Kane’s South Korean stand-in, who isn’t even a proper striker. But he managed to show up Vincent Janssen (not difficult, admittedly) with two sublime finishes in Saturday’s 4-0 thrashing of Watford.
Kane is fit again but, even if Mauricio Pochettino finds a place for him in his starting XI, it surely won’t be at Son’s expense; the guy’s even been granted his own celebration handshake with Dele Alli.
Dele Alli and Son's 'handshake celebration' is possibly worse than Pogba-Lingard and I didn't think that was possible. pic.twitter.com/uylqkW6CsM
— Abdi (@AbdiFooty) April 8, 2017
“WHAT A WHAT A WHAT A FINISH!” The Brazilian’s net-busting winner in Liverpool’s 2-1 victory at Stoke prompted an Alan Partridge-esque response from Match of the Day’s Guy Mowbray, who was so taken aback by the majesty of Firmino’s strike that he threw the commentary rules out of the window and went freestyle. Quite an impact from a player who was omitted from the Reds starting line-up because he was apparently “tired”.
But it wasn’t just the goal itself that felt dramatic. This comeback – which sealed Liverpool’s first away win of 2017 – was vital in keeping Jurgen Klopp’s side on a course for a top-four finish.
I could watch Firmino's goal all day, what a strike from Bobby pic.twitter.com/Wy1atC7Y9U
— Brazil Edition Vids (@BE_Videos) April 8, 2017
Tragically, it’s almost impossible for non-Chelsea fans to find points on which to mock the performances of the champions-elect in 2016/17. But here’s one: they scored the worst goal of the season.
The Blues’ opening strike in their vital 3-1 win at Bournemouth featured such comedic ineptitude that it would have left a Sunday league manager embarrassed. Costa’s horribly off-target slice set the farce in motion, as the striker’s wayward effort rebounded off Adam Smith’s head before rolling feebly towards the bottom corner like a peanut that had fallen out of someone’s pocket. The strike was attributed to Smith, rather than Costa, but it was the Brazilian’s incompetence that made it possible . Chelsea are rubbish.
While the Sunderland striker has been earning a spectacular England recall and been feted as football’s nicest man and most miraculous vegan superhero in recent weeks, his Sunderland side has gone seven Premier League games without scoring. Which means, so has he.
It would be nonsense to blame Defoe for the Black Cats’ predicament (i.e. bottom of the league and facing certain relegation), while Lee Cattermole and Jack Rodwell are not exactly providing him with five-star service, but the 34-year-old’s dry spell does seem to have come at the worst possible time for his club.
Swansea’s manager seemed so sexy in his honeymoon period, but people always do. Saturday’s dismal 1-0 defeat by West Ham was proof that the spark has well and truly worn off, and Clement has his work cut out to get it back.
Not only do the 18th-placed Swans have ground to make up on their rivals, Clement will need overcome managers – in Crystal Palace’s Sam Allardyce and Hull’s Marco Silva – who have gradually honed their respective sides into primed survival-hungry beasts. Assistant manager at Real Madrid and Bayern Munich looks good on the CV, but it might not have prepared the 45-year-old for going toe-to-toe with a frothing-at-the-mouth Big Sam in the relegation dogfight.