Best goal… Dele Alli
When Twitter first saw Dele Alli’s goal against Watford, the phrase used was, ‘Messi-esque’. It conjured up a brilliant run finished with a clipped, curling shot into the bottom far corner of the net. Given how Alli has been playing for the past month, had he done such a thing it would have been no great surprise. Having actually now seen the goal, it was perhaps closer to one of Ashley Young’s best. While that’s not quite as impressive, curling a shot into the top corner after a touch is still a goal to admire.
Nevertheless, Alli’s goal was wonderful, and highlights that his self-belief is backed up by some remarkable talent. Eric Dier’s, and Heung-Min Son’s (both of them) were all special in their own way, but it was Alli’s that stood out. Spurs have navigated Harry Kane’s absence well, as Alli and Son chipped in with goals without him, and Spurs have taken a step up – now Kane can threaten and create, but it appears his teammates aren’t relenting from contributing too. It appear the gap at the top is unassailable, but Spurs are stronger than they were last season, in no small part due to Alli.
Most important goal… Roberto Firmino
Across the weekend, there were plenty of goals to rival Alli’s, and not just from Spurs players. Against Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund’s Raphael Guerreiro gave his side a brief glimpse of hope before they were crushed by Arjen Robben and Robert Lewandowski. And Roberto Firmino, along with Philippe Coutinho, rescued a late victory for Liverpool against Stoke when it appeared Liverpool were set for a defeat.
A defeat would have been painful. Teenagers Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ben Woodburn started for Liverpool as Firmino and Coutinho were kept on the bench for medical reasons. At the time, fans were unaware and it looked like a risky ploy from Jurgen Klopp. A defeat, with Arsenal and Manchester United stumbling but with games in hand, would have seen more criticism for Klopp after a 2-2 draw with Bournemouth last week. Firmino and Coutinho were ill, but in the end, not too ill to give Liverpool hope at the top.
Roberto Firmino's game by numbers vs. Stoke:
45 minutes played
1 chance created
1 winning goal
1 'excessive celebration'
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 8, 2017
Playing for a move to Real Madrid… Eden Hazard
Eden Hazard has now equalled his best ever return for Premier League goals, scoring 14 goals just as he did in 2013/14 and 2014/15. He has games to go, and looks in the mood to continue to add to his tally.
Hazard’s goal against Bournemouth was the eventual winner, but they were only briefly troubled. Marcos Alonso continued to show just how much he learned from his time at Bolton with a steadying free kick to seal victory, but with Diego Costa struggling a tad – no goals in his last five appearances – Hazard’s transformation into a player who cares again, is vital. Hazard played much of the match in a higher position than Costa, and it is notable that talk of a transfer to Real Madrid has not gone away. He isn’t quite at the calibre to seamlessly displace Cristiano Ronaldo at Madrid, but as Ronaldo nears the end of his career, he would make a sensible direct replacement. It is up to Chelsea to persuade him that he, the club and Antonio Conte will not dissolve into rancour after another Premier League trophy, and that they will challenge in Europe once again.
Disappointing weekend for… Sebastian Larsson
When Sebastian Larsson went in, studs-up, into the shins of Ander Herrera, it was obvious he was going to be sent off. The reason was that he went in, studs-up, into the shins of Ander Herrera. Those are the rules of football, and so he was duly sent off.
And yet, he was still disappointed to be sent off. He was nonplussed and argumentative, the definition of football’s, ‘angry and confused,’ that he had been punished commensurately with his offence. The players surrounded the ref and argued with him, and the player on Sunderland’s side all argued the case for their player. Which is to be expected, but it is oddly pointless – you should at least remonstrate against injustice, not an obvious bit of stupidity.
When Larsson got to the sidelines, he had a strop in front of the fourth official. None of this makes any sense. Players should express self-interest when it comes to reckless tackles, as their presence endangers their career. Instead, Larsson was there, disappointed in everyone else but himself.
Surprise of the weekend… Leicester find themselves in defensive disarray
Leicester City had impressed since Craig Shakespeare took over. For whatever reason, there is a soupcon of the spoofer about Shakespeare, as there was with David Moyes at Manchester United, or Klopp in the early stages of his Liverpool tenure. It didn’t seem quite like a dead cat bounce, exactly, but from the outside the players appeared free of the burden of Claudio Ranieri, rather than truly flourishing because of the new man.
Not that it mattered, for Shakespeare, the players or the club. The run has saved their Premier League status for another season, and if they can keep playing with their traditional attacking verve then there remains a very slight chance of upsetting Atletico Madrid.
Sadly for Leicester – though not flat-track bully Romelu Lukaku – they were opened up regularly by Ronald Koeman, who are set to build and improve this summer with their new, well funded owners, and watch as Tom Davies becomes the latest Everton youngster to tempt scouts. While an Everton win is no surprise, Leicester’s defensive disarray recalled the dispiriting stages under Ranieri – the club need to hope that the players have not turned down the effort now they are assured of staying up.