Welcome to Bizarro week, English football fans! Matchday 21 was truly a remarkable and wonky two-day affair, featuring 6 games with 4 goals or more.
In no particular order, here are the Seven Weirdest Takeaways from a wild round:
1.Aston Villa won a game! Hey now!
2.Newcastle and Liverpool both scored 3 goals, despite averaging close to 1 per game, and more astonishingly they both needed last-minute goals from unlikely heroes just to rescue a point at home!
3.Jermain Defoe had a hat trick on 3 shots. In the year 2016 and not in the MLS.
4.Kolo Toure also started a game (I’m aware of the injuries) in central defense. In the Barclay’s Premier League. In 2016.
5.Cesc Fabregas looked like an actual dangerous midfielder!
6.Roberto Firmino was denied his hat-trick by the woodwork, to bring his season total to three.
7.Wayne Rooney scored two goals (first time since December of 2014) and set up another!
And then the goals, “my goodness me Ally”
So, just to recap, you got 33-34 year olds staring and scoring hat-tricks, a zombie awakening from Fabregas, Rooney and Firmino, 3 goals from the Magpies and the Reds, Aston Villa winning a match. Are we sure the apocalypse is not coming soon? Well, before that happens, let’s go through the Pre-Doomsday Team of the Week:
Honorable mentions XI
Tim Howard (see above)
Joleon Lescott – Aston Villa 7 clearances and 4 interceptions in a shutout and the all important goal against Crystal Palace, even if Palace goalie, Wayne Hennessey has committed an abysmal blunder on the play.
Paul Dummet of Newcastle had an absolute cracker of a goal, but was at fault for one and was troubled by Anthony Martial’s speed.
Chelsea’s César Azpilicueta just misses the cut (too many great defensive options), despite his goal.
Harry Arter of Bournemouth misses out despite scoring a goal, plus 3 shots and 3 key passes in the 3-1 loss to West Ham.
Adam Johnson of Sunderland – 2 assists, the second one being a glorious through ball to Defoe somehow cannot make it.
Also, we are very sorry for Erik Lamela, who had 6 key passes and the most touches on his team in the defeat against LCFC, despite getting 21 shots off.
Perhaps Yaya Toure (95 touches – 84 of them passes, 4 shots and 3 key passes) can use Lamela’s shoulder to cry on, after his team couldn’t earn 3 points, despite 22 shots. His teammate,
Kevin de Bruyne will be joining him. The Belgian dynamo put in 20(!) crosses – sadly, only 5 of them were accurate-a number even Dani Alves thinks is too low- and 6 key passes vs Everton. For what it’s worth, Manchester United had 4 good crosses as a team in the 3-3 draw at St.James’ Park Tuesday.
Mea culpa to Jordan Ayew of Villa who had 97% passing accuracy on 61 touches and 4 shots in their rare win over Palace.
The much-maligned Olivier Giroud of Arsenal misses out despite this goal https://streamable.com/lp1g because for all his faults (I mean he somehow managed to miss this), scoring a brace is not that unusual for him, as the Frenchman has had an excellent season with 12 goals in the BPL and 5 in the Champions League.
Now for the real Matchday 21 TEAM OF THE WEEK
With apologies to my fellow Hungarian-American New Jerseyan Tim Howard (not sure if https://twitter.com/paddypower is taking any bets of whether Yaya Toure will cry about him) Kasper Schmeichel of Leicester City gets this award – just for that save on Harry Kane (referred to as “just a shitty Jamie Vardy” by the Leicester fans in the stands) on 62 minutes. No apologies to Simon Mignolet, for whatever he did, instead of covering the near post, on the first 2 goals.
Chelsea and Atletico Madrid cast-offs Defenders
Virgil Van Dijk of Southampton, widely regarded as one of the best defenders this season put in a beastly performance in their 2-0 triumph over Watford. 6 tackles, 6 interceptions, 8 clearances.
Fellow Dutchman Patrik Van Aanholt – Sunderland was voted Man of the Match in the 4-2 win over Swansea, with a stunning goal and an assist from the left back position. “It’s postage stamp stuff!”
Needless to say, Chelsea gave up on him a while back.
Former Ajax defender Toby Alderweireld, one of the leaders in the BPL in clearances, (see table below) was a two-way monster for Tottenham vs Leicester, as he won 12 aerials and forced Schmeichel into a tough save after 11 minutes.His offense (4 shots)and his defense (8 clearances) were just too good to exclude him, despite the loss.
Robert Huth – Leicester City – had the game winning goal, “an old-fashioned power header” as Alan Shearer put it and 9 clearances (not a great sign for Leicester that their 4 defenders each had 9 clearances). The German ironman (1800 minutes in 20 games), once the target of many a jokes for being the predecessor to Tal Ben Haim amongst random horrendous Chelsea defenders, has carved out a solid career at Stoke (with 6 goals in 2010-11) before joining Leicester. Of course, Wednesday’s goal was his first of the year. Hunt on foxes!
|Clearances – this season|
Alderweireld and Huth are the new TAG TEAM! Whoomp!
Dmitri Payet – the West Ham United maestro in 77 minutes had 3 key passes, 69 touches, 2 shots,
a goal a master free kick and an incredible assist and approximately 4 broken ankles collected in a brilliant return from an ankle injury to the starting lineup (played 25 minutes as a sub vs Liverpool) The 28-year-old, now has 6 goals and 4 assists, despite only having played 1142 minutes in 14 appearances. West Ham, who are now up to a remarkable 5th in the standings have missed him badly, as the team drew 6 times with 2 wins (including the aforementioned one against Liverpool) and a loss in his absence.
Danny Drinkwater, from Leicester City was not only his usual tireless self (5 total tackles, 4 clearances and 3 interceptions) but also had an excellent volley (1 of his game high 4 shots) and then a through ball for Kante, who ended up scuffing the shot. It’s probably not even a bold statement at this point: the 25-year-old former Manchester United player (currently valued at 3 million Euros according to Transfermarkt) is having a better season than any United midfielder currently on Louis van Gaal’s roster.
Ibrahim Afellay – of Stoke City produced 2 assists (credited with one, but the set piece cross that lead to the own goal should count as an assist) and 3 key passes on a whopping 108 touches with 96% accuracy. It’s heartwarming to see the former PSV starlet, who looks like the youngest 29-year-old and probably still gets carded when attempting to buy alcohol, make something of his career after a couple of devastating injury-ridden seasons at Barcelona.
Wayne Rooney – must have thought he had the FIFA 2006 version of the game installed on his operation system, as the turned back the clock with a well-taken penalty, a lovely assist and a stunning bomb from just outside the box vs Newcastle. The commentators of the game were ecstatic, over the former Evertonian’s “double-digit campaign”, as technically his 2 Champions League Qualifying goals and 1 in regular UCL do give him 11 for the season, but just 5 in the Barclay’s Premier League. But, hey it’s a 40% improvement.
Speaking of drastically improving your goal totals: Roberto Firmino has now tripled his output for Liverpool (1 to 3), in perhaps the game of his life. He was quick, decisive and accurate and really should have gotten his hat-trick.
Jermain Defoe completes the incredible trio of zombie attackers with his hat trick on 3 shots (not sure how many of those were not offsides) – 2 tap ins and a 1v1 vs the keeper. Somewhere in Italy, Filippo Inzaghi is smiling. Perhaps, his team might not want to trade him, after 5 goals in 2 games, taking his total tally to 9 on the season. He has not had more than 11 goals since the 18 goal campaign of 09/10 for Tottenham.
So, the lesson, as always, who needs Neymar, Messi and Suarez (MSN), when you got Rooney, Firmino and Defoe, or RFD!
Thanks to Squawka and Whoscored for stats, and reddit and ESPNfc for videos.