A bad week for Jose Mourinho, who was filmed shoving a 14-year old fan on a camera phone, ended on an ultimate nadir as the East-end grit defeated the West-end style at Upton Park. The ill-disciplined nature of Chelsea’s 2-1 defeat is a cause for huge concern for club and fans alike, and the ‘Special One’ must now realise the game is up.
Almost inevitably, Tim Sherwood became the latest casualty, with Aston Villa now rooted firmly to the bottom of the Premier League table just seven years after launching a promising, but unsuccessful, top-four challenge. Only a few players of the required standard now remain at Villa Park, and there can be no doubt that the new manager will have inherited something of an impossible mission.
In addition to Manchester City players (at home to a leaky Norwich City), maxing out on Tottenham players may be advisable if a suitable manager has not been appointed for Aston Villa by next Monday. Whether managerless or not, Villa remain a fragile side, and for an affordable Tottenham mainstay that possesses attacking ability, there is only one player to start with…
1. Erik Lamela
Lamela was back amongst the goals in Sunday’s 5-1 rout of Bournemouth at Dean Court, and he is set to run riot against a Villa side that lies bottom of the Premier League. In the absence of Nacer Chadli, Lamela has provided threats from a range of positions, and this zonal coverage is certain to upset Villa.
The Villans’ game plan will be simple – defend deep and play for a point at White Hart Lane. Doing so successfully would provide a huge psychological boost, but a priceless away point is very unlikely to materialise.
2/3. Brendan Galloway & Gerard Deulofeu
Everton’s galling run of games against last season’s top eight is finally at an end, and an even spread of wins, draws and losses provides Everton with a modest platform on which to build a run of form. That noted, there is still the ever-present feeling that Roberto Martinez’ charges could offer much more potency across the field.
This weekend’s visitors, Sunderland, have enjoyed immense fortune in their last two trips to Goodison Park, emerging with three unanswered goals and six points after enduring constant pressure from the home side in both games. Should Everton play as well as they did at the Emirates in Saturday’s late game, then that particular record will come to a resounding, possibly brutal, end.
Save for sixty seconds of madness in the first half, Everton were easily the equal of Arsenal in a 2-1 defeat, and Brendan Galloway enjoyed another strong performance at left back. His presence as an attacking outlet from that position again compared favourably to that of Leighton Baines, whose once-guaranteed starting berth is now in serious jeopardy.
Galloway’s stock is just a few more good performances (and an England cap) away from soaring majestically, so he should figure prominently as Everton’s ‘easier’ fixtures unfold.
In recent weeks, Gerard Deulofeu has also been utilised with greater efficiency by Roberto Martinez, and his ability on the ball unsettled Arsenal on several occasions on Saturday, as Everton pressed for an equaliser. The young Spaniard’s natural confidence will allow him to build on that encouraging display, so he is worthy of inclusion against Sunderland.
4/5. Cedric Soares & Dusan Tadic
Soares is the second of two defenders in this week’s economically-minded shortlist, having defended efficiently to help his side escape from Anfield with a point on Sunday. He is still highly affordable, and his inclusion for a home game against a blunted Bournemouth is crucial.
Sadly for Bournemouth, the newly-promoted side’s woes are evidently not restrained to the final third. A downturn in form has shortened Bournemouth’s odds of an immediate return to the Championship, with a defence that has now shipped ten goals in two games. Faced with the attacking verve of Southampton, few would raise an eyebrow if that statistic became fifteen goals in three games.
After serving his one-game suspension in the Capital One Cup, Sadio Mane will be the obvious man to watch in the attacking half of the pitch, and he should be included against a porous Bournemouth if funds allow. But Dusan Tadic is a cheaper alternative and he is (statistically) only a shade behind Mane in the overall standings.
6. Odion Ighalo
In last week’s shortlist, Ighalo was identified as a marked man due to Watford’s reliance on his striking prowess – a flaw in Quique Flores’ yellow revolution that would surely provide in-form Stoke with an easy afternoon.
The Watford hitman defied all expectation by producing a truly inspired performance, with the newfound chemistry between himself and support striker Troy Deeney producing a hugely deserved result for the Hornets. At times it was impossible to tell which of the attacking duo was the support striker, and it was Ighalo’s pace and vision that created both goals.
Deploying Ighalo in a more flexible role was a masterstroke from Flores, and with West Ham due an away defeat within the next 200 years, Watford have a huge opportunity to repeat their Britannia Stadium heroics this weekend.
Any striker that can demonstrate assisting and finishing in equal abundance is a force to be reckoned with…