Liverpool lifted the FA Cup and almost enjoyed the perfect weekend until Manchester City rallied to maintain control of the title race with a thrilling draw at West Ham.
Leeds are still fighting to stay in the Premier League, Tottenham will not give up their top-four fight and Everton saw a lead disappear and pressure build.
It was an eventful weekend of shootouts, comebacks and nerve-filled drama. But what you really want to know is who is in my Team of the Week? And what has prompted me to call for change in my ‘Crooks of the Matter’ segment lower down this piece?
Take a look and pick your own Team of the Week with the selector tool. One week of league action to go. Enjoy it – if the nerves allow you to.
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Goalkeeper – Alisson (Liverpool)
Alisson: There was yet another Alisson one-on-one save from Danny Ings and an excellent stop from the same player in midweek against Aston Villa to keep Liverpool’s title hunt alive. The Brazilian goalkeeper then produced another masterclass and another clean sheet against Chelsea in the FA Cup final. Alisson has had the most amazing season, and short of a catastrophe in the Champions League final he will almost certainly be my goalkeeper of the season.
Did you know? Alisson has kept more clean sheets in all competitions than any other goalkeeper in Europe’s top five leagues (27).
Defenders – Wesley Fofana (Leicester), Eric Dier (Tottenham), Rico Henry (Brentford)
Fofana: This was an impressive performance by Leicester away from home. Granted, Watford have sailed into the sunset – or more to the point into the Championship – but the Foxes sent them on their way with a serious reminder of what the Premier League is all about. That said, if they could finish Watford might have been 3-0 up before Leicester scored their first goal. But once this rather young Leicester defensive unit – Jonny Evans excluded – had settled down, Watford never had a sniff. Wesley Fofana is a young star in the making. The Frenchman played well against Watford and could be the defender Brendan Rodgers looks to build his defence around next season.
Did you know? Fofana completed 99% of his passes against Watford, his best ever passing accuracy figure in a Premier League game.
Dier: Ever since the arrival of Antonio Conte, Dier has been ever-present in the Tottenham line-up. I can’t say he’s my favourite defender, but his performance against Arsenal in the north London derby remained professional when some around him were starting to lose their heads. It would appear that Conte has built his defence around Dier in a three-man line that seems to be working for Spurs at the moment.
Did you know? Dier has won 133 Premier League games with Tottenham. Only Harry Kane (156) and Hugo Lloris (191) have won more times with the club in the competition.
Henry: The last time Henry scored for Brentford was in November, but I can assure you it wasn’t as good as the winner he scored against Everton. The header was as good as I’ve seen from any centre-forward, never mind a full-back. Henry had been causing 10-man Everton all sorts of problems on the left throughout the second half and it was no surprise when the goal came. As for Frank Lampard playing a rookie in a prominent defensive position when your team is fighting for its life – it was asking for trouble. There is a time and place for everything. This wasn’t the time and it certainly wasn’t the place.
Did you know? Two of Henry’s three Premier League goals have come away from home, with his goal against Everton his first strike in 21 appearances.
Midfield – Christian Eriksen (Brentford), Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City), Jarrod Bowen (West Ham), Yoane Wissa (Brentford)
Eriksen: What a difference a player makes. Since Eriksen’s arrival Brentford look like another team. Gone is the efficiency and effectiveness of a purely functional team, and enter the smooth, controlled, sophisticated play produced by the Dane. I argued with Martin Keown on Final Score last week that Eriksen must return to Spurs – Conte has shown interest in the former Tottenham man – and take the chance of playing European football again. Brentford have been good to Eriksen, which was Martin’s argument, and there is no doubt about that. But I couldn’t see Keown giving up a chance of playing European football given the chance so I don’t see why Eriksen should.
Did you know? Since Eriksen’s first start for Brentford on 5 March, only Tottenham (26), Liverpool (26) and Manchester City (24) have won more Premier League points than the Bees (22).
De Bruyne: You can’t score four goals and have a virtuoso performance against Wolves in midweek and expect to be left out of my selection because one of your team-mates misses a penalty and fails to clinch the title. De Bruyne put on a wonder-show at Molineux. Left foot, right foot, it didn’t seem to matter. He was scoring goals almost at will. He might have been slightly off the ball against West Ham, but if Riyad Mahrez does what he’s supposed to do and puts the penalty in the back of West Ham’s net the game and the title are over. You will not see a footballer anywhere in the world who strikes a ball sweeter on either side than De Bruyne.
Did you know? De Bruyne created four goalscoring chances against West Ham, taking his tally for the season to 82 – the third most in the Premier League this term.
Bowen: This was an excellent first-half performance by West Ham and a shocking one by Manchester City, only three days after City had demolished Wolves. It looked like – for the first time – that Fernandinho had finally come to the end of his career. I can’t ever remember seeing the Brazilian so off the pace. Bowen was the player who made City pay for their dreary, uninspiring and frankly dull first-half performance.
Did you know? Bowen has scored 12 goals and provided 10 assists in the Premier League this season. His total of 22 goals and assists is the third most in a single campaign in the competition by a West Ham player, after Paolo di Canio (29 in 1999-00) and John Hartson (23 in 1997-98).
Wissa: He was only on the pitch for 76 minutes but Everton fans won’t forget the name Yoane Wissa in a hurry. The DR Congo international scored a fabulous goal and it was his flick at the near post, which was eventually credited as an own goal, that has put Everton on skid row. Wissa is in good form and has the taste for goals. All credit to Brentford – they are safe but still took this fixture very seriously. For Everton to get one man sent off was bad enough, but to have two players dismissed for completely avoidable incidents is a real cause for concern.
Did you know? No Brentford player has scored more non-penalty Premier League goals this season than Yoane Wissa (7).
Strikers – Harry Kane (Tottenham), Jamie Vardy (Leicester), Luis Diaz (Liverpool)
Kane: Two superbly taken goals against Arsenal in the north London derby are not to be sniffed at. Neither was the penalty scored against a superb Nick Pope in the Burnley goal to clinch the game and give Spurs a top-four spot. Whether Tottenham can retain that position rather depends on their neighbours who were badly wounded by Kane and then totally destroyed by Son Heung-min. Whether Arsenal can beat Newcastle without centre-backs Rob Holding or Gabriel – two casualties of the derby – remains to be seen, but Kane has given Spurs a great chance of playing Champions League football next season.
Did you know? Excluding shootouts, Kane has scored each of the past 21 penalties he has taken in all competitions for Tottenham, and each of his past 15 in the Premier League.
Vardy: Vardy’s midweek performance against Norwich and his two goals against Watford suggests his wife’s well-publicised court case with Coleen Rooney didn’t have the slightest impact on him. Why should it when he’s such a professional? Vardy seems back to his goalscoring best after a difficult season interrupted by injury.
Did you know? Vardy became the first player to score two or more goals in back-to-back Premier League appearances for Leicester. Aged 35 years 124 days, he was the second-oldest player to do so overall in the competition, behind only Youri Djorkaeff for Bolton in May 2004 (36y 60d).
Diaz: What a find this player is. He was good when he played for Porto but I think he is really going to be a star at Liverpool. On another occasion he could have had a couple of goals but his tireless running both on and off the ball was a threat to Chelsea in the FA Cup final. The only reason Jurgen Klopp brought the Colombia winger off after 98 minutes was because of fatigue. The player was spent and yet he still didn’t want to come off the Wembley pitch. As for Chelsea, this was a different side to the one I saw take Leeds apart at Elland Road on Wednesday night, but then again they weren’t playing the Champions League finalists.
Did you know? Diaz had more shots than any other player on the pitch in the FA Cup final between Liverpool and Chelsea (6).
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The Crooks of the Matter
The FA Cup final was predictably tight. Two top teams dependant on someone providing a moment of magic or making a fatal mistake. As far as finals go Liverpool against Chelsea was a very competitive game, but in truth it was a rerun of Liverpool’s 11-10 penalty shootout victory in February’s Carabao Cup final.
The reality is more and more finals are going to finish like this. The question is however, should games of such magnitude be settled by a penalty shootout? I think not. The drama of these events is unmistakable, but to have domestic cup finals settled on which team misses the least number of spot-kicks at the end of a gruelling tie is hardly the most dignified of endings.
The FA Cup is the oldest domestic knockout competition – a replay for the final should be accommodated within the calendar. The Chelsea v Leeds replay in 1970 was a classic, and so too was Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester City in 1981.
The FA Cup is like no other tournament in the world and should be treated as such.
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