x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Best & Worst: Dubai stop wakes up QPR's chances

'Interim' more than just a title affixation, and there is more than one way to strike a penalty kick. Paul Radley goes over the Best & Worst this week in the Premier League.

A winter break in Dubai seems to have Loic Remy and his Queens Park Rangers' teammates a world of good.
A winter break in Dubai seems to have Loic Remy and his Queens Park Rangers' teammates a world of good.

Best destination - Dubai

Keep discovering. Until you find the perfect formula to string a few wins together and beat the drop in the Premier League.

Queens Park Rangers are still a long way from saving their Premier League status. Their win at Southampton did help, though, and proved that their recent trip to Dubai was not quite the Armageddon some would have you believe.

Apparently some of the players enjoyed the hospitality here in the UAE a little too much.

"It was like a stag party," one Rangers player was quoted as saying about last month's trip here.

Harry Redknapp, the team manager, had some Wenger vision on that one: "I don't believe it, I can't see it."

So what if his methods are a little old school sometimes? It did the trick for Loic Remy and Jay Bothroyd, who set up a vital win for Rangers at St Mary's.

 

Worst job title - The 'Interim'

Interim, interim, they have all got it in for him.

Being in temporary charge of a Premier League football club does not have to be all aggravation.

Take Ricky Sbragia. When he was asked to fill the breach at Sunderland in 2007, he was the perfect caretaker.

Popular with players and fans, he did what he was paid to do, namely keep the club on an even keel. He made it pretty obvious he did not really fancy the job full-time, but he was handed it anyway.

Not like Rafael Benitez. When he boarded a flight from Abu Dhabi to take up a job offer in west London back in November he had a spring in his step and the attitude of: "I'll show them I am worth more than short-termism."

But he still agreed to the title of interim. No point getting stroppy about it now. And a lukewarm 1-0 win over West Bromwich Albion is not going to further his case for a full-time stay with Chelsea.

Fact.

 

Best penalty - Craig Gardner

The whole book on the differences between English players and their foreign counterparts could have been written by way of the two penalties scored at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.

First there was Dimitar Berbatov, the bohemian Bulgarian, opening the ledger for Fulham.

He approached the spot kick with an insouciant shrug. His run up was as energetic as an idler loafing along Jumeirah Beach. And the ball was sent into the corner of the net with the sort of graceful stroke that would not even have made Blofeld's cat flinch.

Happily, there is more than one way to skin said cat. Later in the half, Craig Gardner, Solihull's finest, just ran up and went wallop to pull one back for Sunderland.

It was the sort of effort that made you hope he shouted, "Av it!" on impact.

 

Worst fallacy - Stewart Downing

Stewart Downing is a lot like a Marcel Duchamp ready-made: some people can see the point, others find it totally baffling.

Is he really a footballer? Roy Hodgson clearly thought so, when he named the Liverpool midfielder in his England squad for last year's European championships. Probably appreciates modern art, too, does Roy.

Then there are the philistines who point to the fact Downing neither scored nor created a single goal in the whole season preceding that tour of Poland and Ukraine.

A bit like Wigan Athletic's defence. When they saw him unmarked four yards out in front of their goal with Philippe Coutinho lining up a cross on the left, it seemed as though they were saying: "It's only Stewart Downing. No problems there."

How wrong they were. "That's a lovely cross and Downing really can't miss," said Efan Ekoku on the television commentary. Before adding the deadpan rider: "We have seen him miss from that range, though."

 

Best Welshman - Gareth Bale

Aaron Ramsey's presence in the Arsenal line-up at White Hart Lane, so many speculated on Sunday, was a cunning ruse on Arsene Wenger's part to blunt the threat of Gareth Bale, his Welsh compatriot.

Not sure who came up with that theory.

They might both have once been considered whizz-kids in the Principality, but the Tottenham Hotspur Welshman has evidently grown up far faster.

On current form, Ramsey is not fit to lace the boots of the Premier League player of the month.

The best Welshman on the field in the north London derby?

Ramsey was not even the best Aaron.

First Bale struck to put Spurs ahead, then Aaron Lennon scored what turned out to be the decider.

 

pradley@thenational.ae

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