x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Premier League Best and Worst: Only one blemish on Leighton Baines' football resume

Player of the Year nominations are in, Norwich City staying put in the Premier League and QPR need an accountant, writes Thomas Woods.

Everton’s Leighton Baines, left, has done a bit of everything for his side this season but was left off the Player of the Year nominations list. Nigel Roddis / Reuters
Everton’s Leighton Baines, left, has done a bit of everything for his side this season but was left off the Player of the Year nominations list. Nigel Roddis / Reuters

Worst omission – Baines

Judging by the amount of column inches, tweets and blog posts this week devoted to the topic, the nominations for England's Professional Footballers Association Player of the Year, to be given out on April 28, have not gone down well.

Four of the picks – Gareth Bale, Robin van Persie, Luis Suarez and Juan Mata – seem to be universally approved.

All have had stellar seasons.

But the inclusion of Chelsea's Eden Hazard and Manchester United's Michael Carrick has sparked a debate focused on those players omitted.

What about Michu, a Spaniard unknown in England before this season, who has scored 17 league goals for Swansea City?

Or Santi Cazorla, who has become Arsenal's creative spark in his first season at the club, with 12 goals and seven assists?

Then there is Leighton Baines, now England's first-choice left-back and possibly Everton's most important player, taking free kicks, corners and penalties.

Baines's misplaced pass at Sunderland on Saturday gifted the home side the only goal of the match. "That's why he is not on the Player of the Year list" said some bright spark on the BBC's live blog.

No, that is precisely why he should have been on the list – try to name the previous time Baines made an error and you will struggle.

Best Bennetts – Norwich

Norwich City's defensive duo – Ryan and Elliott Bennett – each scored goals as Norwich all but confirmed their place in the Premier League for 2013/14.

Six defenders have scored for Norwich in the league, which is helpful when your top scorer has only six goals in total.

The fact that Norwich are safe while Saturday's beaten opponents – Reading – are doomed is testament to level-headed thinking and a superb manager in Chris Hughton.

Norwich lost their manager, Paul Lambert, in the summer.

And Norwich's start to the season was far from spectacular. They failed to win in their first seven games and were second bottom. Later in the campaign they went on a run of nine matches without victory.

But the board did not panic, stuck with Hughton and got their results.

Fair play to them.

Worst perspective – Redknapp

When Queens Park Rangers' drop to the Championship is confirmed, they will have one of the most expensive squads to be relegated.

A win for Aston Villa on Monday at Manchester United would confirm QPR's fate, so manager Harry Redknapp was asked about next season in the second tier following Saturday's home defeat to Stoke City.

The QPR manager, who has won just four of 21 games in charge, hinted he would still be at the club next season and then said he would have to sign a couple more players to give QPR a chance of returning to the Premier League.

Sign more players?

QPR have signed 29 players since July 2011. They have a French international forward, a former Real Madrid man in midfield, alongside an ex-Manchester United man. They are reported to be paying a centre-back £100,000 (Dh560,000) a week.

How about Redknapp does something original and works with the squad he has rather than putting QPR in more financial jeopardy?

Best pass – Bale

For 75 minutes at White Hart Lane on Sunday, Tottenham Hotspur were second best to Manchester City, by a long way, and trailed 1-0.

Then something sparked. Perhaps it was the dual introduction of Tom Huddlestone and Lewis Holtby. Perhaps it suddenly clicked that Spurs were going to drop three vital points in their bid to qualify for the Champions League.

Whatever the catalyst, Tottenham came alive, and they were inspired in part by a fit-again Gareth Bale.

The cross he played for Clint Dempsey's equaliser, on 75 minutes, was one of the passes of the season. It was a game changer.

Bale somehow played a ball with the outside of his foot from the right of the box that logic said should have curled back away from goal. Except this ball was a bulletthat stayed on a perfectly straight trajectory, took out the entire City back four and gave Dempsey a simple finish.

Then Jermain Defoe and Bale made it 3-1 with goals in the 79th and 82nd minutes.

Bale's pass may be the most important of Tottenham's season.


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