x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Premier League best and worst: Tearing strips and terminal yips

Harry Redknapp censures goalscorer Sandro, Maxi Rodriguez revitalises Liverpool and Heurelho Gomes loses his grip, writes Paul Radley.

Harry Redknapp, the Tottenham Hotspur manager, can be a tough man to please.
Harry Redknapp, the Tottenham Hotspur manager, can be a tough man to please.

Worst party-pooper

Harry Redknapp, the Tottenham Hotspur manager, reckons the biggest impact he made upon his arrival at White Hart Lane was to lift the spirits of all his staff.

"People didn't enjoy coming into work before," he said recently of the wreck of a club he inherited from Juande Ramos. "And now they do."

Life is a laugh a minute under Redknapp. Unless you happen to whack a thunderous, curling strike into the top corner, past arguably one of the world's best goalkeepers, to give your side the lead in a high-octane local derby you have to win to salvage anything from the season.

Silly old Sandro, what was he thinking, looking so happy with himself.

Just 22 and living thousands of miles away from his family back home in Brazil while trying to make his way in the game, he had probably been looking forward to scoring his first goal.

He was a picture of joy as a peeled away to celebrate his fine strike against Chelsea with his manager. All he got was a flea in his ear for his crime of wandering too far up the field. Let that be a lesson to you, young man.

Best transformation

If Redknapp lifted the gloom when he arrived at Spurs, then what of Kenny Dalglish's impact on his return to Liverpool?

There are more high spirits in the home team dressing room at Anfield than at a seance at present.

The chief respondent has been Maxi Rodriguez, the Argentine, who was a midfield nonentity during Roy Hodgson's ill-starred stint at the club but is now transformed into a goal-scoring revelation.

"What does he actually do?" the critics asked forcibly a few months ago. He followed up his hat-trick against Birmingham City a week earlier with the opener against Newcastle United yesterday, adding weight to the notion that he can play a little bit, after all.

Best goalkeeping

If you listen to John Burridge, the former goalkeeper now based in the Middle East who raised Ali al Habsi from being an apprentice fireman to the first Omani to play in the Premier League, the on-loan Wigan Athletic stopper is the next big thing.

Any of the division's biggest clubs - with the needs of Manchester United and Arsenal most pressing - could do worse than taking a chance on signing him, according to Burridge.

United look to have their sights trained on David de Gea, the Atletico Madrid goalkeeper, if they cannot hijack Manuel Neuer's move to Bayern Munich. Meanwhile, al Habsi is probably far too good for Arsene Wenger to take him to Arsenal.

However, al Habsi emphasised by his penalty save against Everton's Mikel Arteta on Saturday, that he should be interesting someone. Which goes to show, it is possible for a goalkeeper to bounce back after making a famous howler ...

Worst goalkeeping

First impressions last, and it seems everyone was right all along about Heurelho Gomes, the Spurs goalkeeper.

Bobby Mimms, Gary Sprake. A string of Scotsmen. In the harsh world of professional goalkeeping, a few high-profile errors can quickly earn you a bad name.

At least Gomes earned praise for the way he coped with the bout of the yips which afflicted his early days at Spurs.

But now they are back with a vengeance, and it should be terminal for the Brazilian's career at White Hart Lane.

Shortly after throwing a couple in against Real Madrid, Gomes let slip a shot from Chelsea's Frank Lampard to all but end his side's hopes of a return to the Champions League.

Granted, it probably was not a fair goal, and television technology would have spared his blushes. But a Premier League goalkeeper really should be able to catch.

Best comeback

"This is definitely my happiest day since I broke my leg," Aaron Ramsey said in his television interview after hitting the winner for Arsenal against Manchester United yesterday.

It would take a particularly stony heart to begrudge the great hope of Welsh football his moment in the sun, after making a comeback from such a gruesome injury.

The midfielder was playing back at Emirates Stadium for the first time since he had a leg broken in a match against Stoke City.

He has been away on loan at Cardiff City while trying to recuperate, but the Premier League is clearly a far more fitting platform for his talents.

Arsenal fielded the youngest team in Premier League history yesterday with an average age of 23, and the least experienced of the lot gave a belated kiss of life to their aspirations.