x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Premier League Best & Worst: Jan Vertonghen and Gareth Bale are Spurs' dynamic duo

Jan Vertonghen and Gareth Bale play like super heroes; Youssouf Mulumbu has a tantrum; and Kevin Mirallas is this week's best Belgian in the English Premier League, writes Gary Meenaghan.

Jan Vertonghen shows his Tottenham teammates where the 'S' would be on his shirt after his super play against Swansea.
Jan Vertonghen shows his Tottenham teammates where the 'S' would be on his shirt after his super play against Swansea.

Best Superhero Duo

The first 20 minutes of Tottenham Hotspur's victory away to Swansea City saw Andre Villas-Boas's men brush aside the League Cup winners with ease, but it was the superhero performances from their two most consistent performers, Jan Vertonghen and Gareth Bale, that caught the eye the most.

In the eighth minute, Vertonghen, a centre-half remember, rampaged into the opposition area, neatly killed Bale's brilliantly lobbed pass dead on his toe and slipped it past Michel Vorm.

As he wheeled away in his trademark celebration, he pretended to rip his shirt open to reveal SuperJan. It was his fourth goal in five games for Spurs and saw him pass striker Emmanuel Adebayor in the team's scoring charts.

SuperJan turned provider 15 minutes later as he found Bale, who took one touch and fired past Vorm from distance. It was the Welshman's seventh goal from outside the box this season; more than any other player.

Little wonder he's earned the moniker IncrediBale.


Worst Hissy Fit

Your team is down 3-1 after 95 minutes of regulation time is complete, the ball is in the centre of the park and an opponent is tugging your shirt a little. What to do?

Well, if your name is Youssouf Mulumbu, you are going to get sent off for one of the most petulant - and humorous - acts ever seen in the Premier League. The West Bromwich Albion midfielder clearly wanted to be first in the showers at West Ham United as he reacted to Gary O'Neil's injury-time niggling by grabbing the ball and punting it NFL-style full force at his adversary. Unsurprisingly, Mulumbu was given a straight red to match the mist that had clearly descended upon him.

"I'm really sorry about what happened this afternoon, it doesn't look like me," he later tweeted, looking exactly like the man who had produced the comical mental collapse.


Best Cameo

One player who definitely did not look like himself this weekend was playing in the red and white of Arsenal with the name Gervinho on his back. The Ivory Coast striker, so often a figure of frustration since moving from Lille for £10.5 million (Dh58.6m) in 2011, was the focal point of everything positive about the Gunners in their 4-1 win over Reading.

He opened the scoring before setting up goals for Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud. Even his substitution, which was greeted by a standing ovation from the North London club's fans, proved pivotal: his replacement, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, won the penalty that Mikel Arteta converted.

Gervinho won Man of the Match and the praise of his coach, Arsene Wenger, who called him "the type of player who is difficult to find". It has taken Wenger two years.


Best Belgian

What is it about the boys from Belgium? First, centre-half Vertonghen scores a goal worthy of a centre forward. Then compatriot Vincent Kompany, also a defender, nets an impudent back-heel flick on his comeback for Manchester City against Newcastle. Then Christian Benteke slams home for Aston Villa against Liverpool. And yet none of them come close to eclipsing the goal of Everton midfielder Kevin Mirallas.

The Toffees have seen Marouane Fellaini net 12 times this season, but it was his international teammate who struck the killer blow in the 1-0 win over Stoke City. And what a goal it was. The 25 year old picked up the ball on the edge of his area, ran with it, held off two Potters defenders and slid it past Asmir Begovic for his seventh goal of the season.

Belgium have now contributed 55 goals in the Premier League since August, bettered only by England (254) and Spain (72).


Worst Decision

With the award for worst decision being shared between Sunderland, who dismissed Martin O'Neill with seven games remaining, and the Northern Irishman, who accepted the poisoned position in the first place, a new - and far more concerning - trend has developed.

Trigger-happy chairmen appear to have been watching too much of the X-Factor, voting their coaches off each week as the end of the season fast approaches. With eight games to go, Brian McDermott was cast aside by Reading; the Englishman's heartfelt rendition of "Staying Alive" not quite enough to save his job. Now, two weeks later and with less than a fifth of the season remaining, O'Neill has joined him: dumped but likely to reappear in the future with a popular song that will threaten to top the charts.

Yes, O'Neill's side had lacked spirit for the past few matches and appeared to be in free fall, but this is a manager who was only a few seasons ago being linked with the Manchester United job.

Sometimes the problem is not so much the singer, but rather the song. And in that regard, Sunderland have serious personnel problems.




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