x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Premier League Best & Worst: Plenty of hits and a few misses

Christian Benteke's success is enabling Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert to avoid answering questions about Darren Bent.

The success Christian Benteke is having at Aston Villa is making it easier for manager Paul Lambert to avoid answering questions on Darren Bent.
The success Christian Benteke is having at Aston Villa is making it easier for manager Paul Lambert to avoid answering questions on Darren Bent.

Worst TV pilot: Being Villa

Judging by the evidence of the six-part, fly-on-the-wall documentary show, Being Liverpool, Brendan Rodgers likes the sound of his own management speak.

Corporate jargon generally abounds all over the Premier League among the bright young things of management.

Less so at Aston Villa, though, where their own fledgling "Project" enjoyed its finest moment to date when Christian Benteke sculpted a fine win at Anfield.

You might have thought the brilliance of the Belgian striker might have been enough to get some chat out of Paul Lambert, their stern manager.

Not so.

"A couple of months ago we were being criticised for that," Lambert said about the flowering of his youth policy, imploring the interviewer to "stick to one or the other."

But surely Benteke's success puts to bed the debate about Darren Bent?

"Enough has been said already," on that issue, Lambert said abruptly.

Villa fans should be concerned.

Since when did a grumpy Scottish manager ever enjoy Premier League success?


Best bromance: Rooney/RVP

Not an obvious love match, this. One had revelled in being the biggest fish in a diminishing pool, before opting to go free-water swimming this summer.

The other, at 1.76 metres tall, is the self-styled "Big Man".

And, anyway, not too long ago they were both on the opposite sides of the divide in one of English football's ancient rivalries.

However, one thing would immediately bind Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie when they were thrown together this season: a love of the jogo bonito.

Manchester United played some liquid football against Sunderland on Saturday.

Most of the time, those two were at the heart of it.

Every time they did something magic, they grinned at each other like the two coolest boys in school with some intel to share about the class sad-sack.


Worst miss: Mackie

You can imagine what Jamie Mackie, the Queens Park Rangers forward, was thinking as his timid shot dribbled wide after he had been through with only Mark Schwarzer, Fulham's goalkeeper, to beat Loftus Road on Saturday.

Not, "How did that not go in?"

Or even, "We need to score chances like that if we are going to get out of this mess we are in."

He was blatantly thinking: "If I have to hear about how the gaffer's Mrs would have scored that, I think I'll go crazy."

But, much like Darren Bent before him, Mackie needs to know: Sandra Redknapp is a very good finisher, indeed - probably better than you.

Though maybe not quite as good as Adel Taarabt when he is having an "on" day which, fortunately for Mackie and his QPR colleagues, he was on Saturday.


Best advert: Vertonghen

Children of a certain generation will recall that being an alumnus of the Ajax academy in Amsterdam was as good a guarantee of fame and fortune as it was possible to find in football.

Not so much lately.

The current obsession is with all things Barcelona and their La Masia finishing school.

However, Jan Vertonghen provided a neat advertisement yesterday to suggest that Ajax still churns out some highly-skilled graduates, too.

The towering Belgian centre-back may be left-footed, but he cracked home a sweet half-volley with his right to give Tottenham Hotspur all three points against Swansea City at White Hart Lane.

The idea of having a weaker foot has always been anathema at Ajax.

"He came from Amsterdam, he plays for Tottenham," sang the White Hart Lane faithful in recognition of their match-winner.



Worst butt: Fellaini

Let us not make light of this. No one should be allowed to go around butting people, even if you are playing against a side who are reputed to be able to handle themselves.

Even Marouane Fellaini's manager at Everton, David Moyes, acknowledged at the first given opportunity that his player had been wholly in the wrong for felling Ryan Shawcross, the Stoke City captain.

"We will take the punishment if it's given for it, I've told him in the dressing room that it's not acceptable and I won't accept it as a manager that he does that," Moyes said in his television interview.

"He's [Fellaini] a really good player, he's a big part of the team and he's let the team down."

But, having said all that, if you are going to be butted by anyone, you would probably want it to be Fellaini.

Let's face it - with all that hair, it must be like being whacked with a pillow.



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