x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Swansea City continue to impress in the Premier League

From the Welsh side's continued good form, to a fine weekend for Junior Hoilett, Paul Radley goes over the Premier League weekend's Best and Worst.

Swansea's win over Manchester City was only the latest in a long line of impressive performances in their first season in the Premier League.
Swansea's win over Manchester City was only the latest in a long line of impressive performances in their first season in the Premier League.

Best new-boys - Swansea

Granted, they are the freshest in the memory. But has the Premier League ever really seen a promoted side as good as Swansea City?

Newcastle United finished third in the second season of the Premier League immediately after being promoted, but the competition was not what it is now.

Ipswich Town were tidy in 2001. Sunderland and Charlton Athletic had their moments.

But this Swansea side are pure class, with their deserved win over Manchester City yesterday just the latest evidence.

Tottenham Hotspur were lucky to escape the Liberty Stadium with a draw earlier in the campaign. Then they did not so much beat Arsenal as totally outclass them.

And now this. By half time against City they had enjoyed 64 per cent of possession. Against one of the best, most richly assembled sides in the world. And it was only that low because City had a bright spell just before the interval. Brendan Rodgers, demand a pay rise.

Best dresser - The manager

What a difference a week makes. Seven days earlier, Roberto Di Matteo was sat there in his tracksuit, minding his own business as the Chelsea cabal sunk the knife further in to Andre Villas-Boas.

Then the firing squad do their bit, he gets an emergency summons, and seven days on he gets to wear the Armani suit.

It is probably written somewhere in the small print of the Premier League playing conditions: no one is allowed to dress better than the manager.

Or perhaps it is just an unwritten rule, the sort of accepted wisdom which dictates that female wedding guests should try not to upstage the bride.

Which is all well and good at a club like Chelsea, with their production line of poseur managers. But pity the poor staff at Stoke City.

Best humility - Moyes

Longevity does not guarantee universal popularity in football management. Sir Alex Ferguson, for example, is loved by many, respected by almost all, but invokes a special kind of loathing in some.

Arsene Wenger, too. His years of service at Arsenal were going so well for so long. Then came the seven barren seasons and even his own supporters started to query whether he actually does know what he is doing after all.

But surely everybody rates David Moyes? Given the budgetary restraints he has worked within for a decade at Everton, his body of work has been admirable.

The only big name players he has ever been able to afford have been the ones with literally lots of letters, like Diniyar Bilyaletdinov and Denis Stracqualursi. And he seems a decent bloke, too.

Rated by everyone bar one: the man himself. He has no special plans for his 10th anniversary on Wednesday, on account of the fact he has no trophies to show for his endeavour. Must do better, he says.

Best Canadian - Hoilett

Until now, Canada's best - some would say only - contribution to the Beautiful Game has been Owen Hargreaves, the Calgary-born, Germany-honed, England international with the Welsh mother.

The country's claims on Junior Hoilett are similarly blurred.

He was born in Ontario, spent his formative football years in England, played in Germany and also qualifies for Jamaica.

He is leaving his options open when it comes to international football.

Whatever his etymology, Hoilett can certainly play. His two-goal haul against Wolverhampton Wanderers was as dexterous - one was a sharp half-volley with his right, the second a left-foot drive from range - as it was valuable. It could go a long way to keeping Blackburn Rovers in the Premier League.

Hoilett does not mind being unique. The only thing rarer than a Canadian footballer has been a good Rovers player this season.

Worst inconsistency - Refs

When Mike Dean gave a penalty for shirt-pulling at a corner in the Tyne-Wear derby last weekend, it was seen by most neutrals as a triumph: the day an official finally stood up and observed one the most routinely overlooked laws in the game.

You could tell it was an extraordinary decision by the amount of times people quoted the 2002 World Cup, when Byron Moreno - a referee who was later discredited - did the same in a match between South Korea and Italy.

That was 10 years ago - and it was the last time anyone could remember a referee penalising defenders for holding attackers at corners. Maybe this time, Dean's decision would mark a genuine watershed.

As if. In the matches involving Bolton Wanderers and Stoke City this weekend, the defenders were like NFL blockers without the padding at corners. The referees saw it all going on. And routinely ignored it.