Football365’s weekly awards – October 5

Date published: Wednesday 5th October 2016 6:31

Premier League player Lee Grant (Stoke)
Laurent Koscielny. Adam Lallana. Kevin De Bruyne. Heung-min Son. Nacer Chadli.

I had a nice little introduction sorted and everything, Nacer. Come on mate.

With no disrespect to either the West Brom forward or Stoke goalkeeper Lee Grant, they would not often find themselves in company with the rest of the above list. But that quintet has now been joined by Grant as the only players to have won the illustrious and oft-coveted Football365 Player of the Week award.

Now 33 and kept on the Derby bench for much of last season by Scott Carson, Grant likely thought his time in the limelight was up. An emergency loan to Stoke handed him a lifeline, while Shay Given oddly performing like a 40-year-old man provided him with an opportunity he has grasped with both hands as if it were an Antonio Valencia cross. The keeper made eight saves to salvage a 1-1 draw against Manchester United – the joint-most of any Premier League shot-stopper so far this season – and was the undoubted man of the match. It was only his second ever game in the top flight.


Football League player – Massimo Luongo (QPR)
After the Stoke goalkeeper comes the QPR midfielder. Feed me your delicious clicks.

It was a difficult week in a terrible month for Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink. QPR did not win a single game in September under his tutelage, drawing three and losing three, including a 6-0 hammering inflicted by Newcastle. Then the whole Daily Telegraph thing happened and, well, y’know.

So the performance of midfield maestro Luongo will have delighted the Dutchman. QPR won only their third Championship game of the season on Saturday, edging to a 2-1 victory over Fulham. Idrissa Sylla and Conor Washington scored the goals, while Tjaronn Chery was excellent. But Luongo was the driving force, with six tackles, six dribbles and 76 touches – all match-leading statistics. Add three shots and five clearances, and it was an all-round performance from the 24-year-old.


European player Iago Aspas (Celta Vigo)
Everyone knows what they saw. Few dared speak of it, choosing to consign what must have been a bad dream to the deepest realms of their subconscious. But it would not stay there. We all knew the truth; we all knew what Iago Aspas had done.

The funniest thing is that it wasn’t the first time Aspas had dismantled a Barcelona defence. In September 2015, the wiry striker scored twice in a 4-1 victory for Celta Vigo. Just over a year later, the 29-year-old repeated his second-best trick by scoring once and assisting another in a 4-3 win over Luis Enrique’s side. Three shots, six key passes, Liverpool reject.

His best trick? Making every single football fan in the world- those of a Liverpool persuasion aside – simultaneously burst into laughter.


Best goal – Dimitri Payet (West Ham)
So that’s where you’ve been, Dimitri. We’ve missed you. Welcome to the party.

With 56 minutes gone, the London Stadium was on the verge of meltdown. West Ham were losing 1-0 to Middlesbrough, and were staring down the barrel of a fifth consecutive Premier League defeat. The supporters, Slaven Bilic, the bubbles – they needed a hero. They needed someone to step up.

As he did so often last season, it was Payet who came to the rescue. On approximately five occasions during his mesmerising run his teammates probably cursed him for not passing the ball. But on he went, hurdling challenges, the ball stuck to his feet, before he finally relinquished it. Of course, he did so only on his terms, and only as his pièce de résistance, slotting the ball into the smallest of gaps between two defenders and a goalkeeper, before it nestled into the back of the net.


Best save – Lee Grant (Stoke)
Has Lee Grant ever perused Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s autobiography? Because he read the striker like a book on Sunday. And I’m not even vaguely sorry for that, even if I really, really should be.

Just two minutes into their game against Manchester United, Stoke must have feared the worst. Paul Pogba poked the ball through to Ibrahimovic, and the Swede, winner of 29 trophies throughout his career, was one-on-one with an emergency goalkeeper loaned from the Championship. The Manchester United forward hit a powerful low effort, but Grant leapt to his right to keep it out, before immediately following it up with a second save.

“In the first minute, their keeper made an unbelievable save and he kept doing that until the end of the game,” said Jose Mourinho post-match. He ain’t wrong.


Best pass – Heung-min Son (Tottenham)
Before the weekend, Tottenham had scored three goals in the two games following Harry Kane’s injury; each of them was scored by Heung-min Son. By Sunday, the man who had effortlessly stepped into the void to replace their erstwhile striker turned creator. Son’s pass for Dele Alli’s strike in the victory over Manchester City was simple yet sublime. Receiving the back to goal, the South Korean swivelled in an instant, before slipping a wonderful ball into Alli. The Englishman’s run was incisive, but the pass had to be perfect. It most certainly was.


Best performance – Tottenham
Let’s stay at White Hart Lane, shall we? Only last week, Tottenham’s bitter rivals Arsenal put in a performance against Chelsea described perfectly by Arsene Wenger as a blend of “steel and style”. The Gunners raced into a three-goal lead by half-time, before defending resolutely to close out a deserved victory.

To do that against Chelsea is one thing. To be just as effervescent and effective in equal measure against Manchester City – Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City – is another. Messrs Son, Alli, Lamela, Sissoko and Eriksen swept through a beleaguered City defence in the first half on Sunday, before Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen thwarted any potential hopes of a comeback in the second. The attack took centre stage from the outset; the defence rose to the challenge after the interval. In the process, Mauricio Pochettino became only the eighth manager to ever win two games against Guardiola.

The Argentinean’s tactics were absolutely perfect – not that they were a secret. “We knew they would press us high,” Guardiola said post-match. “We wanted that but they did it better.” Pochettino was brave in his tactics and team selection, choosing to battle City head on. Few teams, few managers, will do the same. Jose Mourinho completely changed his approach for the Manchester derby, but to no avail. Yet here was a manager brave enough to trust his instincts, trust his players, and make small tweaks to a gameplan he trusts implicitly. It paid off.



Best tactical move – Antonio Conte (Chelsea)
Pochettino and his high press come close, but Conte takes it after leading Chelsea to their first Premier League victory since August. Granted, it was against a Hull side struggling to recapture their early-season form. Granted, it took them an hour to score. But a win is a win, and the manager’s efforts should not be overlooked.

“I have to solve the situation because every game we concede two goals minimum,” Conte said after defeat to Arsenal last week. The Blues’ backline had been exposed once again by a rampant attack. Seven days later, the Italian came up with, in his words, “another solution, another tactical system”. Branislav Ivanovic dropped to the bench for a Premier League game for the first time since April 2013, as Cesar Azpilicueta, David Luiz and Gary Cahill were trusted in a three-man defence. It was hardly Bonucci, Barzagli and Chiellini, but this was the first step towards a Chelsea side imbued with Conte’s touch. Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso were the willing wing-backs – the former in particular was excellent – and only a second clean sheet in 14 Premier League games was secured.


Worst tactical move – Pep Guardiola (Manchester City)
Pochettino got it right, but Guardiola got it ever so wrong. You can read much more about the Spaniard’s approach in 16 Conclusions from Manchester City’s 2-0 defeat to Tottenham, and while this was not a knockout blow for Pep’s revolution, it was most certainly a setback.

From playing Pablo Zabaleta and Aleksandar Kolarov as full-backs against an energetic Tottenham side, to starting a central midfielder clearly uncomfortable playing against a high-pressing game such as Fernando, to still fielding Jesus Navas in big games, Guardiola was found wanting at White Hart Lane. But it was his insistence that his teams play out from the back which was most detrimental. It is an admirable philosophy in an ideal world, but against Tottenham it simply placed more pressure on a defence already struggling to cope. Three of the four starting defenders – Zabaleta, Kolarov and Nicolas Otamendi – completed fewer than 78% of their passes. And don’t get me started on Claudio Bravo.

Guardiola’s tactics will ensure that City bully most sides. It remains to be seen whether the manager will adapt his game to take on teams their own size.




Bump and grind of the week
Well, at least Shkodran Mustafi can look back and laugh about his rather hands-on approach.

Referee Craig Pawson, on the other hand…


Worst dab of the week – Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)

I’m hardly a connoisseur of the art, but that doesn’t look right.


Dembele of the week
In an increasingly competitive field, Karamoko beats Mousa, Moussa, Ousmane, Bassirou, Bira, Boubacar, Garra, Makan, Mana, Siraba, Sirmana and Souleymane this week. The Celtic teenager will be able to each and every single one of his namesakes about his debut for the U20 side at their weekly Dembele convention.

After all, what were you doing at 13? Hold on, don’t answer that. You sick, sick b*stard.


Defence of the week – Robbie Savage

On behalf of Football365, I would like to apologise to Savage for the mix-up in correcting his claim that Le Havre were 11th in Ligue 2. They were indeed 11th at the time of BBC Radio 5 Live’s Monday Night Club programme. Sorry.

Of course, that doesn’t explain why you think Ryan Giggs, a man with barely any managerial experience whatsoever, shouldn’t have even needed an interview before being appointed Swansea boss. We await your levelled reasoning with breath so bated we have almost lost consciousness.


Compiler of the week – Matt Stead

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