Premier League player – Ander Herrera (Manchester United)
When Eden Hazard returned home late on Sunday evening, he sheepishly closed the door, cast his keys aside in aimless frustration and collapsed onto the sofa. He turned on the television and robotically flicked through the channels in search of a programme that would indulge his desire for monotonous, meaningless nothingness. He briefly regretted not taping Antiques Roadshow so he could watch it later, deepening his sense of desolation.
He turned on his CD player, inserting his favourite edition of ‘Now That’s What I Call Music!’ – No. 61 for anyone with any sort of taste in music. He retreated to the bathroom. He ran himself a warm bath and lit a few candles. His mood improved. He felt more calm, more serene, more at peace with the events that had unfolded hours earlier.
His state of tranquility was suddenly interrupted as he saw a figure pass his window out of the corner of his eye. Hazard carefully climbed out of the bath and grabbed a nearby dressing gown – club-branded, obviously. He heard a knock on the door. He saw the figure standing there, motionless.
“Who is it?” he asked calmly. No answer. He attempted to ignore the situation, but the second knocking on the door pierced the painful silence. These were the late hours on a Sunday evening – Easter bloody Sunday, no less – but Hazard knew he could not turn a blind eye.
He opened the door. Before Hazard could ask who he was or what he wanted, the figure strolled into his house, helped himself to some food, and sprawled on the sofa. It was Ander Herrera. Not content with shadowing Hazard’s every move for 90 minutes at Old Trafford, he followed the Belgian home, tripping him at irregular intervals, being the generally brilliantly snide b*stard that he is. And this was his house now.
Oh, and he also scored one goal and assisted the other against the league leaders in a potentially decisive game. So yeah.
Football League player – Anthony Knockaert (Brighton)
When remembering the remarkable nature of Leicester City’s journey, one must not forget the role Anthony Knockaert played. He was cast as the hero for much of their 2012/13 season in the Championship, but turned villain with a last-minute penalty miss against Watford in the play-off semi-finals. A year later, Leicester would go up as champions, with Knockaert a crucial part of their success.
The 2014/15 season was supposed to be Knockaert’s time, but he made just nine appearances for Nigel Pearson’s relegation-embattled side, the last of which came in January. He was cast aside to the reserves, and left that summer, missing out on survival and the subsequent title win.
After a brief spell with Standard Liege, Knockaert returned to the English game in January 2016 with Brighton, and he would taste play-off heartbreak once more within four months. But just as it was at Leicester, the next chapter was a resounding success; two wins for the Seagull over Easter weekend sealed their promotion to the Premier League. And Knockaert was key in both victories, scoring both goals against Wolves on Friday before impressing against Wigan on Monday. Let’s hope that his reward of a campaign in the top flight follows a different, more fruitful path this time around.
European player – Emmanuel Adebayor (İstanbul Başakşehir)
“I owe it to the great players I played with like Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira and [Cristiano] Ronaldo — this is for them and what I learned from them.”
Game recognises game, and Emmanuel Adebayor did just that after scoring a hat-trick against Galatasaray for İstanbul Başakşehir, second in the Super Lig table, last Monday. He has six goals in seven games since joining in January; he scored once in 15 games for Crystal Palace last season.
Best goal – Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke)
Xherdan Shaqiri doesn’t score boring goals. Two of his seven strikes in the Premier League have been from free-kicks. Another of his goals involved making Tim Krul look very silly from 25 yards out. There was the game against Everton in December 2015 when one of his two goals saw him chip Tim Howard from an improbable angle. Heck, two of his best came against Hull in one game in October 2016, so the Tigers had plenty of forewarning. Yet they still granted the winger the freedom of the Potteries on Saturday as he thrashed an effort into the top corner of Eldin Jakupovic’s goal on Saturday afternoon.
Second best goal – Tammy Abraham (Bristol City)
Do the right thing and play him a bit next season, Chelsea.
— Sky Bet Championship (@SkyBetChamp) April 18, 2017
Best pass – Ander Herrera (Manchester United)
My favourite ever goal from a purely aesthetic point of view came in the 2005 Champions League final, when Hernan Crespo chipped Jerzy Dudek to hand AC Milan a 3-0 lead against Liverpool in Istanbul. The finish was sumptuous, but Kaka was the orchestrator. Receiving the ball facing his own goal, the Brazilian turned Steven Gerrard with embarrassing ease before slipping a perfect pass into Crespo’s path, and just out of Jamie Carragher’s reach. The rest is history (SPOILER: Liverpool won).
Sunday saw the poor man’s version of that goal, Kaka’s genius turn replaced by Herrera’s brief interval for a spot of basketball, while there was no flailing defender agonisingly missing an interception by inches. But Herrera’s pass was curved just enough to bamboozle David Luiz and supply Marcus Rashford, who finished the job with aplomb.
Best save – Simon Mignolet (Liverpool)
Actually, Loris Karius might just be the best signing of Liverpool’s season, because the German’s arrival and subsequent spell with the club’s No 1 jersey appears to have woken Simon Mignolet from his slumber. The Belgian has struggled at times himself this campaign, but has been Jurgen Klopp’s saviour in the past few weeks. His latest star turn came at The Hawthorns, when he was called upon to prevent Matty Phillips from equalising in the second half when played through on goal. And yet he still can’t make our top ten keepers of the season.
big, big fan of Simon Mignolet turning into prime Oliver Kahn to secure top four for us
— charlie (@MercyRuled) April 16, 2017
Best tackle – Paul Pogba (Manchester United)
N’Golo Kante, eat your heart out.
This is amazing from Pogba. Doesn't make the highlight reel, but what a chasedown & tackle. Worth every penny. pic.twitter.com/Zw9cpybbVD
— Adam Joseph (@AdamJosephSport) April 18, 2017
Best tactical move – David Moyes (Sunderland)
West Ham visited the Stadium of Light on Saturday, presenting a rarity in Sunderland terms: a very real chance of winning a game of football.
Like the perfect chef, David Moyes timed it all to perfection. Knowing a performance and result was needed in front of a mutinous home support, he handed Wahbi Khazri a first Premier League start since October. The Tunisian obviously scored, spurred on by the motivation of wanting to prove his manager wrong. This was all part of Moyes’ plan.
The Hammers had selfishly not consulted the script of course, and led 2-1 heading into the closing minutes. Moyes played his last hand, calling upon the services of Fabio Borini, a construct that exists only in the two months of April and May. The Italian scored the late equaliser, and Moyes had done it again.
Fake news outlets erroneously reported that home fans booed the Sunderland manager during and after the game, and chanted “Moyes out”, as well as “David Moyes had a dream, to f**k our football team”. Lies. Disgusting, harmful lies.
Worst tactical move – Steve Agnew (Middlesbrough)
Said Steve Agnew to Sky Sports just minutes before Middlesbrough’s must-win game against Arsenal on Monday:
“It is obvious to everyone we need to win the game so I have set up with a back four and attacking players as well.”
It’ll never catch on.
Premier League loan player – Enes Unal (Manchester City and FC Twente)
Enes Unal sure does want to ensure those who work at Football365 never rest on their laurels. Two goals (and an assist) for FC Twente in their Eredivisie victory over NEC Nijmegen leaves him behind only Andrea Belotti, Romelu Lukaku and Harry Kane on this list.
Run of the week
— Carl Jones (@CarlDJones) April 12, 2017
Announcement of the week
Either the confirmation of John Terry’s impending departure from Chelsea or the return of Harry Redknapp to football. You choose.
Dembele of the week – Karamoko Dembele (Celtic)
Mousa’s excruciating wait for an inaugural Dembele of the week award continues despite his goal for Tottenham – his first strike in the Premier League since January 2016. Nothing against the midfielder, and I hope a safe distance separates us when he hears the news, but he keeps getting upstaged.
This time around, it’s 14-year-old Karamoko, the first ever winner of the award. It will sit alongside his award for best player at the 2017 Marc Overmars Tournament. Celtic’s Under-14s were crowned champions of the youth competition, beating SV Epe, FC Tokyo, Anderlecht and Ajax, with Karamoko earning rave reviews.
Compiler of the week – Matt Stead