Football365’s weekly awards – February 22

Date published: Wednesday 22nd February 2017 4:34

FA Cup player – Sean Raggett (Lincoln City)
Sitting snugly alongside Lukasz Piszczek, Stevan Jovetic, Isco, Javier Hernandez and Harry Kane was one Sean Raggett. The Lincoln City centre-half helped keep Burnley at arm’s length for 89 minutes before landing a knock-out blow of his own just before the closing bell rang. His reward was a place in the Gazetta dello Sport European team of the week, a place in the FA Cup quarter-final, and a Football365 award as the best FA Cup player of the week. We know which one he will cherish most above the rest.


Football League player – Jon Stead (Notts County)
What a player, and what a surname. Uncle Jon, scorer of more Premier League goals than you have had lukewarm suppers, is busy tearing up England’s fourth tier. He struck twice and assisted another as Notts County reinvigorated their bid for survival with a 3-2 win over Leyton Orient. They have opened up a huge one-point gap on the bottom four.

His performance came alongside fellow top-flight legend and punisher of defences, Shola Ameobi. That is 68 years of elbows, hold-up play and backing into inexperienced central defenders, wrapped up in one lethal strikeforce.


European player – Paulo Dybala (Juventus)
Close friend of fellow Irishman and Hull City manager Marc O’Silva, Paul O’Dybala ensured his cousins back home would be proud after scoring twice in Juventus’ comfortable victory over Palermo. He plunged his former side further into a Serie A relegation battle with a stunning free-kick, a late strike and an assist for Gonzalo Higuain. Media outlets reported on such a fine performance as expected: by mentioning it as a footnote to a story based on the fact he posted an old picture of himself and a birthday-celebrating Rihanna hours later. Viva 2017.


Best goal – Fernando Forestieri (Sheffield Wednesday)
With his back to goal, Fernando Forestieri provided Sam Hutchinson’s hopeful cross with a welcome home. The Sheffield Wednesday forward was the filling in an eclectic sandwich of Danny Fox and Daniel Pinillos. He somehow managed to control the ball with his chest, flick it up, hold off the aforementioned two defenders, and beat keeper Jordan Smith with a wonderful bicycle kick, all in about three seconds. The Forest No 43 was beaten at his near post, breaking the most cherished rule of the Shot-Stopping Society on his first league start.


Almost best goal of the week – Roarie Deacon (Sutton United)

Imagine if that went in. People might be forced to talk about that instead of a large man eating a pie.


Best pass – Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Manchester United)
It was not so much a hot knife through butter as it was an expensive car racing past a fallen ‘STOP’ sign. The Blackburn defence inexplicably parted, Marcus Rashford timed his run perfectly, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan proceeded to find it with an unnecessary but delightful dose of skill.

It was a simple pass made more effective with sublime skill. Blackburn opened the door for him, but instead of strolling through he opted to moonwalk. And there is nothing wrong with that.


Best save – John Hall (Adelaide United)

“Noggin’s fine, noggin’s fine,” he said at half-time. “I’ll be right for the second half.” What a guy.


Best tackle – Craig Eastmond (Sutton United)
You know the tackle, where Craig Eastmond, formerly of the Arsenal parish, injured Mohamed Elneny in the third minute at Gander Green Lane with a strong challenge. In the words of Martin Keown:

“Bang. Just a little taster. You’re the foreign player who has come over here to take my place. And I’ll let you know.”

Coming over here, taking our jobs that we were removed from a full two-and-a-half years before you came over here to take it. Bang.


Best tactical move – Jose Mourinho (Manchester United)
Faced with the prospect of an FA Cup replay with Blackburn, and with his assorted squad members proving incapable of besting the Championship side, Jose Mourinho embarked on perhaps the bravest move of his managerial career thus far. On came relative unknown Paul Pogba and untested Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the 62nd minute. This was do or die. Now or never. To be or not to be. Well done or medium rare.

Not even the most talented of scriptwriters could have penned the subsequent events. The pair of substitutes combined 14 minutes later to score the winner, and the courageous Mourinho was vindicated.


Worst tactical move – Danny Cowley (Lincoln City)
“We are always realists, I will never ask the players to do something they’re not capable of,” said Lincoln City manager Danny Cowley on Saturday. “But we thought if we could get the game plan right we could compete.

“Maybe young top-level centre halves are not used to playing against that up top. It was a bit of a throwback.”

The 38-year-old had just masterminded only the second instance in history of a non-league team knocking a Premier League counterpart out of the FA Cup. The “that up top” he was referring to was Matt Rhead, the individual whose heavyweight thunder was stolen two days later by a large man eating a pasty during a match.

‘Big Man’, as Joey Barton so wonderfully dubbed him, was quite a handful for the Burnley defence. He won 16 headers – seven more than any other player – was fouled a game-high three times, and committed five fouls himself, more than anyone else. Even Sean Dyche was impressed.

“They used everything they needed to use. They played our pitch well, played resolutely with their back four not going anywhere and they got the ball forward. They approached it as a lower league team should – with organisation rather than flair, by keeping it simple and not overthinking it.”

Sean, you’ve just described your tactics there, never mind those of “a lower league team”. You got out-Burnleyed, pal.


Premier League loan player – Kelechi Nwakali (Arsenal)
Signed from Nigeria’s Diamond Football Academy in the summer, Kelechi Nwakali was sent on loan to MVV Maastricht in September. He would join fellow Gunner-at-heart Stefan O’Connor in the Dutch second division.

To expect an 18-year-old to move to a foreign country and adapt quickly is harsh. To then move them to another foreign country and anticipate any sort of development is risky. But Nwakali has acclimatised, and was named man of the match after a fine performance against FC Eindhoven on Sunday. Then came his reward.

Get yourself a man who brings you flowers after a great game like Nwankwo Kanu.


Celebration of the week
There was a reason that no video was provided for Fernando Forestieri’s goal of the week earlier; his yellow-card-enticing celebration was a ruddy masterpiece.


Impassioned Arsenal fan of the week

Nothing quite says ‘Wenger out’ like the banner you have taken to a non-league ground losing its message because your mate is less bothered about holding one corner of it than he is about being seen for one second on the television.


Pantomime villain of the week

“When I pass away, I don’t want clapping or a minute’s silence, I want a minute’s booing at Bristol City.”

Well played, Neil Warnock.


Dembele of the week – Mana Dembele
It seemed as though Marco Simone had learned his lesson. Back in January, the Stade Laval boss denied the world a chance to witness a sight rarer than a Joey Barton apology and more beautiful than Cherry Bear.

I got angry at him; the footballing world simultaneously erupted in anger at his ineptitude.

He surely would never make a similar mistake. He knew that he had ruined the prospects of a Dembele Derby. To atone for his grave error, he signed Mana Dembele from Le Havre on loan in January. He would hand his new striker a debut against FC Sochaux, and he would score.

But Marco Simone, in his eternal wisdom, decided to starve us of a phenomenon never before seen. He did not even include his existing Dembele, Modibo, in his matchday squad. The millions in attendance were devastated as the Dembele Double was cast aside by one heartless individual.

F*** you, Marco Simone.


Compiler of the week – Matt Stead

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