1) Érik Lamela , Tottenham’s Clogger
On Sunday, at White Hart Lane, Érik Lamela proved how far he has come as a player since the summer of 2013. He was a great influence as he broke up play and managed the flow around him. Not only were Lamela, Christian Eriksen and Nacer Chadli – half a Bale combined – all on the pitch as Spurs beat Manchester United at home for the first time in some time. Lamela scored one and made one. He was also a key factor in the tourniquet Spurs applied to United’s flowing start, stepping back to double up with Kyle Walker as Anthony Martial threatened to make it a dicey afternoon, and generally niggling, snipping, sniping and – despite not drawing the referee’s whistle once – fouling Spurs back into parity on that flank. Lamela’s goals and assists stats are so-so. His foul stats (he started the game with 81 this season compared to, say, Juan Mata’s 25) are off the charts.
2) Liverpool Firepower
Although, only one goal divided Liverpool and Stoke City in their first three meetings, by the fourth, Sunday’s 4-1 stroll for the home side at Anfield, beckoned a change, not only in the visitors’ defensive quality but the threat posed by Jürgen Klopp’s side. “It is still very early in Jürgen’s tenure,” said the beaten manager, Mark Hughes. “But there is a really positive feeling around the club and Jürgen has instilled that to some extent with his personality.” There is more to it than that. Klopp spent the early months of his reign complaining about Liverpool’s lack of goals, a consequence of Luis Suárez’s departure and Daniel Sturridge’s injuries and a flaw that contributed to Brendan Rodgers losing his job. However, in 2016, no team has scored more Premier League goals than Liverpool’s 28. Inconsistency may still infuriate the Liverpool manager but his team have few problems creating chances as they develop under Klopp and, with Divock Origi emerging as genuine, reliable striker to share the load with Sturridge, they have better options for taking them. Given Borussia Dortmund’s suspect defending at the Westfalenstadion last week, coupled with their combined effectiveness against Stoke, the Liverpool manager may be tempted to field both forwards against his former club in Thursday’s second leg.
3) Iwobi impressing as midfielder
Iwobi had another impressive game, creating goals for Mesut Özil and Alexis Sánchez with a couple of fine assists. Iwobi has been amazing since breaking into the side last month and having mainly used him in attack until the 3-3 draw with West Ham, Arsène Wenger took advantage of the 19-year-old’s adaptability, positional awareness and intelligence at Upton Park. “I pushed him to central midfield,” Wenger said. “It was a very difficult game in the middle of the park but he was very influential. Look at what he has done at 19 years of age and it is very promising.”
4) Benítez needs a new miracle to keep Newcastle up
Rafael Benítez smiled at the mention of the ‘Miracle of Istanbul’, then became sad again when asked whether Newcastle’s current dilemma is more hopeless than Liverpool’s seemed when they were 3-0 down to Milan in the 2005 Champions League final. “It’s totally different because this is a different team,” he said following Newcastle’s defeat at St Mary’s. “When you are working with a team for one year, then you know what you can expect from them and they know what they can expect from you. In this case, you have players coming back from injuries and then you lose another player so you have to adapt quickly to different situations. But I still feel we have enough quality in the squad to do better than the other teams – we do not have to be the best team in the Premier League, just the best in the bottom four.” There has been little signs of progress during four matches under Benitez.
5) There Is Hope Yet For Sunderland
With Alan Pardew having thrown the north-east a lifeline with his Crystal Palace side beating Norwich 1-0 on Saturday, Newcastle remain six points behind Alex Neil’s side and Sunderland four points in arrears. Both sides have a game in hand on the Canaries. Should Sunderland win on Saturday and Newcastle beat Swansea at St James’ Park, the relegation race will be wide open and too close to call with everything to play for. Are Sunderland set for their traditional last-gasp, 11th-hour survival bid? Or is Alex Neil about to trample all over Benítez’s and Allardyce’s hard-earned reputations? Maybe Rafa and Sam should cobble together to somehow hobble Norwich’s Robbie Brady for the run-in. Or maybe Allardyce will simply have sleepless nights about what might have been had Jack Rodwell not missed a sitter to make it 1-1 for Sunderland against Leicester, while Benítez dwells on the John Ruddy save from a Papiss Cissé header which could have given Newcastle victory at Norwich a week earlier.
6) Martinez needs another FA Cup Win To Save Himself
Martinez was diplomatic after Everton’s draw with Watford on Saturday. However, the banners held by supporters saying ‘Baines is one of us’ and ‘Martínez Out’ indicates exactly where allegiance lay in the wake of a testing week for the Spaniard in which he claimed Leighton Baines’ comments about a lack of chemistry in the team were misinterpreted. All signs point to a change of managers for Everton in the summer. John Stones put in an appalling display at centre-half – his distribution particularly worrying with a needlessly heavy back pass leading to Watford’s equalizer – while Phil Jagielka and Ross Barkley will undergo tests for respective hamstring and knee injuries. For Martínez, everything now rests on the FA Cup. Both Watford and Everton are in the semi-finals, but it is Everton who have the harsher draw. They will play either Manchester United or West Ham later this month and, if Martínez is going to regain the support of fans whose patience has been severely tested in recent times, he surely needs to win a competition he famously secured with Wigan Athletic in 2013.
7) Nasri Warns Team Not To Underestimate PSG
After beating West Bromwich, Manchester City had the perfect result ahead of the Champions League quarter-final second leg against Paris Saint-Germain. However, Samir Nasri, who is not part of City’s Champions League squad, warned his team-mates about the French champions. “It’s going to be a dangerous game,” said Saturday’s match winner. “We have the advantage, but I know Paris and the way they played against us, I think they were on an off day. They made a lot of mistakes technically, that’s not the way they play. We just have to use the game that we played against Kyiv at home to not do the same thing [drawing 0-0]. When you have the advantage you don’t know what to do, if you have to attack or to defend, and don’t know how to play this kind of game. I know the lads are really hungry and it’s an opportunity to go into the top four of the best teams in Europe. So I know we are going to do a game that we need to be in the semifinal.”