Given that the Premier League is one of the most chaotic and unpredictable leagues on the planet, Gameweek 24 had a strangely low key vibe to it.
Notwithstanding the Swansea vs Liverpool game (which was yet to unfold at the time of writing), it was a uniquely so-so affair: the big boys won, those towards the bottom either drew or lost, and some kind of cosmic order was restored.
How long will that last, we wonder!?
Regardless, here’s a handful of winners and losers from this latest round of Premier League matches.
Winner: Ashley Barnes
In a world where Donald Trump and Boris Johnson are two of the most powerful men on the planet, you can say with some confidence that we, as a collective society, have lot our minds.
And football….well, that just remains as crazy as ever.
You wonder if Antonio Conte has undergone something of a lobotomy early in 2018, with his list of January transfer targets – if news reports are to be believed anyway – causing plenty of mirth among fans of the beautiful game (less so amongst his Chelsea supporters, mind).
First Andy Carroll, then Peter Crouch and now Ashley Barnes have been linked with a move to the Premier League champions as Conte looks to bolster his network of leaden British target men; natural bedfellows for the majesty of Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas and co.
Barnes can’t even get a game at Burnley after falling down the pecking order since the arrival of Chris Wood, with the 28-year-old making just eight starts for the Clarets. And with just four goals in 26 appearances in total this term, you can forgive the Chelsea fans who are wondering what exactly Conte’s New Year’s resolutions are.
Loser: Huddersfield Town
After a fantastic start to life in the Premier League which saw them embark on a run of W4 D3 L4, Huddersfield Town’s honeymoon period in the top flight is well and truly over.
Since then they have gone W2 D3 L8 – an average of 0.69 points per game which would easily see them in the relegation zone come the end of the season.
The Terriers need to snap out of it then….and along comes this fixture list:
- Liverpool (h)
- Manchester United (a)
- Bournemouth (h)
- West Brom (a)
- Tottenham (a)
The pressure of taking points from West Brom and Bournemouth, in amongst avoiding towellings from the big boys, is monumental.
Winner: Alex Iwobi
It would appear as if Alexis Sanchez’s move to Manchester United is pretty much a done deal after the Chilean was photographed in a United shirt at the weekend.
That leaves a huge void on the left side of Arsenal’s attacking line, and while Henrikh Mkhitaryan – a fine player when fully fit – will be a prime candidate to fill the vacancy when he heads down the M1 to London, this is the perfect chance for Alex Iwobi to shine.
The 21-year-old is blessed with oodles of natural talent, but so far he hasn’t necessarily harnessed that in any sort of consistent way. Now is the time for him to mature as a footballer if he wants to nail down a starting berth in this Gunners side.
Iwobi’s first audition came at the weekend against an injury-hit Crystal Palace, and the Nigerian certainly played his part – netting once and forming a key part of a frontline that bagged four goals in the space of 22 minutes against the outclassed Eagles.
If the young gun can maintain that sort of form, Arsene Wenger may just have done a great bit of business in allowing Sanchez to move on to pastures new.
Losers: Wayne Rooney and Gylfi Sigurdsson
This pair might be advised to go out and purchase a nice soft cushion each in the January sales….Sam Allardyce has already hinted that they face plenty of time on the bench in the coming months.
Big Sam appeared to throw shade at Everton’s summer transfer policy by suggesting that Wayne Rooney and Gylfi Sigurdsson’s lack of pace means they cannot play in the same team together.
“Last week I said we have not got a lot of legs in the team and we need to be quicker,” he intimated after his side’s 1-1 draw with West Brom on Saturday. “I think Rooney and Gylfi playing together are very shrewd, very clever and talented players but in actual terms of covering the ground it is difficult – it’s not their strength.”
“So I have to make a big decision on who plays this one and who plays for next one.”
Winner: Marco Silva
It might seem strange for a recently-sacked manager to be considered a winner, but Marco Silva’s footing in the game will not be damaged by his dismissal from Watford. Indeed, the opposite may be true.
Remember the fine work that he performed at Hull City? The Tigers were pretty much doomed when the Portuguese gaffer took over, but he oversaw a staggering change in fortunes that saw them go unbeaten in eight home matches….ultimately suffering relegation but finishing eighteenth rather than hopelessly bottom.
Who finished seventeenth that season? None other than Watford, who would later appoint Silva as their new boss.
And what a start the Hornets have enjoyed, sitting pretty in tenth with 26 points – they only allotted 40 in the whole of last season. That’s a job well done by Silva then, you might think.
But no: football is a cruel and often bizarre pastime, and Silva finds himself out on his ear.
The manner in which he conducted himself at the time of Everton’s interest was strange to say the least, but at last he didn’t hide his desire to join the Toffees: better that than the ‘snake’s’ way of refuting interest before making the move anyway.
As we say, don’t expect Silva’s standing in the game to be affected: he will go on to much brighter horizons than Watford from here.