It’s nearly here! The Africa Cup of Nations 2017 kicks off this weekend and it’s a tournament we love and have covered in detail in the past on Just Football. Ahead of this year’s edition in Gabon here are a selection of promising young African talents that have risen to prominence and could play an essential […]
Jamie Vardy (Leicester City)
Leicester were back to playing like they did last season on Saturday evening as a fantastic performance saw them put four past Man City and claim a 4-2 victory at the King Power Stadium.
Star striker Jamie Vardy was back amongst the goals in fine style as he helped himself to a hat trick to end his previous goal drought for Leicester which had lasted 16 games.
Both Vardy and newly-crowned BBC African Footballer of the Year Riyad Mahrez returning to form will be of great relief to Claudio Ranieri and fans alike as it seems when those two are on song then so is the rest of the team. Admittedly Man City’s defending left a lot to be desired but Vardy’s constant running and direct play caused nervousness amongst the makeshift backline and often forced mistakes.
— Fleetwood Town FC (@ftfc) December 12, 2016
Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace)
It seems games with Crystal Palace recently guarantee goals and the game against Hull City was no exception as six goals were shared evenly between the two teams.
Wilfried Zaha was the star of the show and was involved in all three goals for the away side, though he will ultimately be disappointed that despite his fantastic performance Palace once again failed to claim all three points.
Hull took the lead after somehow being awarded a penalty when Robert Snodgrass and Scott Dann failed to make contact with each other in the penalty area and the former dispatched the spot kick. Zaha then made the impact that the likes of Alan Shearer had been calling for.
First his trickery in the box saw him tripped, allowing Christian Benteke to level the scores. Zaha then produced a moment of magic on his own when he twisted and turned on the right side of the box before unleashing a thunderous drive into the roof of the net. Two Hull City goals once again saw Palace staring at defeat before Zaha found Frazier Campbell in the box who glanced a header to grab Palace a point with just one minute remaining.
Zaha has always had the talent to be a real key player for a side in the Premier League and this season he has started to show that talent more consistently. He’s already overtaken his league goal and assist tally from last season.
Fernando Llorente (Swansea City)
Another crunch game towards the bottom of the table saw Swansea City beat Sunderland 3-0 to ease the pressure on manager Bob Bradley.
Llorente netted a brace on Saturday following on from the two he netted in the thrilling win against Crystal Palace two weeks ago. His first against Sunderland saw him place the ball beyond the keeper after a well worked corner kick routine to give his side a two-goal cushion. He then put the game beyond any doubt with a fine header from close range with just 10 minutes remaining.
Llorente is an experienced striker and has scored goals wherever he has been including the likes of Juventus, Sevilla and his national team. Often sides down the bottom struggle to score goals and usually the ones with natural goalscorers are the teams who avoid relegation. Llorente could well prove to be the difference for Swansea City.
Hector Bellerin (Arsenal)
Arsenal had to come from behind to eventually beat Stoke City 3-1 at the Emirates Stadium.
Arsene Wenger and Arsenal fans will have been delighted by the return of full-back Hector Bellerin after injury. The right-back has been sorely missed by Arsenal since picking up an injury in the north London Derby at the beginning of November.
Carl Jenkinson failed to impress in his absence and centre back Gabriel was often asked to play instead. Bellerin though made his return after only 25 minutes at the weekend when he was brought on to replace the injured Shkodran Mustafi.
It didn’t take long for Bellerin to make an impact as just before half time he crossed for Theo Walcott to equalise. Bellerin’s extreme pace allows him to make attacking runs and still be able to get back in position if the attack breaks down. Bellerin is not just a quick player though, he is a very capable defender and his precise plays going forward often lead to chances for his teammates. Bellerin has now assisted seven league goals since the start of last season, more than any other defender.
— Gurjit (@GurjitAFC) December 11, 2016
Ander Herrera (Manchester United)
Jamie Redknapp labelled Herrera the ‘most improved player in the league’ during Sky Sports’ coverage and it’s hard to disagree with him when you see how Herrera is performing at Old Trafford. Despite playing with the big money buy Paul Pogba and the more experienced Michael Carrick it is often Herrera who gets things going for United. His energy and enthusiastic approach not only helps his side move the ball quicker but also allows them to quickly regain possession as he presses opposition players quickly when they get the ball.
It was Herrera’s intelligent play which created the only goal of the match as he quickly pounced on a loose ball before playing an accurate ball through to Henrik Mkhitaryan who finished superbly past Hugo Lloris. Mkhitaryan may have taken most of the plaudits after the game but Herrera is becoming the catalyst for good Manchester United performances.