Generation Next is our regular feature on Just Football profiling the best young talents in the world. And here’s another to keep an eye on – Atalanta’s bustling midfielder Franck Kessie… Last summer, when Genoa former coach Gian Piero Gasperini made the move to Atalanta, after seven wonderful years spent in Liguria (interjected by spells […]
Football fans were treated to the pleasure of a bumper midweek round, this week, as the Premier League season heads towards Christmas and the halfway point. The results made certain that Chelsea will be top at Christmas, but who were the star performers of week 16? Lets’ take a look at some standout names…
Leighton Baines (Everton)
A battling performance saw Everton come from behind to claim a memorable late win over Arsenal at Goodison Park.
While the hard working midfield duo of James McCarthy and Idrissa Gueye set the tone for Everton it was Leighton Baines who was involved in the crucial moments of the match, both incidents coming just before the end of each half.
After a rather sluggish start saw them concede early on, Everton soon began to fight and exert pressure on the Arsenal players in possession and looked threatening towards the end of the first half. When Baines picked the ball up midway through the first half, for instance, he had no easy pass available so instead took responsibility and glided past a couple of Arsenal players before being taken down for a free kick.
Although nothing came of it, the moment increased the pressure on Arsenal and gave the home fans something to shout about. Then just a minute before half time Baines cut onto his weak foot and found Seamus Coleman with an inch perfect cross to head in an equaliser.
Baines’ second crucial moment of the match came in the very last minute; he was one of two Everton players who cleared off the line and helped secure the three points after an Ashley Williams header had put the Blues 2-1 up.
Adam Lallana (Liverpool)
In what could have been a difficult away tie, Liverpool ran out comfortable 3-0 winners over Middlesbrough at the Riverside.
In the absence of Philippe Coutinho it was left to Adam Lallana to be the match winner and creative spark. His two goals and an assist showed just why he is one of the first names on Jurgen Klopp’s team sheet.
Lallana set Liverpool on their way with a header just before the half hour mark. His late run into the box saw him arrive perfectly at the back post to power a header past Victor Valdes. Not content with just affecting the attack he provided a crucial block to prevent Adam Forshaw scoring an equaliser before half time.
His influence continued into the second half, assisting for Divock Origi to double the lead on 60 minutes. Origi returned the favour less than 10 minutes later as he crossed for Lallana to have a simple left footed finish.
Lallana has added not just goals but consistency to his game and each week he is impressing both his manager and fans. His performances have seen him become a key player for both club and country.
This guy. 😎 pic.twitter.com/LomvNzNorC
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) December 16, 2016
Christian Eriksen (Spurs)
Christian Eriksen continued his fine form in recent weeks with an influential performance in a rather simple 3-0 win for Spurs at home to Hull City.
Eriksen was involved in all three goals for his side with two goals himself. He grabbed his first in the early stages of the first half after just 15 minutes. Danny Rose raced down the left hand side and pulled the ball back to Eriksen who fired it into the roof of the net from ten yards with his weaker foot.
His second was rather simple, tapping home Kyle Walker’s cross at the back post having been left unmarked. The Dane almost had his hat-trick too but his free kick was tipped onto the post by David Marshall – fortunately for Spurs the rebound fell to Victor Wanyama to seal the 3-0 win.
Eriksen in recent weeks seems a more confident player and his passes and movement in the Hull game showed this. If he can reproduce these types of performances for the rest of the season then Spurs will be confident of at least a top 4 finish.
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) December 15, 2016
Salomon Rondon (West Bromwich Albion)
Rondon missed a one-on-one in the first half but quickly made amends in the second as it took him just five minutes to give West Brom the lead. Matt Phillips’ free kick found the forward in the centre of the goal who made no mistake with a header into the corner.
His second came ten minutes later as Chris Brunt swung a cross from the left and Rondon escaped his markers to head from the right side of the six yard box across the keeper and find the left corner of the net. The same combination combined for the third, this time Rondon expertly guided his header into the top right corner leaving keeper Fabianski with no chance.
It was Rondon’s first hat-trick in English football and it takes him to seven league goals this season. Although often criticised for his style of play, it seems Tony Pulis has found the right balance between games. The Baggies find themselves 7th in the league following some impressive and attacking home performances.
Paul Pogba (Manchester United)
Despite some controversial moments in the game at Selhurst Park it was Manchester United who eventually came away with the three points in a 2-1 victory.
Pogba gave United the lead in first half stoppage time, latching onto a Zlatan Ibrahimovic knock down and slotting past the onrushing Wayne Hennessey from six yards out despite looking offside.
James McArthur levelled for Palace midway through the second half but Pogba provided the game winning assist with just two minutes remaining. He slid the ball past the Palace defence to find Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the box and from a tight angle the Swede finished from the left hand side into the far right corner of the net.
Pogba just sent Cabaye back to Paris to get him a baguette and a copy of France Football.
— Jonathan Fadugba (@JFfutbol) December 14, 2016
Pogba in recent months has formed an understanding with Ibrahimovic which was evident by the goal, with both players knowing which ball to play or move to make. More United players are beginning to make similar runs and form relationships with Pogba; Wayne Rooney for instance was delightfully played in by a Pogba chip in the first half.