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 […]
Week 24 in the Premier League, and it feels like the season is finally into the home straight. Chelsea continue to lead a chasing pack who cannot help but trip and stumble behind them, while down at the bottom slumbering, relegation-bound teams are showing signs of finally waking up to their predicament.
After a gameweek filled with goals and some surprising results, who makes Names Of The Premier League? Read on to find out…
Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
Chelsea maintained their good form and all but ended Arsenal’s lingering title hopes with a convincing 3-1 victory at Stamford Bridge.
In the past few matches, Eden Hazard hasn’t been on top form. Before Saturday, the Belgian hadn’t scored since Boxing Day in the league. Against Arsenal, however, Hazard was back to his brilliant best, constantly a threat down the left hand side.
If it wasn’t for poor decision-making Chelsea would have added to Marco Alonso’s 13th minute header earlier than they did as Arsenal struggled to cope with Chelsea’s speed on the counter-attack. They finally increased their lead on 53 minutes and it was worth the wait.
Hazard picked the ball up just inside his own half and made his way down the right side, shrugging off Francis Coquelin on his way into the box before weaving left and right, sending Arsenal defenders each way too and creating room to strike into the bottom left corner.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) February 7, 2017
Chelsea are now nine points clear at the top of the table and with only one defeat since the 3-0 loss against the same opponents at the end of September, they look like they will be very hard to catch.
Romelu Lukaku (Everton)
Well done to the team 💯 pic.twitter.com/BE9PDVTa7k
— R.Lukaku Bolingoli10 (@RomeluLukaku9) February 4, 2017
It took just 30 seconds for Lukaku to score as he exchanged passes with James McCarthy on the edge of the Bournemouth box before curling in a powerful left footed strike on the edge of the area. Lukaku turned provider for Everton’s second. The Belgian pulled the ball back for McCarthy who finished at the second attempt. Everton soon had three before half time – on 30 minutes Bournemouth defender Simon Francis gifted the ball to Lukaku in the six yard box. It was too simple for Lukaku, who lifted the ball over the goalkeeper into the net.
Bournemouth threatened to spoil the party in the second half as two Josh King goals brought it back to 3-2 and Everton started to look nervous. Lukaku however was determined to grab the headlines and volleyed in his third to increase the lead once again on 83 minutes. He made completely sure of the win a minute later, latching onto Ross Barkley’s back-heel and finishing with his right foot. There was still time for two more goals. Harry Arter grabbed one back for Bournemouth and Ross Barkley scored Everton’s sixth.
Lukaku is now the outright Premier League top scorer with 16 goals. If he can reproduce the ruthlessness of his performance against Bournemouth few would back against him winning the golden boot at the end of the season.
Jermain Defoe (Sunderland)
Sunderland took the spoils in the battle at the bottom of the table and with relative ease as they cruised to a 4-0 victory over a lacklustre Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.
Lamine Kone gave Sunderland the lead early on with a well taken strike after keeper Wayne Hennessey had spilled but it was three goals in six minutes at the end of the first half which ended the game as a contest and incensed the home crowd.
Didier Ndong powered in a left-footed drive from 20 yards on 43 minutes before Jermain Defoe did what he’s been doing all his career with two clinical finishes in first half stoppage time. The first was a strong left-footed strike into the far corner. His second came after turning James Tomkins in the box and finishing again with his left from close range.
Those four first half goals were all Sunderland needed to claim three points. The result means they drawn level on points with Crystal Palace at the bottom of the table.
Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City)
— Gabriel Jesus (@gabrieljesus33) February 5, 2017
Jesus – fresh from a man of the match performance against West Ham in midweek – was once again the star of the show, and added two more goals to his strike on Wednesday. It took just eleven minutes for Jesus to get on the scoresheet with the Brazilian showing the awareness of a veteran striker to pounce on a loose ball inside the Swansea six yard box.
The teenager showed his ability throughout the match. His pace and strength caused the Swansea defence problems throughout the game. His hold-up play was also impressive and allowed his side to get up the pitch when under pressure in the second half.
A Gylfi Sigurdsson strike with just nine minutes to go threatened to steal the limelight, but Jesus showed good movement as David Silva picked him out with a cross in stoppage time. Although his header was saved, Jesus pounced quickly to finish and seal the points.
Henrik Mkhitaryan (Manchester United)
Manchester United moved to within two points of fourth spot with an easy 3-0 win over struggling champions Leicester City. After another loss, the Foxes remain a point above the relegation zone.
The match started fairly evenly. Although neither side had any clear chances in the opening stages there was cause for optimism for fans of both sides. However, following a formation switch from Jose Mourinho which saw United change from a 4-4-2 to a 4-2-3-1, they looked far more comfortable and soon found a way through Leicester.
Henrik Mkhitaryan had been moved from a wide position to number 10 and began to run the game. It was the Armenian who opened the scoring on 41 minutes. He raced through past the Leicester City defence and fired clinically past Kasper Schmeichel. A Zlatan Ibrahimovic goal two minutes later put United firmly in control and they virtually clinched the points with another goal just after half time. Mkhitaryan played a delightful through ball to Juan Mata, who made no mistake from close range.
Manchester United have an array of options for the number 10 position with Mata, Wayne Rooney, Paul Pogba and Mkhitaryan all capable of playing there, but it is with the latter that they look the most threatening. Mourinho will know that with Mkhitaryan in his team, they will create chances.