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Heroes and Villains: Premier League gameweek 26

Following the latest round of Premier League action, we pick out some of the heroes and villains from the best and worst of the weekend fixtures.

Is there title race alive and well? Tottenham’s dramatic win at Manchester City – coupled with Liverpool beating Norwich – has seen the gap between the league leaders and chasing Reds reduced, whilst the survival scrap also took on new twists after valuable wins for Burnley and Watford.

 

Elsewhere West Ham lost vital ground in the chase for Champions League qualification, as Manchester United, Arsenal, Spurs and Wolves all secured three points.

Heroes and Villains from the Premier League’s weekend action.

Hero – Harry Kane

Harry Kane was viewed as the final piece in the puzzle for Manchester City last summer, a forward capable of combining the more modern versions of the role – dropping deeper, creating, and converting chances – with the more traditional tasks of a number nine.

Up against his summer suitors this weekend the England captain gave an exhibition in centre-forward football. His two goals, including a stoppage-time winner, ultimately won the match, but there was much more to it than that.

He carved out chances too, including a wondrous pass in behind in the build-up to Dejan Kulusevski’s opener, having dropped deep to create the space for Son Heung-Min to exploit.

His pressing and positional play shutdown the service to Rodri at the base of the midfield, helping to nullify City’s progression and contributing to the below-par showing of a midfielder who has excelled at the Etihad this season.

Kane has not enjoyed his finest season so far, but performances such as this are a reminder that the 28-year-old belongs on a bigger stage than the one Spurs can currently provide. His future could depend on whether his own match-winning moments see Spurs return to the Champions League.

Villain – Andre Gomes

Everton have endured a mixed start under Frank Lampard, with two encouraging home performances coming alongside a pair of disappointing defeats on the road.

Everton were second best throughout against Southampton with Jordan Pickford’s performance ensuring it did not get embarrassing, the Toffees midfield outfought, outworked and outclassed by an underrated partnership of James Ward-Prowse and Oriol Romeu.

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After Allan had been hooked at half-time for looking like a red card in waiting, his replacement in Andre Gomes proceeded to look well off the pace as Everton crashed to defeat at St Mary’s.

Gomes was not alone in looking out of sorts against the Saints, but he was among the worst of a bad bunch in blue.

Hero – Jadon Sancho

Jadon Sancho has been one of the success stories of Ralf Rangnick’s reign at Manchester United, with the summer signing showing flashes of the form that prompted the Red Devils’ pursuit of his services.

Sancho produced one of his best performances for the club in the hostility of a 4-2 win at Elland Road, providing a pair of assists either side of half-time as the visitors edged an entertaining contest.

The 21-year-old’s first was a perfectly lifted cross into the path of Bruno Fernandes, before showing awareness and patience to release Fred for the Red Devil’s decisive third.

The confidence and swagger from his time with Borussia Dortmund is beginning to return for Sancho, who looks willing to take on defenders and shoulder responsibility for making things happen.

United will hope he can continue his upward trajectory and develop into the star the club has faith he can become.

Villain – Shane Duffy

Brighton were battered and bullied as Burnley ran riot to secure a shock win at the Amex Stadium, the visiting Clarets moving off the bottom with their first away win of the Premier League season.

Brighton were without both Lewis Dunk and Adam Webster in central defence, with the returning Shane Duffy enduring a difficult afternoon against Burnley’s powerful forward options.

Having been embroiled in a confrontation with goalkeeper Robert Sanchez over a defensive mix-up, the Irishman then lost his duel with Wout Weghorst in the build-up to Burnley’s second.

He made a mess of an attempt to stop Josh Brownhill in his tracks as the midfielder cut inside to fire home, in a poor performance from the centre-back.

Hero – Wout Weghorst

Wout Weghorst’s arrival at Burnley caught some by surprise last month, with only Robert Lewandowski having outscored the Netherlands international since the start of the 2018/19 Bundesliga season.

The 29-year-old took a chance in signing for Burnley despite their precarious position and looks the ideal signing to lead the Clarets’ push towards Premier League survival.

Brighton struggled to deal with the threat of the towering forward, who opened his account for the club with an emphatic finish, before teeing up Josh Brownhill for the visitor’s second.

Weghorst’s huge frame causes panic among defenders and he has the intelligence and awareness to bring his teammates into the game.

Signed for less than half of the £25m fee received from Chris Wood’s sale to Newcastle, it can be argued that Burnley have upgraded their centre-forward options whilst turning over a healthy profit.

It looks brilliant business based on the Dutchman’s early impact.

Villain – Romelu Lukaku

Romelu Lukuku was anonymous during Chelsea’s 1-0 win at Crystal Palace, setting a new unwanted record for limited involvement.

The statistics are damning.

The Belgium international had just seven touches. The lowest total ever recorded by an outfield player who has completed 90 minutes since the data was first collected in 2003/04. One of those was from kick-off.

Granted the service was far from great, but it is a concerning trend that Chelsea are unable to get the best from their record signing.

Lukaku’s contribution to the club’s successful Club World Cup campaign had raised optimism, but this was another underwhelming showing from the marquee man. His return of just 10 goals in all competitions this season is modest for an arrival that cost a huge £97.5m last summer.

Hero – Mohamed Salah

Mohamed Salah netted an almost customary Premier League goal this weekend, a milestone moment for the Liverpool forward as he reached 150 in all competitions since arriving at Anfield.

Jurgen Klopp’s side had been below their best as Norwich took a shock lead on Merseyside, but goals from Sadio Mane, Salah and Luis Diaz saw the club’s forward threat prove too much for the struggling Canaries.

Salah scored the second with a brilliant individual effort, putting Liverpool ahead just moments after Mane’s initial equaliser. It was a goal that demonstrated the desire, awareness and invention of the Egyptian in the final third, collecting Alisson’s long pass before showing patience and perseverance to fire home.

He becomes just the 10th player to reach 150 goals for Liverpool, whilst just one – Roger Hunt in 226 appearances, of which 109 came in the Second Division – has ever reached the landmark in less than Salah’s 233 games.

Villain – Joao Cancelo

Manchester City’s lead at the top of the Premier League was reduced after their defeat to Tottenham, with the defending champions having several stars who struggled against the north Londoners.

Raheem Sterling and Phil Foden found themselves on the fringes, whilst Rodi was stifled in midfield and failed to set the tempo in his role as the club’s anchor.

Defensively there was also concerns including the performance of Joao Cancelo, who despite being amongst City’s leading performers this season was exposed at the Etihad.

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The Portugal international was caught sleeping as Harry Kane burst beyond him to net the second goal, whilst he afforded Dejan Kulusevski too much room to cross for the winner.

Cancelo has been brilliant this season as an all-action influence, but he failed to do the defensive basics this weekend as City crashed to defeat.

Read – Premier League Team of the Week – Gameweek 26

Read Also – Premier League Awards: Kane’s masterclass, Mane’s acrobatics, and Lukaku’s no-show

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