The outstanding rise of the Premier League’s best left-back Andrew Robertson and Dele Alli’s welcome return to form are discussed in this week’s Monday Verdict.
GREAT SCOT ROBERTSON EMERGES AS PREM’S BEST LEFT-BACK
From relegation with Hull to the Champions League quarter-finals with Liverpool, Andrew Robertson has almost certainly emerged as the Premier League’s best left-back.
The Scotland international put on another outstanding show as Jurgen Klopp’s men eventually got the better of Crystal Palace on Saturday, attacking at will and keeping Andros Townsend in his pocket for the majority of the game at Selhurst Park.
Indeed, it was Robertson’s lovely cushioned volley across goal that enabled the prolific Mo Salah to net the winner for the Reds – showing the sort of composure in the area to find the Egyptian that more experienced players may not have done.
The 24-year-old made a name for himself at Dundee United before heading to the KC Stadium for just £2.85 million in the summer of 2014 and despite Hull’s relegation last season, Robertson emerged as a real talent in England’s top flight and deservedly got his move to Anfield.
But the Glasgow-born full-back had to be patient at the start of the current campaign when Klopp preferred the more experienced Alberto Moreno in the left-back role, but come early December it was Robertson that made the position his own and he hasn’t looked back since.
There were always slight doubts over his defensive capabilities but they have since disappeared and Robertson’s quality in attack gives Liverpool an extra dimension when Sadio Mane looks to come inside, as he often does from the left-sided attacking role.
His pace is electric and his fitness levels extraordinary as he constantly provides an outlet for his midfielders, but it’s that composure that really stands and is something that can’t really be taught.
20 caps and rising with Scotland has also seen Robertson shine on the international stage and when it comes to end of season awards don’t expect to see anyone other than Andrew Robertson down at left-back when the Teams of the Season are announced.
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ALLI ANSWERS CRITICS AS TOTTENHAM FINALLY CROSS THEIR TOUGHEST BRIDGE
Chelsea’s bid for Champions League football was dealt a major blow as Tottenham strengthened their grip on fourth place with their first win at Stamford Bridge in 28 years.
Victory for the Blues would have lifted them to within two points of their London rivals, but a 3-1 defeat leaves them eight points adrift with seven games to go.
Gary Lineker scored Spurs’ winner the last time they won at Chelsea in 1990 when Sunday’s two-goal hero Dele Alli was not even born.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side are unbeaten in the league in 2018 and few will bet against them finishing above Antonio Conte’s side now, but it wasn’t just a great day for Spurs as Alli seemingly marked a return a form with a well-taken brace.
The former MK dons star has had a struggle this season but that’s what can happen when you set the bar so high, as he has the last two campaigns.
Alli would have been surprised to have been handed just 20 minutes of action from the bench in England’s two World Cup games against Holland and Italy – not even featuring in the second match at Wembley.
But he’s sure to have given Gareth Southgate a nice headache with his display at Stamford Bridge.
The touch and finish for the first goal was utterly sublime, while he showed good awareness to net the second after a goalmouth scramble, but it was his all-round game that would have pleased Southgate and club boss Mauricio Pochettinho the most.
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He put in a tremendous shift for his side, particularly when asked to play on the left side of Tottenham’s attacking front three in the second half – quelling the freedom that Victor Moses had down that side of the pitch for the home side in the opening period.
Dele has now played 100 Premier League games, a tremendous feat when you consider that he is a few days away from his 22nd birthday and still learning on the job in the toughest league in the world.
Yes it’s frustrating when he occasionally takes a tumble when he shouldn’t but it’s time he was appreciated more for being one of the top young talents in English football – and Sunday’s performance will go some way to keeping his detractors at bay.
4 THINGS WE LEARNED FROM THE PREMIER LEAGUE THIS WEEKEND
The Premier League’s top four all registered wins over the Easter weekend, but the chasing pack made no headway as Manchester City took another big step towards the title.
Here, we look at four things we learned from the English top flight’s latest round of matches.
City poised for coup de grace
Manchester City’s procession to the Premier League title could reach its crowning glory against arch-rivals Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium next week. Saturday’s 3-1 win at Everton means Pep Guardiola’s side will become champions for a third time in six seasons with victory in the local derby.
Against who better for City to deliver a fitting coup de grace and show the rest of English football how far they have fallen behind the best team in the land? United have improved in most areas this season, but Jose Mourinho admitted “there is a club which is making it practically impossible to follow”.
Lukaku milestone appeases critics
Romelu Lukaku became the youngest overseas player to score 100 Premier League goals when his deflected shot set Manchester United on their way to a 2-0 home win against Swansea.
The Belgium international has had plenty of detractors among Reds’ fans following his £75million summer move from Everton, but Saturday’s goal was his 26th for Mourinho’s side in all competitions this season and he appears to have put his goal drought through October and November behind him.
The former West Brom striker is the 28th player and fifth youngest in total to reach the milestone.
Salah on course to break more records
Mohamed Salah is doing his level best to upstage Manchester City by blazing a trail towards the player of the year award. He had a relatively quiet game at Crystal Palace, but his late winner kept Liverpool hot on the heels of Manchester United in the race for second place.
The Egypt striker’s 29th Premier League goal of the season saw him equal the record of scoring in 21 matches in a 38-game season, jointly held by Cristiano Ronaldo (2007/8) and Robin van Persie (2012/13). His overall total of 37 goals takes him past Robbie Fowler’s record of most scored in a single season by a Liverpool player in the Premier League era.
Hughes has it all to do
Southampton’s top-flight status looks even more precarious after their winless Premier League run was extended to five matches. Mark Hughes has been tasked with keeping them up and the omens looked good when they halted Wigan’s giant-killing exploits in his first game in charge to reach the semi-finals of the FA Cup.
But in the former Stoke boss’s first league game in charge, the Saints turned in one of their worst displays of the season and slumped to a 3-0 defeat at West Ham. The south-coast club have won only one of their last 18 league games and remain in the bottom three.