5) Martínez may need another FA Cup win to save himself – Roberto Martínez was his usual diplomatic self after Saturday’s draw at Watford, but the banners unfurled in the away end must have hurt a little. ‘Baines is one of us’ and ‘Martínez Out’ were held aloft before an even game, indicating exactly where supporter allegiance lay in the wake of a testing week for the Spaniard in which he claimed Leighton Baines’ comments about a lack of chemistry in the team were misinterpreted. All signs seem to be pointing towards a summer managerial change for Everton. John Stones put in a poor display at centre-half – his distribution particularly worrying with a needlessly heavy back pass leading to Watford’s equaliser – while Phil Jagielka and Ross Barkley will undergo tests for respective hamstring and knee injuries. For Martínez, everything now rests on the FA Cup. Both Watford and Everton are in the semi-finals, but it is Everton who have the tougher draw. They will play either Manchester United or West Ham later this month and, if Martínez is going to regain the support of fans whose patience has been severely tested in recent times, he surely needs to win a competition hefamously secured with Wigan Athletic in 2013.
4) Lamela, Tottenham’s Secret Clogger – Not so long ago Érik Lamela was on his way to becoming a synonym for a certain kind of wastefulness. No one talks about The Bale Money at Tottenham now, and rightly. As scattergun summer splurges go Spurs 2013 hardly stands out these days. But on Sunday at White Hart Lane there was confirmation once again of how far both Tottenham and Lamela himself have come since that summer of 2013. Not only were Lamela, Christian Eriksen and Nacer Chadli – half a Bale combined – all on the pitch as Spurs beat Manchester United at home for the first time in some time. Lamela was also a profound influence, as he has been often this season, a player who has successfully transformed what seemed a startling transfer fee into something that seems fair enough these days. Lamela scored one and made one. He was also a key factor in the tourniquet Spurs applied to United’s flowing start, stepping back to double up with Kyle Walker as Anthony Martial threatened to make it a dicey afternoon, and generally niggling, snipping, sniping and – despite not drawing the referee’s whistle once – fouling Spurs back into parity on that flank. Lamela’s goals and assists stats are so-so. His foul stats (he started the game with 81 this season compared to, say, Juan Mata’s 25) are off the charts. For a player who has the stylings of a more lightweight creative influence he is in fact an expert at breaking up play, generally managing the flow around him. If any one player embodies the transition to tough, spiky and physically relentless, it is perhaps Spurs’ own Secret Clogger.
3) Inconsistent Liverpool have genuine firepower – Only a single goal divided Liverpool and Stoke City in their first three meetings this season but the fourth, Sunday’s 4-1 stroll for the home side at Anfield, signalled a sea-change not only in the visitors’ defensive quality but the threat posed by Jürgen Klopp’s side. “It is still very early in Jürgen’s tenure,” said the beaten manager, Mark Hughes. “But there is a really positive feeling around the club and Jürgen has instilled that to some extent with his personality.” There is more to it than that. Klopp spent the early months of his reign lamenting Liverpool’s lack of goals, a consequence of Luis Suárez’s departure and Daniel Sturridge’s injuries and a flaw that contributed to Brendan Rodgers losing his job. In 2016, however, no team has scored more Premier League goals than Liverpool’s 28. Inconsistency may still infuriate the Liverpool manager but his team have few problems creating chances as they develop under Klopp and, with Divock Origi emerging as genuine, reliable striker to share the load with Sturridge, they have better options for taking them. Given Borussia Dortmund’s suspect defending at the Westfalenstadion last week, coupled with their combined effectiveness against Stoke, the Liverpool manager may be tempted to field both forwards against his former club in Thursday’s second leg.
2) Iwobi impresses in new midfield role – While Arsenal’s defenders should be having a long hard look at themselves after they were monstered in the air by Andy Carroll, at least Alex Iwobi had another impressive game, creating goals for Mesut Özil and Alexis Sánchez with a couple of fine assists. Iwobi has been outstanding since breaking into the side last month and having mainly used him in attack until the barmy 3-3 draw with West Ham, Arsène Wenger took advantage of the 19-year-old’s versatility, positional awareness and intelligence at Upton Park. “I pushed him to central midfield,” Wenger said. “It was a very difficult game in the middle of the park but he was very influential. Look at what he has done at 19 years of age and it is very promising.”
1) Claudio Ranieri sheds tears and dedicates win to Leicester’s supporters – Claudio Ranieri shed tears of joy in the April sunshine as his Leicester City team closed in on the Premier League title with a 2-0 win against Sunderland. But second-placed Tottenham Hotspur showed they will not give up on their own dreams of the trophy by responding with a 3-0 hammering of Manchester United at White Hart Lane. At the end of another dramatic day, the gap at the top still stood at seven points, with five matches to play.
After Jamie Vardy ended his recent mini goal-drought by scoring Leicester’s second-half goals against Sunderland, Ranieri was visibly emotional on the pitch as he applauded the travelling fans. Vardy’s 20th and 21st league goals of the season had his manager struggling to not only contain but also explain his emotions. “It’s difficult to say how I feel inside but I’m not complaining,” the Italian said. Leicester’s win means they need only nine points to secure a first top-flight title.
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