Premier League good weekend, bad weekend: Schmeichel shines, Sunderland sunk
Manchester City & Liverpool
Or, really, anyone who watched Manchester City against Liverpool. Recently, English football has started to attract some rather pompous sneers, and the derision of those seemingly incapable of celebrating any performance which doesn't amount to clinical, perfect domination.
But this? Come on. A point may be of no real use to either team, but what a spectacle they produced. It was a game riddled with imperfections, but one which was breathlessly entertaining from first minute to last; flawed or not, this was football at its most bold - a Rocky fight of an encounter in which nobody made any deference to circumstance or risk.
Adam Lallana's late miss will unfortunately become a stain on his career and Sergio Aguero's ugly volley will likely give him some restless nights, too, but those blemishes only amplified the drama. When the Premier League vends its broadcasting rights and sells itself overseas, this is the kind of game which features in its presentation package. Essentially, this was the lung-pumping, chest-beating, forget-the-repercussions cliche coming to life.
And a tip of the hat to Kevin De Bruyne as well, because his cross for Aguero was the ball of this weekend and many others.
Actually, good for him, because modern football has taught us to expect the worst in this type of situation. Lukaku spent his week expressing his disillusionment with Everton's ambition and, at the time, it was easy to view his "10 cup finals" comment as nothing other than generic rhetoric. But he evidently meant it and capped a spirited performance with two well-taken goals in stoppage time of the 4-0 win over Hull.
The fans' response was also worth noting, because that too bucked contemporary trends. There was no cold shoulder for Lukaku and nor was there any evidence of a retaliatory sulk; his name was sung throughout. Perhaps the uncomfortable truth for Bill Kenwright and Farhad Moshiri is that their best player is guilty only of expressing frustrations which most of their fanbase share?
A very good weekend: he became the Premier League's outright leading scorer and put a check mark against his professionalism.
Goodness, what a save he made from Andy Carroll and what a performance he gave. And we've seen that before, haven't we?
Schmeichel suffers under the weight of his father's legacy, because that's a shadow which few could emerge from. Interestingly, while that late save seemed very familiar, Schmeichel Jr. has, whenever interviewed, insisted that he has drawn little or no technical inspiration from his dad. Odd, but apparently true.
Regardless, he's becoming a fine goalkeeper in his own right and, even though Leicester are now all but mathematically safe from relegation, they will almost certainly have to bat away interest in the summer. He is not his father and he never will be, but he has arguably become one of the top five goalkeepers in the Premier League and been one of the few Leicester players not to dip from the 2015/16 level.
Josh King has scored 9 goals in his last 10 PL apps for Bournemouth; more than in his previous 48 games in the competition (8).
Bournemouth haven't changed, they've just remembered what made them effective in the first place. They're a passing team, but they can't exist on retention alone and have needed to rediscover the purpose in their distribution. And they have. Without becoming overly direct, there's now a greater emphasis on moving up the field at pace and it was telling on Saturday that their two goals, while not quite quick breaks, relied upon that swift verticality. Their football wasn't necessarily always that accurate in the win over Swansea, but Eddie Howe has evidently urged his players to complement their neat, tidy patterns with some offensive risk and that's paying dividends.
A week ago, two of their three goals against West Ham came from incisive moves. This weekend, they scored twice again from situations which depended on urgency. Another win in the bag and, subsequently, a third consecutive Premier League season likely assured.