A to Z of 2017
A – ARSENAL Own worst enemies. Every time Arsene Wenger looks vulnerable, they go and win the FA Cup, he stays and the whole frustrating cycle starts again. B – BURNLEY Their £27m wage bill is one tenth of the Manchester clubs and they get one hundredth of the hype. C – CONTE, Antonio. It wasn’t a miracle title but for a rookie boss with no English 3 months earlier and a club in Mourinho-inspired disarray, it wasn’t far off. But Chelsea don’t seem to appreciate him. D – DE GEA, David; ii. DE BRUYNE, Kevin Continued understated world class on opposite sides of Manchester. E – EDERSON The keeper Claudio Bravo was supposed to be – and one of the best passers in the game. Many of City’s mesmerising attacks start with him. Brave and good at the day job too. ii. EVERTON Finally had big money and big ideas but needed Big Sam to save them. F – FEDERER, Roger Defies gravity, the laws of physics and now the aging process. ii. FEEDER CLUB Southampton will have supplied no less than six players to Liverpool since 2014 when Virgil van Dijk joins. The others are Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert, Nathaniel Clyne, Dejan Lovren and Sadio Mane. G – GUARDIOLA, Pep City are not his best team but may be his best achievement. And it’s not all down to oil money – he’s getting solidity out of Otamendi and goals out of Sterling. ii. GARCIA, Sergio ‘You can’t win the Masters if you can’t putt,’ they say – but Sergio did. H – HAMILTON, Lewis Any driver who makes Ferrari think about prancing out of F1 must be good. I – ITALY Paid ultimate price for not picking their best player (Lorenzo Insigne) and will miss their first World Cup in 60 years. ii. ICELAND Proved Euro 2016 was not a fluke by reaching World Cup finals. Just a reminder: has a pop. of 300,000. J – JOSE Mourinho Third season syndrome in the second year? ii. JOSHUA, Anthony. Finally a worthy heavyweight boxing champion who beat Wladimir Klitchsko in a thriller and persuaded the Ukrainian to retire.
K – KANE, Harry
No one is saying ‘one season wonder’ any more. L – LIONS, British & Irish. Gave the All Blacks a supreme test in titanic drawn series. M – MESSI, Lionel. Can’t do it for his country? More like a one-man team. N – NADAL, Rafa. Like Federer, was written off but came back to be World No.1 again. ii. NEYMAR Great talent but even greater greed: his RM1 billion transfer from Barca and breaking up of the magical MSN provoked widespread disgust. O – OZIL, Mesut Once undisputed leader of the ‘Can’t be ar*ed’ brigade, now he’s putting the wantaway likes of Sanchez and Van Dijk to shame. P – PSG The ultimate Jean-come-lateleys and chief beneficiaries of a political dispute in the Gulf. Q – QATAR Continue to exploit immigrant workers preparing for 2022 World Cup; now making a mockery of Financial Fair Play with Neymar transfer. R – RONALDO, Cristiano. Fifth Ballon d’Or but finally showing signs of age. ii. ROONEY, Wayne. Goal of the season and can still do 75 mins. But needs wife to stay home. iii. RUSSIA Banned from Winter Olympics for state-sponsored drug abuse; only escaped similar from World
Cup because they’re hosting it. S – SALAH, Mo The Flying Pharoah is leading scorer, favourite for Footballer of the Year and a reminder that Klopp can spot a player. Signing of the season. ii. SILVA, David A joy to watch and one of the great EPL players. He and KDB are Pep’s brains on the field. iii. STAVELEY, Amanda. Unlikely saviour of Newcastle? The glamorous, blonde British businesswoman trusted by the sheikhs is closing in on Mike Ashley. T – TOTTENHAM Still maddeningly Spursy. U – USA Failed to reach World Cup finals but champions when it comes to bringing FIFA crooks to justice. More to come, we hope. ii. UNSUNG HEROES SON, Heung Min; DYCHE, Sean; HUGHTON, Chris - among many who don’t get the headlines. V – VAN DIJK, Virgil. Biggest on-off-on transfer and world record for a defender as Klopp finally gets his man. Last piece of the jigsaw for Liverpool? W – WOODS, Tiger Did just enough and in the nick of time to suggest he could be a force again. The world of golf hopes so. X - Ex- managers’ carousel. Led by Sam Allardyce, David Moyes, Alan Pardew, Tony Pulis seem to hop on and hop off at different clubs when there’s a vacancy. Y – YOUTH Wasted on England? Their teams swept the board at U-17, U-19 and U-20 levels but precious few will even get a chance in the Premier League. Z – ZLATAN Ibrahimovic ‘Lions don’t recover like humans’, he said after coming back early. Trouble is, he’s looking more human with every game.
Woods Messi Conte Hamilton Federer Ronaldo