An emerging defensive candidate, a possible array of attacking gems from an unexpected source and a new perspective on the McAuley “conspiracy”. This was Gameweek 25.
Although Alfie Mawson found selection in our Scout Picks XI, even we were not anticipating a third goal in six wrapped up in a 15-point haul.
We certainly had confidence in a Swansea City clean sheet – Sunday’s opponents Leicester City had failed to score in 520 minutes of Premier League football prior to their Liberty Stadium visit. True to form, Claudio Ranieri’s ailing attack were to play their part in Mawson’s success.
But his continued promise in the opponents box is a surprise.
Clearly, Mawson benefits from the most assured dead-ball delivery from Gylfi Sigurdsson but, even with that at his disposal, the centre-back is not quite showing numbers to rival the likes of Scott Dann, Marcos Alonso or even Harry Maguire for pure goal threat.
He’s scored three times from five attempts over the last six Gameweeks, with each of his on-target efforts finding the net. Quite simply, Mawson is taking the opportunities that come his way.
Those moving now to secure the former Barnsley man should expect a degree of regression, then. Even with Sigurdsson’s supply, Mawson will surely struggle to maintain his recent 60% conversion rate.
And yet the fixtures remain in Swansea’s favour, promoting the young central defender’s stock once the trip to Stamford Bridge has passed.
Like Hull City’s Maguire, Mawson looks to be a gift – an emerging defender that offers the prospect of clean sheet returns in an improving side, while backing that up with the potential for goals should the shutout be spoiled.
It’s not often we focus on a team that suffered defeat but, in Hull City’s case, they are a worthy exception.
A 2-0 reverse at the Emirates fails to tell the full story of the Tigers’ performance against Arsenal.
We watched expecting a rearguard effort from Marco Silva’s more disciplined unit but, instead, we saw his side challenge for possession and cut through the Arsenal defence on several occasions.
The confidence to retain the ball and piece together moves was somewhat unexpected, while the pace and menace of Lazar Markovic and Kamil Grosicki clearly shows promise.
Both mid-price options at 5.4 and 5.5 respectively, a further convincing performance against Burnley would surely see them promoted in our thinking ahead of an assured Gameweek 28 fixture with Swansea.
Oumar Niasse encouraging display also piqued interest.
Promoted to the starting XI with Abel Hernandez sidelined due to a hamstring injury, it remains to be seen if the Uruguayan will remain stricken for Gameweek 28 and if Niasse can hold off the challenge of Dieumerci Mbokani.
Andrew Robertson’s display at left-back was also eye-catching. His forays forward were a feature of Hull’s brave approach, and he must now rank alongside Harry Maguire and Eldin Jakupovic as potential cover of the Tigers’ backline.
The Talking Point
Gameweek 25 will likely be remembered for the controversy surrounding several key goals.
The Alexis Sanchez handball has now been largely forgotten, though remains a sour note for those who risked omitting the Chilean early before his Gameweek 26 blank.
Meanwhile, the Tyrone Mings own goal on Monday night seemed barely contentious. Originally added to the game as a Sergio Aguero effort via a Raheem Sterling assist, it was rightly corrected on review – the Argentine’s effort did not appear to be on target from the angles available.
And then there was that Gareth McAuley “goal”.
Sadly, that one remains somewhat contentious. From the broadcast angles originally shown, West Brom’s late equaliser seemed cut and dry – Jonny Evans headed back across goal into the West Ham net.
But, within minutes it had been awarded to McAuley by Opta, with their access to additional angles allowing them to decipher a touch off Evans’ centre-back partner.
That decision was then upheld by the goal accreditation panel as part of the Premier League Match Centre – the new group that replaces the previous dubious goals panel, judging goals in minutes, rather than days later.
They also had access to angles we are yet to see broadcast – a view that shows Evans and McAuley side on, a yard apart.
At least today West Brom’s own tweet offers a more favourable perspective, that appears to show that the ball is headed into McAuley before arriving in the Hammers net.
It’s debatable whether the touch is meaningful, but as we saw earlier in the season with Romelu Lukaku’s effort off his laces from Yannick Bolasie’s cross, a touch is all that is required to re-allocate the goalscorer.
McAuley’s owners remain fortunate. Evans and Brunt owners aggrieved, but the decision appears correct, with further footage soon to be revealed that hopefully leaves no doubt on the diversion from the original header.