Premier League Team of the Week (GW31)
For the remaining eight “Gameweeks” of Premier League football this season, I will be selecting my ‘Team of the Week’, dependent on every players performance from their match in that week. Obviously, with such a short period of the season left to be played out, every game is becoming that much more important, and individual performances at this stage, are going to be fundamental in deciding the fate of a teams 2019/20 Premier League Season.
Here is a quick overview of the results from Gameweek 31 –
· Tuesday night started with a very uneventful 0-0 draw between Leicester City and Brighton Hove Albion. Although only a point was gained each, Brighton moved another point away from the relegation zone, whilst Leicester moved closer to solidifying their Champions League spot for next season. RESULT – LEI 0-0 BHA
· To follow this, there was another disappointing performance from struggling West Ham, as they fell to a 2-0 defeat away at Spurs. An own goal and Harry Kane’s 18th of the season, moved them into 7th position and still pushing for a potential spot in a European competition, in 2020/21. RESULT – TH 2-0 WHU
· Manchester United kept up their pursuit of Chelsea and Champions League football, with a 3-0 victory over recently struggling Sheffield Utd, courtesy of an Anthony Martial hattrick. RESULT - MNU 3-0 SHU
· There was a share of the spoils at St James’ Park between Newcastle United and Aston Villa. Dwight Gayle’s second half opener gave the Toon the lead, only for El Mohamady to rescue a point late on, for the men in Claret & Blue. RESULT - NUFC 1-1 AV
· Norwich seemed to take another step closer to confirming their relegation to the Championship after a 1-0 home defeat to Everton, thanks to Michael Keane’s 55thminute winner. RESULT - NOR 0-1 EVE
· Wolves made it two wins from two, since the return, after a well-earned 1-0 victory over a lacklustre Bournemouth, who failed to register a shot on target for the entirety of Wednesday night’s game as they remain in the drop zone. RESULT - WOL 1-0 BOU
· A champions performance from Liverpool on Wednesday evening, left the Reds within touching distance of the Premier League title, as they pushed aside mid-table Crystal Palace with a 4-0 battering at an empty Anfield. RESULT - LIV 4-0 CRY
· An impressive Burnley side, stole all three points against a dogged Watford, who again failed to pull away from the relegation scrap and leave the gap between themselves and the drop at just a single point. RESULT - BUR 1-0 WAT
· Arsenal produced their best performance by far, since the lockdown, as they earned a thoroughly deserved three points over Southampton, who were full of errors throughout the game, most obviously in the form of Nketiah’s opener. RESULT – SOU 0-2 ARS
· Lastly, but no means least, the Gameweek finale was a fascinating game between 4th placed Chelsea and 2ndplaced Manchester City, which resulted in the Premier League title falling to the hands of Liverpool. An amazing end to end game, was eventually won by the Blues of South West London, as a Fernandinho ‘save’, lead to a red card and a penalty, leading to the deciding goal of the game and giving Chelsea a huge three points in the battle for that all important fourth Champions League spot. RESULT – CHE 2-1 MNC
With all those results taken into consideration, here is my starting XI for Gameweek 31 –
Formation = 5-3-2
Goalkeeper – Kasper Schmeichel
· In what was a fairly unnoteworthy goalless draw, one key moment sprung into the game at the 14-minute mark. A clumsy challenge by James Justin allowing Brighton a crucial penalty. Up stepped the confident Neal Maupay, only for a superb diving save from Kasper Schmeichel to keep the game at 0-0. Although Schmeichel, was rarely required over the 90 minutes, he provided the biggest play in the game with that save, and in the end was the main reason for the Foxes point.
Defenders – Trent Alexander-Arnold, Michael Keane, Andreas Christensen, James Tarkowski, Luca Digne
· Another Liverpool masterclass was on show on Wednesday night, with another masterclass form 21-year-old RB, Trent Alexander Arnold. After a shaky return to the Premier League at Goodison Park, the Reds knew that they had a lot more to give. The first 20 minutes started goalless, only for a sublime free-kick from the youngster to ripple Wayne Hennessey’s net. A never-ending threat going forward, whilst no danger looked to be going the other way, Alexander-Arnold was another no brainer, in what was a historic gameweek for the men from Merseyside.
· The next player to join the team of the week, is fellow Mersey man, Michael Keane. A game, Everton would feel comfortable at the very least, was decided solely on Keane’s winner, who produced another stellar performance at the back. Pickford was a bystander for almost the entirety of the second half, and Keane’s dominance and stature in the middle, was fundamental in this.
· Chelsea provided the outstanding result of the gameweek, toppling high flyers Manchester City, in a frantic game from start to finish. City, with arguably the best attacking corps in the league, looked as threatening as ever, however could only conjure the solitary goal, from an unstoppable De Bruyne free kick. Christensen looked comfortable at the back, putting himself in front of Mendy’s goal bound strike, as well as forcing a strong save at the other end from Ederson. All in all, a solid centre backs work for the evening.
· Burnley looked composed, throughout their victory over Watford, and were led brilliantly by the centre back partnership of Tarkowski and Mee. Tarkowski won 11 aerial battles, as well making five clearances, including a superb cover tackle to deny Danny Welbeck, when through on a goal. A textbook 1-0 home victory, that any centre half would be proud of.
· Digne makes up our back five, with another exciting display from the highly rated left back. In a game where chances came few and far between, Digne provided the perfect corner to provide Keane, with the only goal of the game, and secure the Toffees all three points.
Midfielders – Giovani Lo Celso, Fabinho, Adama Traore
· Spurs produced a comfortable display over London rivals, West Ham, and were controlled brilliantly by Lo Celso in the midfield. The Argentine, was the main creator for the duration of the match, providing substantial chances throughout. Some clever footwork from the youngster set up Son, only for his effort to be chalked off for offside, whilst he also produced a sweeping ball in for a one-on-one for Kane, and being the designated set piece taker for the corner, resulting in Spurs’ first goal of the game.
· The forever underrated role of Fabinho, in a title winning side, shone through again this past week as the Brazilian dominated from start to finish in the middle of the park. Not only did he complete 98% of his attempted passes, the number 3, placed a perfect ball to assist Salah, and most noticeably scored a 30-yard screamer, which shook the Palace net.
· Perhaps the Most Improved Player of the season, Adama Traore, produced another physical display and continued to give the league’s defensive players nightmares. Whenever he picks up the ball, the opposing defence seem to twitch and that was true again, in the form of Bournemouth. A few near misses were wiped out, as whipped in the beautiful cross to find Raul Jimenez for the all-important winner.
Forwards – Jay Rodriguez, Anthony Martial
· Rodriguez had a crucial role to play up top for Burnley this week, due to the shortage of available attacking options currently at Turf Moor, and boy did he fill that role. The make do number 9, was a menace all day, winning aerial battles and continuing to find whatever space he could to provide an offensive threat. And in a game where goals were clearly going to come as a premium, he reacted superbly to a Dwight McNeil cross and glanced a header beautifully into the far corner, to give his side all three points.
· The final selection of Gameweek 31’s ‘Team of the Week’ is rounded off with the inclusion of Anthony Martial. The Frenchman, is clear to have an abundance of talent, however is often seen to be very inconsistent or ‘Hot or Cold.’ This week he was most certainly ‘Hot.’ Scoring his first senior hat-trick, and Manchester United’s first Premier League hat-trick since Robin Van Persie in 2013, the number 9 was full of confidence and seemed to be at his best. Three tidy finishes, as well as providing Rashford with a golden opportunity, caused United to look a threat all game and perhaps seem to be a real force to be reckoned with in the not so distant future.