The Premier League’s midweek round up
After a busy round of midweek games in the Premier League which saw Chelsea maintain their five point lead on City at the top and all the teams challenging for the Champions League spot not dropping points, so let’s see who would make it on our team of the week:
In goal, and not for the first time this season, David de Gea, with the Manchester United keeper, who has been superb all season, but surpassed himself against Newcastle with two outstanding saves: first, to deny Emmanuel Riviere just after half-time, and then to block Papiss Cisse’s effort in the dying seconds. Where would United be without him? At right back, another season long presence, Southampton’s Nathaniel Clyne, who has been one of the Premier League’s most consistent performers, and he was as assured as ever against Crystal Palace on Tuesday. He contained the dangerous Yannick Bolasie and was also a constant threat going forward. Another great defensive performance from Emre Can, see’s him easily selected. Liverpool’s summer signing was presumably not bought as a centre-half but he has become indispensible to Brendan Rodgers in his 3-4-3 formation. Rodgers believes he could “play in any team in world football” within two years, and his performance against an admittedly struggling Burnley side on Wednesday underlined his point. The argument for him to succeed Gerrard as captain makes sense in so many ways especially considering the standoff over a new contract between Jordan Henderson and Liverpool. Admittedly our next choice in defence is not due to pure performance but to arguably the most emotional moment of this round of matches, which occurred when Jonás Gutiérrez stepped off the bench to replace Ryan Taylor at left-back for Newcastle. It was Gutiérrez’s first appearance in a black and white first team shirt since being diagnosed with testicular cancer 17 months ago, and he only completed his chemotherapy in November. Our final defender, Aleksandr Kolarov, formed a formidable partnership down the left with David Silva, helping set up the goal, which broke Leicester’s resistance at Eastlands. Once again the Manchester city defender put in an underrated performance, which is often overlooked.
Our first midfielder would have to be Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson. The greatest compliment that could be paid to Jordan Henderson is that Steven Gerrard’s absence through injury in the last fortnight has hardly been noticed. Liverpool’s captain-in-waiting was excellent again against Burnley, scoring a fine goal setting up the second, and generally setting the tone for his side’s up-tempo, positive approach. Newcastle’s Moussa Sissoko performance underlined why he is likely to be the next high-profile player to leave St James’ Park this summer. Combative in the tackle, tidy in his passing aggressive in his attitude, he comfortably outperformed Daley Blind and Ander Herrera. Ryan Mason finally managed to get his first Premier League goal against Swansea. Mason has had to live with criticism for his lack of end product. As the more attacking of the club’s midfield partnership with Nabil Bentaleb, he has to provide more goals and assists. He has the ability but before Wednesday night, his only goal in Tottenham colours had come in the Capital One Cup against Nottingham Forest. Arsenal fans will be happy to see Mesut Ozil on this list as Arsenal’s playmaker has endured another disappointing season so far, but on Wednesday evening he was a constant thorn in QPR’s side. He was unlucky not to score, hitting the woodwork late on, but it was his energy, work rate and perseverance, which stood out at Loftus Road. Another regular this season, Eden Hazard has been Chelsea’s outstanding performer this season, even more so than the more lauded Diego Costa, and it was his intervention, with his head, unusually, that proved the difference at Upton Park. He also created a stack of chances for others but might have been sent off in the second half proving he is not one to hide when his team are suffering.
Our lone striker would have to be OIivier Giroud, as the Arsenal striker, who has deservedly been subjected to stinging criticism for some of his performances, the latest being his profligate display against Monaco last week. But his prowess at dispatching the Premier League’s lesser lights is beyond question, and he was at it again on Wednesday when his poacher’s instinct kicked in to break QPR’s resilience.
With the Premier League resting this weekend the best football picks will have to be for the FA Cup, with many sports betting experts agreeing that the pick of this round is Manchester United – Arsenal.