Premier League Team of the Week XVI feat. Arsenal and Bournemouth Stars
On a weekend where inclement weather hit the country, the conditions rather dominated the action. Exceptional quality was not in abundance and the frequency of mistakes appeared greater than in previous weekends of Premier League action. Nevertheless, there was no shortage of stand-out performances and talking points, so read on to find out who made The Boot Room’s Premier League Team of the Week. Feel free to leave your comments below or on Twitter @TBRFootball .
The late kick-off on Saturday saw an injury-ravaged Manchester United side travel down to the south coast to take on Bournemouth. Such was the number of first-team players missing, The Red Devils’ back four included two Premier League debutants; Varela and Borthwick-Jackson, and another in Paddy McNair who is hardly blessed with Premier League minutes. The game was only two minutes old when a freak goal from Junior Stanislas rocked Louis van Gaal’s side, only increasing the pressure mounting on them after an exit from the Champions League at the group stage. The wind was gusting around inside the Vitality Stadium on Saturday evening; as it was almost everywhere in the country, and the pacey winger swung in a corner from the left. David De Gea; normally so assured, failed to assert himself on the situation and the ball made its way over his head to hit the back of the net via the post, directly from the corner. Little more than a few moments later, Artur Boruc pulled off a marvellous double save to prevent Eddie Howe’s side from losing their advantage immediately. With a quarter of the game having progressed however, the stopper could do nothing about Fellaini’s scruffy strike to draw Van Gaal’s troops level. Manchester United applied attacking pressure but could not break through again before half-time.
A week on from Bournemouth snatching a memorable 1-0 victory at the home of the Premier League champions, Eddie Howe’s side came out in the second half intent on adding to their scalp against Chelsea. An early corner in the final 45 minutes handed them the opportunity and was one that they took with great aplomb. A player whose finishing has been called into question this season, Josh King produced a smart finish from a well-rehearsed corner delivery by Matt Ritchie. The Norway international had not played against his former club until Saturday but by scoring what turned out to be the winner, he has cemented a place in the memory of the Old Trafford fans; though not for good reasons.
The previous four matches between Spurs and Newcastle United have all been won by the visitors but if the first half was anything to go by, this would not be repeating itself. Eric Dier’s header from a corner put the gloss on a fine first half for the North London outfit but Newcastle were a completely different entity in the second period. Sensing a chance of picking up some points, McLaren threw on Mitrovic and in the striker’s first significant involvement in the game, he bundled home the equaliser after a goal-mouth scramble. With the scores level, it was time for another forward to stand up for The Magpies who had been on the side-lines for the past few weeks. Ayoze Perez; the man who won the fixture for The Geordies last season too, fired home past Hugo Lloris who will be disappointed to be beaten. Sickeningly for Spurs, they were behind with only a matter of seconds remaining on the clock and had no time to come back, therefore suffering their first defeat since the opening day of the Premier League season. Spurs had dominated proceedings on average over the ninety minutes, with more than double the number of shots and chances created compared to the visitors.However, Steve McLaren must earn praise for his choice of substitutions on a day when Mike Ashley was present at the ground.
After a disappointing display at St James’ Park last weekend was followed up by Europa League progression on Thursday, Liverpool fans were hoping for more ‘cut and thrust’ football from Klopp’s side when they hosted West Bromwich Albion. While it was far from the horrific performance of a week ago, The Reds were poor in front of goal and nervous at the back. Captain Jordan Henderson marked his return to the starting line-up with a goal, but things were far from rosy for Liverpool from that point on. Calamity seems to follow Simon Mignolet around sometimes, and a handling error from the Belgian cost Liverpool their clean sheet. Olsson was then on hand to head The Baggies into the lead in the second half. With all seeming lost; and Dejan Lovren suffering a nasty-looking blow to the leg, Klopp threw caution to the wind. To buoy the Anfield faithful to some extent at least, a deflected strike from Divock Origi did earn Liverpool a point but improvements must be made. The return of Mamadou Sakho and Daniel Sturridge cannot come too soon for the men in red.
Paulo Gazzaniga: Paulo Gazzaniga made his first appearance of the season against Crystal Palace due to Stekelenburg’s injury and he certainly wasted no time in making his case for the permanent starting berth. A curling cross-cum-shot from Yannick Bolasie nearly looped over the Argentine ‘keeper into the top corner, but the 23-year-old was able to recover and tip over the bar. Yohan Cabaye’s well-struck drive from an acute angle forced Gazzaniga to exhibit very strong wrists and quick reactions. Later on, he had to be sharp and agile to get down low at his near post when Connor Wickham’s shot nearly snuck in. Reactions and strength were tested once more when Yannick Bolasie thundered a volley towards goal from inside the penalty area but the up-and-coming Argentinian goalkeeper deflected the shot away. Away from Southampton’s continuing struggles to earn results on the pitch, Gazzaniga’s display will at least give fans encouragement that their club possesses good depth in the goalkeeping department.
Daryl Janmaat: The Dutchman was a solid performer against Liverpool last weekend and he followed that up with a determined display at White Hart Lane as his Newcastle side defeated Spurs with an injury-time winner. Spurs’ attacking trio in behind Harry Kane comprised of Christian Eriksen, Erik Lamela and Dele Alli; all of which are having strong seasons and are technically gifted. Janmaat had to face off against each and every one of them at some stage of the game as Pochettino’s formation was fluid in that sense. Nevertheless, the occasionally ill-disciplined right-back kept his concentration throughout the match; making five tackles in total, and even managed to provide an attacking threat for his own side, combining well with Moussa Sissoko and getting in the position to put in a few good crosses as The Magpies grew into the game. Janmaat was handed an aerial test as a result of Alderweireld’s penchant for launching long diagonals across the field, but the mop-haired Dutchman won more than his fair share, only losing out when battling against the brawny figure of Harry Kane.
Simon Francis: Although Manchester United were without Wayne Rooney in attack, they were far from toothless against Bournemouth, with the aerial threat of Marouane Fellaini and the trickery of Memphis Depay providing the greatest danger to Artur Boruc’s goal. Simon Frances performed excellently last weekend against Chelsea and the skipper was on top form once more against The Red Devils. He assisted Adam Smith a great deal as the attack-minded full-back had a reinvigorated Memphis Depay on his flank, intent on causing damage to Bournemouth’s defence. Simon Francis; who himself has been deployed at right-back for The Cherries for much of this campaign, marshalled the situation well and looked adept at stepping away from central areas to deal with threats. He made nine tackles during the game, often coming at crucial moments to either stop attacking thrusts at source or rescue the situation at the last minute.
John Stones: Everton’s young centre-half suffered a worrying ankle injury in the build-up to Saturday’s match against Norwich City, but you would never have known as Stones was as unflappable as ever at the heart of The Toffee’s defence. To compound this, a trip over the end of the pitch resulted in a knee ligament scare but after a couple of nervous minutes for fans of Everton and England, the young prospect was back to his feet and completed the rest of the game in a manner as imperious as ever. John Stones was so composed in possession of the ball and regardless of how much pressure Norwich applied, he never appeared to be rushed. Unlike the vast majority of players; let alone defenders, he can be caught in tight areas with plenty of opposition in attendance but Stones’ self-belief in his own ability allowed him to simply dribble his way to safety.
Nacho Monreal: Alan Hutton tried his best to cause Nacho Monreal some difficulty in Arsenal’s defensive third but to no avail. Many of the Scotsman’s attempted crosses were cut out by Monreal; with the Spanish left-back making four clearances, and those that did get through were largely ineffective. Carles Gil and then Adama Traoré injected pace and purpose into Villa’s play but despite Monreal’s inevitably tiring legs, the Spaniard maintained concentration and professionalism to close out a fine 2-0 victory away from home. Arsenal’s number 18 was no longer in the fortunate position of having the industrious Alexis in front of him on the left flank, a player who normally works just as hard going back as he does going forward. Theo Walcott did not provide the same level of protection for the Spaniard but he coped admirably.
Yohan Cabaye: Alan Pardew stated in a post-match interview that “the difference between the two sides (Crystal Palace and Southampton) was the master-class from Yohan Cabaye”. It is difficult to argue with him, with the marquee summer signing from PSG putting in a top-drawer display. His quality on the ball is unquestionable and while he had clearly been handed out some specific tactical instructions, Cabaye still broke forward when his presence would cause Southampton’s defenders some trouble. This was the manner in which he grabbed his goal, spotting some space in the penalty area which he was all too happy to exploit once Bolasie’s cut-back found him. The French international created three chances for team-mates and but for Gazzaniga in goal, Cabaye would have added to his assist tally for the campaign.
Aaron Ramsey: Injuries elsewhere has dictated that the Welshman has returned from a position on the right flank; a place where Ramsey was openly not delighted to be but willing to carry out a valuable job for the team. As a force working hard up and down the pitch, he is almost unmatched in the Premier League and his potency in this regard was arguably enhanced in his archetypal midfield role. As Flamini does not possess the engine or speed of Francis Coquelin, Ramsey’s engine was utilised in a defensive sense. Then, as a result of his experience playing further forward and natural ability on the ball, he was able to spring attacks and even join them himself. 71 of the 78 passes he attempted against Aston Villa found their man and his five tackles were equally as important too. The most notable incident came when a firm but fair challenge by the Welshman won the ball back for The Gunners and; as a result of a woeful lack of defensive commitment, allowed Arsenal to be in a ‘3 on 1’ in attack. The assist maestro that is Mesut Özil picked out Ramsey; the instigator of the break, and Arsenal’s number 16 gladly swept the chance home.
Gylfi Sigurdsson: Gylfi Sigurdsson was instrumental in all of Swansea’s good work against Manchester City, much of which caused Joe Hart to be tested in goal for the home side. He was at the centre of the link-up play with Ayew and Routledge, springing the pacey wide-men before following the play and being in a position to play another killer ball or unleash a shot. The silky Scandinavian’s set piece delivery caused the City defence some genuine problems on several occasions. In the slippery conditions, Sigurdsson’s curling effort on goal was far from simple for the England stopper to deal with. He created three chances created for his team-mates and exposed Manchester City’s attempts to play the off-side trap from the early minutes.
Yannick Bolasie: As an attacking force, Yannick Bolasie was unmatched in Crystal Palace’s match against Southampton. He was simply unstoppable at times when embarking on dribbles of great pace and length, even when Southampton opted to double up on him, with the Congolese superstar breezing through a multitude of attempted Saints challenges. Driving at the Southampton defence, Bolasie was unpredictable in terms of the tactics he employed to beat his man, going around on either side and either a shot or cross proving productive at the end of his dribbles.
Yannick Bolasie could often be found through the middle, scything through the heart of Southampton’s midfield and defence. In providing the assist for Cabaye’s goal, the trickster exhibited tremendous upper body strength, pace and end product to reach the by-line and then pull the ball back at pace for the Frenchman to convert. But for some wayward shooting by Wickham and Zaha, Bolasie’s creative efforts should have resulted in more assists. He nearly found his way onto the score-sheet himself too, with only a strong right arm from Paulo Gazzaniga denying a deliciously struck volley from finding the back of the net.
Gérard Deulofeu: Whilst the young Spaniard was less influential in the second half, Deulofeu enjoyed himself against Norwich in the rainy conditions of East Anglia. He was Everton’s live-wire with his multiple dribbles in attacking areas on the right flank; either cutting in-field or getting to the by-line to pull back a cross. His choice of final ball and delivery into the penalty area has not always been out of the top drawer, but his form of recent weeks carried on in this match. The Barcelona youth product produced an excellent cross which Romelu Lukaku profited from, and Roberto Martinez must be hoping that this partnership continues to flourish in the months and years ahead. Olsson was constantly fearful of what the Spaniard would create if given any space at all and as a result, Norwich’s left-back lost his defensive structure on several occasions which opened up space for his Toffees team-mates to operate in.
Josh King: The former Blackburn forward had never faced his old club before this weekend, but grabbing the winner for Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth will mean that Josh King has very happy memories of the occasion. Selected ahead of Glenn Murray for his ability to stretch defenders in behind, King more than justified his inclusion from the start. He was able to exploit the inexperience of Paddy McNair and the lack of pace of Daley Blind to put Manchester United’s centre-halves under pressure. He ran the channels with terrific commitment and determination, and was a great out-ball for Bournemouth’s midfielders who; when spying King’s runs around the corner or over the top, keenly obliged with well-directed passes. The Norwegian international was successful with four take-ons and helped to take his team up the field.
King’s most concrete impact was his match-winning goal in the second half. Finding himself on the end of a cleverly worked corner, he calmly slotted home past David De Gea. Unfortunately, King suffered what appeared to be a hamstring injury which curtailed his efforts for the day and possibly some weeks in the future. This is especially disappointing when you consider the cutting blows which have already been dealt to Eddie Howe and his coaching staff in the form of long-term injuries to key players. Josh King’s quality in the final third has been called into question this campaign; with the debate raging as to whether he is a genuine striker or if he in fact operates best on the flank, but if he can return to the team in a timely manner and continue where he left off, King could yet be the man to fire AFC Bournemouth to Premier League safety.
Featured Image: All rights reserved by Stuart MacFarlane
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