Premier League Team of the Week feat. Spurs and Newcastle Stars
On one of the few weekends where football rightly plays second fiddle to other events; Remembrance Sunday in this case, there was no shortage of top class performances on an individual and team level. Read on to find out who makes my Premier League Team of the Week and leave your comments below the article or on Twitter @TBRFootball .
José Mourinho served his one-game ban from the stadium against Stoke City and although he should be heartened by his side’s overall display, they came up against a determined outfit who grabbed a goal of real quality and were able to hold out for the win. The extent of the demise continues to amaze and after the result against Stoke City, Chelsea suffered their third league defeat on the bounce, really emphasising how far the mighty of last season have now fallen. A damning statistic is that the last time The Blues began a season in such poor form, they suffered the shame of relegation. It is surely beyond the realms of possibility that this will repeat itself, but the battle for Champions League qualification becomes increasingly unlikely as the weeks go by.
With Arsenal’s injury problems mounting up over the last few weeks, Wenger entered the North London derby with far from a fully fit squad to choose from. A fast-paced start with both sides committing plenty of men forward on flowing counter-attacks set the tone for the match. Just after half-hour mark, Harry Kane beat the offside trap and calmly slotted beyond Petr Cech to grab the game’s opener. Pochettino’s men had started the game well and were growing into the occasion, with Kane’s goal coming at the perfect time. The second half began in much the same way but; following a strange substitution from Wenger when he brought on left-back Kieran Gibbs for the attacking Joel Campbell, Arsenal grabbed the equaliser. The Englishman played in front of Monreal on the left-flank and; finding himself in an advanced area at the back post, over-powered Kyle Walker to force the ball home beyond Lloris. After seeming down and out, Arsenal were back into the game and now appeared to be the only side that would go on and win the game. As it transpired, Tottenham Hotspur were able to hold on and; given their poor record at The Emirates, will probably be happy to take a point back to White Hart Lane.
Jamie Vardy made the England squad again during the week and despite Roy Hodgon’s comments seemingly dismissing him as a starter through the middle, the Leicester City striker’ goal-scoring run shows no signs of coming to a halt. His tally of nine consecutive matches in which he has scored leaves him just one behind Van Nistelrooy’s record. Arguably, he does possess an accolade all of his own as the Manchester United forward achieved his ten over the span of two seasons. Smashing home a penalty into the roof of the net on the way to sending Ranieri’s men to a 2-1 victory over Watford, Vardy showed no signs of nerves. Will he draw level with the Dutchman’s long-standing record in The Foxes’ first game after the international break? I imagine that every neutral will certainly be hoping so.
Rob Elliot: With Tim Krul almost certainly out for the duration of the season, Rob Elliot has the opportunity to cement a place in Steve McLaren’s side and if he can continue to pull off save after save as he did against Bournemouth, you have to feel that Newcastle will not miss their Dutch stopper too much. Coming into the match with a thigh complaint, his attentions seemed to be on nothing other than keeping the ball out of the net by any means necessary. On several occasions, he exhibited strong wrists to divert powerful shots to safety. Elliot’s stand-out moment of the game came in the scramble following one of the 16 corners Bournemouth swung in on the day. He produced an unbelievable save from point-blank range, deflecting the bouncing ball onto the post and away.
With the second half only 30 seconds old, the stand-in ‘keeper again came to Newcastle’s rescue, tipping a powerful header from Matt Ritchie over the bar. As winter draws ever closer, the blustery and wet conditions played a part in Elliot’s decision-making on the day and he adapted well. He only attempted to catch the ball when he was absolutely sure of a clean contact but opting to punch clear if this could not be assured. Although it was Ayoze Perez who grabbed Newcastle’s goal on the day, were it not for Elliot’s numerous interventions, you have to imagine that The Magpies would have returned to the North East with nothing to show for their efforts.
Nathaniel Clyne: The latest in the line of acquisitions from Southampton once again continued to buck the trend with a greatly encouraging display against Crystal Palace; a match in which Liverpool suffered their first defeat of Klopp’s reign. Nathaniel Clyne has been a complete success following his move from St. Mary’s and was the best player on the park for The Reds. He powered up and down the right flank with terrific intensity and as ever, seems to possess an engine that will not run out of fuel. Clyne’s work with fellow promising Englishman Jordon Ibe was the primary source of positive attacking play, emphasised by the opening they created for Coutinho’s equaliser. Crystal Palace’s attacking trio of Bolasie, Zaha and Puncheon are now a renowned force in the Premier League and Clyne was the only member of Liverpool’s defence who was not left looking distinctly amateur by The Eagles’ goal threat.
Ryan Shawcross: Stoke City’s captain and undoubted leader from the back relished the opportunity of facing the antagonistic Diego Costa and despite the forward’s best attempts to rile him up, focused solely on his performance. Ryan Shawcross enjoyed the physical battle and his duel with Costa was almost a cameo of the match as a whole.
Shawcross’ display at the heart of the back-line demonstrated how sorely the Englishman has been missed by Stoke City in the opening weeks of the season. It has been almost entirely down to Jack Butland to keep goals out but no-nonsense attitude of Shawcross adds a tangible amount of defensive stability. He blocked two shots and won three of his four aerial duels during the ninety minutes, with very little getting past him on the ground either.
Fabricio Collocini: Defensive strength has hardly been a hallmark of Newcastle’s matches this season; or for quite some time in actual fact, but Fabricio Collocini put in a captain’s display against Bournemouth to grind out a much-needed 1-0 victory on the south coast. The combination between the grizzly Argentine and his centre-half partner Chancel Mbemba worked very well on the day as the strengths of each complemented their respective weaknesses well. Collocini was aggressive in the air and as a side-effect of many years as an experienced professional, is no longer graced with any great pace. Mbemba covered him here, allowing The Magpie’s skipper to dominate the area around the front post when Bournemouth aimed the ball into the box, making seven clearances.
Collocini appeared to win every header in the match and put in a series of well-timed tackles, nipping in before Eddie Howe’s side could craft anything too dangerous around the box to produce three interceptions. In the second half especially, Collocini’s commitment was magnificent and threw his body in the way of two goal-bound efforts. Much more of this will be needed for Steve McLaren’s side to steer themselves firmly away from relegation trouble.
Robbie Brady: Norwich have not scored a multitude of goals this season with much of their success coming from dead-ball situations. A prime reason for their potency here has been the delivery of Robbie Brady. The Irishman has the capability to swing crosses in with great quality and when he reaches advanced areas, the Canaries’ attackers know that he will do his utmost to put a ball into the area with pace. A whipped corner to the back post by the tricky left-footer was very difficult to defend and; after Brady landed the ball perfectly on the head of Mbokani, The Canaries’ midfielder Howson won the game for Alex Neil’s men.
It was a useful experience earlier in the campaign for Brady to be deployed as an archetypal left full-back. In his time at Hull City, he had operated as a wing-back but his defensive application left a little to be desired. This is certainly not the case anymore and he frequently lent a hand to Olsson in assisting Norwich’s defensive endeavours. The former Manchester United youth product made five tackles with several of these sparking offensive manoeuvres.
Moussa Dembelé: The Belgian midfielder was once one of the most sought after players in the Premier League due to the tremendous impact he had on the outcome of matches week after week. Dembelé’s time at Spurs has hardly been packed with memorable performances for a positive reason, but he was in magnificent touch against Arsenal on Sunday evening. Reminiscent of his days at Fulham, the central midfielder covered a great deal of ground in defence and was one of the more direct threats going forward for the Lilywhites too. Traits such as these were what attracted praise during his years at The Cottage and; making seven tackles and beating an Arsenal defender on five occasions, he was crucial in Tottenham’s overall display.
Dele Alli: When Spurs secured the signature of Dele Alli in January 2015, many wondered how quickly he could possibly settle into life in the Premier League. We have seen over the last couple of months that his terrific natural talent and an apparent attitude to learn has served him well, so much so that Alli is rapidly becoming one of the first names on Pochettino’s team sheet. The midfielder has been a part of Hodgson’s last two England squads and his performance against Arsenal reinforces the reasoning behind this selection. To be selected in a match of such intensity and magnitude shows great faith from his club manager and he was repaid with a mature performance with very few mistakes and a creative twist to add to the mix. Dele Alli is one of very few English Premier League midfielders who appear just as comfortable defending as attacking, making him incredibly useful at international level.
Xherdan Shaqiri: Star of the 2014 World Cup for Switzerland, Xherdan Shaqiri has shown glimpses of his undoubted talent in the weeks since his acrimonious arrival in the summer. Against Chelsea however, he really came to the party and his impressive showing has given fans of The Potters hope that he can grab the English top flight by the scruff of the neck and drag their side further up the Premier League table.
Shaqiri’s quick feet and dazzling trickery would be a sufficiently lethal combination for any player, but when equipped with the searing pace possessed by the former Bayern Munich winger, he becomes unstoppable at times. Baba Rahman will want to forget about the day he had against Shaqiri, forever having to worry about balls in behind him and even if the left-back stood off him, the speedster showed that he had the flair to beat him from a standing start. With four take-ons and an equal number of chances created while he was on the field, the diminutive wide-man was a constant thorn in Chelsea’s side. Indeed, it was Shaqiri’s brilliant pass through to a charging Glen Johnson that was the creative factor behind Stoke City’s goal on the day too.
Erik Lamela: The Argentine has been something of a joke figure in the past few years at White Hart Lane, branded as a waste of both space and money. However, in the latest weeks of this current campaign under his countryman Pochettino, Lamela has been a man playing with genuine intent and determination. Producing valuable contributions for Spurs in the form of goals and assists have greatly helped his position but against Arsenal, he added something more to his game. Lamela was exceptionally aggressive and determined to place as much pressure as possible on his opponents at The Emirates. He chased everything in forward areas, closing defenders down and making powerful forward runs. Not only this, but he flew into several tackles with the derby atmosphere seemingly affecting him more than most. Making eight successful challenges in total, he was almost granted the greatest reward when; after applying unexpected pressure on Petr Cech, the former Chelsea stopper nearly gifted him the ball with only an open net behind him.
Lamela did inevitably mistime a tackle and as a result, went into the referee’s note-book but to his credit, this did nothing to deter him from being equally as aggressive in the following minutes. He timed even the most difficult of sliding challenges surprisingly well and although he left the field without a goal or assist to show for it, the Argentine certainly earned the rapturous applause from the away end at The Emirates.
Jesse Lingard: With a lack of creativity and attacking verve still being bemoaned by the Old Trafford faithful, the performance of Jesse Lingard against a defensively structured showed what Manchester United have been craving; and expecting, from summer signing Memphis Depay. Lingard seemed to have a far superior freedom to take on his man with fantastic frequency and his refreshing youthful exuberance was one of the few bright sparks on the day.
Although LVG comically appeared to take the majority of the credit for Lingard’s composed curling finish inside the far post, the local youngster clearly possesses the required quality to make the grade at Old Trafford. On another day, the 22 year old could easily have won a penalty for his side too as a two-handed push in the chest seemingly impeded his progress in the penalty area. Regardless of the fee that Depay commanded to take him to Old Trafford in the summer, he faces a fight to win his first-team spot back should Lingard continue in this vein of form.
Harry Kane: Harry Kane has an excellent personal record against Spurs’ north London rivals and he continued this on Sunday. Capitalising on Koscielny choosing to step up in the defensive line, Kane beat the off-side trap and beat Petr Cech with consummate ease. In putting this chance away, he demonstrated how he has put his early season struggles behind him. You have to feel that if the same opportunity had presented itself a few weeks ago, the English forward would almost certainly have spurned it.
With a returning confidence has come an improved overall contribution to the game and he occupied both of Arsenal’s centre halves well. Challenging the towering Mertesacker in the air, he provided a platform to build from and also won some important free-kicks for his side. When the Gunners were coming forward at a relentless rate as the game entered the last minutes, Pochettino’s men desperately needed an escape route and Kane provided it, providing the breather that his back-line required to see out the remaining moments.
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