The fixture list in the Premier League this weekend was a little abridged due to the two FA Cup semi-finals taking place over the last couple of days, meaning that only six matches took place on Saturday and Sunday. Nonetheless, there were still a great deal of developments towards both the top and bottom of the Premier League, and no shortage of top performers in with a shout of making it into The Boot Room’s Team of the Week.
After battling back to earn a 2-2 draw with West Ham last week, Claudio Ranieri had been unable to select his star striker for the match against Swansea City. Leicester City began with Shinji Okazaki and Leonardo Ulloa up front together as a result of Jamie Vardy’s suspension, with the pair having only played together for a measly 12 minutes this season before Sunday’s game began. In fact, it was the magical Riyad Mahrez who first came to the party for The Foxes, scoring at home for the first time since December, and adding to the hat-trick that he secured against the Welsh opponents earlier in the season. Ashley Williams; usually a rock at the back for Swansea, messed up a clearance and from that moment on, the Algerian’s composure was exactly as you would expect from the favourite to pick up the PFA Player of the Year award. Ulloa; Vardy’s replacement for this match and possibly the next too, sent fans and players alike into delirium by grabbing his side’s second of the day before half an hour had elapsed.
The same player doubled his personal tally in the second half, getting on the end of a scruffy pass across the box by Jeffrey Schlupp, securing all three points for the home side before a rampant Leicester grabbed a fourth through Marc Albrighton who had only entered the field of play a few minutes earlier. With a series of tough fixtures to come in the next few weeks; on paper at least, the importance of getting back to winning ways should not be underestimated.
With ambitions at completely different ends of the Premier League table, Sunderland hosted Arsenal at the Stadium of Light on Sunday, following their resounding 3-0 victory over Norwich City last time out. The determination and tension in the air were clearly present in equal measure for The Black Cats, and they started off fairly well in their ambition to come away with something from their afternoon’s endeavours. Arsenal began to test Sunderland and Vito Mannone in particular more and more as the first half went on, although a strong but unsuccessful penalty shout for hand-ball against Per Mertesacker created an angry atmosphere amongst the locals. Alex Iwobi was unfortunate to not benefit from a similar incident when DeAndre Yedlin’s arm clearly blocked his goal-bound shot.
The second half sparked into life when Petr Cech was forced into a couple of quick-fire saves initially from Jermain Defoe and then from Yann M’Vila’s follow-up from the edge of the area. Barely a minute later, Wahbi Khazri caused the giant ‘keeper to exert himself once more. Sunderland were arguably the side who looked more likely to score after the interval, creating several half-chances without ever really passing up a golden opportunity. Vito Mannone will be relieved that his error did not cost his side a goal, and indeed they went on to earn a crucial point that took them out of the relegation zone at Norwich City’s expense. Arsenal on the other hand sit five points clear of Manchester United in fifth place, but the Old Trafford side have played one game less, meaning that the race for the top four is still well and truly on.
Manchester City warmed up for their mid-week Champions League clash against Real Madrid by thumping Stoke City 4-0 at The Etihad; the third consecutive match in which Mark Hughes’ side have conceded four goals. The Citizens put out an eleven with a few changes, but this decision was more than vindicated as both Vincent Kompany and Kevin De Bruyne will be raring to go against Zidane’s team in a couple of days, and Kelechi Iheanacho made the most of the first-team minutes presented to him. The young striker bagged the final two goals scored on the day, applying the gloss to the victory that was almost already secure thanks to Fernando and an emphatic Sergio Aguero penalty.
Flick to the next page to discover who made it into The Boot Room’s Premier League Team of the Week, and don’t forget to leave your thoughts on the selection – and indeed the weekend’s action – in the comments section at the end of the article.