Sam Bernard picks his XI standout performers from this weekend’s Premier League action, as Villa were smashed for six by Liverpool, whilst Leicester were brought back down to earth with a defeat away to Arsenal. Sunderland put in a brilliant display against Manchester United, and Spurs scraped through in another top four-clash.
Goalkeeper – Ben Foster (West Brom)
West Brom fans must be absolutely delighted to see Foster back between the posts. Despite his highly unorthodox style, Foster is a quality shot-stopper who almost single-handedly secured three points against Everton, in a game which Everton really should have won. It must be an incredibly frustrating time for the England international who is undoubtedly playing his best at the same time as impressive performances from Hart, Butland and Forster. If he is to sneak his way onto the plane heading towards Paris in the summer, he must continue to deliver standout performances like the one against the Toffees, week in week out.
Defender – Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea)
Azplilicueta, or Dave as his less continental teammates call him, has the unique ability of being extremely comfortable at both the left and right of defence, and he showed this against a really disappointing Newcastle side. ‘Dave’ does not get anywhere near enough credit his consistently high level performances deserve. He is a proper defender who can also prove extremely effective in attack and he put in a delicious ball for Bertrand Traore to score his first Premier League goal.
Defender – John O’Shea (Sunderland)
John O’Shea would have enjoyed captaining Sunderland to a much-needed victory over his old team, the once great Manchester United. What makes it even sweeter is that you won’t be able to find one footballing fan that would argue that Sunderland did not deserve this victory. Sunderland were rock solid in defence, and deadly in attack. Every single time I discount Sunderland’s chances of staying up, they produce an excellent performance. O’Shea was imperious at the back and his performance more than justifies his inclusion into my team of the week.
Defender – Lamine Kone (Sunderland)
Not many of us can honestly say we knew a great deal about the big, no nonsense defender when he joined Sunderland in January, if anything at all. But after his dominating performance against Manchester United, with the aforementioned O’Shea, he is a defender many fans would wish played in the colours of their beloved clubs. His impressive stature meant he was commanding at the back as well as proving to be a nightmare to mark in the opposition’s penalty area on set-plays. He was in fact unlucky not to be awarded with the winning goal which eventually went in after hitting David de Gea.
Defender – Nathaniel Clyne (Liverpool)
I have always been a big fan of Clyne since he first rose jumped onto the national scene at Crystal Palace. Since then he has impressed at the likes of both Southampton and Liverpool with his solid defensive work and his attacking prowess. Dodgy hairstyle aside, he epitomises the modern day fullback – solid in defence, deadly in attack. Albeit against arguably the worst Premier League team of all time in Aston Villa, Clyne was rampant this weekend, and even bagged himself a goal in Liverpool’s 6-0 trouncing of the league’s bottom club.
Midfielder – N’Golo Kante (Leicester)
Kante epitomises everything that Leicester have been this season: his energy levels are extraordinary; his technique is flawless; his commitment is unquestionable; his determination is uncanny. Kante was everywhere and controlled the game until Leicester found themselves a man down. It should be of no surprise then that Kante has made the most tackles and interceptions in the league this season. Leicester deserved at least a point in this match and one can assume that if Danny Simpson and Marcin Wasilewski had kept cooler heads at key moments against the Gunners then it would have been a very different outcome. Leicester, to me, still look like the real deal and even though the outcome was less than ideal, I still saw a lot in this Leicester side that suggests they can and will win this league, and what a story that would be.
Midfielder – Willian (Chelsea)
The Brazilian magician has been Chelsea’s most consistent performer this season by an absolute country mile and appeared to be the only one who was professional enough to continue playing well in the maelstrom of internal politics surrounding Jose Mourinho’s tenure. From start to finish Willian terrorised Newcastle, who were lucky to have lost only 5-0. The scoreline could have easily resembled a cricket score if Chelsea had kept their foot on the gas. McClaren has some serious work on his hands if he is going to keep that great club above that dreaded relegation zone.
Midfielder – Mousa Dembele (Tottenham)
Tottenham’s performance against Manchester City was complete. It was utterly sensational how they could dominate the game in such a fashion in the backyard of arguably the best squad in England. Note how I deliberately use the term squad rather than team as I think this distcintion is precisely where City are falling short this season under the outgoing Pellegrini. The Belgian played a huge part in this victory and made the world-class talents of Yaya Toure and David Silva look very ordinary indeed.
Midfielder – Emre Can (Liverpool)
Emre Can has undergone a mini-revelation under Jurgen Klopp and this probably has to do with Klopp playing the German in his natural position…rather than in defence as he often found himself playing in under Brendan Rodgers. Emre Can’s bullish style of play was simply too much for a very weak and uninspiring Aston Villa side. Nonetheless he still popped up at the other end of the field with a filthy twenty-five yard piledriver that nestled satisfyingly into the back of the net. This performance showed that when Liverpool have their world-class players fit and on form they are a very, very dangerous side.
Striker – Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool)
Oh how we’ve missed that Sturridge dance. We’ve waited a long time to see Sturridge back in Liverpool colours, and he showed just how deadly he can be when he is fit. He oozes class in front of goal and once the delicious cross fell towards an unmarked Sturridge in the box, there was only ever going to be one outcome – a goal. Liverpool fans, and England fans alike, will be praying Sturridge can keep fit for the remainder of the season as on his day he is unstoppable and will undoubtedly prove to be key for England in the summer, especially when you consider the lack of tournament experience of fellow English strikers Vardy and Kane and the lukewarm form of Wayne Rooney.
Striker – Troy Deeney (Watford)
Big Troy Deeney has proved to be a very important player for Watford this season. While Ighalo steals all the limelight and attention, Deeney nonchalantly goes about his business, winning headers, chasing down balls, and perhaps most importantly scoring vital goals. His timely winner in the last ten minutes at Selhurst Park effectively quelled the dangerous attacking momentum from the Eagles and consigned them to yet another defeat. The way he calmly controlled the ball on his knee and smashed a half volley past the flailing Hennessey was indicative of man on the top of his game. An England call-up for Deeney? I would certainly hope so.