The Team of the Week was more or less said and done until Chelsea’s smashing 4-0 victory gave The Mastermind a selection headache with so many standout players contributing to that massive victory. With so few of the top eight picking up points and so few goals being scored beyond Chelsea’s 4-0 whopping of Manchester United, it was more or less a weekend of excellent defending yet with so many of the league’s top midfielders all performing to such a high level again this week, it was the midfield that was giving The Mastermind the selection headache again. But let’s not dilly-dally any longer, this is The Mastermind’s Team of the Week for Gameweek 9 in the English Premier League.
Goalkeeper: Petr Cech
With the chances that Middlesbrough had in their 0-0 draw with Arsenal, they could have and in fact should have won the match. But the one main roadblock in the way of Aitor Karanka’s side that stopped them from taking all three points was the Premier League’s all time leading clean sheet leader, Petr Cech who added another to his tally on Saturday. Cech was brilliant against Middlesbrough making 4 vital and stunning saves, particularly two goal saving stops against Adama Traore and Gaston Ramirez (pictured above). The Czech Republic keeper also made 5 successful cross claims (100% that he attempted) and completed 79% of his passes to help his side avoid defeat. Although Victor Valdes was almost equally as good on the day in his attempts to stop Arsenal from scoring it is the veteran Petr Cech who rightfully wins his place as this week’s goalkeeper of the week. Rating: 9/10.
Right Back: Michael Keane
Although not actually a right back, Michael Keane plays out of position in this week’s Team of the Week in order to accommodate for one of Chelsea’s superstar defensive midfielders. Keane has certainly attracted attention for his performances for Burnley this season and Saturday’s encounter with Everton might have been the cream of the crop for the central defender. His positional awareness was fantastic while his handing of Romelu Lukaku was Rio Ferdinand-esque, touch tight and limiting his time on the ball at every opportunity. He was also extremely vocal, always organizing his back-line and following out Sean Dyche’s orders on the pitch. The British defender made 8 interceptions against Everton, more than any other player this weekend. He also managed to make 12 clearances and he blocked 5 shots to help lead Burnley to a 2-1 victory. Michael Keane is a fantastic defender and with the way Gary Cahill is going at the moment, he could soon could actually break into that England starting 11. Rating: 9/10.
Centre Back: Winston Reid
Winston Reid probably would have made the Team of the Week even without his goal as the New Zealander has been immense for the Hammers ever since returning from injury and was an absolute beast at the back against Sunderland. Sunderland hardly had a chance to score all game long due to Reid’s presence at the back, never allowing them any time to get away a shot and then popped late on with a surprise last-minute winner. On top of his game-winning goal, Reid was also resolute in defense making 6 clearances, 3 interceptions and blocking 3 shots. When he is on his game there are few better natural defenders in the league and it is a mystery why a bigger club haven’t picked him up yet. Rating: 9/10.
Centre Back: Laurent Koscielny
As if Laurent Koscielny hasn’t already been brilliant enough this season, he had one of his best matches in an Arsenal shirt against Middlesbrough. Vital interceptions, superb last-man tackles and always in the right place at the right time to shut out his opponent. Koscielny was only beaten one time the entire match, when Adama Traore nearly scored. Every other time he faced an opponent he came out the victor. The French beast won 7 duels in the air, made 4 interceptions, 4 clearances and was superb in blocking 2 shots to help stop Boro from scoring and help Cech keep that clean sheet. It was a fabulous performance from Laurent Koscielny and just one more in Arsenal’s storybook that makes you wonder where Arsene Wenger’s side would be right now without him. Rating: 9/10.
Left Back: Christian Fuchs
Finally Christian Fuchs has scored a goal for Leicester and what a goal it was. He couldn’t do it last season in their title winning charge but finally found the back of the net against Crystal Palace with a thunderous left-footed volley that gave the Foxes a 3-0 lead where the game would later end 3-1. Although he was beaten by Zaha for Crystal Palace’s goal, the Austrian captain had a very solid match in defense, blocking 2 shots, making 4 tackles and 8 clearances. Beyond his goal, Fuchs was also a constant force for the Foxes in attack as well, creating 2 chances and delivering 7 crosses. Christian Fuchs deserved to score all of last season but just couldn’t find the back of the net so it is fantastic to finally see his name on the score-sheet and for him to help Leicester City win in such an emphatic way. Rating: 8.5/10.
Defensive Midfield: N’Golo Kante
For the second week in a row N’Golo Kante has made the Team of the Week. The French midfielder is really starting to come in to his own again at Chelsea and is producing some of his best ever performances as a professional footballer in recent matches. Kante was essential to Chelsea’s 4-0 win over Manchester United, but surprisingly for once was actually more influential in attack than in defense! He was the creator of two chances, had 2 shots and scored a fabulous goal making Chris Smalling look absolutely silly with a neat piece of footwork before slotting in his first goal in a Chelsea shirt. But that’s not all, Kante also made 2 tackles, 5 interceptions, 65 passes and had more touches on the ball (81) than any other Chelsea player. N’Golo Kante is the best defensive midfielder in the Premier League and might just be Chelsea’s key man in their hunt to win the Premier League title. Rating: 9/10.
Right Wing: Pedro Rodriguez
Many would have expected Willian to start this match after arriving back from Brazil but the Spanish midfielder kept his place in the side and Conte’s decision to keep Pedro in the team paid off immediately as within seconds the Spaniard scored a goal. For the rest of the match, Pedro was just highly influential in creating chaos for Daley Blind and Chris Smalling and the two of them never worked out how to deal with him. His constant changing of position and endless running certainly gave United a headache and it resulted in him picking up an assist late on with a wonderful flick on to Kante for Chelsea’s fourth. He wasn’t an ever presence on the ball in the match but he was an ever presence in giving Manchester United an absolute nightmare to have to worry about down that right side and with a goal and an assist, Pedro Rodriguez had a direct contribution to more of the goals in Chelsea’s 4-0 win than any other player. Rating: 9/10.
Attacking Midfield: Xherdan Shaqiri
Every once in a while Xherdan Shaqiri produces a magical performance that is good enough to win a game on it’s own. That is exactly what happened when Hull City met Shaqiri and Stoke as the Swiss international notched two goals to carry his side to a 2-0 victory. The former Bayern Munich man is far too inconsistent to ever be considered one of the best footballers on the planet but on his day has the quality to be one of the most technically gifted players. Shaqiri led the Potters to victory on Saturday with two un-savable shots, both from long range and both beautiful left-footed strikers. Beyond his goals he was also brilliant, showing off his tremendous passing ability with incredible long-range, cross field passes creating chances for teammates left, right and centre, a total of five chances created. The Swiss playmaker also completed five-take-ons and proved exactly how good he can be when he performs to his full-ability. Xherdan Shaqiri had a magnificent performance against Hull City and without him the Potters may not have won this match. Rating: 10/10.
Attacking Midfield: Philippe Coutinho
Liverpool just look so good at the moment and a resolute West Brom side were made to look like a Championship side as Jurgen Klopp’s side ran circles around them. The star of that show as always was Brazilian midfielder Philippe Coutinho who is having one of his most consistent runs and best ever spells in a Liverpool shirt and had another phenomenal performance in Liverpool’s narrow 2-1 victory. Coutinho was clinical in tucking in Liverpool’s second with an impressive finish but also created 3 chances, completed 3 dribbles, had an incredible dummy on the play that led to Sadio Mane’s goal, whipped in the perfect, almost unbelievably good free kick cross which was almost converted by Lovren and was so highly influential once again for Liverpool as he always is. Of all the players in the league at the moment, Philippe Coutinho might just be the biggest contender of all to go on and win the PFA Player of the Year. Rating: 10/10.
Left Wing: Eden Hazard
Of all the players exemplifying Antonio Conte’s footballing philosophy this season, Eden Hazard has done so more often than any other. The Belgian winger was the lead attacker in the energetic Chelsea side that was buzzing around Manchester United’s defence like worker bees always hungry and always looking to take advantage of defensive mistakes. He was so lively, so full of energy and showed exactly how good he is with the ball at his feet in Chelsea’s fantastic 4-0 win on Sunday. The wing wizard was fantastic in completing 5 dribbles, putting in 4 crosses and scoring a wonder goal to kill Mourinho’s side off. His 60 touches on the ball were also more than any other attacker on the pitch and he did his duty in defense with 2 tackles and 2 interceptions. Hazard was one of the players that Mourinho criticized heavily on his way out the door at Chelsea last season and the Belgian just silenced him with an amazing performance for Conte’s side in Chelsea’s 3-0 win. Rating: 9.5/10.
Centre Forward: Sadio Mane
Although he only played as a centre forward towards the end of the match, Sadio Mane gets bumped up into that position this week due to Pedro’s fantastic performance at right wing for Cheslea. Sadio Mane is one of the best players of the 2016-17 Barclays Premier League season so far and continues to show no signs of slowing down. The Senegalese had another supreme performance for Liverpool down that right-hand scoring and assisting a goal in their rambunctious 2-1 win. Mane was excellent in finishing off an incredible Liverpool team goal with a daft one touch finish into the bottom left corner. Shortly after he was then lively and inventive the moment West Brom lost the ball, scooping it up before playing it into the path of Coutinho who hammered it home for two. But the Liverpool winger wasn’t just fantastic in attack. What is often undervalued about Sadio Mane’s game is his willingness to go back and defend. He exemplifies exactly what Jurgen Klopp’s philosophy on football is all about is done everything he can to win his team and his manager every single match whether it’s helping out in defense or attack. Sadio Mane is one of the best players in the league and at the moment nobody can stop him. Rating: 9.5/10.
Substitutes: Victor Valdes, Virgil Van Dijk, Victor Moses, Marcos Alonso, Scott Arfield, Dimitri Payet, Shinji Okazaki
There have never been so many players so close to making it with write-ups and everything only to miss out at the final whistle of the weekend and that is exactly why a substitutes bench was needed this weekend. Victor Moses nearly snuck into the team as the best right sided defender of the weekend while Burnley certainly could not have won their match without Canadian international Scott Arfield. Dimitri Payet was also a shining star this week popping up with a late assist (just one of his 109 touches and 7 chances created) to win his team the match, while Shinji Okazaki just narrowly misses out after a typical Okazaki performance, filling the boots of Jamie Vardy with his first goal of the season and helping the Foxes ease to a 3-1 victory.
Player of the Week: Xherdan Shaqiri
With two fantastic goals and a fantastic overall performance in Stoke’s 2-0 win over Hull-City, Xherdan Shaqiri is this week’s Player of the Week! I knew how good Xherdan Shaqiri’s finishing, free-kick prowess, dribbling and long-range shooting were but I had no idea that his fantastic ability extended to long-range passing as well. The Swiss international picked out a few peaches of passes and could have easily added two assists to his game had Marko Arnautovic been more clinical. It was just a fantastic performance from Shaqiri in all areas of his game and Hull City as incapable as they are at the moment, just could not cope with him and without him Stoke may have struggled to grab all three points against the Tigers.
Manager of the Week: Antonio Conte
After several weeks in a row of honourable mentions, Antonio Conte finally wins the Manager of the Week award. He has drilled exactly what he wants in the minds of his players, continues to make the correct selections with his team and has turned out-of-form players into world beaters again. We’ve noted in the past how what he has done this season with players like Victor Moses and Diego Costa has been brilliant but now every single player is buying into what he is selling and is absolutely flourishing inside of the team again. Conte set up his team against Manchester United to attack. Jose Mourinho teams typically sit back and let all the pressure come to them in big matches and Conte turned that strategy against United within seconds of the kickoff as Pedro scored bright and early on in the match due to Chelsea’s liveliness and energy going forward. The energy levels of his players never died down because he was constantly yelling at them from the sidelines to keep on that same pressure and never allow players like Pogba or Herrera any consistent time on the ball. Every single Chelsea player played a part in this one and the Blues fully deserved their smashing 4-0 win.
Honourable Mention: Sean Dyche
Few would have predicted Burnley to come out on top against the Toffees but somehow the Clarets managed to win this match by 2 goals to 1. Sean Dyche always sets up his team to be organized in defense and Saturday’s encounter against Everton was no different as the resilient Burnley back four had hardly any difficulty at all dealing with superstar players like Lukaku, Bolasie and Mirallas. Scott Arfield was also horribly out of form before this match but Sean Dyche gave him a chance to earn his way back into the team and the Scottish-born Canadian international ended up winning his manager the match! Burnley put in a fantastic performance against Everton and with Sean Dyche in charge they look very unlikely to be relegated again this season like they were in their previous two stints in the league.
So there it is! The Mastermind‘s Team of the Week for Gameweek 9 in the Premier League. Hope you liked it and make sure to click the follow button to the right of your screen for more articles like this every single week. See you next time!