What an interesting set of midweek matches. In what is a bit of a rareity for the Premier League, 5 of the 10 matches ended in draws and on top of that there were several surprise results. Watford won away at Arsenal for the first time in England’s top flight since 1988, Swansea surged past Southampton, Sunderland earned a 0-0 draw against title challengers Spurs and Eldin Jakupovic’s heroics earned Hull a 0-0 draw against Manchester United. Through all the fascinating encounters there were a multitude of top performers and the eleven below are the best of the bunch. This is The Mastermind’s Team of the Week for Gameweek 23 in the Premier League!
Goalkeeper: Eldin Jakupovic
To the dismay of the author, no matter what Manchester United tried they just could not beat Hull City goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic. The Swiss goalkeeper has been in incredible form for the Tigers in every single game he’s played in and was extraordinarily unlucky to unjustifiably lose his place in the side after five games with Mike Phelan in charge. Now that Marco Silva has come in as the new manager, Jakupovic has returned to the side and has been in inspired form, putting in arguably his best performance of the season so far when Hull needed it most. Against big-hitters Manchester United, Jakupovic made 5 saves of the highest quality (including that unbelievable kick save above) to keep the Red Devils out and preserve his side a nil-nil draw. The Swiss goalkeeper also claimed 100% of the crosses that came his way and earned himself his second clean sheet of the season. Without Eldin Jakupovic Hull City surely would not have been able to hold Manchester United to a 0-0 draw and with this goalkeeper in net for the rest of the season the Tigers just might steer clear of relegation after all. Rating: 10/10.
Centre Back: Michael Keane
The winning run continues for Sean Dyche’s Burnley with Michael Keane the figurehead of everything good as ever. Keane was part of a Burnley defense that frustrated Leicester City to their limit and then late on in the game popped up with the crucial assist to the game winning goal. The British defender’s almighty nature at the back for the Clarets resulted in him making 2 interceptions, 8 clearances and completing controlling Leicester City man Jamie Vardy, who continues to struggle for goals. Moreover, Keane dominated in the air in both penalty areas, winning a stunning total of 10 aerial duels, including that crucial assist for Sam Vokes’ 86th minute goal. Michael Keane is without exaggeration one of the best defenders in the Premier League and is certainly leading the way for British centre-halves in 2016-17. John Stones, Chris Smalling and Gary Cahill should all be very worried in the near future while Manchester United should be kicking themselves for letting him go. Rating: 9.5/10.
Centre Back: David Luiz
David Luiz is one of the best players in the Premier League at the moment and continues to impress for his stellar performances at the back for Antonio Conte’s Chelsea. Luiz was superb against Liverpool and not just for his incredible free kick. The Brazilian defender was magnificent every single time he was called upon in defense and was absolutely on top of his game, winning 3 tackles, making 4 interceptions and constantly getting the ball out of danger for 12 clearances. He also won an impressive 6 duels in the air, had 60 touches and scored from his only shot in the match. David Luiz has been phenomenal for Chelsea in nearly every game he’s played in this season and without him on Tuesday Conte’s side might not have been able to earn themselves a necessary 1-1 draw. Rating: 10/10.
Centre Back: Younes Kaboul
Out of all the fantastic performers in Watford’s stunning 2-1 victory over Arsenal this week, Younes Kaboul was the standout. The French defender had a brilliant performance against the Gunners, rolling back the years and channeling his old Tottenham Hotspur self to beat Spurs’ North London rivals. The Frenchman gave Giroud a nightmare of a performance to start the game as his compatriot was hauled off after just 13 touches on the ball in 45 minutes of play. In total, Kaboul would make 8 clearances, 3 tackles, 3 interceptions and win 6 duels in the air, being Watford’s best performer on the day. On top of his defensive resilience and awareness at the back for the Hornets, he would also score the first goal of the game to kick Watford into high gear and help them go on and win the match. Younes Kaboul hasn’t had a lot of Team of the Week Appearances this season but this was just his best performance in a long time and the 31-year old defender was just such a critical component to Watford’s massive win. Rating: 9.5/10.
Defensive Midfield: N’Golo Kante
N’Golo Kante was one of the main reasons why Liverpool could not find a way past Chelsea on Tuesday as he was always there to break up play. It seemed as though every single time Liverpool would go on the counter attack that Kante would be there to stop them almost straight away. The stats emphasize this as well as the Frenchman won an incredible 14 tackles, the most by any player in a single match this season. That insane tally of 14 tackles helped him achieve more touches on the ball than any other Chelsea player with 70, proving how important he is to Antonio Conte’s side. The engine of the side, the 25-year old midfielder also got forward on several occasions to try and get involved in the attack and every single time Chelsea would lose the ball, he’d race back instantly to win it back again. N’Golo Kante is just an incredible footballer and although he often goes about his business queitly, is one of the very best players in the league. Rating: 9.5/10.
Right Wing: Marko Arnautovic
A player who started off this season in tremendously poor form, Marko Arnautovic is now strutting his stuff again and showing signs of a whole rebirth in confidence. The Austrian winger was immense for the Potters against Ronald Koeman’s Everton, leading the charge to earn his side a deserved 1-1 draw. The liveliest player on the pitch, Arnautovic assisted Stoke’s only goal of the game and could have easily scored two game winning goals had it not been for Joel Robles in goal for the Toffees. The Austrian was good in possession of the ball all game long, completing 4 dribbles, creating 2 chances and hitting the target with every shot he took in the match. He also did a little bit of defensive work, winning an admirable (for Arnautovic) 2 interceptions and 1 tackle. Stoke City’s Marko Arnautovic might have started off this season in poor form but now he is leading Stoke’s charge towards what they hope to be a fourth successive 9th place finish (or better) under Mark Hughes. Rating: 8.5/10.
Attacking Midfield: David Silva
David Silva was back to his best in Wednesday’s encounter against West Ham United, running the show as the Citizens cruised to a 4-0 victory. As per usual when Manchester City are in cruise control, Silva was the one making everything tick. The Spanish midfielder had 78 touches on the ball, created 2 chances, won 3 fouls, won 3 dribbles, had 2 shots and completed 86% of his passes. He linked up excellently well with Sane, De Bruyne and Sterling but was the leading man of the four of them and his excellent passing moves with Gabriel Jesus also give City fans something to be very excited for in the future. David Silva hasn’t always been at his best this season but was in fine form on Wednesday night to help Manchester City cruise to a massive 4-0 win over the Hammers. Rating: 8.5/10.
Left Wing: Gylfi Sigurdsson
Without Gylfi Sigurdsson, Swansea City would probably already be relegated. The Icelandic international is so vital to Paul Clement’s team and has found top form again since the new manager has come in. Out of all his matches this season, Tuesday’s performance against Southampton might have been Sigurdsson’s best as he scored a goal and assisted the other, almost single-handedly leading the Swans to a 2-1 win. Highlighting his performance to the team, Sigurdsson had more touches than any other attacking player on the field, created 2 chances and had a total of 6 shots, 3 of which were on target! His crossing was also superb, finding himself in good areas to whip in 7 balls into the box and always giving the Saints something to think about. And of course, with Sigurdsson in top form and with his brilliant goal and assist, Claude Puel’s men were never going to be able to claim victory. Without Gylfi Sigurdsson Swansea City would be in some serious danger right now and at the very least would not have been able to win this match. Rating: 9.5/10.
Centre Forward: Gabriel Jesus
What a way to announce yourself to the Premier League. In just his first start for Manchester City in the Premier League, Gabriel Jesus put in a man-of-the-match performance against West Ham, scoring a goal and an assist and giving new life to Pep Guardiola’s side. Coming into this match, Guardiola’s men were in poor form but a couple of interesting team changes including dropping Claudio Bravo and Sergio Aguero brought a whole new verve to the team in the form of Gabriel Jesus. A lot was expected of the £27 million man who arrived from Palmeiras in the summer but was loaned back to them for the first half of the season, and he lived up to his fantastic reputation instantly. On Wednesday February 1st, the 19-year old was the best player on the pitch, scoring a goal and assisting another and leading them to a smashing 4-0 victory. If he can do this kind of thing on his full Premier League debut who knows what he’ll be able to accomplish as a Manchester Blue for the rest of his career. The future certainly looks bright for both Jesus and Manchester City. Rating: 9.5/10.
Centre Forward: Troy Deeney
Watford’s all time appearance maker and scorer in the Premier League, Troy Deeney was in incredible form against the Gunners on Tuesday, helping to lead his side to a surprise 2-1 win over Arsene Wenger’s men. The British striker continues to knock on the door for an England call-up with these phenomenal performances and against Arsenal proved that he could lead the line all on his own. Deeney was a beast up front for the Hornets, winning 5 duels in the air and was also key in earning back possession for his side, making 4 interceptions. His constant pressure on Arsenal’s back-line caused all sorts of problems for Arsene Wenger’s team and he ended their hopes at getting back into the match when he found himself in the right place at the exact right moment to score Watford’s game winning goal. Troy Deeney continues to keep Watford afloat in the Premier League and if he continues to perform to this magnitude, surely an England has to be on its way. Rating: 8.5/10.
Striker: Peter Crouch
In fantastic circumstances, Peter Crouch becomes the 26th player to join the Premier League’s historic 100 goal club. It was a typical Peter Crouch goal. No it wasn’t a header, but the 6’7 striker knew exactly when to time his run into the box, timing it to perfection to slot home Marko Arnautovic’s cross from six yards out. That goal would be Stoke’s only goal of the game as they earned themselves a 1-1 draw against Everton. But beyond his historic goal, Crouch had a phenomenal all-around performance winning a typical tally of 9 duels in the air, winning 2 fouls and taking 5 shots. However, what really stands out for Peter Crouch this week is his fantastic achievement to join the likes of Alan Shearer, Dion Dublin and Wayne Rooney as part of the 100 Goals Club and do what the likes of Dennis Bergkamp, Fernando Torres and Cristiano Ronaldo couldn’t do, score 100 goals in the greatest league in the world. Congratulations Peter! Rating: 8.5/10.
Although it may seem top heavy, anytime the attacking players lose possession of the ball, N’Golo Kante will be right there to tidy up the mess. If they get past him they’ll still have to beat three sturdy defenders and a goalkeeper in fine form.
Substitutes: Heurelho Gomes, Scott Dann, Alfie Mawson, Victor Moses, Etienne Capoue, Kevin de Bruyne, Christian Benteke
Player of the Week: David Luiz
In all areas of the pitch, David Luiz was incredible on Tuesday night and although it was only enough to earn his side a 1-1 draw, indications show that without the Brazilian that Chelsea might not have been able to even achieve that. He was incredible at the back for the Blues, winning 3 tackles, making 4 interceptions and constantly getting the ball out of danger for 12 clearances. He also won an impressive 6 duels in the air, had 60 touches and scored from his only shot in the match from an insanely good free kick. David Luiz has been phenomenal for Chelsea in nearly every game he’s played in this season and without him on Tuesday Conte’s side might not have been able to earn themselves a necessary 1-1 draw.
Manager of the Week: Walter Mazzarri
On Tuesday night, Watford was so incredibly organized and so defensively sound that Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal just could not break them down. Walter Mazzarri has to be given so much credit for that and it appears that he was so elated after the match that he forgot the score. The Hornets frustrated the Gunners for long periods in the match, sitting deep and allowing the pressure to come to them before clearing it away every single time. Watford’s strange looking 4-5-1 with all four of their defenders being centre backs sure looked odd on paper but worked out for them brilliantly on Tuesday night. Kaboul and Prodl were at the heart of everything good for the Hornets while Britos and Catchart proved their verstality by stepping into the fullback roles. Daryl Janmaat was lively at right-wing in a position that he has barely ever played while new additions Tom Cleverly and M’Baye Niang showed positive signs for the future and made Mazzarri look pretty intelligent for putting them in so soon after singing. Meanwhile, Troy Deeney led the line perfectly and proved to Mazzarri that he is perfectly fine up there all his own; while Capoue and Behrami dominated midfield battles over Arsenal’s Francis Coquelin who struggled horribly in the match. All and all, everything that Walter Mazzarri seems to be doing at Watford seems to be working and with a brilliant performance against Arsenal at the back of several impressive results this season, the Hornets are in no danger at all of getting relegated. Walter Mazzarri is this week’s Manager of the Week for the very first time this season.
Honourable Mentions: Marco Silva, Pep Guardiola
So there it is, the Team of the Week for Matchday 23 in England’s top flight. Like what you read? Click the Follow button to the right to get Team of the Week and more, delivered right to your inbox every single week. See you next time!