What an entertaining round of fixtures Matchday 26 was in England’s top flight. Although two matches had to be postponed due to the EFL Cup final between Southampton and Manchester United, there was still more than enough excitement for all to enjoy. Spurs and Chelsea both grabbed massive results as they continue to battle it out for the title, Crystal Palace gained a key result against Middlesbrough at the bottom of the table and most importantly to the joy of everyone involved, Leicester City are back! The Foxes showed the kind of form that won them the Premier League title in 2015-16 and cruised to a 3-1 victory against Liverpool. Through all the incredible matches including Leicester’s astounding resurgence, there were a heap of top class performers and these are the best 11 of them. This is the Team of the Week for Matchday 26 in the English Premier League!
Goalkeeper: Kasper Schmeichel
Kasper Schmeichel really is one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League.The Danish goalkeeper has been just about the only Leicester player to continue to play up to the same standard that he showed in 2015-16 and in recent months has been their key man. Monday night saw another wonderful performance from the former Manchester City man as Schmeichel led Leicester to a 3-1 victory. The Leicester City goalkeeper made 6 stunning saves to keep Liverpool out and keep the score down and he couldn’t do anything about the goal he conceded. The Danish keeper also claimed all of the crosses he came for, and in fantastic Schmeichel style was constantly screaming at his defense to stay organized and resilient against the Reds. He’s been a real leader for Leicester this season, their key man throughout and showed his class once again on Monday night as the Foxes cruised to a 3-1 victory.
Right Back: Seamus Coleman
Seamus Coleman has been one of Everton’s best players this season and was instrumental yet again for the Toffees in their 2-0 victory against Sunderland and their former manager David Moyes. Coleman and Baines’ ability to get forward from the back was instrumental in creating chances for Everton as well as stretching Sunderland out and freeing up space for players like Barkley and Lukaku to roam. The Irishman himself created 2 chances to Baines’ three, but unlike the Englishman, Coleman assisted a goal from one of those chances when his picture perfect cross found Idrissa Gueye at the top of the box. The 28-year old defender whipped in 5 crosses in total and also completed 2 dribbles while holding his defensive responsibilities excellently well, making 2 tackles and 4 clearances. Seamus Coleman has been one of the best defenders in the Premier League this season and it shows in the fact that this is his fifth Team of the Week Appearance of the season, tied with James Milner for most of any defender in the Premier League. Rating: 8.5/10.
Centre Back: Craig Dawson
An unfamiliar face to the Team of the Week this season, Craig Dawson wins his first selection of 2016-17. Dawson developed a little bit of a reputation for scoring goals last season when he netted 4 goals in 38 appearances from right back in 2015-16, but surprisingly his goal against Bournemouth on Saturday was his first of this season so far. However, the right fullback deserved his goal as he’s been one of West Brom’s most vital players in their incredible run of form that now sees them sitting in 8th place and interestingly 7 points above 9th place West Ham. On top of his goal, the British defender also played his part in other attacking areas of the game, creating 1 chance, completing 2 take-on’s and nearly 87% of his passes. He was also solid in defense as expected of a Tony Pulis defender, completing 2 interceptions and making 5 clearances. Craig Dawson is one of this week’s best defenders and he only played 53 minutes. It’s taken 26 games but the 26-year old completely deserves his first Team of the Week appearance of the season. Rating: 8.5/10.
Left Back: Patrick Van Aanholt
Sam Allardyce was smart towards the end of the January transfer market, signing players like former PSG and Liverpool defender Mamadou Sakho, Olympiacos midfielder Luka Milojevic and even his former Sunderland defender Patrick Van Aanholt. All three had a major role to play in Crystal Palace’s 1-0 win this weekend, most crucially Van Aanholt who scored the only goal of the game. The Dutch fullback was pivotal for the Eagles in this weekend’s relegation battle, not just for his goal. Van Aanholt got forward to whip in six crosses and he created 2 chances, giving Palace something that has been missing for them all season in regular delivery to the beast in the air that is Christian Benteke. The Dutch defender also helped out in defense, making 2 interceptions and helping to make all of Middlesbrough’s players go dry on route to a clean sheet. Crystal Palace are still in serious danger of going down this season but if they are to stay up, Patrick Van Aanholt is going to be absolutely crucial to that fight just like he was in Sunderland’s survival last season. Rating: 8.5/10.
Centre Midfield: Idrissa Gueye
After an amazing start to the season, Idrissa Gueye has gone incredibly quiet in the past few months as Tom Davies and more recently Ross Barkley have emerged as Everton’s star midfielders. But it was Idrissa Gueye who was Everton’s star man this week as he scored in the opening goal and dominated the midfield in the Toffees’ 2-0 win over David Moyes’ Sunderland. Gueye had 100 touches on the ball which was only surpassed by Morgan Schneiderlin’s 111, while he also completed 86% of his passes and had 2 of his 3 shots in the match on target. But most importantly, the Senegalese midfielder was up to his old tricks, bringing that physical tough tackling side of his game back against the Black Cats, completing 5 tackles, making 4 interceptions and 3 clearances as Everton claimed another clean sheet. Idrissa Gueye has the potential to be one of the best defensive midfielders in the league, is exactly the type of player that every team needs in their side and could now be crucial to Everton for the rest of the season as they look to challenge for a spot in Europe next season. Rating: 9.5/10.
Centre Midfield: Cesc Fabregas
What a day February 25th was for Cesc Fabregas. The Spanish midfielder played in his 300th Premier League game at the weekend, coming back into the side in place of Nemanja Matic and putting in his best performance of the season so far. Fabregas was everywhere in this match, completely dominating the midfield for Chelsea on his way to a fabulous goal and a luscious assist. The 29-year old controlled the game with a stunning total of 127 touches, 108 passes and 5 chances created, more than any other player this weekend. He also completed nearly 87% of the passes he attempted and had 5 shots, one of which found the back of the net! Cesc Fabregas hasn’t been given a lot of chances to play this season under Antonio Conte, who has preferred the midfield duo of Matic and Kante, but he has been exceptional when he’s been given the chance to shine in 2017 and was easily Chelsea’s best performer as they cruised to a 3-1 victory over Swansea City. Rating: 10/10.
Right Wing: Pedro Rodriguez
After being unquestionably Chelsea’s best player in their torrid 2015-16 campaign, Willian Borges da Silva would have been expected by all to have a massive role to play yet again in 2016-17 under Antonio Conte. But the Brazilian winger can hardly get into the side this season and that is entirely because of the brilliance of Pedro Rodriguez. The former Barcelona man has been pivotal to Chelsea’s success this season and has been their best player in the past few months, seemingly scoring, assisting or doing both in every single game they play now. Pedro was key yet again for the Blues this weekend, assisting Chelsea’s first goal and scoring their second. The Spanish winger also showed off his composure in possession of the ball, completing 5 take-on’s and was a necessary attacking threat with 3 shots. Pedro Rodriguez has been one of Chelsea’s star men this season, continues to defy odds to keep Willian out of the side and at the moment is having his best ever campaign as he looks to lift his first major trophy in England. Rating: 9.5/10.
Attacking Midfield: Christian Eriksen
Kane receiving all the recognition for scoring the goals but few recognizing the fantastic creator of them that is Christian Eriksen. The Danish midfielder created a massive total of 7 chances, more than any other player this weekend! From those 7 chances, he assisted from two of them, two nice assists to aid Harry Kane in his rampaging run in front of goal against the Potters. The 25-year old midfielder was just everywhere in attack from a Tottenham Hotspur perspective, taking 3 shots, completing 6 crosses and obtaining 2 dribbles along with those 7 key passes. Christian Eriksen is just in magnificent form at the moment and is having the best season of his entire career. It may not be enough to win the title this season but with Spurs’ front three of Eriksen, Alli and Kane all being so young, the future certainly looks bright. Rating: 9.5/10.
Left Wing: Eden Hazard
Every time someone else emerges as a PFA Player of the Year contender, Eden Hazard puts in the type of performance that reminds everyone why he is the most likely of all to win the accolade for a second time. Hazard has probably been the best player in the Premier League this season and even when other players are having more of an influence for Chelsea, the Belgian winger still manages to steal the show with a brilliant piece of skill or a stunning assist. It was the latter that happened this weekend as Hazard capitalized on a Swansea mistake to punish Paul Clement’s side with a magnificent assist for Chelsea’s third goal of the night. But it wasn’t just this assist that stood out for Hazard this weekend, the 26-year old always looked dangerous in attacking areas, creating 3 chances, completing 8 dribbles (more than any other player this weekend) and touching the ball 80 times across 84 minutes. Eden Hazard is impossible to stop when he is in this kind of form and continues to perform to the level that he showed when he won the PFA Player of the Year award and Chelsea won the title back in 2014-15. This is the Belgian’s 7th Team of the Week Appearance so far this season, drawing level with Alexis Sanchez and Sadio Mane for the lead. Rating: 9.5/10.
Striker: Harry Kane
Three goals, three fantastic finishes. Harry Kane is just in unstoppable form at the moment and is helping to make this race for the Golden Boot the most interesting one in years. Kane was immense for Tottenham against Stoke, scoring three fantastic goals, and assisting the other for Dele Alli in Spurs’ 4-0 victory. The Tottenham striker was just involved in everything good from a Tottenham perspective on Sunday and was so buoyant in attack along with his supporting cast of the likes of Alli and Eriksen. Kane also completed 92% of his passes, created 2 chances and took 6 shots, 4 of which were on target, 3 of which bulged the back of the net. Harry Kane might just be the best striker in England and when he is scoring goals at the rate that he is at the moment, it is so hard to argue against that. Rating: 10/10.
Striker: Jamie Vardy
Leicester are back and Jamie Vardy’s back. It is so good to see Jamie Vardy in this kind of form again. The British striker was absolutely on top of his game against the Reds, terrorizing their defense and doing what Vardy does best in making a nuisance of himself. Lucas Leiva and Joel Matip just could not handle him as the Leicester man’s pace, firepower and vigor all gave Liverpool so much to worry about. Vardy was one of the key tempo setters of the match and certainly one of the key reasons why the Foxes were able to get off to such a good start against the Reds. His fantastic goal was everything that we have wanted to see from him all season long and was exactly the kind of goal that he was putting in the back of the net week after week last season. But it wasn’t just about the goal, the Englishman troubled his opposition defense with 8 duels won in the air, an incredibly respectable tally for a man who is just 5’8. He also created 2 chances, completed 3 dribbles and ran his socks off, making 71 sprints, the most he’s completed in a match this season. Jamie Vardy is back and hopefully this can kick-start his and Leicester’s season. Hopefully the Foxes never find themselves in this kind of position ever again. In the mean time it was a brilliant performance from Jamie Vardy and Leicester City, the type of performance that should end any fear of them being relegated this season. Rating: 9/10.
Formation: 3-5-2: Schmeichel, Coleman, Dawson, Van Aanholt, Gueye, Fabregas, Pedro, Eriksen, Hazard, Kane, Vardy
Substitutes: Robert Huth, Christian Fuchs, N’Golo Kante, Danny Drinkwater, Wilfried Ndidi, Marc Albrighton, Dele Alli
Player of the Week: Harry Kane
Matchday 26 saw a heap of impressive performers, most notably Cesc Fabregas and Jamie Vardy, but Harry Kane stood out above the rest this weekend as he secured his side a 4-0 win. The Tottenham striker contributed to all four goals, scoring three and assisting the other and was involved in everything good from a Tottenham Hotspur perspective as they eased to an impressive result. Harry Kane is this week’s Player of the Week!
Runners Up: Jamie Vardy, Cesc Fabregas
Manager of the Week: Craig Shakespeare
How did this happen? How did Craig Shakespeare turn Leicester City around into their old 2015-16 selves again? Leicester City were phenomenal against Liverpool and played exactly like they did last season, with an immense tempo, energy, firepower and magic. Shakespeare just went back to the Leicester basics of last season to start this match, going exactly with the lineup that won them the title except for the one change, Ndidi in for the departed N’Golo Kante. It was nothing fancy, it was just clinical, high tempo Leicester. The Foxes were first to every ball, were hungry to win it back whenever they lost it and played with an exuberance, a vigor, that has just been missing for far too long this season. They also played into their strengths, looking for Vardy at every opportunity, sitting deep when Liverpool had the ball and then striking on the counter attack once they won it back. You have to credit the manager for this lift of spirits as admittedly, Ranieri did far too much experimentation with Leicester City this year and Shakespeare’s return to the basics for the Foxes turned out brilliantly well. Every single Leicester player was up to the task just like they were for Ranieri in 2015-16 and you have to credit Craig Shakespeare for that massive turnaround. Nobody expected the Foxes to go on and do that to Liverpool but somehow, they did it, and won 3-1.
So there it is! The Team of the Week for Gameweek 26 in the Premier League. What do you think this Leicester result means for the rest of their season? Are Chelsea running away from the Premier League title? Are Sunderland doomed for relegation? Comment below to share your thoughts. See you next time!