The 24th round of Premier League Fixtures has passed this weekend with a few surprise results, some shocking performances and some season defining results.
Chelsea’s preeminence grew with a solid 2-1 victory over goal shy Aston Villa whilst Man City floundered once more against a trouble Hull side. There were more worries for relegation strugglers QPR and Leicester who fell to close 1-0 home defeats to Southampton and Crystal Palace respectively whilst Swansea and Sunderland rattled off a close fought draw at the Liberty Stadium.
Saturday was an impassioned affair with a fiery derby between North London rivals Tottenham and Arsenal with Spurs triumphing 2-1 at The Lane in what might be considered one of the games of the season. The other derby of the day flattered to deceive as Everton and Liverpool petered out to a nil-nil draw in what commentators attempted to label as tense and on a knife-edge, when in reality it was a cold drab affair.
On Sunday Burnley let a 2 goal lead slip to fall to a 2-2 draw against West Brom whilst Newcastle and Stoke played out an entirely unremarkable 1-1. Manchester United rescued a point at the death against a dominant West Ham side as the sides drew 1-1, completing a Sunday of score draws. From this weeks fixtures take a look at my shout for team of the week.
Fraser Forster has amassed 11 Premier League Clean Sheets, the most of any keeper in the league, and it’s not hard to see why. Whilst a steely defence shields him from most shots he shows tremendous concentration and reflexes required from a top level keeper. His save against Joey Bartons deflected effort defies belief and there were many more great efforts from the England stopper. He’ll certainly be giving Roy Hodgson selection headaches with his current form.
Jose Mourinho claimed that Ivanovic is one of Chelsea’s best ever signings and the under-rated full back showed the full extent of his footballing prowess against Villa. His volley was superb to give Chelsea the victory but there are few other full backs who offer a team so much going forward whilst being absolutely resolute at the back. Without a doubt one of the best right backs of the Premier League era.
Japanese centre-back Maya Yoshida has really come of age this season at Southampton and this was just another one of his impressive defensive performances this season. Southampton fans used to groan and worry whenever Yoshida was announced into the team sheet but now those fears have been abated thanks to Koemans defensive masterclass. He contributed enormously against a committed QPR attack and provided a fine assist for Southamptons winner.
You won’t see many better goals from a centre-back, in fact you won’t see many better goals full stop. The technical ability and composure illustrated by Kouyate in his 3 touch juggle and volleyed goal against Manchester United was exquisite. On top of that he was safe as houses in defence and contained the embarrassment of riches that is Uniteds attack.
He often seems fairly anonymous in a Chelsea team of superstars but have no doubt that Azpilicueta is one of the finest full backs in world football right now. He a complete full back, offering great offensive support whilst never remiss in his defensive duties. He’s a player who gives an 8/10 every week for Chelsea and has owned his spot in the starting line-up.
He didn’t have the best start to his Southampton career and his diving and lethargy earned the ire of Saints supporters. But with Koeman handing him a more free role in attacking midfield the forward looks rejuvenated and is starting to justify his price tag. A combination of pace, strength, neat dribbling and an eye for goal is turning Mane into Saints danger man and he certainly is essential to the sides attack.
Tottenhams Bale money was notoriously squandered, save for one man Eriksen. The Spurs playmaker has become one of the hottest properties in Europe and his passing ability is there for all to see. If he’s not contributing with goals than it’s assists and the Dane has earned Spurs points all on their own this season. He showed terrific form in the second half of the game and his directness and superb link up play was too much for Arsenal to handle.
Lampooned across social media and lauded as the worlds safest substitute James Milner is laughing off his labels and showing himself to be one of the most important cogs in the City machine this season. Whilst it was a poor overall performance Milners sublime free kick keeps them from falling too far away from Chelsea and further illustrated Milners excellent attitude, determination and commitment. Every team needs a Milner, even if every fan doesn’t want one.
The Chelsea winger has stepped up from last year being one of the most exciting young wingers to this year being genuinely world class. His finish from WIllians pass looked easy on the surface, but the perfect strike into the corner of the net was an example of the technical class the Belgian possesses. He’s consistent as well, week in week out he’s become the difference maker for Chelsea, the precise instrument through which to break down a tough, committed defence.
With a price tag rumoured to be an eye watering £14 million, many questioned Sunderlands acquisition of an ageing, past his best forward. But my oh my, Jermaine sure can still play. His goal against Swansea was right out of the top draw, dribbling from near the half way line, jinking past Swansea defenders before slamming it from out outside of the box into the bottom corner. Defoe doesn’t seem to have lost a yard and his performance against Swansea showed he still has pace, directness and most importantly that lethal goal-scoring ability. Defoe could be the smartest acquisition of the transfer window and could save a drab Sunderland this season.
I think we’ve all run out of superlatives for Harry Kane. Every week I keep expecting this guy to drop off but he just does the opposite and goes up another level time after time. Kane is showing himself to be a complete forward with everything in his wheel house and is looking like a true top four striker. And lets not forget; this is his first full Premier League season having only featured in the tail end of Spurs last campaign. The question no longer needs to be asked about whether or not he should get an England call up; this guy should start in an England shirt.