By Neil Leverett and Niall Clarke
- Arsenal takes the spoils in our XI this week, with three names making our grade after the Gunners finally inflict a league defeat on Ole Gunner Solskjaer’s Manchester United
- Liverpool and Manchester City continue their title battles after wins against plucky opposition
- Tottenham Hotspur slip to the third defeat in four, as Southampton come from behind at St. Marys’
PREMIER LEAGUE, UK – After being frustrated in the north London derby against Spurs last weekend, Arsenal take the plaudits in GW30 after beating the Red Devils 2-0.
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Goalkeeper & Defenders
Bernd Leno (GK) – Arsenal secured a big win at home to Manchester United on Sunday, defeating the Red Devils 2-0 to inflict Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first league defeat as manager. Leno was in fine form during the win, producing four saves on the day including two crucial ones to deny Romelu Lukaku. The German’s transfer to North London has been a topic of debate on whether he was worth the money they paid, but with performances like this he certainly can live up to his price tag.
Yan Valery (RB) – Every win is vital when fighting relegation, and Southampton’s against Tottenham could prove to be a turning point as they fight for their Premier League status. The Saints were 1-0 down until Valery struck to level the match with 15 minutes to go. The Frenchman’s goal was the catalyst for a late surge which saw Southampton overturn their deficit to win 2-1. Valery has now scored in back-to-back games and his contributions have earned him a place in our team of the week.
Lewis Dunk (CB) – Brighton faced an onslaught in many ways against Crystal Palace. The hosts had 63% of possession and had 15 shots in total to visitor’s four, but the Seagulls emerged victorious on the day. Dunk and Shane Duffy were excellent, making numerous of tackles and clearances between them, but the Englishman gets the nod over his team-mate as he provided the assist from a raking ball from the back to provide Glenn Murray’s opener and made four blocks and five clearances alone.
Sokratis (CB) – It is questionable whether Unai Emery has improved Arsenal’s defence as the season has progressed or not, but it was shown to its full extent as the Gunners kept out an in-form Manchester United side on Sunday. At the heart of the back four was Sokratis who continued his good form with a fine performance at centre-back. The Greek international made four clearances, two tackles and one interception on his way to a clean sheet in difficult conditions.
Joe Bennett (LB) – Despite having to go off with an injury just after the hour-mark, Bennett turned in a fine performance in Cardiff’s 2-0 win over West Ham. Bennett was a constant threat down the left side for the duration he was on the field and did a good job at nullifying Robert Snodgrass. It was not a great week for left-backs but Bennett was one of the stand out performers.
Raheem Sterling (RM) – Sterling has perhaps taken somewhat of backseat in the goal stakes of late, what with Kun Aguero’s winning February’s Player of the Month award, but against a plucky Watford side, the England flyer catapulted himself back into full focus. Scoring a hat-trick against the Hornets, the Citizens patience finally paid off at the Etihad and as the final weeks of the season approach, Sterling is going to vital if City are to fend off Liverpool and retain their league crown.
Granit Xhaka (CM) – Arguably the fulcrum of Arsenal’s win against United was in defence, however the contributions of the oft-maligned Xhaka were vital in ending Solskjaer’s unbeaten run. The Swiss midfielder’s perhaps fortunate strike to open the scoring was the perfect platform for the win, but his five crosses in total continued the Gunner’s threat, with two interceptions keeping a rather leggy United at bay.
Dale Stephens (CM) – Given Crystal Palace’s form, the Seagulls win at Selhurst Park was mightily impressive and Stephens effort was the driving force behind the win for Chris Hughton’s men in their on-going rivalry with the south Londoners. The midfield supplied the assist for Anthony Knockaert‘s spectacular long-rang drive to seal the win, but also made three interceptions and four tackles or blocks.
Sadio Mane (LM) – Liverpool again began shakily against a Burnley side that were expected to provide little challenge for Jurgen Klopp‘s men ahead of their trip to Munich, and after the Clarets netted twice at Anfield, Mane’s brace proved vital. Leveling the scores against the shell-shocked Reds, the Senegalese forward added a second late on as the hosts keep neck-and-neck with the reigning Premier League champions Manchester City.
Jamie Vardy – Brendan Rodgers has been known to get the best out of his front line during his time in not only England but also Scotland and in the space of just two league games, it appears Vardy is reaping the benefits now. Scoring his third in two outings after an inconsistent campaign, the Foxes striker pounced on the continued defensive malaises of Fulham to net a double. Vardy also turned provider for the impressive Youri Tielemans to selflessly tap home into an unguarded net when many would’ve expected the him to shoot. There will surely be more to come from the former England man.
Ayoze Perez – The Magpies stunning turnaround in form was underlined in fine fashion on Saturday, as Rafa Benitez‘s men came from two goals down against Everton to snatch the full points – courtesy in a large way to Perez. Whilst Vardy and Rodgers could go on as quite the harmonious pair, the centre-forward and his compatriot steward are very much working beautifully together this season. Perez continues a somewhat of an unsung hero, and his second and third goals in four games see the forward as very much a cult hero on Tyneside.
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Premier League Gameweek 31 sees Everton host Chelsea at Goodison Park in game of the week
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