As we draw close to the end of the first half of the Premier League, Chelsea continues to sit atop the pile with their six-point lead. Many will say Arsenal have gone back to their rightful place in the world – back to fourth after their defeat against Manchester City. Liverpool were almost held to a draw but for Daniel Sturridge’s inspired bit of work in injury time that allowed Sadio Mane to score and Manchester United achieved a healthy victory against West Brom.
With more changes wrought at the bottom and middle of the table, here’s a look at Sportskeeda’s Team of the Week:
Sunderland goalkeeper Jordan Pickford has become crucial to the club’s survival this season as the shot stopper is sometimes the only thing standing between his team and yet another defeat. The 22-year-old kept his goal safe during the match against Watford and helped lift his team above bottom place in the league with a total of four saves.
Cesar Azpilicueta or Dave, as Chelsea fans fondly call him, really can’t seem to make any mistakes this season. Whether it’s a back four or a back three, the Spaniard is a rock-solid presence in the heart of the Blues’ defence and proved it further against Crystal Palace. He made the all-important assist for Diego Costa’s only goal for the side and went on to keep the Eagles out to retain their six-point lead at the top of the table.
Marcos Rojo is more often than not criticised for his rash defending but the 26-year-old kept a level head against West Bromwich Albion. His minor scuffle with Salomon Rondon notwithstanding, the Argentine made 14 clearances against the Baggies, more than any of his other teammates and showed some great defensive resolution while under pressure.
Winston Reid had a good game against Hull City as West Ham United was able to put some distance between themselves and the drop zone. The New Zealand international was precise making a total of 39 successful passes The centre-back could be seen taking on the opposition head-on making a combined five interceptions aginst the Tigers.
Patrick van Aanholt
Patrick van Aanholt has been just as his good as his keeper Jordan Pickford. The Dutch defender has been very impressive for the Black Cats and came through for his team once again during their fixture against Watford. Not only did the left-back keep the Hornets at bay but scored his side’s only goal making sure their Christmas weekend doesn’t begin at the absolute bottom of the table.
Young Leroy Sane shone for the Citizens this past weekend in the absence of Sergio Aguero. The 20-year-old had a great game against Arsenal as he scored Manchester City’s equaliser soon after the start of the second half. The Gunners didn’t have the first clue about dealing with the German as he kept running into gaps in their defence thereby exposing their seemingly impenetrable defence.
The West Ham United skipper came through for the Hammers from the spot in the 75th minute to hand his team the win over Hull City. His passing in the midfield area was key to maintaining possession and helped them direct the tempo of the game as well. With an 85% passing accuracy in the final third, he was Slaven Bilic’s side’s most influential player.
Kevin de Bruyne
Kevin de Bruyne’s form has suffered like the rest of his team’s but they all seemed to put that behind them against Arsenal. The Belgian kept up a flurry of crosses from the wings, seven in total and created as many goalscoring opportunities too. His passing was accurate as the Belgian also made 10 recoveries. The 25-year-old capped off his night by providing the assist for Raheem Sterling’s winning goal earning them three points.
Manchester City reject Alvaro Negredo is doing quite well for himself in Middlesbrough. The Spaniard's double against Swansea City in the first-half all but ensured a victory for Aitor Karanka’s side as they rose to 14th position in the table. His first goal was an outstanding volley that left Lukasz Fabianski with no hope of saving it and his second came from the spot after Adam Forshaw had been fouled by Jordi Amat.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic proved that he can still win matches for his side after he scored a double against West Bromwich Albion. The Manchester United forward scored headed in his first goal of the night from a Jesse Lingard cross and then got really lucky with his second goal as his shot deflected off Gareth McAuley and found the back of the net. However, his little bit of skill before he took the shot was nothing short of genius.
Southampton has really struggled to net goals in the absence of a natural forward but Jay Rodrguez made them forget about that particular problem during their match against Bournemouth. The Saints came from behind to win the match but not before Rodriguez had bagged a double for his side. His first goal was courtesy Artur Boruc’s mistake as the goalkeeper left his goal unguarded. His second came in the final five minutes of the game as he aimed a powerful drive into the back of the net, making it his first brace since March 2014.
Pep Guardiola has definitely been knocked down a few pegs since his arrival to the Premier League but the Spaniard found something to celebrate ahead of the Christmas weekend. In spite of falling behind to Arsenal in the first half, Manchester City was able to fight back and win at home after Guardiola realised Arsenal was nowhere near performing at their best that night. Without the likes of Fernandinho and Sergio Aguero to boost his team, Guardiola made the most of the Gunners lack of resolve to rise to third place.
Where does Mane rank in Paul Merson's 5 greatest Liverpool signings of the Klopp era? Click here