Because I don’t have enough people in my life who are angry at me, or think I’m a moron, today starts a new feature, imaginatively entitled ‘Team of the Week’.
It’s just what it says on the box, but with a twist or two. Goals and assists count, but aren’t determinative: most important is a strong performance over 90 minutes. Whether the team won or lost is largely irrelevant. Also, where possible I’ll try to include more than the usual suspects.
Since Premier League teams play a variety of systems, there’s apt to be a bit of shoehorning, as when someone gets put at right-back who actually played right wing-back. But I’ll try not to go all Garth Crooks on you. This week it’s a 4-2-3-1:
Goalkeeper: Wayne Hennessey (Crystal Palace) A choice between Hennessey and Jack Butland, and Hennessey lost some points when he flapped at a cross from which Joel Matip should have scored. But while he looked awkward at times, he made several very good saves to keep the score respectable, and Butland’s task was overall easier.
Right Back: Mason Holgate (Everton) Edges out Pablo Zabaleta. Both players had a strong game with a crucial error near the end, with Holgate the choice for making Leroy Sané disappear. His passing was a bit erratic, but he got forward to contribute a few times, including in the build-up for the goal.
Centre-Half: Sebastian Prödl (Watford) To the rescue after a shaky performance by the Hornets’ defenders the week before. Authoritative from start to finish. The rest of the back line looked much more confident with him in the line-up.
Centre-Half: Nathan Aké (Bournemouth) A tough choice here, but Aké, after an early uncalled handball, played intelligently and confidently throughout against a Watford onslaught. Others worth saluting are Scott Dann, who cleared everything in sight, and Christopher Schindler, who made some outstanding plays and was dominant at the finish.
Left-back: Andrew Robertson (Liverpool) Okay, Joel Ward is not a wing-back, but Robertson still seemed to be part of every important Liverpool attack. Wasn’t seriously tested in defence, though, where he’s still suspect. If Marcos Alonso’s second goal had been unsaveable, he might have got the nod. Leighton Baines in the running here with some great defence.
Deep midfield: Mousa Dembélé (Tottenham) What a player.
Deep midfield: Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City) Dominant in the middle, unbeatable in the air, and got forward to support the attack. Brighton might not be the toughest opponent, but you couldn’t have asked for more on Saturday. David Luiz belongs with this group too.
Attacking midfield: Nathan Redmond (Southampton) This kid is good and getting better. You think of him as a shifty, twisty dribbler, but it was his passing that really stood out against West Ham. Nominally playing on the left, he frequently moved into the middle to run the attack. Right now he’s behind only Özil and Mkhitaryan in key passes.
Attacking midfield: Richarlison (Watford) Unplayable, at least by Adam Smith. Tricky on the ball and a good target man to boot. His goal was scrappy, but the second effort showed he’s more than just technique. The Pozzos triumph again.
Attacking midfield: Michail Antonio (West Ham United) Played only 67 minutes, but most of them in rampage mode. Won headers, charged forward on long powerful runs, turned and shot hard with his weaker foot to set up a rebound goal for Chicharito. Nice to have him back. Riyad Mahrez would have been a fine choice as well, Matt Phillips was very good for West Brom and yes, Mesut Özil deserved consideration too.
Striker: Javier Hernandez (West Ham United) And here’s Chicharito. Two classic predator goals, and much more. Covered a large area, sent in some excellent crosses, even did some dirty work in left midfield when Diafra Sakho was put up top. A pleasure to watch.