Five-a-side TOTW: May 16th 2017

Picking an eleven is hard; picking just five is even harder.

The top and bottom of the Premier League has been decided! Michy Batshuayi ended the title race with his second Premier League goal of the season. At the other end of the table Hull City fell apart against Crystal Palace giving their fans a very disappointing end to a spirited survival fight. A huge win for Liverpool away to West Ham means they are now just one home victory away from a return to Champions League football. Here’s our penultimate five-a-side team of the week. We finally got Sanchez and Coutinho on the same pitch…

Goalkeeper – Lukasz Fabianski

Despite a slump during March and early April, Swansea would be comfortably in the top ten based on their results under Paul Clement. He eventually found a way to remedy their woeful defensive record and Fabianski has upped his game in recent weeks. As dreadful as Sunderland are, they were still able to test the Pole last weekend only to find he had all the answers. Swansea have confirmed their place in the Premier League for another year and Fabianski should keep his job as their number one.

The Anchor – Cesar Azpilicueta

Roll up, roll up, pick your favourite Chelsea defender. Azpilicueta has been very effective this season and a revelation at centre back. He is comfortable on the ball and wonderfully versatile. His key contribution against West Brom on Friday came in the final third when he got round the back to steer a ball into the waiting Batshuayi; a worthy TOTW call-up for one of the league’s best defenders.

The Playmaker – Philippe Coutinho

Liverpool have won ten of the twelve games where Philippe Coutinho has scored or assisted a goal. Simply put, when the Brazilian performs Liverpool usually win. They ran away with it on Sunday dispatching West Ham 4-0 at the Olympic Stadium – a result which will have a huge impact on their pursuit of the top four. The Reds have struggled away to West Ham recently and would have been glad to see the back of the Boelyn Ground. The little Brazilian seemed to benefit from the presence of a recalled Daniel Sturridge and you wonder where Liverpool would be if the two had played together on more occasions this season. If only, if only…

The Talisman – Alexis Sanchez

You can also wonder where Arsenal would be without Alexis Sanchez. The Chilean’s shown himself to be a curious character at times this season but his performances on the pitch have never wavered. My own, unpopular, opinion is that Sanchez is the best footballer in the Premier League. He certainly looked it when dragging Arsenal through back-to-back wins against Stoke (last weekend) and Sunderland (last night). His finishing is electric and he’s now just one behind Lukaku in the race for the Golden Boot. The two will share a pitch this Sunday…

The Finisher – Shinji Okazaki

Last May Leicester were celebrating a miracle. This time around they can at least applaud a stunning goal by the often overlooked Okazaki. They made a game of it against Manchester City proving they really are far too good to go down. The second half was an unpleasant watch for Pep Guardiola after the Japanese international had had fired an acrobatic volley past Claudio Bravo. He rounds off our team this week.


 

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Five-a-side TOTW: November 29th 2016

Picking an eleven is hard; picking just five is even harder.

This weekend saw the Premier League complete its thirteenth round of fixtures,  meaning that we are now a third of the way through what has already been an extraordinary season. Leading the way are Chelsea, however the race for the title looks like it could well go down to the wire, with the gap between them and Arsenal in fourth being a mere four points. Elsewhere, José Mourinho’s Manchester United could only manage a 1-1 draw against West Ham at Old Trafford, leaving them a staggering 11 points off the top. Last seasons champions, Leicester, could only draw 2-2 at home to newly promoted Middlesbrough leaving them way down in 14th place. But who has made it into SOTP’s team of the week?

Goalkeeper – Paul Robinson

It seems like he has been around forever, and how many of us realistically thought we would ever see him keeping in the Premier League again? Indeed this was the first time in over five and a half years that the former England man had appeared in a top flight game. Deputising for the injured Tom Heaton, the 37 year old defied his age and demonstrated great agility and athleticism when producing two quite superb first half saves. The ex-Leeds, Tottenham and Blackburn player really was desperately unlucky to have been beaten twice. He will almost certainly return to the bench once Heaton regains fitness, yet if this was to be his Premier League swansong then he certainly made the most it.

The Stopper – Virgil Van Dijk

Van Dijk was imperious as Southampton defeated Everton 1-0 at St Mary’s. The win will have been all the more sweeter considering it was the much anticipated return of Ronald Koeman. The big-Dutchman really is amongst the best in the league in his position; brilliant on the ball, and crucially, for a central defender at least, excellent defensively. Southampton have kept five Premier League clean sheets and hold the joint-second best defensive record in the league, conceding only 12 goals in 13 games. Van Dijk and his central defensive partner have played a big part in that success. The Saints will do well to keep hold of him in January.

The Runner – Leroy Fer

This man has six Premier League goals this season. Yes, you did read correctly, SIX! That’s more than Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho and Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling. Fer is one of the only Swansea players to have come out with any credit this season. The Swans have been on a dire run, and Saturday’s extraordinary 5-4 win over Crystal Palace was only their second win of the season, and their first since the opening day. Fer scored two goals in as many minutes to give Swansea what looked to be a commanding 3-1 lead. However, like so many times this season their defensive let them down and they trailed 4-3 going into injury time. Up stepped super-sub (unlucky to miss out on this weeks 5TOTW) Fernando Llorente, as his late double sealed a win that lifted Swansea off the bottom of the table, for now at least.

Free Role – Pedro

There were a couple of candidate for this role this week, yet the Spain international gets the nod. With Chelsea trailing Spurs 1-0, the former Barcelona man curled in a brilliant effort just before half time. The goal was not just superb in its execution, but also in its timeliness. Chelsea went in at the break with all the momentum and came out after half time with a great deal of momentum. Victor Moses second half goal gave Chelsea their seventh Premier League win on the bounce, but it was Pedro’s contribution that really changed the game.

The Finisher – Alexis Sanchez

Alexis Sanchez leads the line for the third time this season, yet Manchester City’s Sergio Agüero can count himself a little unlucky to have missed out. Sanchez scored Arsenal’s first and third goals as he took his own personal tally to eight for the season. The Chilean is such a handful; is so full of energy and such a willing runner, defenders can never afford to rest on their laurels when he’s on the pitch. If Arsenal going to mount a genuine title challenge, then they have to make sure that they keep this little maestro fit.