Five-a-side TOTW: May 2nd 2017

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

With ten teams keeping clean sheets this weekend, we had an opportunity to pick a more defensive five-a-side line-up. Chelsea hammered Everton, Tottenham were crowned undisputed kings of north London, and two Manchester slip ups helped Liverpool gain in the race for Champions League football.

Goalkeeper – Tom Heaton.

Big Tom is back between the sticks after helping Burnley produce their first away win of the season, simultaneously guaranteeing their safety and putting to bed any rumours that Joey Barton’s gambling offenses would rock the boat. Another clean sheet came after a busy match for the Englishman with the pick of his stops coming from Damien Delaney’s close range effort.

The Stopper – Gary Cahill

Whilst his goal against Everton was nothing more than a fortunate ricochet, six Premier League goals suggest Gary Cahill is one of the best finishers plying their trade at centre half. Another accomplished display against Everton made me wonder if I’d written off Cahill too soon. Though he’s been solid for most of the campaign, I expected Chelsea to consider replacing him in the summer. Strong end of season form suggests there is no need. He’d probably top score for this five-a-side team.

The Presence – Victor Wanyama

The slightly flashier and more refined Moussa Dembele often draws the plaudits for Tottenham but Victor Wanyama has developed into a wonderful midfielder this season. Tottenham looked better in every department against their eternal rivals Arsenal and Wanyama typified their desire. Surprisingly cool on the ball, the Kenyan came into his own in physical battles and looked exactly the sort of player Arsenal were missing. Although, in fairness, there’s about twenty seven players that Arsenal are missing.

The Acrobat – Emre Can

Emre Can is another centre midfielder who’s bridged across to a new level in recent months. The German looked a great acquisition at the start of the 2015 season but his development stalled amidst much frustration from Anfield.  His character was never in question but silly tackles and hesitance on the ball made for a difficult second season. He’s been much improved in recent months – in the absence of Jordon Henderson – and impressed again this weekend at Watford. Enough waffling… the German makes our team because of his sensational, surprising, top corner, match-winning bicycle kick.

The Runner – Pedro

Pedro’s played football for a lot of great sides and never struck me as anything more than a nuisance. Clearly skilful, the Spaniard wasn’t a roaring success when he first arrived at Stamford Bridge but has edged his way into the first team. In recent games he has looked a much better player than I ever expected. He finally seems settled under Antonio Conte and proved to be the game-changer when lashing in Chelsea’s opening goal against Everton midway through the second half. He’s a tidy finisher and deserves to the lead the line in this week’s team.


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Five-a-side TOTW: April 4th 2017

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

Great weekend! Crystal Palace rocked up to Stamford Bridge and did the unthinkable. The Blues’ lead was cut to a measly seven points meaning Tottenham could catch them if they, erm, lose their next three games. Elsewhere, Liverpool’s undefeated streak in Merseyside derbies continued with a 3-1 victory, Arsenal fought back to draw 2-2 with Manchester City and Middlesbrough failed to score a goal for the fifth time in six games.

Goalkeeper – Wayne Hennessey

Perhaps it’s the number of substandard performances Hennessey has produced this year that makes his presence in TOTW an absolute certainty when he does eventually turn up. The whole Crystal Palace team played well – Sakho again looked first class– but the league leaders troubled Hennessey on more than one occasion. The Welshman rose to the task stopping strikes from Diego Costa, Nemanja Matic and Cesc Fabregas once The Eagles had grabbed an early lead.

The Force – Wilfred Ndidi

After showing whispers of potential under Claudio Ranieri, Ndidi has come alive during Leicester’s upturn in form. The Nigerian gives The Foxes’ centre midfield a physical boost but, crucially, he hasn’t tried to be Ngolo Kante. Unable to offer Leicester’s back four the same level of unbelievable protection, Ndidi has made the headlines at the other end of the pitch scoring a number of memorable goals. Against Stoke City on Saturday he rattled in a superb strike, arrowing the ball into the top corner of Lee Grant’s net. He’s 20.

The Runner – Kamil Grosicki

With Leicester climbing to safety, Middlesbrough falling off a cliff and Sunderland frozen on five wins, we seem to be gearing up for a relegation battle between Hull City and Swansea. Though Swansea appear to have the upper hand more results such as Hull’s 2-1 victory over West Ham could see Marco Silva’s side pull off an unlikely escape. The talented Grosicki has only shown glimpses of form since joining from France but was a real menace on Saturday. He saw plenty of the ball and provided crosses for both of Hull’s goals. He should feature again in the midweek fixtures.

The Playmaker – Philippe Coutinho

Coutinho’s form over the past few months has been a dismal reflection of his pre-Christmas contribution. It’s no surprise this dip coincided with an injury recovery and no surprise Liverpool’s results took a turn for the worse. Fresh off the back of a fine goal for Brazil, Coutinho was back to his old tricks in Saturday’s Merseyside derby. With Lucas Leiva and Emre Can doing much of the dirty work, he was afforded the space he so loves to exploit. He gave the Everton backline a torrid time and scored the sort of curling effort he attempts nearly every match.

Free Role – Wilfried Zaha

With six goals and seven assists, Zaha is beginning to show the sort of form your mate from Crystal Palace has been telling you about for five years. There’s no denying his ability to trouble defences and Chelsea’s back three were made to work very hard in the opening half hour. Zaha netted Palace’s first before laying on Christian Benteke – who also impressed – for a quick-fire second. The Zaha-Grosicki-Coutinho combination would be a joy to watch on a five-a-side pitch.


Mike Franchetti

Five-a-side TOTW: February 28th 2017

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

Another round of fixtures saw Leicester bounce back without Ranieri and Liverpool continue their poor 2017 form. Chelsea extended their lead at the top due to Manchester City’s fixture postponement. Finally, Crystal Palace got only their third home win of the season – is Big Sam’s ‘bounce’ about to kick in?

Goalkeeper – Wayne Hennessey

On a weekend when Jordan Pickford made his return, making the highest number of saves (6) for the fixture list, you may be forgiven for thinking the young Sunderland keeper would ease his was into our team. However, the plaudits this week go to Wayne Hennessey. It is fair to say, after a great summer with the Welsh national team, Wayne hasn’t enjoyed his season so far with Palace. Steve Mandanda was acquired in the summer as the team’s new number one and with the Frenchman out injured, Hennessey hasn’t exactly been a safe pair of hands in a struggling Palace side. This weekend, he made four important saves for his team as they got vital points against relegation rivals, Middlesbrough. He’ll be needing to do more of the same in order to keep his side in the league next season.

The Stopper – Michael Keane

This is a young defender who will have a long and successful career ahead of him. This season he has been terrific and a huge factor in Burnley’s fortunes. He experienced a hectic five-minute spell against Hull, giving away a penalty for the opener (albeit a poor refereeing decision) then scoring the equaliser at the other end from a Robbie Brady corner. Keane showed great composure to take the ball on his chest and slot home from close range. A contender for young player of the season?

If John Stones is worth £50 million, Keane should bring in double that!

The Playmaker – Cesc Fabregas

I believe most clubs across Europe look to Chelsea with envy when they see Cesc Fabregas warming the bench for The Blues. When involved, he has been electric for the table toppers with his passing and chance creation. On Saturday, it was Fabregas’ three-hundredth premier league appearance and he marked the occasion with a goal and an assist. This being his 103rd assist in the English top tier. A quite phenomenal statistic, particularly when you consider this total is only behind Wayne Rooney (104) and Ryan Giggs (131) who have both played many more games. Whether he stays in West London next season is yet to be confirmed, but there could only be a few clubs in the world who wouldn’t benefit greatly from his services.

Another Playmaker – Christian Eriksen

One is normally enough, but why have one when you can have two? Eriksen has been in great form for Spurs this season and is seemingly showing his doubters exactly what he can offer on the pitch. After a successful campaign last year, Spurs have been under pressure to continue their momentum and it is arguable that Eriksen has been their most improved player. Two assists on Sunday put him at the top of the charts with ten in total. He often seems to be the driving force as Spurs take possession into the final third and they’ll need to keep him purring if they are going to get any closer to the top of the table.

The Finisher – Harry Kane

Another hattrick for Harry Kane. He expertly finished twice, and once with a stroke of luck, to steal the show against Stoke at White Hate Lane. The England forward is on track to make it back-to-back golden boots. Three hattricks in his last nine appearances would suggest this will be Kane’s year, again. There has been talk of Kane going for Shearer’s all time record but that is still some way off. First he needs to ensure Spurs get Champions League football. Maybe not this season, but his second aim will be to continue them on a path as true title contenders. As time goes on, it seems as though the wait to be domestic champions won’t be long.


Jack B. Parker