Five-a-side TOTW: March 21st 2017

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

Chelsea continued their march towards the title with an impressive win over Stoke City. West Brom shocked Arsenal at The Hawthorns, and Manchester United won at Middlesbrough. The best viewing was at The Etihad as Manchester City and Liverpool played out a very entertaining one-all draw. Elsewhere there were wins for Crystsal Palace, Everton, Bournemouth, Leicester, and Spurs. But who did enough to earn a place in Someone On the Post’s coveted five-a-side TOTW?

Goalkeeper – Tom Heaton

The Burnley stopper has excelled this season, and this has been evident by the fact that he has been included in our five-a-side TOTW no fewer than 5 times. Burnley’s trip to relegation favourites Sunderland was always likely to be a tricky affair. The Clarets had picked up just one point on their travels prior to Saturday’s dour 0-0 draw at the Stadium of Light. Although both teams were impotent in front of goal, Heaton always looked assured when called upon. It makes such a difference knowing you have a top keeper between the sticks.

Stopper – Mamadou Sakho

People accuse me of bias, and they probably do have a point – but I don’t really care. I love this guy and I am not ashamed to admit it. Since his introduction to the team in late February, the Eagles have won three consecutive games, all while keeping clean sheets. The big-Frenchmen is not solely responsible for this of course, however his strength, power, pace and reading of the game has certainly contributed to Palace’s upturn in form. How Liverpool could do with a central defender of his calibre…

The Anchor – Craig Dawson

I know this makes this team very defensive, but how can you leave out a defender who scores two goals? The simple answer is that you can’t! Dawson’s brace came from corners – it was almost as if West Brom had done their homework and decided to target Arsenal’s vulnerability in the air. Arsenal certainly had not done theirs, and it was evident as feeble marking allowed the ex-Rochdale man to treble his goal tally for the season in one afternoon.

The Playmaker – Jesse Lingard

I have been a fierce critic of his, and I must admit I continue to be unconvinced by his ability to hack it at both Manchester United or at international level with England. Yet even my cynicism cannot deny that Lingard’s performance, albeit against a woeful Middlesbrough side, was absolutely outstanding. He caused havoc amongst the Boro defence – taking them on at will and looking to run in behind. His goal was absolutely superb too. Receiving the ball just inside the Middlesbrough half, he ran at the retreating defenders before unleashing a ferocious shot into the top corner. It really was a sensational goal, and it capped off a very impressive individual performance.

The Finisher – Romelu Lukaku

If he is going to leave Everton in the summer he looks determined to do so as the leagues top scorer. His two goals on Saturday were typical strikers goals; what’s more they took his tally beyond 20 goals for the season – the first Everton player to do that since one Gary Lineker. Lukaku is a brilliant striker – big, strong, and deceivingly quick. The Belgian really does tick all the boxes. It is no surprise that some of Europe’s biggest clubs are sniffing around the ex-Chelsea striker. Still only 23, his best years are almost certainly ahead of him. Everton don’t want him to leave, and the fans sang his name throughout the 4-0 win over Hull. It will be interesting to see how his future plays out in the next few months.

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Five-a-side TOTW: January 24th 2017

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

Chelsea and Arsenal were the only two sides from the top six to win last weekend with Liverpool’s unbeaten Anfield streak coming to a crashing end against Swansea. It was also the week Wayne Rooney finally broke Sir Bobby Charlton’s Manchester United goalscoring record. I’m not going to lie; this week’s team is pretty strange.

Goalkeeper – Tom Heaton

Tom Heaton wins the ‘Lee Grant, Tom Heaton or Jordan Pickford’ award this week as our struggles to highlight genuinely good goalkeeping continues. Hugo Lloris was good for a while before making two pretty horrendous mistakes against Manchester City, whilst Wayne Hennessey had a reasonable game in the Crystal Palace goal until losing his clean sheet in the dying moments. What more can we say about Heaton? When Burnley visited the Emirates we all knew he would be in for a busy game and he continued to look like a future England goalkeeper. He’s one of the best in the Premier League right now and I’d swap him for either of Liverpool’s keepers. He may be annoyed he couldn’t stop Alexis Sanchez’s dinked penalty.

The Anchor – Darren Fletcher

Two weeks ago we had Michael Carrick, last week Gareth Barry and this week Darren Fletcher; good times for experienced midfielders who probably shouldn’t be playing as well as they are. Fletcher performs a similar role to his more naturally-gifted contemporaries, offering West Brom a wealth of experience in the middle of the park. He helped his side keep a clean sheet against Sunderland on Saturday but that’s not really why he’s made our team. With the ball dropping down from Gareth McAuley’s flicked header, Fletcher channelled his inner-Ronaldo before chesting the ball and hooking it exquisitely over his shoulder into the far corner. Cracking goal.

The Playmaker – Tom Carroll

It’s not hard to pick holes in Liverpool’s defence – but someone still has to do it. In Swansea’s shock 2-3 victory at Anfield on Saturday that man was Tom Carroll. On his debut for Swansea he displayed the sort of confidence his teammates have been lacking throughout their torrid run. Paul Clement has plenty of work to do defensively but will be pleased to have Carroll share playmaking responsibilities with Gylfi Sigurdsson. Swansea had just 26% of the ball and Carroll’s ventures into the Liverpool half gave his teammates a crucial breather. Warning signs were apparent when he struck the post in the first half and his weighted cross to Fernando Llorente helped put the Swans 2-0 up. Arguably his most vital contribution came late in the game. His direct running once again caused the Liverpool defence to panic and a ricochet off Ragnar Klaven lead to Sigurdsson’s surprise winner.

The Big Man – Andy Carroll

From one Carroll to another, everyone’s favourite £35 million Geordie has been in cracking form for West Ham. Last week he scored the goal of the season (yep – it will be) and this week he looked every bit the predator bagging two goals away at Middlesbrough. By all accounts Andy Carroll is a good guy and most of the footballing world will want him to stay fit for the rest of the season. If he does, he could creep towards 15 Premier League goals and re-establish himself as the best ‘big man’ in the country. It’s too easy to tie Dimitri Payet’s sulk to West Ham’s upturn in form, but you can imagine Carroll being one of the most outspoken in the dressing room and it does look to have brought the rest of the group closer together. He might struggle on a five-a-side pitch but he’d be great entertainment.

The Talisman – Wayne Rooney

Over the last few months it looked as though Wayne Rooney’s record-breaking 250th goal would be a scrappy jab, flick or poke against the likes of Reading, Wigan or FC Copenhagen. It looked like a burden that Rooney was itching to get out of the way. It even crossed my mind that the 250th goal would be accompanied by a peaceful transfer request and a move to the MLS (he doesn’t strike me as a China-sorta-guy). It would have been a shame for it to end this way; Rooney has had a brilliant career and has grown into a remarkably selfless footballer. It was therefore fantastic that the record-breaking goal was actually a stunning 94th minute free kick to earn Manchester United a dramatic point away to Stoke. It was a near-perfect moment. United were unbeaten for the best part of three months and their divisive club captain ensured the run would continue. He celebrated like a man who had just got his team out of trouble rather than one who had broken the goal-scoring record at the biggest club in England. I would love him on my five-a-side team and I hope he extends the record by at least 10 more goals.


Mike Franchetti

Five-a-side TOTW: November 1st 2016

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

With Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool hitting four away from home we had plenty of firepower to choose from this week. Chelsea also turned in another impressive performance as they fill the last Champions League spot in a formidable top four. This week’s team would make for a pretty entertaining game of five-a-side.

Goalkeeper – Tom Heaton

An obvious choice in goal, Burnley’s Heaton made 11 saves in his side’s vital draw at Old Trafford. The former United youth is having a fantastic season and would be unlucky to remain on just one England cap for much longer. His string of saves contributed to a frustrating afternoon for the Red Devils resulting in both Jose Mourinho and Ander Herrera losing their cool. Arguably his best save came after an hour’s play when he denied Zlatan Ibrahimovic from close range – it’s worth a watch.

The Sweeper – David Luiz

Many believe David Luiz is an accident waiting to happen but the Brazilian has slotted nicely into Antonio Conte’s back three. He forms part of a Blues backline that haven’t conceded in four league games and deserves credit for the way he’s fulfilled his defensive duties. Nevertheless, his strengths remain in carrying the ball from the back and he can now afford to do so with the cover offered by Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilacueta.

The Anchor – Jordan Henderson

Liverpool’s midfield is so packed with match-winners that captain Henderson has had to tweak his role. With no genuine defensive midfielder, he often finds himself dropping deep to collect the ball. Henderson doesn’t offer too much protection to Liverpool’s shaky backline but he’s vital in kick-starting attacks. Increasingly confident on the ball, Henderson was a calming influence in an otherwise chaotic away game at Crystal Palace. He slid through Roberto Firminho for Liverpool’s fourth to end the Eagles’ hopes of a third equalizer.

The Talisman – Sergio Aguero

Alan Shearer recently lauded Aguero as the ‘only world class Premier League player’ and whilst many were quick to throw others into the mix, nobody disagreed on the Argentinian. Usually the most prolific of strikers, Aguero had failed to score in eight games for club and country before Saturday’s fixture against West Brom. It took less than 20 minutes for him to end this streak and two deadly finishes put City on their way to a comfortable and much needed victory.

The Finisher – Romelu Lukaku

When Lukaku visits the London Stadium in April he’ll be aiming to score in his eighth straight game against West Ham – equalling Robin Van Persie’s record (vs. Stoke) for streaks against one club. Everton marched onwards at home to the Hammers with Lukaku nodding in the first and floating the ball to Ross Barkley for the second. The performances of the big Belgian will be crucial to Everton’s European hopes and more games like Saturday’s could see him land some personal honours too.

Five-a-side TOTW: October 25th 2016

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

Just 19 goals in the Premier League this weekend. Best viewing was at Stamford Bridge as Jose Mourinho endured a dismal Chelsea return as his Manchester United side slumped to a four-nil defeat. Chelsea’s win means that the top five teams are now separated by just one solitary point.

Goalkeeper – Tom Heaton

He didn’t keep a clean sheet, but the ex-Manchester United youth had a fine game as Burnley claimed their third win of the season. Heaton made a couple of excellent saves to keep his team in it during the early exchanges, and again when the scores were tied at one-all. If Burnley are going to stay up this season then Heaton will have to turn in many similarly high class performances.

The Stopper – Winston Reid

West Ham boss Slaven Bilic has changed to a back three in recent weeks, and Reid looks to be thriving at the heart of the defence. Last week he made it into our 5TOTW due to his rock solid performance as West Ham won at Crystal Palace. This week he was once again imperious defensively, but also the match winner at the other end. However, his brilliant stoppage time turn and shot had more than a hint of fortune about it as Manuel Lanzini looked to be standing offside and within Jordan Pickford’s line of vision when the ball was struck. Nevertheless, Reid won’t care one bit, as his goal helped West Ham record back-to-back victories for the first time this season.

The Ball Winner – N’Golo Kanté

Once again the diminutive Frenchmen was absolutely sensational. He, like Reid, makes our team for the second week in a row. Last week we accused him of missing a guilt edged opportunity; this time around he would make no mistake. His goal was the final nail in the Manchester United coffin, and didn’t he just take it brilliantly? Ghosting past the Manchester United midfield, he then effortlessly turned United defender Chris Smalling inside-out before drilling a smart finish beyond the despairing David De Gea. Clearly a popular scorer, his goal was wildly celebrated by Chelsea players and fans alike.

Free Role – Xherdan Shaqiri

This man has got a penchant for spectacular goals. Whilst neither of his two goals at Hull City quite lived up to the outrageous overhead kick he scored at Euro 2016, they are both more than likely to feature on October’s goal of the month shortlist. The first was a sensational strike from the edge of the area, the second, a sumptuous free-kick, wasn’t too bad either. Stoke have made a poor start to the season, with Shaqiri looking somewhat subdued and off the pace. However, if he can find some consistent form and turn in further high quality performances, they will almost certainly continue to climb the table.

The Runner – Shinji Okazaki

Leicester’s title success was always likely to mean they would invest heavily in their squad. Okazaki has sadly been a victim of this increased expenditure, seemingly falling behind club record signing, Islam Slimani, in the pecking order. Nevertheless, the Japan international is a fine player, and the archetypal team man. He should have capitalised on an early mistake by Crystal Palace goalkeeper Steve Mandanda, however his attempted chip flew well wide of the target. His goal did eventually come just after the hour mark as he seized on Damien Delaney’s clearance to drive home from just inside the area.

Five-a-side TOTW: August 23rd 2016

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

Manchester claims the top two spots and the promoted sides grab precious victories. Here’s our Five-a-side Team of The Week.

Goalkeeper – Tom Heaton

With Liverpool rolling the ball around and racking up 80% possession, Burnley’s Heaton couldn’t afford to let his guard down.  The Chester born goalkeeper looked comfortable throughout his side’s 2-0 victory, gathering crosses with ease and stopping all the on-target strikes Liverpool could muster. A good season back in the Premier League will almost certainly see Heaton take his place in the England squad and extra motivation comes in the form of Joe Hart’s shaky Euros and recent demotion at Manchester City.

The Ball Winner – Curtis Davies

Ridiculed pre-season for seemingly weakening their squad since promotion, Hull City have collected six points from two games and sit third in the table. A mishmash backline sees midfielder Jake Livermore start alongside Curtis Davies at centre-back yet they’ve resembled a cohesive pair for much of the opening fixtures. Davies has never looked to have the measure of the Premier League but has found consistency at Hull and was great this past Saturday against Swansea. His heading prowess won’t be utilized at five-a-side but he’d act as our defensive rock.

Playmaker – Steven Defour

Nine of Liverpool’s starting XI made more than 50 passes on Saturday whilst just three of Burnley’s attempted over 20 (Heaton made the most!). Instead, Burnley setup with two banks of four and were remarkably disciplined, completely negating their opponent’s threat. Many of Burnley’s squad were well-rehearsed in this department, but new man Steven Defour was asked to slip seamlessly into the system. He worked hard all game and also acted as the main link to the front two, playing through Andre Gray for Burnley’s second.

The Finisher – Christian Stuani

So Jordan Rhodes finally gets a chance to score goals in the Premier League and he finds himself behind an ardent Alvaro Negredo and a brace-grabbing Christian Stuani. Both starred on Saturday lunchtime with Stuani putting Boro ahead with a hammer of a strike inside the first twenty minutes. The former Espanyol striker could easily have found himself the one on the bench following promotion but two goals against rivals Sunderland – and a blossoming relationship with Negredo – will stand him in fine stead.

Free Role – Zlatan Ibrahimović

I’m not sure Ibrahimović has the mindset for five-a-side football but I’m certain he’d score goals. The big man has brought to the Premier League everything he promised and there are no signs of the shortfalls some people predicted.  He keeps scoring for United which will top up his already over-flowing confidence. There have been no signs of his ego causing problems and he looks to have given a boost to each of his teammates. He stuck two away vs. Southampton on Friday and suddenly breaking the 30-goal mark looks ominously possible*.

*I still don’t think he’ll get 20