Five-a-side TOTW: May 22nd 2017

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

The final day of the Premier League season is always an odd occasion. Whether it be weakened teams, barmy goal fests, emotional farewells or even suspicious devices, there is always something intriguing that occurs, and the last day of this season was certainly no different. Realistically there was only one issue that needed to be resolved; the Champions League places. With only champions Chelsea, and runners up Tottenham assured of qualification to Europe’s premier football competition, there were still two places up for grabs, with Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal vying for those final two spots. City and Liverpool knew that wins against Watford and Middlesbrough respectively would guarantee their places at the high table, while Arsenal knew they had to win at home to Everton and hope that their rivals would slip up.

Goalkeeper – Castro Pereira

Who? Yes that’s right. Manchester United’s Swiss born Portuguese goalkeeper was making only his second United appearance and his first in the Premier League. He was facing a Crystal Palace side that had flirted with relegation throughout much of the season but had recently enjoyed some fairly impressive. The twenty-year-old looked confident and assured throughout United’s comfortable 2-0 victory. Standing at over 1.90 metres he certainly looks like he has the physical attributes to become a top class Premier League stopper. His United future will largely depend on where David De Gea ends up plying his trade next season, however he will have done himself no harm with this impressive display.

The Stopper – Vincent Kompany

There can be no doubt at all that Manchester City are a different team when their captain is fit. Had he been fit for the whole season we may well have seen Pep Guardiola’s team mounting a more serious title challenge. The Citizens captain only featured 11 times in the league this season yet still managed to aid his sides cause with three goals. Going into the final round of fixtures City knew that a win would guarantee them third place and as a result automatic qualification to the Champions League group stages. Nevertheless, they faced what could have been a sticky fixture away at Watford who had just confirmed that the game would be Walter Mazzari’s last in charge. Kompany led the City charge and calmed what may have been any jangling nerves with a smart header within five minutes of the kick off. It set the tone for an easy afternoon for the two-time Premier League champions, who ran out 5-0 winners in the end.

The Middleman – Georginio Wijnaldum 

My word does this guy score important goals. Already a scorer of vital goals against Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal, the ex-Feyenord and Newcastle man can now add Middlesbrough to his already impressive repertoire! While the opponents might not be as illustrious, the goal itself was absolutely crucial. Liverpool knew that only a win would guarantee qualification for the Champions League and prior to Wijnaldum’s intervention Liverpool had been struggling. They were extremely fortunate not to have found themselves a man down after Dejan Lovren inexplicably pulled Patrick Bamford down when through on goal. With half time approaching, Wijnaldum grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and produced a fierce strike to give the Red Men a lead that they would never surrender. Further further goals from Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana sealed an easy 3-0 win.

The Free Role – Josh Harrop 

Again, you may ask “who?” Well this young man had a Manchester United debut to remember as he opened the scoring in United’s 2-0 win at Old Trafford. The Stockport born winger looked lively on his professional debut and capped off an impressive display with a brilliant individual goal. Receiving the ball on the left hand side, the 21 year old cut inside, jinked his way around several Palace defenders before blasting the ball beyond a hapless Wayne Hennessey. United fans love nothing more than a homegrown player and it will be really interesting to see whether Harrop is able to kick on next season.

The Finisher – Harry Kane

Realistically, who else was going to get the nod here? Kane is simply the best striker in the Premier League and one of the best, if not the best, in the world. In a season disrupted by injury, the Tottenham No.10 has still managed a staggering 29 goals in 30 Premier League appearances. His four goals against a desperately poor Leicester side in midweek were followed up by an equally impressive hat-trick against already relegated Hull City. Remarkably, there are still those who seem to be waiting, even hoping, for the wheels to fall off. On this evidence they will be waiting an awfully long time.

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