Chelsea contribute the most to this week’s Team of the Week following a convincing victory over Crystal Palace, while Manchester United, Norwich and Sunderland stars turn in important winning performances, and Arsenal and City continue their charges for the title.
Table toppers Arsenal were not as convincing against struggling Newcastle as many expected them to be prior to kick-off, so they had their imperious goalkeeper Petr Cech to thank for their three points.
Cech, who signed from London rivals Chelsea in the summer, made a string of impressive saves – six in total, to start 2016 as his club finished 2015 – with a win.
Georginio Wijnaldum came closest for the visitors, but he, along with the rest of his Newcastle teammates, was kept at bay by the Arsenal number one.
Right-back: Bacary Sagna (Manchester City)
A dramatic turn-around kept Manchester City’s title hopes alive, but it was defender Bacary Sagna who can take a lot of credit for the Citizens remaining in the game for the 90.
Sagna also played a part in goal-scoring, as Sergio Aguero’s bullet header with six minutes remaining was set up by a teasing lofted cross from the French full-back.
He was committed in challenges and was useful when he drifted into the centre to cover for the shaky Nicolas Otamendi and Eliaquim Mangala.
Centre back: James Collins (West Ham United)
West Ham’s sensational record against the so-called bigger clubs carried on at Saturday lunchtime, and centre back James Collins was a rock at the back.
The Hammers have now beaten Liverpool twice this season as a result of their 2-0 win at the weekend, while Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal have also been dealt with, and Manchester United could only manage a 0-0 draw at home.
Collins had Christian Benteke in the palm of his hand – which is no easy task – and limited Philippe Coutinho to endless shots from outside the box, which caused goalkeeper Adrian no problem.
Centre back: Kurt Zouma (Chelsea)
Chelsea’s 3-0 win over Crystal Palace was not exactly one-way traffic, and defender Kurt Zouma was crucial in the Blues keeping their second clean sheet on the bounce.
Zouma made a crucial sliding tackle while at 0-0 to prevent what looked like a clear-cut chance for Palace which, had it ended in a goal, could have led to an all too familiar different result for Chelsea this season.
Left-back: Aaron Cresswell (West Ham United)
Like Collins, Aaron Cresswell was controlled in defence as West Ham stretched their unbeaten run to seven games.
Cresswell was also useful for the Hammers going forward, testing Simon Mignolet with a decent effort on one occasion, and was a handful for the Liverpool defenders for large spells.
Right midfielder: Willian (Chelsea)
Willian is one of the very few Chelsea players to still be held in high regard by their fans despite the side’s poor form this season, and the Brazilian was impressive again on Sunday.
Willian scored a sensational strike to put the Blues two goals to the good at Selhurst Park, and then turned provider as Diego Costa pounced on a low ball of his to end his goal drought.
Centre midfielder: Cesc Fabregas (Chelsea)
Cesc Fabregas has been one of the main targets of abuse from the Stamford Bridge faithful this campaign – even being described as a ‘rat’ by one with a banner – but his display at the weekend showed his true talent.
Both Oscar and Costa’s goals came about via incisive, intelligent Fabregas passes to set Costa and Willian respectively on their way, before they cut it back for the scorer to finish.
Centre midfielder: Alex Tettey (Norwich City)
Norwich’s meeting with Southampton was no classic by any stretch, but Alex Tettey put in a good shift and netted the winning goal for the Canaries.
Tettey’s finish was a cool one high into the net and moved Norwich six points clear of the relegation zone.
The goal came just a minute after Victor Wanyama was shown his second yellow card, for a foul on Tettey.
Left midfielder: Ashley Young (Manchester United)
Ashley Young has become “Mr. Versatile” under Louis van Gaal, and the winger-turned-left-back who now plays at right-back can perform just as well there too.
Anthony Martial’s header was assisted by Young, and he was a constant thorn in the sides of Swansea as he made ten crosses, twice as many as any other player.
Striker: Anthony Martial (Manchester United)
Van Gaal has attracted criticism for playing Martial on the left, however on this occasion it worked in his favour, as Manchester United record their first win in almost two months.
Martial nodded to put the Red Devils in front, and then he assisted an audacious Wayne Rooney back-heel after some nice dribbling past a Swansea defender.
Striker: Jermain Defoe (Sunderland)
The Premier League did not see a great deal of goals this weekend, and Jermain Defoe was the only man to score more than once.
Sunderland grabbed a much-needed win against similarly relegation-threatened Aston Villa in what was a clichéd six-pointer.
Defoe had four shots on target over the course of the 90 minutes, and he now has seven goals in 17 games.
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