This week’s Team of the Week is filled with veterans as Tim Howard, Robert Huth, Wayne Rooney and Jermain Defoe roll back the years, while Olivier Giroud and Roberto Firmino show that they can lead the line for their sides.
Goalkeeper: Tim Howard (Everton)
Tim Howard has been the target of much vitriol from Everton fans of late, but he was no doubt vital to the Toffees escaping the Etihad Stadium with a point.
Howard made eight saves in the match, the first in which City have failed to score at home in almost a year.City piled on the pressure in the second half, but Howard stood firm to stall their title charge.
Right-back: Christian Fuchs (Leicester City)
Leicester made amends from throwing away a win in their 2-2 draw at White Hart Lane in the FA Cup third round on Saturday, but managed to secure the victory at the same ground four days later.
Christian Fuchs was rested at the weekend but returned with a bang, as he produced a solid defensive performance and an assist to boot.
Fuchs picked out late goalscorer Huth with a pinpoint corner as the Foxes’ surprise title challenge continues.
Centre back: Joleon Lescott (Aston Villa)
Aston Villa fans have, safe to say, not exactly been happy of late, but Joleon Lescott’s winner against Crystal Palace should have put a smile on some faces… temporarily at least.
Lescott was most important defensively as the Villains kept their first clean sheet since November 8, Remi Garde’s first game in charge, but ultimately it was his goal that won Villa the points.
The ex-Wolves, Everton and Man City defender put Villa in front for only the sixth time this season with a 58th minute header that, to be honest, Wayne Hennessey should have saved, but nobody who supports the Midlands team will care a jot.
Centre back: Robert Huth (Leicester City)
Like his fellow defender Fuchs, Robert Huth was impressive in both defence and attack as Leicester kept up the heat on league leaders Arsenal.
Huth headed home the winner with seven minutes remaining on the clock, and was a rock at the back as Claudio Ranieri’s men kept their third league clean sheet in a row.
Left-back: Patrick van Aanholt (Sunderland)
Patrick van Aanholt is one of few top performers for struggling Sunderland this season, and he was impressive again in the win in Wales.
The Dutch left-back contributed an assist to one of Jermain Defoe’s three goals at the Liberty Stadium, and, although perhaps fortuitously, netted one of his own.
Van Aanholt’s goal came via a deflection and he then set up Defoe’s third with a squared pass across the ball.
Centre midfield: Ibrahim Afellay (Stoke City)
Ibrahim Afellay, despite being dismissed by Barcelona, is the ultimate Barca player in every sense, completing the most passes in the Premier League this week with 91.
Joselu, formerly of Barcelona’s rivals Real Madrid, put Stoke 2-1 up after an Afellay assist, and the Holland international played creator again later on.
Afellay’s free-kick was inadvertently turned in by Ryan Bennett to put Stoke comfortably ahead at 3-1.
Centre midfield: Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal)
Aaron Ramsey has found his form again and was instrumental in the Arsenal midfield during their enthralling 3-3 draw at Liverpool.
He struck a tidy finish past Simon Mignolet, beating the Belgian keeper at his near post, to level the scores at 1-1, and though the Welshman also had a lobbed effort cleared off the line by Mamadou Sakho, he was contributing to a second Arsenal goal moments later.
Ramsey’s in-swinging corner was nodded home by Oliver Giroud to peg Liverpool back once again after Firmino had given the Reds the lead for the second time.
Centre attacking midfield: Roberto Firmino (Liverpool)
It has taken longer than perhaps expected, but Roberto Firmino seems to have finally adjusted to English football – certainly the big encounters anyway – as his stunning display in the 1-4 triumph at Manchester City was followed by a brace against Arsenal.
Two tidy finishes past a normally tough-to-beat Petr Cech in goal made the Brazilian the Man of the Match at Anfield.
Firmino’s second was an outrageous curling effort from the edge of the area that had the aforementioned Cech grasping at thin air as the ball sailed past him into the top corner.
Striker: Oliver Giroud (Arsenal)
The question often asked of Oliver Giroud is ‘is he good enough to win Arsenal the league?’ Well, if he carries on in this vein, the Gunners have got a better chance than most of celebrating come May.
Giroud netted his first of the night with a typical poacher’s touch, and doubled his tally in the second half with a composed finish to temporarily put the North London side in the lead.
Striker: Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
Manchester United have regularly been described as boring this season – even by their manager Louis van Gaal this week – but they certainly were not that on Tuesday, even if the result was not what they wanted.
Wayne Rooney has been subject to Old Trafford criticism as much as most, if not more so due to the Red Devils’ woes in-front of goal, but he was instrumental at St. James’ Park.
England’s captain tucked away a penalty for 1-0, teed up Jesse Lingard for 2-0, and rolled back the years with a world class shot from the edge of the box for his second and United’s third of the evening.
Striker: Jermain Defoe (Sunderland)
Sunderland may be on their way to relegation to the Championship if results do not improve in the near future, but, following their 4-2 win at Swansea City, there were talks of Jermain Defoe going to Euro 2016.
The 33-year-old now has 12 goals for the season following his hat-trick against the Swans and a trip to France might not be out the question.
Defoe seized on a Lukasz Fabianski error for his first goal, apparently beat the offside trap to net his second, and a tap-in ensured the veteran striker would return to Wearside with the match ball.
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