The Offside Rule’s Ben Wills selects 11 players who performed out of their skins during a pivotal weekend of Premier League action.
Goalkeeper: Ben Foster (West Bromwich Albion)
Everton laid siege to the West Bromwich Albion goal at the weekend, somehow not getting anything from the game despite having an eye-watering 34 shots on goal.
Only six of those efforts were on target, but Ben Foster was equal to all of them as he made four big saves and kept a clean-sheet.
Arguably his most impressive save was when he clawed out an Aaron Lennon shot that took a deflection and seemed to be looping over the fourth choice England goalkeeper’s head, but he somehow denied Everton the goal that their efforts deserved.
Right-back: Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea)
Cesar Azpilicueta has been deployed as a left-back for the majority of his Chelsea career, but he was shifted to his preferred right-back position during the Blues’ hammering of Newcastle and was a revelation.
Newcastle, it has to be said, did not really threaten the Chelsea goal, but the lack of defensive responsibilities allowed Azpilicueta to cause no end of problems as a wing-back as he rampaged forward on a number of occasions.
Bertrand Traore’s first goal in English football made it 5-0 to the home side after the Burkina Faso international was set up by ‘Dave’ after a neat pass-and-move with Eden Hazard.
Centre-back: Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham Hotspur)
Tottenham’s 2-1 win over Manchester City at the Etihad has finally got people believing that Mauricio Pochettino’s young side may well end up winning the Premier League title.
Belgian Toby Alderweireld was sensational at the back in a game that many would have expected Tottenham to lose considering City’s home form.
He and Jan Vertonghen have formed one of the league’s best centre defensive partnerships this season, but even in the Dutchman’s absence Alderweireld was brilliant as Spurs moved closer to the summit.
Centre-back: Virgil van Dijk (Southampton)
Leicester’s fairy-tale season has meant that a number of other clubs having had to settle for their achievements going under the radar, and that can certainly be said of Southampton – who rose to sixth with their 1-0 win at Swansea.
The Saints are unbeaten in six too, winning five of those matches, and they have kept a clean-sheet in every single game since the return of first-choice goalkeeper Fraser Forster.
Virgil van Dijk can be thanked too for the latest blank slate. Van Dijk was accomplished in defence as Swansea never really showed any sign of breaking down the Saints.
Left-back: Jonas Olsson (West Bromwich Albion)
West Brom spent the vast majority of their trip to Goodison Park defending for their lives, but for one brief moment when they were dangerous at the other end. Jonas Olsson was pivotal in both.
Tony Pulis’ side took the lead when record signing Salomon Rondon bundled in from less than a yard after Olsson had flicked a corner into the path of the Venezuelan.
Olsson was also crucial as West Brom somehow kept Everton at bay. The Swede was impenetrable at the back and a towering presence in the air, a big factor in why only six of Everton’s 34 shots ended up on target.Embed from Getty Images
Centre midfielder: N’Golo Kante (Leicester City)
Leicester may have lost their top-of-the-table clash against Arsenal, but N’Golo Kante put in the performance of his life and – despite the result – that should not be forgotten.
Kante completely bossed the midfield, especially in a first half in which Leicester battled to a 1-0 lead. Before the break the Frenchman looking genuinely world class.
In a monumental man of the match display Kante had 68 total touches, made six tackles, seven interceptions, gained possession 13 times and covered 11.61 kilometres.
Centre midfielder: James Ward-Prowse (Southampton)
Southampton continued their superb form with a 1-0 win over Swansea at the Liberty Stadium and young English midfielder James Ward-Prowse was the star of the show.
Ward-Prowse covered more distance than any other player on the pitch and scored the only goal of the game too.
His header from a wonderful whipped cross kept up Southampton’s quiet push for a Europa League spot.
Right winger: Willian (Chelsea)
Chelsea’s 5-1 win over Newcastle was the Blues’ biggest result of a season that has been one negative after another. There has been one lone spark for much of the campaign at Stamford Bridge, and Willian was extremely impressive once again.
Guus Hiddink’s revitalised side raced into a three goal lead inside 18 minutes and Willian played a part in two of those early strikes.
Diego Costa’s fifth-minute opener was assisted by Willian after a direct run and intelligent through-ball, while the roles were reversed for the third of the evening as Costa found Willian with a squared pass which the Brazilian tucked away with consummate ease.
Attacking midfielder: Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool)
Aston Villa have been bad this season, but even so there can’t have been many people who would have expected them to be as bad as they were at home to Liverpool on Valentine’s Day.
Philippe Coutinho had the most enjoyable afternoon of the lot as he contributed three assists in Liverpool’s resounding 6-0 triumph over the league’s bottom club.
Coutinho picked out Daniel Sturridge with a superb cross for Liverpool’s first of many and the Brazilian also provided the final pass for Divock Origi and Kolo Toure’s goals.
Left winger: Pedro (Chelsea)
Since Pedro’s switch to Chelsea from Barcelona the Spaniard has been a bit hot and cold… but his two-goal performance against Newcastle was certainly a case of the former.
Pedro seized on a poor Rolando Aarons pass to break away from the Geordie defence before side-footing in from the edge of the area to make it 2-0 after only nine minutes.
And his second made it 4-0 when he latched on to a wonderful Cesc Fabregas pass to impound more misery on a dour Newcastle United.
Striker: Troy Deeney (Watford)
The Watford theme of only having two major goal-scorers was on show again as they beat Crystal Palace 2-1 at Selhurst Park, with captain Troy Deeney netting both goals
Deeney slotted home a controversial penalty to put the Hornets in-front and netted his second of the match when he was given too much space in the penalty area by the Palace defence.
Watford now sit in eighth in the Premier League table, just four points behind Southampton and West Ham who occupy sixth and seventh respectively. Is a surprise Europa League push in store?