Premier League Team of the Week: Juan Mata's Big Performance, Salah, Gerrard in
Welcome to our latest Premier League edition of Team of the Week, as we compile the best-performing individuals from England's top flight this weekend.
Manchester United, Everton and Manchester City all picked up big victories against top-half opponents, so it will be no surprise to see players from each of those clubs involved. Elsewhere, we have some goalscoring heroes included, and the best defensive displays around the country get acknowledged too.
Read on and see if you agree with our selections. Comment below, as usual, if not!
Goalkeeper: David Stockdale
Fulham goalkeeper David Stockdale was one of the busier keepers in the league over the weekend, but he managed to keep out all but one of Aston Villa's six shots on target to keep his side in the game at 1-1—before they went on and stole the points later on.
It was a vital win for Fulham, who are still in the bottom three but now can move within two points of Norwich City if they beat the Canaries in their next game.
Stockdale will want to be in top form once again, as he was here, thwarting the likes of Leandro Bacuna and Marc Albrighton.
Right-Back: Branislav Ivanovic
Branislav Ivanovic was a key performer at the back for Chelsea in their comfortable win over Stoke City, putting a number of challenges in to repel the away side's attack.
The Serb made one tackle, two interceptions and two clearances during the game, but he was also impressive on the ball and going forward.
A 90 percent pass completion rate highlighted his good use of the ball, while he also delivered a number of crosses from his right flank.
Centre-Back: Martin Skrtel
Liverpool's Martin Skrtel was formidable on the ground and in the air against West Ham's Andy Carroll, who the Hammers sent the ball high and long to at every opportunity.
Skrtel was tough in dealing with his former teammate, crashing through him early on and then taking the ball cleanly from crosses and corners thereafter.
He was also quick to race forward in possession in the second half to bring Liverpool up the field and distributed the ball well.
Centre-Back: Vincent Kompany
Southampton might have posed a bigger problem to Manchester City on another day, but either of City's centre-backs could have made our team this week after all-round solid showings.
Both Vincent Kompany and Martin Demichelis performed admirably, but we'll give the nod to the City skipper after another influential display directing those around him in addition to the good work he did on the ball.
The Belgian won a tackle, made four interceptions and six clearances, and he also completed 91 percent of his passes during the game.
Left-Back: Leighton Baines
Leighton Baines was one of Everton's stand-out performers in their excellent win over Arsenal.
His driving runs from left-back into the final third gave the Gunners plenty of problems and allowed Everton to double up down the right flank. Quite aside from his hard work, good support to those in front and usual solidity at the back, he also provided a fantastic low cross for the opening goal of the game.
Another big performance—and he spent most of the match as captain as well after Leon Osman's early withdrawal.
Central Midfield: James McCarthy
If Baines provided the thrust from out wide, McCarthy set the tempo and the unending pressure from Everton's midfield on that of Arsenal's.
He was constantly pressing and looking to make challenges, keeping up the pressure in the middle of the park and aiding his team's quick counter-attack mentality once the ball was won in the centre. Fast transitions were key to Everton's approach in the game, and McCarthy was perfect in his interpretation of the role.
Central Midfield: Steven Gerrard
Steven Gerrard was the match-winner for Liverpool, but it was his all-around performance that was so impressive and important.
As ever in his deep-lying role, he protected the defence with gusto and vigour, making several early clearances and hooking clear the second ball after West Ham's usual method of lumping the ball forward had caused confusion a few times. He also passed he ball positively, created the first goal with a fine raking pass and set the tone for Liverpool's improved second half.
A pair of penalties were expertly dispatched, and the captain gets to keep his dream of finally lifting the league trophy aloft as a result.
Right Wing: Mohamed Salah
The first of all three players in the attacking midfield line was involved in all three goals for his team this weekend.
Salah earned start and promptly fired in to open the scoring, before racing into the box and winning a penalty which led to the second.
Another run and lay-off saw the Egyptian claim an assist, with Willian netting the final goal for Chelsea.
Attacking Midfield: Juan Mata
Juan Mata scored two and created one in perhaps his best performance for Manchester United so far.
He first won a free-kick before curling in the resulting set piece, which was before showing great composure to dummy goalkeeper and defender to tap home his second.
A smart back-heel showcased awareness and vision in claiming an assist too. All in all, this is the kind of performance that United fans want to be seeing from Mata on a more regular basis—and teammate Shinji Kagawa wasn't too far behind either.
Left Wing: Jason Puncheon
Jason Puncheon put in a performance which not only won the game for Crystal Palace, but also likely put the seal on his team staying safe this season. They might need one more win, but this, against relegation rivals, was a huge three points.
Puncheon struck the first with a drilled finish, took the free-kick that led to Palace's second, but then saved the best for last.
The final goal of the game was a wicked, bent effort into the top corner, a worthy Man of the Match performance and deserving of a spot in the Team of the Week.
Striker: Romelu Lukaku
Lukaku actually played most of the game wide right for Everton, but his movement on the ball was inevitably to run centrally and have an impact there—and he was so good that we can't leave him out.
His pace and power were on display constantly to trouble Nacho Monreal; he scored a fine goal and was involved in another. Arsenal simply couldn't cope.
Lukaku's role was planned well by his manager and executed magnificently by the player himself.
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