Premier League Team of the Week: Ozil, Mahrez, Ighalo and Oscar Shine
Leicester City will spend Christmas Day on top of the Premier League table. Given that they were bottom last Christmas, this truly stands out as a remarkable achievement—and an indicator for what a truly crazy season we are experiencing.
More shocks abounded this weekend as Norwich City and Watford grabbed huge wins, while even Aston Villa managed a point in the slosh at St. James' Park. It makes for another interesting Team of the Week, though there's a little more star power present than there was in last week's wild selection.
We've selected the best performers from said thrilling weekend and slotted them into a workable formation—on this occasion, a 4-2-3-1.
Disagree with our selections? Hit us up in the comments section below to start the conversation.
GK: Hugo Lloris, Tottenham Hotspur
Hugo Lloris made a pretty sizeable error last week against Newcastle United, allowing an Ayoze Perez shot to creep underneath him in the 94th minute to gift the Magpies a surprise win at White Hart Lane.
On Saturday, he took to the field in an understandably determined mood against Southampton and put on a goalkeeping clinic on the way to a clean sheet.
Fans will feel the previous error has been made up for after a string of fine saves stopped the Saints from capitalising on a dominant opening 35 minutes.
RB: Allan Nyom, Watford
Allan Nyom is the first of three Watford players in our Premier League Team of the Week this time around—a product of their incredible 3-0 shellacking of Liverpool on Sunday.
The Cameroonian made a usually vicious left side of Philippe Coutinho and Alberto Moreno look ridiculously tame.
His athleticism and strength saw him pass the physical challenge, and his neat touches and smart decision-making allowed him to dominate zonally.
CB: Laurent Koscielny, Arsenal
Laurent Koscielny looked very good against Manchester City.
Much of the pre-game talk on Sky Sports' Monday Night Football centred on how good Vincent Kompany has been in central defence for the visitors, but Koscielny took the chance to impress in front of the watching world for the hosts.
Sergio Aguero got very little out of the game from an attacking sense and that's due to the shackling he received from the Frenchman, who moved proactively, cut attacks out before they started and pushed forward with the ball to start his own.
A very classy showing despite conceding one.
CB: James Collins, West Ham
“I thought [James] Collins was immense,” Slaven Bilic told reporters after West Ham's 0-0 draw with Swansea City, according to the Daily Mirror (h/t Here Is The City). “I told him it is a big privilege for me to work with him and have him in my team."
At certain points in the game, it felt a little like Swansea City vs. James Collins, given how he was heading, booting and general clearing every ball that came forward.
When asked to defend backs to the ball the Welshman excels; his no-nonsense, firm style is built for that kind of play.
LB: Nathan Ake, Watford
Narrowly beating Christian Fuchs, who was again excellent for Leicester City, to the left-back slot is the underrated, underappreciated Nathan Ake.
The Dutchman, on loan from Chelsea, grabbed a scrappy early goal by poking a ball dropped by Adam Bogdan home, then compounded the performance with some excellent defensive work.
Despite being highly rated by Blues coaches, he's never truly impressed in his chosen positions of centre-back and defensive midfield. He always seemed too slight to play in defence and not technically proficient enough to play in midfield.
Perhaps left-back is the ideal solution for a tactically intelligent, athletic player?
CM: Alex Tettey, Norwich City
The shot was a toe poke—a classic punt into thin air—but Alex Tettey won't mind. He's scored a goal at Old Trafford; he can tell the grandchildren about it one day.
Norwich City's mini-revival over the last few weeks has leaned on strong midfield play both on and off the ball, and Tettey's improvement has been in tune with the club's.
He hassled and harried, knitted counter-attacks together well and scored the all important second, flooding the terraces with yet more doubt and killing off a potential comeback.
CM: Mousa Dembele, Tottenham Hotspur
Mousa Dembele's presence in midfield was sorely missed by Tottenham Hotspur last week, and they sustained their first loss since the opening day of the season without him. He re-entered the XI this weekend and had a huge hand in guiding them to a win.
He was his typical strong, commanding self, taking up a slightly deeper position in midfield and dominating the 50-50 challenges. Usually Victor Wanyama has no issue bossing the physical element at St. Mary's Stadium, but he was run over here.
When Dembele is good, he's very good.
AM: Oscar, Chelsea
Well, well, well! Where has this been all season? The answer, of course, is tucked away on the bench by Jose Mourinho, who refused to drop Cesc Fabregas and instead marginalised Oscar—who had been one of the bright spots even during the roughest times.
Oscar's performance against Sunderland this weekend was downright majestic; he dribbled with fluid ease, switched play on a whim, sparked passing interchanges and made a fool of tracking midfielders attempting to dispossess him.
His penalty goal was a just reward for a phenomenal showing.
AM: Mesut Ozil, Arsenal
Mesut Ozil put in yet another wonderful performance on Monday night, helping Arsenal to a 2-1 win over Manchester City and adding two assists to his tally for the season. The German is now on 15, per WhoScored.com.
"Ozil typically tries to out-think and out-manoeuvre his opponent, staying both literally and figuratively one step ahead," uMAXit Football's James McNicholas lauded. His first lay-up for Theo Walcott was easy, but his second—for Olivier Giroud—was the epitome of precise.
Thierry Henry holds the single-season assist record in the Premier League, with 20. That won't last long.
AM: Riyad Mahrez, Leicester City
Riyad Mahrez nabbed another two goals this weekend as Leicester City saw off Everton at Goodison Park. He showed his cool head once again to convert two pressure penalties.
That takes his tally to 13 for the season—a genuinely remarkable feat, given we're not yet past Christmas—and it hasn't escaped the notice of the bigger fish. Per the Daily Mail, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur will bid for him in January.
ST: Odion Ighalo, Watford
There's only one word to describe Odion Ighalo's performance against Liverpool on Saturday: fearsome.
The Nigerian outmuscled Martin Skrtel with ease before guiding a remarkably accurate finish into the corner to open the scoring, then sealed a glorious 3-0 win with a free header from a Valon Behrami cross late on.
As usual, he squandered a few chances to add to his tally—one particular one-on-one which Adam Bogdan did well to save will stand out as the gilt-edged opportunity—but again, the misses didn't harm his team.
GK: Heurelho Gomes, Watford
RB: Kyle Walker, Tottenham Hotspur
CB: Ashley Williams, Swansea City
AM: Dele Alli, Tottenham Hotspur
Wing: Marc Albrighton, Leicester City
ST: Cameron Jerome, Norwich City
ST: Jordan Ayew, Aston Villa