Premier League Team of the Week: De Bruyne, Lamela, Can and Bojan Star
The festive football madness drew to a close with Liverpool's nervous 1-0 win over Sunderland on Wednesday, and with that, it's time for a...modified Premier League Team of the Week.
This XI takes into account both Boxing Day and the fixtures dated December 28, 29 and 30. Players who have played well across both matchdays have been rewarded—if a player excelled in one game but struggled in another, he won't be here.
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: Wayne Hennessey, Crystal Palace
Wayne Hennessey has done what no other Crystal Palace goalkeeper has managed this year: Seize his chance between the sticks.
Alan Pardew has cycled through Julian Speroni and Alex McCarthy before settling on the Welshman, who looks by far the safest pair of hands on the books.
Two clean sheets from two outings is a superb return, and they keep Palace a point above Manchester United as we enter 2016. Astonishing, that.
RB: Bacary Sagna, Manchester City
No right-back stuck out in obvious, goalscoring or assist-making fashion over the two matches, so we've opted for the steadier, sturdier option of Bacary Sagna.
He had little to do against Sunderland on Boxing Day, but that was just as well, as Tuesday saw him lock horns with Leicester City's Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and Marc Albrighton. He came out with a clean sheet, having tracked Albrighton well and held him to submission.
Aleksandar Kolarov, on the opposite flank, had a nightmare evening defensively, but Sagna was the epitome of solidity we expect.
CB: Ashley Williams, Swansea City
Ashley Williams is finding his best form again under Alan Curtis, and his performances have been key to Swansea City's mini-revival post-Garry Monk.
The Swans secured two clean sheets and four points in three days—an outstanding effort—and despite making eight changes for the second fixture against Crystal Palace, Williams, the rock, retained his spot and starred again.
"They had a couple of outstanding displays, particularly Williams, who snuffed out everything in their penalty box," Alan Pardew bemoaned to the South Wales Evening Post after the game.
CB: James Collins, West Ham
Right now it feels like James Collins vs. the world. West Ham have been struggling to eke out results as they've hit a rough patch of form, and defensive solidity has been key to them staying afloat.
With Winston Reid injured it would have been easy for the Hammers to crumble, but Collins has stepped up, both literally and figuratively, to clear almost everything thrown his way.
He was fantastic against an onslaught at Villa Park on Boxing Day and righted the ship against Southampton two days later.
LB: Neil Taylor, Swansea City
We've been so impressed by Swansea City's new-found stability we've added a second member of their line to our Team of the Week defence. Neil Taylor scoops the left-back spot after two excellent performances.
It's no easy task tracking and shadowing Wilfried Zaha these days, who has really come on as a player in 12 months under Alan Pardew, but Taylor managed it despite playing 90 minutes against West Bromwich Albion on Boxing Day too.
CM: Emre Can, Liverpool
Emre Can put in two uber-impressive, athletic, commanding performances this Christmas, helping secure two clean sheets and six points for Liverpool.
He and Jordan Henderson as a combination were brilliant against Leicester City, then he took centre stage at the Stadium of Light against Sunderland, running the show and adding much-needed steel to a gritty away showing.
Jurgen Klopp has unleashed him in a central midfield role, and the results are not surprising: He's dominating, progressing rapidly and moving from strength to strength.
CM: Dele Alli, Tottenham Hotspur
Dele Alli put in two excellent showings over the festive period, utilising all of his pace, energy and bravery to great effect in two vital victories.
Often people signal concern over the strain of footballers playing two games in three days, and across the league we saw some heavy rotation by managers (particularly in central midfield). But Alli took it all in his stride, harrying and pressing in both games.
His pressure forced the opener against Watford, and his all-round showing against Norwich City was great.
Wing: Erik Lamela, Tottenham Hotspur
Ever wondered why Erik Lamela cost in excess of €30 million? Now you're starting to see why.
The Argentine is enjoying a magnificent season at Tottenham Hotspur, and he was their star man during the festive football madness, contributing hugely to two key victories.
His pressing, athleticism and football IQ were evident in the win over Norwich, while against Watford he again worked hard and made good decisions, but paired them with the opening goal in a gutsy 2-1 win.
"Eight goals now, quietly doing the business," surmised Goal.com's Jay Jaffa on Twitter.
AM: Kevin De Bruyne, Manchester City
Kevin De Bruyne was in filthy form against Sunderland on Boxing Day, accruing two assists and a goal in a convincing 4-1 victory.
He's incredible to watch when he's in full flow and his performances seem to transcend those of his team's. Even when Manchester City are labouring—like they were against Leicester City on Tuesday—he seems full of life and spark.
He failed to provide the breakthrough at the King Power Stadium, but he looked the most likely to of any player on the pitch.
Wing: Marko Arnautovic, Stoke City
Mark Hughes took a real gamble on Marko Arnautovic, who before his Stoke City tenure was drifting through a career of untapped potential. Club fines, erratic behaviour and ill-discipline on the field led many a manager to give up on him.
But now, at 26 years of age, he has grown up and grasped the mantle. He was superb against Manchester United on Boxing Day, working several chances and scoring a screamer from outside the box, and he netted the winner against Everton on December 28 to cap a brilliant display.
ST: Bojan, Stoke City
Has anyone else just stopped for a moment and considered what we are watching at the Britannia Stadium? Stoke City, famed for brutish game plans, long throws and direct, aerial football are now a playmaking, footballing machine.
Mark Hughes has ex-Barcelona forward Bojan playing a false-nine-esque role to great effect, and when he's not scoring, he's threading deadly balls in behind for inverted wide men Xherdan Shaqiri (ex-Bayern Munich) and Marko Arnautovic (ex-Internazionale).
Up is down, black is white and Stoke, spearheaded by the magnificent Bojan, are an aesthetic force.