Premier League Team of the Week: Coutinho, Firmino, Pedro and Kante Star
This latest Premier League weekend went a long way to shaping the title run-in, with the current top four—Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, Leicester City and Manchester City—all set to contest for the prize in an epic four-way tussle.
We've selected the best performers from the thrilling weekend and slotted them into a workable formation—a 4-4-2 on this occasion.
Disagree with our selections? Hit us up in the comments section below to start the conversation.
GK: Heurelho Gomes, Watford
On the face of it, Saturday saw Crystal Palace's wretched form continue with a 2-1 loss to Watford. They have lost six of their last seven games, drawing the odd one with Swansea City.
But in reality, they were desperately unlucky not to take at least a point from this fixture. Heurelho Gomes, at times, represented a one-man wall standing between Palace and three points, making save after save in impressive fashion.
He tipped a vicious Yohan Cabaye strike around the post, got great length on his punches and nicked one off Emmanuel Adebayor's head.
RB: Nathaniel Clyne, Liverpool
Nathaniel Clyne has been one of Liverpool's steadier performers this season—not incredible, by no means poor, but very consistently 7/10, if you will.
But this weekend at Villa Park, Clyne upped his performance level significantly. He got the better of Aston Villa's left side time and again, piercing the space in behind with some excellent runs.
He managed to grab a scrappy goal to cap the performance, poking home after a melee in the box, but it was he who created the opportunity anyway with a direct surge toward goal.
CB: Jonas Olsson, West Bromwich Albion
West Bromwich Albion's goal was absolutely peppered by Everton this weekend, but the Baggies still managed to escape Goodison Park with a 1-0 victory.
Some stunning, brave defending took centre stage, with Tony Pulis' men blocking 15 of the Toffees' 33 shots, and Jonas Olsson was in the right place at the right time over and over to aid the collection of a valuable clean sheet.
It was also his looping header that allowed Salomon Rondon the easiest goal he'll ever claim, stamping his influence in both boxes.
CB: John O'Shea, Sunderland
Either of Sunderland's centre-backs could have featured here, with both John O'Shea and Lamine Kone excelling in the heart of the defensive effort that held Manchester United at bay.
Kone's powerful header forced the winning goal, so he might be the more obvious pick, but O'Shea was the leader, the cajoler and the communicator—a captain embodied—while also putting in block after block.
United found very little space to work with and their play suffered every time they ventured into the Black Cats' box. O'Shea's presence was a major reason why.
LB: Danny Rose, Tottenham Hotspur
Tottenham Hotspur's performance against Manchester City was a very good team showing, meaning few individuals stuck out from a Team of the Week scouting perspective.
One player who did catch the eye, though, was Danny Rose, who was in the thick of it from minute one until the end.
Rampaging down the left, he pushed up aggressively and won Spurs plenty of ground and territory. His runs weren't being tracked properly, and he was left to edge forward, try his luck on goal or force balls into the box.
It was his cross that won the penalty for handball—although most will agree the decision shouldn't have been given—highlighting his effectiveness from the flank.
CM: Giannelli Imbula, Stoke City
Much is expected of Giannelli Imbula after Stoke City broke their transfer record to sign him; when £18 million-plus is spent, it's only natural to expect a quick return.
Well, his 30-yard volley to open the scoring as the Potters beat Bournemouth on Saturday definitely constitutes a return of sorts. The firm effort had Artur Boruc beaten from the moment it left his foot.
He complemented the strike with a great all-round showing, carrying the ball forward well, sharing the defensive load and emerging as a key creator during phases of possession.
CM: N'Golo Kante, Leicester City
For that first-half performance alone, N'Golo Kante earns a space in this week's elite. He was everywhere, making tackles, influencing play and troubling Petr Cech's goal.
The rumbustious nature of his play never ceases to amaze, and he was the driving force behind a superb Foxes showing...until Danny Simpson got sent off.
For the final half-hour, Kante's effectiveness was reduced due to the one-man disadvantage, but it's still an individual performance worth singing the praises of.
RW: Pedro, Chelsea
It was fantastic to see Pedro bag a brace for Chelsea this weekend because, quite frankly, he's been one of this Premier League season's biggest disappointments.
A lack of confidence has rocked his game, making him hold onto the ball for too long, dribble into blind alleys and misplace passes. Saturday was different, though; he was cool, calm and showed a killer instinct many believed he lacked.
His first finish, in particular, was extremely good—the sort Luis Suarez would be proud of. It was an all-round excellent showing capped by two meaningful strikes.
LW: Philippe Coutinho, Liverpool
Philippe Coutinho made his first start for Liverpool in more than a month on Sunday, and what a performance it was.
Playing loosely off the left flank, he was arguably the Reds' star man as they destroyed Aston Villa 6-0.
He grabbed two assists—one a lovely cross for Daniel Sturridge, the second a ridiculous, outside-of-the-boot pass to put Divock Origi in on goal—and produced one outrageous reverse pass that flummoxed the entire claret-and-blue defensive line.
ST: Roberto Firmino, Liverpool
If Philippe Coutinho wasn't the best player on the pitch at Villa Park on Sunday, Roberto Firmino was. His performance wasn't as flashy, but it was just as—if not more—effective.
The Brazilian didn't score, but his link play with his fellow forwards created numerous chances. He picked up one assist, dipped in and out of the line and troubled Villa's midfielders with clever runs that opened space for himself and others.
Most impressive, though, was actually his defensive work rate: Time and again he stole in to nick possession high up and spark counters, constantly harassing Ashley Westwood and Co. into mistakes.
ST: Troy Deeney, Watford
You may just have been expecting Olivier Giroud or Diego Costa to scoop the second striker's spot, but Troy Deeney's performance at Selhurst Park bettered both and deservedly lands him a place in our Team of the Week.
After being benched last week against Tottenham Hotspur, he re-entered the XI here and proved it's he who links the attack and connects Odion Ighalo to the midfield.
He scored both goals in a 2-1 win, showing his killer touch, dominated in the air and showed nice, soft feet.
GK: Hugo Lloris, Tottenham Hotspur
CB: Lamine Kone, Sunderland
FB: Cesar Azpilicueta, Chelsea
AM: Willian, Chelsea
Wing: Xherdan Shaqiri, Stoke City
ST: Olivier Giroud, Arsenal
ST: Diego Costa, Chelsea