Liverpool outlined their status as title favourites with a 7-0 thrashing of Crystal Palace in the latest round of Premier League fixtures, whilst Manchester United stated their case to be considered as challengers after dismantling Leeds at Old Trafford.
Elsewhere Aston Villa ensured Sam Allardyce’s reign at West Brom got off to the worst possible start, Arsenal’s faltering fortunes worsened at Everton and Leicester produced an impressive performance on the road to secure three points at Tottenham.
It’s that time of the week again where we compile our dream XI from the weekend’s action, here is The Football Faithful’s Premier League Team of the Week:
Goalkeeper: Ederson – Manchester City
Perhaps not quite a smash-and-grab victory, but certainly the type of win not often associated with Manchester City in recent seasons, who dug deep and defended well to secure a precious three points at Southampton.
Ederson kept the home side a bay in the first-half with a pair of high-quality saves, whilst his booming long kick played its part in the build-up to the game’s only goal, beating the Southampton press wth a direct launch into opposition territory.
Assured with both his hands and feet throughout, it was a hard-fought clean sheet for the Brazilian and his 58th in the Premier League since signing for City, more than any other goalkeeper.
Right-back: James Justin – Leicester
James Justin continues to go from strength to strength as a Premier League player and has played every single minute of Leicester‘s league campaign to date, the 22-year-old again impressive as the Foxes won 2-0 at Tottenham.
Justin has played in a variety of roles this season but starred in north London at right-back, defending well against the threat of Son Heung-Min and providing his side with an outlet when venturing forward.
The youngster was unfortunate not to claim an assist after his brilliant pass was finished superbly by a fractionally offside James Maddison, Justin having stated his case to be an automatic starter despite the impending returns of Timothy Castagne and Ricardo Pereira.
— James Justin (@jamesjustin98) December 20, 2020
Centre-back: Yerry Mina – Everton
The Colombian international’s goal capped a strong individual display for the centre-back, who had more touches than any other Everton player and completed 57 of his 60 passes for a 95% completion rate.
45 – Yerry Mina's last four Premier League goals have all been scored in the 45th minute – this is only the second time in PL history a player has scored four goals in a row all in the same minute, with Chris Eagles scoring four 90th minute goals between 2007 and 2011. Quirky. pic.twitter.com/iAqmEXdsLl
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 19, 2020
Mina was an imposing figure defensively and took his goal in fine fashion, capitalising on some slack marking to power home Gylfi Sigurdsson’s corner and ensure the Toffees celebrated a year under Carlo Ancelotti in the Champions League places.
Centre-back: John Stones – Manchester City
John Stones’ renaissance at Manchester City continues with the defender visibly growing in confidence and stature in recent weeks, producing another solid display as Pep Guardiola’s side claimed a narrow 1-0 victory at Southampton.
Stones was excellent alongside summer signing Ruben Dias and formed a commanding presence at the heart of the defence, alert to any danger posed by the hosts and typically assured in possession.
Pep Guardiola on John Stones:
"Excellent. He is back. He turned his situation perfectly. He played really well, with Rúben as well, and Kyle and João."
— Man City Report (@cityreport_) December 19, 2020
Few will have predicted his return to prominence given his recent struggles and the presence of Aymeric Laporte and Dias at the Etihad, but Stones is edging closer to being an automatic selection for a City defence now capable of grinding out clean sheets under pressure.
Stones has now remarkably kept eight clean sheets in just 10 appearances for City this season, and is yet to make a single error leading to a chance.
Left-back: Andy Robertson – Liverpool
Andy Robertson produced another stellar performance to help Liverpool to a 7-0 win at Crystal Palace, the first time in the Reds’ history that the club had won a top-flight away fixture by a seven-goal margin.
The Scotland captain impressed defensively and made one vital challenge to deny Jeffrey Schlupp inside the penalty area, whilst providing trademark thrust and creativity from his position at left-back.
Robertson raced forward on the counter-attack to provide the assist for Roberto Firmino to make it 3-0 to the champions, his fifth assist of the season and 35th in the Premier League since signing for Liverpool in 2017.
No player has provided more Premier League assists since the start of the 2018-19 season than Andy Robertson, level with Kevin De Bruyne on 28.
He's a left-back. 🤯 pic.twitter.com/JUU8bGdmcW
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 19, 2020
It proved a landmark moment for Robertson who moved above Ian Harte and Andy Hinchcliffe into the Premier League’s all-time top five for assists by defenders, whilst no player in the division has registered more since the start of the 2018/19 campaign.
Midfield: Wilfred Ndidi – Leicester
Leicester’s hopes of securing Champions League football – or greater – this season have been hugely boosted by the return of Wilfred Ndidi from injury, the Nigeria international amongst their star performers during a 2-0 victory at Tottenham this weekend.
Ndidi screened the back four superbly in his position at the base of the midfield and was calm and composed in possession, making an incredible 19 recoveries against the north London side – the most recorded by any Premier League player in over a year.
Wilfred Ndidi made 19 (NINETEEN) recoveries against Tottenham, the most any player has made in a single Premier League in over a year.
An incredible performance. 👏 pic.twitter.com/gDdu0vNSok
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 20, 2020
The 24-year-old dominated the midfield and made three tackles and two interceptions, a brilliant and disciplined performance from a player who ranks amongst the Premier League’s very best midfield anchors.
Midfield: Scott McTominay – Manchester United
Manchester United hosted Leeds in a fascinating match-up between the two old rivals this weekend, with the Red Devils teaching their Yorkshire visitors a lesson in an emphatic victory at Old Trafford.
Scott McTominay set the home side on their way to a 6-2 victory with two quick-fire goals, becoming the first player in Premier League history to score a brace inside the opening three minutes.
The midfielder was relentless in his running and it was that power which overwhelmed a naive Leeds, McTominay bursting forward and getting his rewards courtesy of two superb finishes.
The first player to score a brace inside three minutes of a #PL match…
— Premier League (@premierleague) December 20, 2020
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer remains a huge admirer of the Scotland international who is often trusted in the biggest of games, though McTominay showed this weekend that there is plenty more to his game than just effort and industry.
Midfield: Bruno Fernandes – Manchester United
As ever at the heart of a fine Manchester United performance, Fernandes remains the central figure to the hopes of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side.
The Portugal international drifted around dangerously in the final third against Leeds and provided the assist for McTominay’s early opener, before rifling home United’s third goal with a sweetly struck finish.
Fernandes added a second goal from the penalty spot to take his tally to 20 goal involvements in just 17 starts in all competitions so far this season, his impact on the Red Devils immeasurable since his arrival into the Premier League.
With his three chances created today, Bruno Fernandes has now created more chances than any other player in the Premier League this season (41).
Only Hakan Calhanoglu (49) has carved out more in Europe's top five leagues this term. pic.twitter.com/Txvvw6gA7j
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 20, 2020
The 26-year-old’s levels of productivity are undoubtedly world class and there is a strong case that the midfielder has been the Premier League’s finest footballer since arriving in English football less than 12 months ago.
Forward: Roberto Firmino – Liverpool
For the second time in just a week, Roberto Firmino is included in our Team of the Week, the Liverpool star appearing back to his best in recent victories over Tottenham and Crystal Palace.
The Brazilian followed his dramatic late winner against Spurs with a performance that oozed class at Selhurst Park this weekend, providing the assist for Sadio Mane’s goal before finishing a wonderful counter-attack to score the Reds’ third and put the champions in control.
Firmino added a second goal with a delightful touch and chipped finish over Vicente Guaita, a highlight in a performance that saw Jurgen Klopp’s side produce some scintillating attacking football.
Roberto Firmino's game by numbers vs. Crystal Palace:
• 100% shot accuracy
• 42 touches
• 5 ball recoveries
• 2 touches in the opp. box
• 2 fast breaks
• 2 shots
• 2 goals
• 1 chance created
• 1 assist
— Anfield Watch (@AnfieldWatch) December 20, 2020
Firmino has had his detractors – mostly outside of Anfield – over a lack of goals in recent months, but has now provided eight goal involvements in just 14 league appearances so far this season.
Forward: Anthony Martial – Manchester United
Another player who seems to have been re-energised following a difficult start to the season, Anthony Martial followed a strong showing against Sheffield United in midweek with another impressive performance this weekend.
The France international had a hand in three goals as Manchester United thrashed Leeds, providing assists for Scott McTominay and Victor Lindelof before winning a penalty for Bruno Fernandes to convert.
Martial’s position as the club’s number nine has been questioned at times, but he showed against Leeds that his movement and link-up play can add a different dimension to a fluid attack, the 25-year-old seemingly back on-song for a Red Devils side gaining momentum.
Forward: Jamie Vardy – Leicester
After missing out on Champions League football in agonising circumstances last season, Leicester are once again at the forefront of the race to secure a top four finish and will celebrate Christmas in second place in the Premier League following a weekend win at Tottenham.
Brendan Rodgers’ side were fully deserving of their 2-0 victory in north London and it was a familiar face who was central to their success, Jamie Vardy opening the scoring from the penalty spot for his 11th league goal in just 13 appearances.
The 33-year-old’s movement caused problems for the Spurs defence and he battled valiantly against Eric Dier and Toby Alderweireld, forcing an own goal from the latter after beating Moussa Sissoko to Marc Albrighton’s cross.
— Jamie Vardy (@vardy7) December 20, 2020
Vardy’s goal continued his fine record against the Premier League’s ‘top six’ with the star having now scored 39 goals against the division’s leading sides, a record that looks set to rise further with the Foxes’ forward ageing like a fine wine.