The Premier League began the new year with a bang following a brilliant weekend of top-flight action, as Manchester City laid down a title marker at Chelsea and Arsenal continued their recent renaissance.
Manchester United’s fine form continued as the Red Devils moved level on points with league leaders Liverpool, whilst Tottenham’s talismanic duo proved too much for Leeds, and Brighton and Wolves played out a six-goal thriller.
It’s that time of the week again where compile our dream XI from the weekend’s action, here is the Football Faithful’s Premier League Team of the Week:
Goalkeeper: Emiliano Martinez – Aston Villa
Unfortunate to find himself on the losing side as Aston Villa were beaten at Manchester United, the Argentina international continuing his excellent start to the season with a string of saves at Old Trafford.
Martinez saved well from Anthony Martial in the first half and denied Bruno Fernandes with an acrobatic tip onto the crossbar, the 28-year-old showing just why he is the current leader in the race for the Premier League’s Golden Glove.
Villa remain seventh despite their 2-1 loss to the Red Devils and have demonstrated they can compete with the Premier League’s best sides this season, their summer signings – including the outstanding Martinez – key to their progress.
Right-back: Joao Cancelo – Manchester City
Joao Cancelo’s improvement this season has been one of the huge positives for Manchester City, the full-back having bounced back from a disappointing debut campaign to become an increasingly influential figure at the Etihad.
The Portugal international continued his fine early season form in City’s first fixture of 2021, as Pep Guardiola’s side outlined their title credentials with a convincing 3-1 win at Chelsea.
Cancelo was strong defensively against the threat provided by Christian Pulisic and offered his trademark quality when pushing forward, the 26-year-old one of just three players in Europe’s major leagues averaging 2+ for chances created, interceptions and tackles won per 90 minutes this season.
Centre-back: Eric Bailly – Manchester United
Manchester United’s defensive strength has been a concern this season with no side in the top half having conceded more goals than the Red Devils, though Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will no doubt be encouraged by the performances of Eric Bailly in recent weeks.
The Ivorian has struggled for form and fitness during his time in the Premier League but started for the fourth successive fixture against Aston Villa, producing a commanding display at centre-back and making a superb late block to help preserve his side’s lead.
Eric Bailly displayed some 𝒄𝒐𝒖𝒓𝒂𝒈𝒆 with this last-minute block 😤😳 pic.twitter.com/PDImOCdWJz
— B/R Football (@brfootball) January 1, 2021
Bailly’s six clearances were twice as many as any other teammate and United will hope the defender can now fulfil his potential after a nightmare run with injury, the 26-year-old’s qualities a better compliment for Harry Maguire at centre-back than those of Victor Lindelof.
Centre-back: Ruben Dias – Manchester City
Manchester City’s record signing continues to enhance his reputation as one of the Premier League’s most dependable defenders, Dias having enjoyed a brilliant start to his career at the Etihad to emerge as the cornerstone of Pep Guardiola’s side.
Dias has starred alongside a resurgent John Stones at centre-back and was once more unfazed by the threat of Chelsea’s attacking players this weekend, standing strong as City made a statement of intent in the title race.
Ruben Dias vs. Chelsea:
◉ Most clearances (6)
◉ Most blocks (4)
◉ Most recoveries (3)
Putting in a shift. pic.twitter.com/YYbfA5oRXx
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 3, 2021
Dias led his side for clearances, blocks and recoveries, with only a stoppage-time consolation goal from Callum Hudson-Odoi preventing the Portugal international from racking up yet another clean sheet for the division’s best defence.
Left-back: Kieran Tierney – Arsenal
Mikel Arteta has hailed Kieran Tierney as a future Arsenal captain and it is difficult not to see the defender’s merits, a player whose full-blooded commitment and no-nonsense approach to game have won many admirers at the Emirates.
Tierney played a pivotal role as the Gunners continued their recent resurgence with a third consecutive Premier League victory at West Brom, opening the scoring with a sensational effort as he twice beat Darnell Furlong down the left flank before hammering home a right-footed strike.
The 23-year-old was industrious throughout and turned provider for the north London side’s fourth goal on a pleasing evening at The Hawthorns, drilling a dangerous delivery across the box for Alexandre Lacazette to turn home.
Ohhh! Kieran Tierney! That is special! 😍
A terrific solo goal from the Arsenal man 👏
Struck with aplomb! 💥 pic.twitter.com/gQ0r6NGs37
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) January 2, 2021
After a disastrous start to the season there have been shoots of positivity at Arsenal of late, Tierney amongst their brightest sparks and leading the charge for Arteta’s side.
Midfield: Ilkay Gundogan – Manchester City
Ilkay Gundogan has never been the most popular player amongst the Manchester City fanbase but the midfielder is undoubtedly enjoying a purple patch of form right now, scoring for the third time in just four appearances to open the scoring at Chelsea.
Gundogan’s midfield partnership with Rodri has drawn groans from supporters who believe the duo’s functionality is rather uninspiring, but the former has shown in recent weeks he can contribute much more than just rhythm and safe possession.
The assurance provided by defensive screen Rodri has allowed Gundogan to push forward more often, with the German the furthest player forward when he turned sharply to fire City into an early lead at Stamford Bridge.
The 30-year-old’s goal was the highlight of another strong showing, his probing passing helping to break the lines as City secured an emphatic victory in the capital.
Midfield: Tomas Soucek – West Ham
West Ham’s midfield marathon man continues to underline his importance to David Moyes’s side, popping up with yet another crucial goal to secure the Hammers a 1-0 win at Everton.
Soucek’s partnership with Declan Rice has made West Ham difficult to beat with the duo providing energy and presence to the engine room, the former’s box-to-box style having won plenty of plaudits over the opening months of the campaign.
Signed for £17m from Slavia Prague during the summer following an initial loan spell at the London Stadium, Soucek netted his fifth Premier League goal of the season with an opportunistic winner on Merseyside – a figure no West Ham player can better during the current campaign.
Right-wing: Bukayo Saka – Arsenal
Arsenal’s teenage talent is in sparkling form right now and has been instrumental to the Gunners’ run of victories, Saka underlining his status as one of the Premier League’s best youngsters in recent fixtures.
The academy graduate tormented West Brom throughout as Arsenal secured a 4-0 victory over Sam Allardyce’s struggling side, scoring the visitor’s second goal after capping a wonderful flowing move involving Alexandre Lacazette and fellow youngster Emile Smith Rowe.
Bukayo Saka has been directly involved 22 goals in all competitions since the start of last season.
Mason Greenwood (25) is the only teenager in the Premier League with a higher total. pic.twitter.com/q4jx9zuSh0
— Goal (@goal) January 2, 2021
There is an increasing argument that the 19-year-old is currently the most important part of Mikel Arteta’s plans and Saka looks a shoo-in to make the England squad for this summer’s Euros based on his current form.
Left-wing: Phil Foden – Manchester City
Pep Guardiola’s usage of Phil Foden has often been a subject of debate in recent months with the midfielder’s phenomenal potential no secret, and the demands for more regular involvement will now only increase following the starlet’s latest showing.
Foden was arguably the best player on the pitch as City blitzed Chelsea to secure a convincing win at Stamford Bridge, providing the assist for the opener before firing home his third Premier League goal of the season.
The 20-year-old was utilised in a front three and had the beating of Cesar Azpilicueta, whilst he showcased his will-to-win by surprisingly outmuscling the rather superior-sized Kurt Zouma on one occasion.
Foden is captivating to watch in possession and his performance continued a brilliant record in games against the Premier League’s ‘big six’, moving to 11 goal involvements in just nine appearances against the division’s leading sides.
Phil Foden vs the ‘Big Six’
👕 9 Appearances
⚽️ 6 Goals
🅰️ 5 Assists
📊 11 G/A
Big future ahead of him 💫 pic.twitter.com/aRaR4weZMz
— Footy Accumulators (@FootyAccums) January 4, 2021
Make no mistake, Foden is a special talent and it is time – perhaps greatly overdue – that Pep Guardiola rewards his abilities with a prominent role in the City side.
Forward: Alexandre Lacazette – Arsenal
Arsenal’s worst-ever start to a Premier League season has shown signs of recovery over their past three fixtures, moving up to 11th in the division following three victories on the bounce against Chelsea, Brighton and West Brom.
Key to that charge has been the form of Alexandre Lacazette, who has stepped up amid the continued poor performances of club captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to score four goals in his past three league appearances.
The France international scored twice during a comfortable 4-0 victory over West Brom, thriving as the focal point of the side as a youthful contingent of attacking players flourished around him.
Alexandre Lacazette has now scored in four consecutive matches for the first time since joining Arsenal. 🎺
— afcstuff (@afcstuff) January 2, 2021
Lacazette played a crucial role in the build-up to Bukayo Saka’s goal before netting a clinical brace from close range, with the 29-year-old now playing with a confidence and cutting edge that has been lacking from his game over the opening months of the campaign.
Forward: Harry Kane – Tottenham
Harry Kane’s capped a memorable week with another goal and assist as Tottenham secured a 3-0 win over Leeds this weekend, celebrating the birth of his son with a clinical display for the north London side.
Kane slammed home a penalty to open the scoring and become the fastest player in Premier League history to reach 10+ goals and 10+ assists in a single season, whilst the strike also maintained his record of scoring against every opposition side he has ever faced in the top flight.
Starting the new year the right way. A win, a goal and a son. What a week. 💙 pic.twitter.com/dNycQYq7bB
— Harry Kane (@HKane) January 2, 2021
The England captain predictably turned provider for Son Heung-Min shortly before half-time, incredibly the 13th goal combination between the two forwards this season – levelling the record set by Blackburn’s Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton during the 1994/95 campaign and moving within just four of Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba’s all-time landmark.
It was a welcome return to winning ways for Spurs after wobbling over the festive period, the form of Kane ensuring belief remains high that silverware could be on the horizon for Jose Mourinho’s side.