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Premier League Team of the Week for gameweek 23

Slips near the top and vital wins down at the bottom, a remarkable weekend of Premier League action saw just two of the teams in the top half seal three points.

Liverpool continued their relentless run towards an elusive title with victory over Manchester United at Anfield, though Manchester City, Leicester and Chelsea all dropped points behind them.

Down at the bottom, Norwich gave their hopes of survival a huge boost with victory over fellow strugglers Bournemouth, whilst Burnley eased their growing relegation fears by beating the aforementioned Foxes at Turf Moor.

Team of the Week

Goalkeeper: Nick Pope – Burnley

One of two goalkeepers to produce heroics from the penalty spot this weekend, Pope dived low to his left to thwart the Premier League‘s leading goalscorer in Jamie Vardy as Burnley shocked top-four chasing Leicester.

It was a welcome return to form for the England goalkeeper who, like many of his teammates, has struggled on occasion so far this season.

The 27-year-old would also make a series of stops in open play and would make seven for the afternoon, the goalkeeper being named Man of the Match following a performance that delivered a vital victory for Burnley who were beginning to look nervously over their shoulders.

Centre-back: Ciaran Clark – Newcastle

Newcastle would deliver the biggest smash-and-grab result of the weekend, being largely dominated at St James’ Park by Chelsea before Isaac Hayden’s stoppage-time header snatched victory in dramatic fashion.

Manager Steve Bruce spoke afterwards about his side’s resilience and setting up to be difficult to beat, and no player epitomised their defensive spirit more than Ireland international Clark.

The 30-year-old was at the heart of the club’s display as they frustrated their top-four chasing opponents, making seven clearances and three blocks as an injury-ravaged Magpies side stole an unlikely three points.

Centre-back: Virgil van Dijk – Liverpool

Liverpool‘s charge towards the championship is showing no signs of slowing down, and it was the colossal Van Dijk who set Jurgen Klopp’s league leaders on their way to yet another victory against Manchester United this weekend.

The reigning PFA Player’s Player of the Year rose highest to thump home a Trent Alexander-Arnold corner to open the scoring, the Dutchman allowed a free jump at teenager Brandon Williams in what was an inexcusable mismatch of physical prowess.

Aside from his goal, Van Dijk was once again flawless defensively, the Reds securing a seventh consecutive clean sheet as their wait for a league title looks ever-increasingly likely to come to an end this season.

Centre-back: Mason Holgate – Everton

It’s proven to be some renaissance for Holgate at Everton this season, the versatile defender seemingly on the fringes at Goodison Park before grabbing his opportunity and becoming arguably the club’s most reliable centre-back option.

The 23-year-old starred once again at West Ham and was a composed figure despite the below-par showings of several of his teammates, nullifying the threat of the hosts with four successful tackles, one block and seven clearances to help secure Carlo Ancelotti’s side secure a point at the London Stadium.

Few would have expected this level of performance upon Holgate’s return from a loan spell at West Brom last season, but on present form, he is likely to be amongst the first names on the team sheet.

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Right-wing: Adama Traore – Wolves

The Wolves winger has received his fair share of praise so far this season, but his continued development is cause for excitement amongst the club’s fanbase.

Against Southampton, the rampaging Traore again produced a display of typical pace and power, though his newfound composure has led to his once criticised end product coming on leaps and bounds in recent months.

Nuno Espirito Santo’s side came from two goals down to secure a 3-2 fightback victory at St Mary’s, Traore laying on assists for both Pedro Neto and Raul Jimenez to take his tally to six for the season, with only five players in the division able to better that total.

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Midfield: Jordan Henderson – Liverpool 

Without doubt, Henderson is playing the best football of his career, the Liverpool captain starring alongside Georginio Wijnaldum at the heart of Jurgen Klopp’s midfield, covering more ground than any other teammate against Manchester United.

The England international brought energy and bite and was unfortunate not to score after seeing his effort tipped onto the post by David de Gea, his career-best form having driven the league leaders on during the absence of Fabinho in recent months.

Whisper it quietly, but is the once-maligned midfielder in fact underrated? 

Midfield: Georginio Wijnaldum – Liverpool

Another midfielder who perhaps does not receive the recognition he deserves, Wijnaldum makes our Team of the Week for a second successive week following another stand-out showing against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side.

The Dutch international seems to save his best performances for the biggest of fixtures and was central to the success of Jurgen Klopp’s side against their north west rivals, making the team tick with his excellent distribution and ability to retain and recycle possession.

A highlight reel nutmeg on Harry Maguire may draw the attention of the social media fanbase, but it is the 29-year-old’s dirty work in the midfield battle that warrants his inclusion here.

Left-wing: Jack Grealish – Aston Villa

Another week, another inclusion in this side for Jack Grealish, the Aston Villa captain the driving force behind the club’s battle to survive this season.

Against Brighton, it was the 24-year-old who was once again at the centre of his side’s best moments, and he would rescue a point for Villa with a brilliantly taken second-half effort – his seventh in the Premier League so far this season.

Dean Smith’s side have become over-reliant on Grealish in recent weeks and it will be a major concern for the Villa boss, though the midfielder continues to perform to keep the club within touching distance of safety.

Gareth Southgate is likely to find it hard to resist the clamours for an international inclusion ahead of March’s fixtures, and Grealish can bring undoubtedly bring an x-factor previously lacking in the England midfield.

Forward: Cenk Tosun – Crystal Palace

Was Tosun underused by Everton?

The Turkish international joined Crystal Palace on a loan deal this month having found opportunities difficult to come by on Merseyside, but has already shown himself as a valuable asset to Roy Hodgson’s side on what was his full debut for the club.

The forward led the line superbly as the Eagles earned a surprise draw at Manchester City, opening his account for the club with a perfectly guided header at the Etihad and producing a battling display.

Hodgson praised director of football Dougie Freedman for securing the loan following his performance, and the 28-year-old could prove a shrewd acquisition for a Palace side who have struggled in front of goal this season.

Forward: Raul Jimenez – Wolves

Wolves were one of just two top-half teams to secure victory this weekend, moving within five points of the Champions League places courtesy of a comeback victory at Southampton.

Top scorer Jimenez was central to their success with two well-taken goals, calmly rolling home his first from the penalty spot before converting from Adama Traore’s cut-back to seal victory.

Nuno Espirito Santo’s side showed spirit to fight back from two goals down, but with players such as the Mexican international in their ranks Wolves will always have hope – Jimenez now has 19 goals in all competitions so far this season.

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Forward: Sergio Aguero – Manchester City

The champions may have dropped points in dramatic circumstances, but their all-time record goalscorer produced another clinic of ruthless finishing to continue his purple patch.

Aguero followed last weekend’s hat-trick against Aston Villa with a brace this time around, netting a double against Crystal Palace to have seemingly secured three points for Pep Guardiola’s side – his second a brilliantly cushioned header – only for Fernandinho’s late own goal to deny the champions victory.

Those goals moved Aguero past the 250 mark for Manchester City, whilst he is also now the outright fourth leading goalscorer in Premier League history, moving clear of Frank Lampard onto a hugely impressive 179 top-flight goals.

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Read – Premier League Weekend: Five things we learned

See also – Premier League Weekend: Heroes and Villains


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