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Premier League Team of the Week – Matchday 23

Each week we delve through the Premier League’s weekend action and compile our divisional Team of the Week from the fixtures’ finest performances.

Manchester City cruised to victory against Aston Villa to close the gap on leaders Arsenal, who dropped points for a second successive game. Brentford continued their unbeaten run to earn a draw with the Gunners, while in-form Manchester United won 2-0 at Leeds.

Elsewhere, Leicester thrashed Tottenham, Fulham’s fine Premier League return continued with a win over Nottingham Forest, and Southampton sacked Nathan Jones after defeat to 10-man Wolves.

Here is The Football Faithful’s Premier League Team of the Week.

Goalkeeper: David Raya – Brentford

Brentford’s impressive form continued with a draw at Arsenal this weekend, as Thomas Frank’s side put a dent in the Gunners’ title bid.

David Raya was less involved than he might have expected to be, but produced smart saves to deny Bukayo Saka and Martin Odegaard as Arsenal looked to up the pressure.

His distribution, as ever, was excellent and demonstrated why the Premier League’s top clubs are monitoring him ahead of a potential summer move. One sharp turn sent Eddie Nketiah for a hotdog and underlined the confidence and composure in Raya’s game.

Centre-back: Wout Faes – Leicester

Much was made about Harry Kane’s prolific record against Leicester before this weekend’s clash with Tottenham, but Faes shackled the England captain in a brilliant defensive performance.

The Belgium defender barely gave Kane an inch in a display of front-footed and aggressive defending, summarised perfectly with a crunching challenge on the Spurs striker that led to Leicester’s second goal.

Leicester have not convinced defensively for much of this season, but the club’s new defensive axis of Faes and Harry Souttar has a blend of attributes that can improve their fortunes.

Centre-back: Tim Ream – Fulham

Fulham’s impressive return to the Premier League continued after beating Nottingham Forest this weekend, with the club’s veterans at the centre of the Cottager’s success. Tim Ream is in the midst of a remarkable campaign, with the 35-year-old playing the best football of his career.

Ream – as he has been for much of this season – was composure personified against Forest, in a fixture which saw the defender complete 90% of his passes, 8/11 accurate long balls and regain possession on 13 occasions.

The US international is among the Premier League’s leading defenders for both progressive passing and carrying distance per 60 touches this season, with his form outstanding. Rarely has a player lifted the level of their game by such a standard at this stage of their career.

Centre-back: Luke Shaw – Manchester United

Luke Shaw continues to excel under the management of Erik ten Hag with the defender again at his best in Manchester United’s win at Leeds.

Shaw was elegant in possession and kept a cool head at an atmospheric Elland Road, producing an almost faultless performance at centre-back, before moving to his more familiar full-back role and providing a wonderful assist for Marcus Rashford to open the scoring.

The 27-year-old has been superb since recovering from a shaky start to the season and on current form is one of the most effective defenders in the division. He has adapted to Ten Hag’s demands to produce some of the best form of his career.

Midfield: Fred – Manchester United

Manchester United needed a performance from Fred this weekend given the club’s midfield issues, with the Brazilian required to step in in the absence of the suspended Casemiro and injured Christian Eriksen.

It was not alway pretty at times at Elland Road, but Fred’s work-rate and tenacity helped his side to three points at Leeds. The 29-year-old led his side for tackles won and high-intensity runs, never allowing the Leeds midfield to settle as he snapped into challenges.

Bruno Fernandes called Fred his side’s ‘Pitbull’ after the latter claimed the man-of-the-match award, recognition for a performance full of hard work and desire.

No Manchester United player has made more tackles in a Premier League fixture across the last six seasons, with Fred and Marcel Sabitzer putting in the hard yards for Erik ten Hag’s side.

Midfield: Rodri – Manchester City

Rodri just loves a goal against Aston Villa, doesn’t he?

The Spanish midfielder got Manchester City up and running this weekend, as he evaded his marker to head the champions in front at the Etihad. It was an early breakthrough that led to a dominant first-half performance from Pep Guardiola’s side, who closed the gap on Arsenal ahead of their huge showdown in midweek.

Rodri’s goal was the highlight of a brilliant all-round performance from the club’s midfield metronome, who led the side for touches, accurate passes, duels won and chances created, alongside a number of important defensive contributions. He is irreplaceable to this side.

Midfield: James Maddison – Leicester

What a difference James Maddison makes to this team.

Leicester returned from the World Cup break with four consecutive losses in Maddison’s absence, but have taken seven points from three since the midfielder’s return. After hitting four at Aston Villa last week, the Foxes thrashed Tottenham 4-1 with Maddison involved in almost everything.

The stand-in captain drifted into dangerous pockets of space all afternoon and caused Spurs countless problems, creating one goal and scoring another.

It’s now 14 goal contributions in 16 games this season for Maddison, who will be on the radar of top clubs in search of invention next summer. Few in the Premier League are producing such quality as consistently this season.

Right-wing: Willian – Fulham

Willian has proven a superb signing for Fulham, who gambled on the services of the experienced winger after difficult periods at Arsenal and Corinthians.

The 34-year-old has proven he’s still got plenty to offer and was arguably the best player on the pitch in Fulham’s 2-0 win over Nottingham Forest. Drifting in off both flanks in a performance of creative quality, Willian opened the scoring with a sensational effort as he cut inside and fired in a finish of perfect precision.

Forest could not get near the Brazilian veteran, who glided past challenges and made things happen for the Cottagers. There’s plenty of life in the old dog just yet.

Left-wing: Harvey Barnes – Leicester

Harvey Barnes was back to his best as Leicester stunned a sorry Spurs at the King Power Stadium. Barnes was the Foxes’ biggest threat during the second half as he caused chaos for Japhet Tanganga and debutant Pedro Porro, with the defensive duo unable to live with his intelligent runs and pace.

After being denied a first goal by a fractional offside, he got himself on the scoresheet with a cool finish from the edge of the area. Barnes punished the Spurs defence for stepping off him as he curled in a beauty for Leicester’s fourth.

It’s now eight league goals for the campaign for Barnes, with only four English players having scored more. He’ll hope a strong end to the campaign can move him back into England contention, as the 25-year-old looks to add to the maiden cap he won in 2020.

Forward: Kelechi Iheanacho – Leicester

Leicester’s forwards have not quite fired this season, but Kelechi Iheanacho has done his chances of a more prominent role no harm in recent weeks.

The Nigerian had started just once in the Premier League before the turn of the new year, but two goals in the FA Cup have earned Iheanacho his chance. He has responded with five goal contributions in just two games as Leicester have thrashed Aston Villa and Spurs.

This weekend he was heavily involved in Leicester’s forward threat, providing the perfect focal point as he linked up with the likes of James Maddison and Harvey Barnes. He set up Maddison’s goal with an unselfish pass into the midfielder’s path, before scoring a nonchalant goal himself after tormenting Eric Dier. With Jamie Vardy’s powers on the wane and Patson Daka still to convince, the centre-forward role appears to be his to claim.

Forward: Ivan Toney – Brentford

Another excellent centre-forward performance from Toney as Brentford’s unbeaten league run extended to ten games with a 1-1 draw at leaders Arsenal.

Toney could have had a hat-trick as Brentford created chances at the Emirates, but took his third opportunity to earn the Bees a point after heading home from close range. It was controversial, but Toney will care little after netting his 14th league goal of the campaign.

The 26-year-old was a menace all afternoon for Arsenal, dominating in the air as Brentford utilised the full range to his threat. Toney won 17/20 duels and 12 aerial duels, with his goal a due reward for his efforts.

Read – Ranking the 8 best right-backs in Premier League history

Read Also – Ranking the European clubs to have made the most profit on transfers in recent years

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