Penalties, penalties galore. Spot kicks were very much the dominant theme in Matchweek 16 of the Premier League season, with eight awarded in total – increasing this season’s tally of total penalties awarded by nearly a quarter, from 33 up to 41.
The three title chasing sides of Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea were all beneficiaries of this trend, with penalties helping each of the three secure narrow victories this weekend. Elsewhere in the table, Arsenal made light work of Southampton, Brentford earned a dramatic late win over Watford, and Leicester City turned on the style to hammer Newcastle at the King Power.
Unfortunately, though, we were once again a match short, as Tottenham Hotspur saw another weekend without action – this time due to a Covid outbreak at the club, rather than adverse weather conditions, and hopefully, they’ll re-enter the fold sooner rather than later.
So just the nine games this week then, and here are our five star picks for Matchweek 16 of the season.
Stars of the week – Matchweek 16
Goalkeeper: David De Gea (Manchester United)
Manchester United’s tentative uptick in form under interim manager Ralf Rangnick continued on Saturday evening, as the Red Devils ground out a second successive 1-0 win to take the three points in their clash with Norwich.
Despite struggling for goals this season, Norwich gave Manchester United a fair bit of trouble at the back, and it was largely down to goalkeeper David De Gea that the visitors walked away with a clean sheet.
The Spaniard made spectacular saves from the likes of Teemu Pukki and twice from Ozan Kabak, including right at the end to deny the hosts an equaliser. All in all, De Gea made five saves, and did more than enough to earn a deserved clean sheet.
Defender: Arthur Masuaku (West Ham United)
West Ham went from the high of an incredible 3-2 win over Chelsea last week to the comparative low of a 0-0 draw with Burnley this week, in a match that was generally flat and uninspiring.
But amidst the disappointment, the Hammers did at least achieve a clean sheet, and the performance of left back Arthur Masuaku will be the main positive that they will have taken away from the drab draw. After a fortuitous winning goal against Chelsea last week, Masuaku shone again here but his time for an entirely different reason, as he put in a great shift on the left-hand side of the Hammers’ defence.
The full back made two tackles, two clearances and three interceptions for his side, proving he is capable of playing in a back four, and also tried to get the team going on the front foot by completing five dribbles – more than any other West Ham player.
This mini-revival means that Aaron Cresswell might not find it so easy to get straight back into the side upon returning from injury.
Midfielder: James Maddison (Leicester City)
A tough week for Leicester City saw the Foxes suffer a European relegation from the Europa League to the new UEFA Conference League, but it at least finished on a high note when Leicester demolished Newcastle United 4-0 on Sunday afternoon.
As has often been the case lately, James Maddison was the architect behind Leicester City’s brilliance. A burst into the box towards the end of the first half saw the midfielder win a penalty for his side, which Youri Tielemans emphatically converted.
After the break, Maddison’s brilliant first time ball to Harvey Barnes was finished off by Patson Daka, before Maddison set up Tielemans once more to seal the win. The icing on the cake arrived in the final few minutes, as Leicester’s Number 10 finally got a goal for himself.
With James Maddison having a hand in all four goals, this was an incredible performance even by his recent standards, and one to rival that of any midfielder in the Premier League so far this season.
Forward: Patson Daka (Leicester City)
Maddison may have been the star man at the King Power on Sunday, but a lot of praise should also be reserved for striker Patson Daka, who led the line superbly for Leicester.
The Zambian striker showed great anticipation to keep up with Harvey Barnes and profit with a simple finish for goal number two of the day, before playing a brilliantly weighted one-two with Maddison that beat the Newcastle defence and delivered goal number four.
A goal and an assist may not seem like a lot compared to some of the striker performances that we’ve seen so far this season, but it was still comfortably the best display by a forward in this particular Premier League Matchweek. Perhaps the best compliment we can pay Daka is to say that Leicester certainly didn’t look like they missed Jamie Vardy in this match – something rarely said about the Foxes in recent seasons.
Manager: Brendan Rodgers (Leicester City)
A Stars of the Week hat-trick for Leicester City, but one to be expected following what was comfortably the most scintillating team display of the weekend.
Amidst all the attention for Leicester’s star attacking players, let’s not overlook manager Brendan Rodgers, whose side showed great character to shut the door on their recent disappointment and stylishly return to form here. The decision to bench the talismanic Vardy was a brave one given the team’s bruising results of late, but it proved to be the right one as Daka and Maddison tore Newcastle to shreds. Fielding the relatively inexperienced Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall also paid off.
It’s been a tough ride for Rodgers lately, who has come under increasing criticism, but this display may help to silence the doubters and remind everyone just what Leicester City are all about. On this evidence, there is much life in this team yet.
Manchester City and England fan. Writer of opinion and features on all things Premier League and beyond.