The arrival of the FA Cup fifth round has given us all a moment to catch our breath from two weeks of non-stop Premier League action. As the dust settles on Matchweek 23, we can begin to digest and look back on the most recent round of matches, a potentially season defining one at both ends of the table. The headlines were seized by Manchester City, who blew away fierce rivals Liverpool away at Anfield to potentially end the Reds’ title charge.
On the other respective sides of Merseyside and Manchester, United and Everton played out a thrilling 3-3 draw to further strengthen City’s grip at the top, and Aston Villa’s Emiliano Martinez once again came back to haunt his former club Arsenal in a 1-0 defeat of the Gunners. Unsurprisingly though, much of this week’s individual highlights focus on the blockbuster clash at Anfield.
Stars in Premier League – Gameweek 23
Goalkeeper: Emiliano Martinez (Aston Villa)
He doesn’t stay down for long, does he? After a rare below-par performance against West Ham in midweek, Emi Martinez rebounded superbly against Arsenal to make his way into our list of five for what feels like the umpteenth time this season. A couple of good saves from Nicolas Pepe and a Xhaka free-kick was once again with a fine commanding of the penalty area, all of which proved to be vital as Villa won a narrow contest 1-0. That’s the second time already that Martinez has got one over on his former club.
Defender: James Justin (Leicester City)
It was something of a strange week for defenders in the Premier League, with few shining in terms of attacking contributions down the flanks or from set pieces. Appropriate, then, to single out a player who excelled defensively in a 0-0 draw, Leicester City’s James Justin. The fullback continued his rise this season with a solid performance, making a vitally important block from Adama Traore and preventing the winger from making any kind of game changing impact. A new option in the England fullback debate, perhaps?
Midfielder: Abdoulaye Doucoure (Everton)
From a neutral point of view, Manchester United vs Everton was arguably the delight of the weekend, a fast-paced end to end contest with so many twists and turns. Key to Everton’s initial comeback in the 3-3 draw was midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure. The former Watford man came out firing on all cylinders in the second half, scoring a poacher’s goal to pull Everton back into the contest shortly before setting up James Rodriguez to equalise. Being such a well-rounded midfielder, it’s no wonder that he’s becoming a fan favourite at Goodison Park especially after a performance like that.
Forward: Phil Foden (Manchester City)
He may not strictly be classed as a forward, but what a performance Phil Foden gave in Manchester City’s front three on Sunday. Playing in a stadium where City hadn’t won since 2003, Foden’s rotations between the right flank and the false nine position saw him contribute to the first goal with a saved shot, set up the second with a cutback for Gundogan before rounding it off with a spectacular strike for goal number four. This was a huge result for City in their pursuit of the title, and once again, perhaps more than on any other occasion before, the footballing world stood up and took notice of Phil Foden.
Manager: Pep Guardiola (Manchester City)
It’s been a long time coming, but this was finally Pep Guardiola’s day at Anfield. Although Liverpool were still somewhat bruised from previous home defeats in their formerly impenetrable home stadium, Guardiola still set his Manchester City side up perfectly to take full advantage, even with another penalty miss against the Reds. By breaking the Anfield curse his side reached ten league wins in a row to cement their place at the top of the table, a rapid rise from the team’s early season struggles. Simply brilliant from the Catalan once again.