Well, that’s the festive fixture schedule wrapped up for another year, and what a ride it has been. We haven’t seen a full round of ten matches in the Premier League for quite some time now, over a month in fact, but with such a hectic schedule the recent postponements have actually left the league relatively undamaged.
Matchweek 21 once again concluded with the increasingly familiar tally of seven matches, but what an entertaining set of games it was to welcome in the new year. Chelsea and Liverpool’s thrilling 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge understandably stole the headlines following one of the most competitive games of the season, but that was just the tip of the iceberg. From Wolves achieving their first win over Manchester United at Old Trafford for nearly 42 years to Manchester City’s dramatic victory at Arsenal and Brighton’s thrilling triumph over Everton, Matchweek 21 was one to remember.
From the seven fixtures, here are our five Stars of the Week, for the very first time in 2022.
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Stars of the Week – Matchweek 21
Goalkeeper: Caoimhim Kelleher (Liverpool)
Chelsea and Liverpool’s exquisite 2-2 draw at the Bridge naturally drew so much attention to the attacking displays as the two teams that the contribution of the goalkeepers was somewhat overlooked. That being said, stand-in Liverpool goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher enjoyed a strong performance between the sticks.
Thrown into one of the biggest games of Liverpool’s season following the announcement that Alisson was ruled out with Covid, Kelleher was called into action straight away and did brilliantly well to dive at the feet of Christian Pulisic and thwart an early one-on-one situation. The Republic of Ireland goalkeeper had no chance with two thunderous goals scored by Pulisic and Mateo Kovacic, but he did make four saves throughout the contest, including a sharp reaction stop from Pulisic late on to preserve a point for the Reds.
A mature display from the young goalkeeper.
Defender: Davinson Sanchez (Tottenham Hotspur)
Antonio Conte’s Tottenham revival continued at Watford with a narrow 1-0 win on the road, in which defender Davinson Sanchez played a starring role.
Sometimes criticised in recent months, the Colombian was in fine form here. With three interceptions and an 89% passing accuracy his defensive work was stable enough to keep the Hornets at arm’s length for much of the contest. In the last moments of stoppage time, Sanchez proved to be the hero for Spurs as he powered in a header from Son Heung-Min’s free kick to snatch a late victory.
The centre back has looked increasingly comfortable in Conte’s familiar back three system.
Midfielder: Alexis Mac Allister (Brighton and Hove Albion)
Having broken their long winless run recently, Brighton are on a roll at the moment, and showcased some of their finest attacking football of the season to record a 3-2 victory away at Everton.
This time around, the hero for the Seagulls was the increasingly influential midfielder Alexis Mac Allister. Brighton’s Number 10 took advantage of some awful defending early on in the game to latch onto Neal Maupay’s header and knock the ball past Jordan Pickford to give the visitors the lead.
In the 70th minute, with his team clinging onto a slender 2-1 advantage, Mac Allister delivered again for Brighton, striking an incredible half volley from Enock Mwepu’s flick that flew into the top corner, sealing an eventual victory and three points for Brighton.
A match-winning performance from the Argentine.
Forward: Michail Antonio (West Ham United)
West Ham made it two wins in a row with a nervy 3-2 win over Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park to reignite their top four hopes.
As has often been the case this season, Michail Antonio led from the front for the Hammers, and was ultimately the difference between the two sides. A thorn in Palace’s side all game, Antonio opened the scoring for the away side by getting a faint touch on Said Benrahma’s cross to net his eighth Premier League goal of the season. A couple of minutes later, his intelligent run created space for Manuel Lanzini, who duly fired home West Ham’s second goal.
This performance was vintage Antonio, and after a couple of months off the boil, this was clear evidence that he’s getting back to his best, a crucial boost for West Ham ahead of some important games coming up.
Manager: Bruno Lage (Wolverhampton Wanderers)
Having not played a match since December 19th, missing the whole Christmas period, Wolverhampton Wanderers’ belated return to action on January 3rd was certainly worth the wait, as the Midlanders recorded one of their finest victories of the Premier League era.
In truth, Bruno Lage’s side were good value for their 1-0 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford, with the pace of Daniel Podence and Adama Traore down the wing giving Wolves the upper hand throughout the game. For a long while it looked like a lack of cutting edge might be their undoing once again, before Joao Moutinho popped up with a late winner.
Bruno Lage was very open regarding his tactical approach in his post-match interview, and you have to say that it worked a treat against the Red Devils. Wolves now haven’t conceded in their last three matches, and maintain one of the finest defensive records in the league.
Manchester City and England fan. Writer of opinion and features on all things Premier League and beyond.