Premier League best XI for matchweek 29, with Liverpool’s prolific forward Mohamed Salah involved again.
Another Premier League week, another goal for Mohamed Salah. Liverpool’s free-scoring winger found the net yet again to send the Reds second, temporarily at least.
Liverpool and Salah were too good for Newcastle on Saturday. It was also a good day for Swansea, who escaped the relegation mire by demolishing West Ham.
Sunday saw Arsenal beaten again, this time by Brighton. The Seagulls received inspired performances from defender Shane Duffy and playmaker Pascal Gross.
But the day’s standout result was Manchester City inching closer to the title. The Citizens beat Chelsea 1-0 at the Etihad Stadium thanks to the brilliance of David and Bernardo Silva.
Find out who else makes the latest team of the week:
Goalkeeper: Jack Butland, Stoke
The Potters are still second from bottom, but will be pleased with the creditable point they earned at Southampton. Stoke forced a 0-0 draw thanks largely to goalkeeper Jack Butland.
The precocious England stopper made a string of solid saves to leave the Saints frustrated. Butland was at his miserly best during the second half when he twice denied Josh Sims and also turned away a fine effort from right-back Cedric Soares.
Still only 24, Butland can make a strong case to be the best English ‘keeper in the land. He hasn’t always been helped by Stoke’s leaky defense this season, but the young gloveman is beginning to go from strength to strength.
Defender: Alfie Mawson, Swansea
Butland’s form isn’t the only reason the future looks bright for England defensively. Alfie Mawson’s rapid development at Swansea means the Three Lions can count on a rock-solid center-back for the next decade.
Mawson was outstanding against a West Ham side potent in attacking areas. He shackled Marko Arnautovic and stayed alert to the pace of Javier Hernandez.
As usual, Mawson didn’t just catch the eye because of his defensive work. The 24-year-old was also astute in possession, helping the Swans launch attacks with a series of pinpoint long passes.
Mawson is a defender who combines aggression with technique, so it’s surprising more of the division’s big boys aren’t circling.
Defender: Kurt Zouma, Stoke
As good as Butland was at St Mary’s Stadium, Kurt Zouma may have been even better. The brittle, but gifted French central defender kept every Southampton runner firmly on his radar.
It was rare for the Saints to get a free man down the side of Zouma or drag him out of position. Instead, the Chelsea loanee covered ground quickly to intercept through passes and cut out one-two combinations in and around the box.
Zouma was also decisive in the air when Southampton tried to switch things up and use target man Shane Long as an outlet. Like fellow sub Manolo Gabbiadini, Long couldn’t escape Zouma for long enough to make an impact.
Defender: Shane Duffy, Brighton
Arsenal have been flat going forward for most of this calendar year, but they saw enough of the ball to leave the Amex Stadium with at least point. One reason the Gunners ultimately came away with nothing is because Shane Duffy was a rock at the back.
Duffy was a pillar of stubborn defiance as Arsenal tried to play their way through a deep and packed rearguard. The familiar one- and two-touch passing the Gunners have relied on throughout beleaguered manager Arsene Wenger’s tenure, didn’t work with Duffy so often on hand to cut out the crucial final ball.
He was a force in his own box, but a downright menace in the Arsenal area. Duffy took advantage of slack marking to tower above the Gunners and pose a considerable threat from set-pieces.
This threat created Brighton’s opener when Duffy rose unopposed to head a corner back across goal for his central defensive partner Lewis Dunk to turn in.
It was just one of many highlight moments in a terrific display from Duffy, one summed up by WhoScored.com:
Midfielder: Mohamed Salah, Liverpool
There seems to be no end in sight to Salah’s remarkable run in front of goal. The prolific Egypt international opened the scoring against the Magpies to enliven what had been a stale performance from the hosts.
His goal was typical of the qualities the 25-year-old has brought to Anfield this season. He was quick to reach Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s pass, then smart and skillful to create space with a deft touch.
Only the finish was left, and Salah took his goal as decisively as he has taken so many during this awesome first campaign on Merseyside.
The goal put Salah alone among prominent attackers on the continent, per OptaJoe:
With Salah showing no signs of relenting, Liverpool are a good bet to end the season as the best of the rest.
Midfielder: Pascal Gross, Brighton
Salah would likely be most people’s pick as the signing of the season. Yet there isn’t a better bargain than the £3 million Brighton paid to sign Pascal Gross from Ingolstadt.
The cerebral 26-year-old registered his eighth assist when he picked out Glenn Murray with a terrifically arced cross. It was an inch-perfect delivery typical of the quality the German has added to Brighton’s game.
Vision and technique again came to the fore when Anthony Knockaert went close. The winger had been teed up after a stylish backheel from Gross.
Brighton’s chief creative force also came close to netting his sixth league goal when he twice drew struggling Petr Cech into smart saves during the first half.
Manager Chris Hughton has wisely allowed Gross to play as close to the front as possible. His guile is helping him become one of the league’s best players between the midfield and forward lines.
Midfielder: Ki Sung-yueng, Swansea
It’s no coincidence Swansea have been revived since manager Carlos Carvalhal has restored Ki Sung-yueng to midfield. The South Korean has reminded onlookers of his keen eye for a pass, as well as his intelligent positional sense.
Ki has become the hub of possession for the Swans. The former Celtic schemer is recycling the ball well, always playing the simple, efficient pass and wasting no time moving for the return.
This pass-and-move style is helping Swansea move the ball quicker between the lines. It’s also helping Carvalhal’s men keep the ball away from the opposition for longer.
Ki’s revival continued in fine fettle against the Hammers. The midfield gem opened the scoring with a drilled low effort. He assisted the second when his corner picked out Mike van der Hoorn to head in.
Another Ki corner led to Andy King making it 3-0. Contributions in the final third had been a rarity for Ki, per OptaJoe:
Things are looking up for one of the division’s best kept secrets.
Midfielder: David Silva, Manchester City
There aren’t many more plaudits to bestow on the runaway leaders. But as good as they are, the Citizens are still only at their peak whenever David Silva is on the pitch.
The 32-year-old was exceptional during Sunday’s 1-0 win over Chelsea. Silva was everywhere, playing with a freedom and artistry most midfielders can only dream of.
He ostensibly started on the left of a central trio, but Silva roamed where he pleased. His passing and movement were flawless, pulling Chelsea’s rigid back five to pieces.
Silva created space for himself on the left flank to cross for namesake Bernardo Silva to scuff in the winner during first-half stoppage time. It was the only goal the Citizens needed to extend their lead at the top to 18 points.
Silva the elder spent the rest of the match playing angled passes to release runners. It was as efficient as it gets from City’s ageless quarterback.
Sky Sports Statto put numbers to the magic show:
Midfielder: Bernardo Silva, Manchester City
When City dumped £43 million to sign Bernardo Silva from Monaco in the summer it was easy to ask why? After all, manager Pep Guardiola already had David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling at his disposal.
The last thing he needed seemed to be another attacking midfielder.
Slowly but surely though, Portugal international Silva is starting to justify both the decision and the fee. The 23-year-old was exceptional for the second game in four days.
He added to the cracker he scored during Thursday’s demolition of Arsenal to turn in the winner against Chelsea. The finish was far from pretty, but Silva’s movement and awareness still stood out.
He anticipated the cross may reach him and timed his run at the back post to perfection.
Goals and creativity are the hallmarks of City’s saunter to the title. Guardiola now has yet another master technician the rest of the league can envy.
Striker: Andre Ayew, Swansea
In January, West Ham sold Andre Ayew back to Swansea, a club in no doubt about the Ghana international’s talent. Ayew didn’t get enough chances with the Hammers, but fans of the east London club must wonder why after watching the quick-witted forward tear through their team.
Ayew’s perceptive runs off the ball, intelligent link play and eye for goal were the inspiration for Swansea’s 4-1 win. While he didn’t get on the scoresheet, Ayew won a penalty his brother Jordan tucked away for the Swans’ fourth goal.
He had earlier teed up Ki with a superb touch to start the home side’s goal glut.
Ayew also baffled the West Ham midfield and back four by the way he ghosted into pockets of space. Those darting runs routinely dragged markers out of position and created room for overlapping runners.
This was throwback stuff from a 28-year-old who is one of the more intelligent and versatile forwards in England’s top flight.
Striker: Heung-Min Son, Tottenham
Signing Heung-Min Son from Bayer Leverkusen in 2015 is one of the better pieces of business Tottenham have done in recent years. Son has given Spurs another source of goals besides Harry Kane.
The South Korea international showed his appetite for goals by bagging a brace against Huddersfield Town at Wembley. Smart movement and accurate timing saw Son break the Terriers’ offside trap on 27 minutes, before slotting home with the coolness of a natural finisher.
Son’s game isn’t all about pace, though, as he proved nine minutes after the break. The 25-year-old guided a deft header into the corner of the net after adjusting his run to connect with Kane’s cross.
Putting Son into the starting XI more often has been a brilliant move from Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino. It’s given Spurs another true match-winner besides Kane.