Premier League best XI for matchweek 32, featuring Dele Alli, Leroy Sane and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Attacking midfielders ran riot during the 32nd matchweek of this Premier League season. Leroy Sane and David Silva helped leaders Manchester City move to within one win of the title.
The week ended with Dele Alli roaming free to score twice and break Tottenham’s hoodoo against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
It was also a good weekend for two strikers, with Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in fine form against Stoke. Meanwhile, Ashley Barnes kept up his strong form for consistent Burnley.
Find out who else made the latest team of the week:
Goalkeeper: Kasper Schmeichel, Leicester
Kasper Schmeichel is one of the unsung heroes from Leicester’s Cinderella story of recent seasons. Yet the outstanding Danish goalkeeper is no less important than striker Jamie Vardy or winger Riyad Mahrez.
Schmeichel was terrific when the Foxes won the title two years ago. He rekindled such form during Saturday’s impressive 2-0 win at Brighton.
The Seagulls have been strong at home, but couldn’t find a way past Leicester’s 31-year-old stopper. Brighton thought the decisive moment had come when in-form Glenn Murray stepped forward to take a penalty, only to see Schmeichel stand firm again.
Down to 10 men, but in front thanks to Vicente Iborra, Leicester would have shipped a late equalizer had it not been for Schmeichel. The accomplished No. 1 saved his best stop of the day for injury time when he clawed Solly March’s free-kick clear.
Vardy put the game out of sight for the Foxes late on to give Schmeichel just reward for his stellar display.
Defender: Andy Robertson, Liverpool
After a slow start, Andy Robertson has emerged as arguably the bargain of last summer’s transfer window. The former Hull left-back cost Liverpool just £8 million, but has become invaluable to the way the Reds attack.
Robertson’s tireless runs forward on the flank perfectly fit a team designed to be relentless with its pressing. Robertson also ensures true width for a Liverpool side loaded with central-leaning playmakers and forwards.
This width helped create the Reds’ winner at Crystal Palace on Saturday. A typically buccaneering run from Robertson ended with an astute low cross Mohamed Salah tucked in after some fancy footwork.
Robertson’s development has solved a problem position for manager Jurgen Klopp. The German no longer has to rely on James Milner playing or Alberto Moreno.
Now he can trust a natural full-back who is one of the most dynamic players at his position in England’s top flight.
Defender: Jamaal Lascelles, Newcastle
If you want to know why Newcastle will avoid relegation, the answer is simple. Unlike Southampton and Stoke, two sides shipping goals in bunches, the Magpies are solid and stingy defensively.
Center-back Jamaal Lascelles is the foundation for this solidity. The burgeoning star was again uncompromising as Newcastle beat Huddersfield 1-0 on Saturday.
Lascelles aggressively and decisively dealt with the aerial threat posed by Terriers strikers Laurent Depoitre and Steve Mounie. He also read the game astutely enough to cut out Huddersfield’s attempts to play between the lines, led by pass-master Aaron Mooy.
Having Lascelles partner Florian Lejeune, a crafty summer signing by manager Rafa Benitez, has given Newcastle the platform for survival.
Defender: Victor Lindelof, Manchester United
Victor Lindelof has found minutes and starts hard to come by. The ex-Benfica center-back who cost United over £30 million made just his 10th league start in Saturday’s 2-0 win over Swansea.
Fortunately for United boss Jose Mourinho, Lindelof delivered an assured display. Mourinho has been under no-small pressure since Sevilla knocked the Red Devils out of the Champions League, with many of his signings questioned.
Yet Lindelof rebuffed some of the doubters with the way he tackled precisely and used the ball well against the Swans. The Sweden international keenly tracked the movement of Andre Ayew. He also rarely let runners from midfield, including Sam Clucas and Andy King, get behind him.
Lindelof still has a lot to do to win his critics, not to mention his reluctant manager, over. Even so, steady showings like this will do his standing no harm.
Midfielder: Leroy Sane, Manchester City
There are so many star performers behind City’s now inevitable title win. It’s almost easy to forget that among Silva, Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero, Sane may soon emerge as the best of the lot.
It’s a bold statement, but one the precocious Germany international can prove true. Still just 22, Sane has added the cutting edge missing from his game last season.
Said cutting edge was evidenced by the terrific volley he hit to open the scoring at Everton on Saturday. It was Sane’s ninth league goal of this campaign, to go with 11 assists.
A scoring touch added to impeccable close control, awesome acceleration and impish flair, makes Sane a formidable talent. Don’t be surprised if he becomes the focal point City are geared around in the coming years.
Midfielder: David Silva, Manchester City
While City wait on Sane joining the ranks of the game’s elite, they can still rely on Silva conjuring his magic in the middle. The evergreen maestro was different class against the Toffees.
There was an effortless grace and commendable, no-nonsense efficiency about the way Silva fashioned chances at Goodison Park. His vision created goals for both Sane and Raheem Sterling.
Two assists is a great afternoon’s work for most playmakers. Yet it’s merely standard for Silva, the 32-year-old artisan who is getting better with age.
Having a player as cultured as Silva to build around has made Pep Guardiola’s job easier.
Midfielder: Dele Alli, Tottenham
Alli’s form has been criticized both at club an international level recently. Yet the naysayers seem to forget he is still just 21.
Bumps in the road can be expected when any youthful ace is developing. Alli smoothed out the bumps at the Bridge when he bagged a second-half brace.
As much as his goals, his movement, technique and intelligence also stood out. Chelsea found Tottenham’s wizard in the final third impossible to track.
Such perceptive and varied movement is an obvious sign of natural footballing intelligence. Alli has more of this quality than most, while few can match his technical acumen.
He displayed the latter quality with his finish for Spurs’ second. The deft lob over Willy Caballero after a neat first touch summed up Alli’s return to form.
It also showed England manager Gareth Southgate he doesn’t have a better creative midfielder to choose from ahead of the World Cup in Russia this June.
Midfielder: Sadio Mane, Liverpool
Overshadowed by Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino for most of the season, Sadio Mane is still a marquee match-winner for Liverpool.
The fluid-moving and quick-thinking winger showed off both his creative verve and direct menace against Palace. Mane put Liverpool in front thanks to a clever flick four minutes into the second half.
His pace, touch and varied runs off the ball also tied Palace in knots between the midfield and defensive lines. Like Salah and Firmino, Mane has an excellent understanding of space and timing, two attributes essential for the most dynamic forward line on the continent.
Mane won’t earn the headlines and score the goals Salah does, but Liverpool’s free-flowing attack wouldn’t function without the Senegal international.
Striker: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Arsenal
Aubameyang only made his Arsenal debut roughly two months ago and hasn’t been able to play in the Gunners’ UEFA Europa League campaign.
Yet he is already finding his feet and looking like the consistent goal-getter Arsenal have missed since Robin van Persie left town in 2012.
Two more goals against the Potters took Aubameyang to five and gave him a club record, per OptaJoe. More than quality as a finisher or a range of movement, Aubameyang has the insatiable appetite for goals all lethal strikers need.
His ability to score any kind of goal will give the Gunners an obvious focal point up top. It will also demand having their approach play defined by what Aubameyang does best.
Striker: Ashley Barnes, Burnley
More than a mere battering ram, Barnes is now confident enough to show off his underrated skills. His buoyant mood was obvious when he went airborne to hook in the Clarets’ opener against doomed West Brom.
Barnes spent the rest of the game dominating with his back to goal, peeling onto the flanks and spinning in behind. Whenever he made the ball stick, Barnes used it superbly, linking well with winger Aaron Lennon, central schemer Jack Cork and strike partner Chris Wood.
Thanks to Barnes, Burnley have a complete striker to lead the line and make their direct approach work. Greater efficiency up front is why the defensively sound Clarets haven’t stopped winning or applying the pressure on Arsenal at the foot of the top six.
Striker: Marko Arnautovic, West Ham
Marko Arnautovic is one of those versatile attackers tough to define. He can play on either wing or as a number 10. West Ham are slowly learning though, their talisman up front is at his best through the middle.
Playing as a central striker allowed Arnautovic to tear Southampton apart. The Austrian scored twice and bullied the Saints defence all day.
Arnautovic’s strength, touch and skill make him a complete center-forward. He can assist and score goals, while his movement routinely drags defenders out of position to create space for others to exploit.
Helping the 28-year-old refine his game is the main reason why the Hammers look increasingly likely to beat the drop.