Premier League Team of the Week: Lacazette, Rudiger and Bakayoko feature

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 06: Alexandre Lacazette of Arsenal celebrates his goal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Burnley at Emirates Stadium on May 6, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Mark Leech/Offside/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 06: Alexandre Lacazette of Arsenal celebrates his goal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Burnley at Emirates Stadium on May 6, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Mark Leech/Offside/Getty Images) /

Premier League team of the week for matchday 37, featuring Alexandre Lacazette, Antonio Rudiger and Tiemoue Bakayoko.

Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang made sure Arsene Wenger enjoyed a fitting sendoff in his final home game as Arsenal manager.

Wenger’s two most expensive signings during 22 years in charge accounted for three of the Gunners’ five goals against Burnley on Sunday.

While Wenger was enjoying the kind of champagne soccer he made common in the Premier League, Chelsea were keeping the pressure on the top four. The Blues beat Liverpool 1-0 at Stamford Bridge to put them two points off the qualifying places for next season’s Champions League.

Chelsea won thanks to the way Antonio Rudiger nullified Mohamed Salah. Meanwhile, Tiemoue Bakayoko finally delivered a masterful display in the heart of midfield.

Find out who else makes the latest team of the week:

Goalkeeper: Thibaut Courtois, Chelsea

Salah was kept quiet, but Liverpool still remained on the front foot for most of the game on Sunday. Only a stubborn performance from Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois prevented this season’s Champions League finalists from taking the lead.

Courtois made three bigs saves before Chelsea took the lead in the first half. He superbly turned away an effort from Roberto Firmino at his near post, before producing a pair of splendid stops to deny Sadio Mane.

As the match progressed, Courtois became a steadying influence for a Chelsea back line put under increasing pressure. The Belgium international claimed crosses decisively and held his nerve whenever deliveries were fired across the box or deflected off a defender in front of him.

He hasn’t always been at his best this season, but Courtois is staying solid when it counts for the Blues during the run-in.

Defender: Antonio Rudiger, Chelsea

To say Rudiger kept Salah comfortably under wraps would be no understatement. The towering Germany international matched the PFA and Football Writers’ Player of the Year awards winner stride for stride.

Rudiger also kept his concentration against a forward who has given other defenders nightmares with his pace and subtle movement. Instead, it was Salah who will be haunted by his return to the Bridge, as the former Chelsea man rarely escaped the attentions of his one-time Roma teammate.

Being asked to stay touch tight to a player with 43 goals to his credit is an unenviable task. Yet it’s one Rudiger took to with confidence and authority.

His performance was so good Rudiger took to Twitter to give himself a well-deserved pat on the back:

He’s had his struggles since signing for Chelsea in a deal worth £34 million last summer. But Rudiger is beginning to look like a bargain at the price.

Defender: Christopher Schindler, Huddersfield

Huddersfield’s 0-0 draw away to Manchester City on the day the champions received the Premier League trophy may have been the most surprising result of this matchweek.

The Terriers earned a point thanks largely to a resolute defensive effort. It hinged on a back three led brilliantly by center-back Christopher Schindler.

His organisational skills, physicality and anticipation made the towering German a magnet for the ball. Schindler made sure the spacing between himself and his fellow center-backs remained consistent and narrow to deny City’s forwards the runs from out to in they love so much.

Whenever the Citizens were forced to go long, Schindler completely bossed Gabriel Jesus in the air.

If Huddersfield do seal survival, the club will owe a lot to Schindler and his calm, no-nonsense defending.

Defender: Lewis Dunk, Brighton

Brighton got the season’s penultimate matchweek started in style by beating Manchester United 1-0 at home on Friday. The Red Devils found themselves frustrated by Brighton’s stingy defending, led by the impressive Lewis Dunk.

He was a force in the air who denied United a direct route to goal. Even with the presence of obvious target Marouane Fellaini, United couldn’t get the ball over Dunk.

The 26-year-old center-back also stayed composed and alert on the deck. He read the flow of play well, knowing when runners would break between the lines and being there to snuff out danger before it fully developed.

Dunk has been exceptional for most of the season, good enough that some of the division’s big boys should be readying offers once the summer transfer window opens.

Midfielder: Wilfried Zaha, Crystal Palace

Wilfried Zaha was a twisting-and-turning menace when Crystal Palace condemned Stoke to relegation on Saturday. Zaha helped set up both of the Eagles’ goals at the bet365 Stadium.

His pace and trickery are familiar to most onlookers by now. But Zaha’s eye for a pass is still often overlooked.

Stoke’s defenders couldn’t deal with his vision, as the 25-year-old routinely slid passes through gaps to play runners in behind. One such expertly weighted pass released Patrick van Aanholt to score Palace’s winner.

The goal sent the Potters down, but Palace won’t be joining them thanks to the star quality Zaha has injected in their play. His versatility and skill, both from the wing and through the middle, should see the player who once flopped at United granted another chance at the big time.

Midfielder: Roberto Pereyra, Watford

Like Palace, Watford are retaining their Premier League status thanks to players who are a cut above in the final third. One such player is Roberto Pereyra, who proved the catalyst for the Hornets’ 2-1 win over Newcastle on Saturday.

The former Juventus schemer was at the heart of everything stylish Watford produced going forward. He was calmness personified when opening the scoring from close range with less than three minutes on the clock.

Next: Top four finish a distraction for Liverpool

Pereyra turned provider on 28 minutes when he chipped a deft cross to help Andre Gray score. The Argentinian maestro’s movement was perceptive, his touches neat and precise, while his technique improved the football Watford played.

Injuries have held Pereyra back too often during his time in England’s top flight. Yet there’s no denying he is a joy to watch when fit and on form.

Midfielder: Tiemoue Bakayoko, Chelsea

It’s not too often Bakayoko has merited praise during a tough debut season at Chelsea. But the 23-year-old was imperious during the win over Liverpool.

Bakayoko turned the clock back to last season when his striding dominance helped Monaco win the Ligue 1 title. Chelsea fans haven’t seen this form too much but must have been overjoyed to witness Bakayoko boss Liverpool in every area of the pitch.

Defensively, the Frenchman helped ensure the Blues always kept numbers around Salah. Going forward, Bakayoko showed off his technical quality and running power.

The latter quality meant he frequently darted into space behind the Liverpool defense. Bakayoko’s runs eventually demanded attention from Liverpool defenders, creating more room for Eden Hazard to weave his magic.

Quality on the ball isn’t something usually associated with Bakayoko. Yet his delicately arced ball to release Victor Moses out wide led to Chelsea’s winning goal.

It’s taken Bakayoko a long time to settle in England, but some, including Matt Law of the Daily Telegraph, believe the midfield powerhouse is primed for better things moving forward:

Midfielder: Alex Iwobi, Arsenal

Alex Iwobi is another midfielder often derided by his club’s fans. Yet like Bakayoko, Iwobi is more talented than he is given credit for.

The Nigerian playmaker was a constant source of creativity as Arsenal thrashed Burnley. His range of passing pulled the Clarets’ usually rigid defensive structure apart.

Iwobi slid an excellent ball to put Lacazette in behind. The France international used the space to cross for Aubameyang to tap in the Gunners’ opener.

Another precision pass from Iwobi sent right-back Hector Bellerin clear. The Spaniard lifted a cross for Lacazette to connect with for 2-0.

Fashioning chances has never been a problem for Iwobi, but finishing them has. Such issues seemed a distant memory when Iwobi took one touch to control a return pass from Aubameyang before slamming a left-foot shot into the roof of the net.

He’s still only 22, so Arsenal supporters should have a little more patience with Iwobi. The raw materials of an excellent player are there.

Striker: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Arsenal

Aubameyang has wasted no time becoming a player defenders fear at the tip of Arsenal’s attack. The former Borussia Dortmund star began on the left wing against Burnley, but was a roving menace who keyed the Gunners’ goal glut.

Instincts in the box have always defined Aubameyang’s game. The 28-year-old showcased his innate sense for when a chance will present itself when he stretched to prod in Lacazette’s cross-shot on 14 minutes.

He was similarly ahead of those around him when he turned in Bellerin’s pull back in the 75th minute. The improvised finish continued Aubameyang’s prolific start to his Arsenal career, per OptaJoe:

Aubameyang’s presence means the Gunners can still be a force in the post-Wenger era.

Striker: Alexandre Lacazette, Arsenal

Wenger’s replacement can reap immediate rewards if he’s bold enough to play Aubameyang and Lacazette together more often next season. As well as Aubameyang is playing, Lacazette is doing his bit to keep pace.

The ex-Lyon man has been in the goals since returning from injury. He maintained his scoring run with a smart finish against Burnley.

Lacazette is becoming the regular scorer Wenger hoped he’d be when he forked out £46.5 million last summer, as numbers from Squawka Football detailed:

Combining the pace, movement and finishing talents of Lacazette and Aubameyang can put Arsenal firmly back in the title picture next season.

Marko Arnautovic, West Ham

West Ham’s 2-0 win away to free-falling Leicester was defined by the burgeoning brilliance of Marko Arnautovic. The temperamental forward has redefined his career since manager David Moyes asked him to lead the line as a lone striker.

Aside from his goals, Arnautovic has been the chief source of creativity for the Hammers. The 29-year-old created West Ham’s opener on Saturday when he played in Joao Mario.

Arnautovic spent the rest of the match harassing Leicester defenders. His strength in the air, deceptive pace and varied movement kept the Foxes on edge.

West Ham are staying up because of the way Arnautovic has embraced the role of talisman.