It’s team of the weekend time, but with the Premier League fixture list punctured by FA Cup commitments, I’ve taken the decision to include the two FA Cup fixtures in my selections. I doubt there’s a strict protocol on these things but consider it smashed wide open. We’re in a 3-5-2 this week.
Tom Heaton – Goalkeepers make the headlines when they make saves but Tom Heaton is different. Why? He’s perfected the notion of making a save but officials can’t see it. I counted three separate occasions on Sunday where Heaton got fingertips on the ball only for a goal kick to be awarded. It’s a bit of a catch twenty-two for a keeper – you want the credit for making a great save but you’re also grateful to not have to defend a corner. It was all for nothing anyway but goalkeepers had a quiet weekend, so he’s in.
Charlie Daniels – A goal and an assist for a left back who seems a constant attacking threat. His goal owed a lot to some pathetic defending but he still had the confidence to take it on and drop a shoulder or two. It’s also rare for Bournemouth to keep a clean sheet so we’ll make hay whilst the sun shines on that one.
Nacho Monreal – Isn’t it just typical that one of the most maligned members of Wenger’s side popped up with the vital equaliser at Wembley? It seems Arsenal fans have been moaning about Monreal’s inclusion for months, but we’ve stopped short of ‘Monreal Out’ banners so it hasn’t been as noticeable. The pure aggression in his celebration perhaps shows the Arsenal dressing room isn’t as divided as some would have us believe.
Arthur Masuaku – The match at The London Stadium (urgh) was so dull one journalist took the time to tweet that Masuaku is massively underrated, but that was most likely down to the fact that nobody knows who he is. Well, now here he is, getting in the team of the weekend. Now everyone will know how good he is (I have no idea either). Incidentally, I can barely remember a Premier League game with as little action as this.
Gaston Ramirez – Where to start here? Boro need every point they can get so at 2-0 down on a yellow card it was pretty stupid to go lunging in about 80 yards from your own goal. His first yellow was for one of the worst dives ever seen outside of an Olympic Games, so there was a certain amount of poetic justice that there was minimal contact for the second yellow. A very silly Gaston.
Nemanja Matic – Any goal that makes me shout out in my living room (and it’s not my own team) will earn you a place in the team of the weekend. This wasn’t just postage stamp, it went in off the bar which we all know makes a goal better. The sad thing? I was home alone and shouting at nobody. Kurt Zouma’s reaction summed it up really. Canny hit son.
Philippe Coutinho – As Rick Astley said, you know the rules, and so do I. Score a direct free kick and you’re in the team. This was very similar to one he scored earlier in the season at Arsenal but it wasn’t enough to earn his side a win. Still, he’s a little genius more or less carrying a side at the moment.
Christian Eriksen – What a pass that was. Not so much round the corner but pretty much delivered at a right angle to the arriving Dele Alli. Words can’t do it justice, but just an incredible piece of vision, and to actually execute it shows what a master of his craft Eriksen is.
Marko Arnautovic – What a great penalty. Very up. I actually rate Arnautovic pretty highly but this was just woeful. If anybody finds the ball, please return it to the Liberty Stadium.
Christian Benteke – I hate it when players don’t celebrate when they score against their former teams, which is why I am delighted Benteke laughed this notion right in the face. Not only did he celebrate, he and Liverpool loanee Mamadou Sakho perfected a handshake routine. Sammy Lee gave it a look of disdain but I think it was brilliant.
Anthony Martial – Talk about taking your opportunity. This boy was electric on Sunday and showed there may well be life after Zlatan after all. Joey Barton will no doubt be wishing he’d just hacked him down on the half way line like he usually does, but he picks his times to show he has a conscience.