Premier League sides would play their festive fixtures this weekend as matches on Boxing day as well as the two following days would make for an enthralling round of Premier League action. In Boxing day’s early kick-off, Crystal Palace travelled to Vicarage Road to face Watford. Chelsea hosted Bournemouth in search of their twelfth consecutive Premier League win, as they close in on Arsenal’s record of 14 consecutive victories. Manchester City travelled to Hull, while Manchester United hosted Sunderland. Tuesday would see Liverpool face Stoke City, with Tottenham’s trip to Southampton the only fixture on Wednesday. So, here’s the FPL Gameweek 18 Review.
Joel Robles – Backup goalkeeper Joel had an afternoon to remember for Everton, as they ran out 2-0 winners away at champions Leicester City. Having struggled massively this season so far, Leicester’s task was made no easier by the absences of Jamie Vary and Riyad Mahrez, the latter of whom will most likely be headed off to the African Cup of Nations in the following week. It was a long kick from Joel that released Kevin Mirallas through the middle, who seemed to have given himself too much to do before his drive was deflected over the Leicester ‘keeper to give the Toffees the lead. The points were made safe by Romelu Lukaku, who finished smartly after a long ball from Ross Barkley.
Winston Reid – West Ham, after a tragic opening few months, have found themselves on a run of three consecutive league wins after they hammered Swansea City 4-1 at the Liberty Stadium. The result would spell an end to Bob Bradley’s brief stint in charge of the Swans. West Ham always looked in control, as Andre Ayew pounced on a loose ball after poor goalkeeping to tap in. Winston Reid doubled the Hammers’ lead when he headed home from a Dimitri Payet corner. Michail Antonio added West Ham’s third before Andy Carroll fired a fourth, to give the Irons fans a keen sense of optimism heading into the new year. A late Fernando Llorente goal failed to take the gloss of a very impressive win.
Laurent Koscielny – Arsenal suffered one of their most frustrating afternoon’s in recent memory at the Emirates on Saturday as they welcomed a West Brom side that had been in fine form during the first half of this campaign. The Baggies, stubborn as ever, threatened on couple of occasions in the first half, with Salomon Rondon even having a fine goal ruled out for offside. As the game went on, West Brom dropped in deep, and withstood wave after wave of Gunners pressure. Just as Arsenal looked to be settling for a frustrating point, Mesut Ozil cross found the head of Olivier Giroud, who curled a superb header over Ben Foster and into the top corner to win it for Arsenal. It was an expected win for Arsenal who duly delivered, albeit in difficult circumstances.
Virgil van Dijk – Southampton got off to the best possible start when they faced Spurs at St Mary’s on Wednesday, netting after just two minutes when a delightful corner from James Ward-Prowse found the head of Dutch international Virgil van Dijk to give the Saints a lead. However, things would only go one way for Southampton, as four unanswered Spurs goals would leave them stunned. One moment of note was a red card for Saints winger Nathan Redmond as he was controversially given his marching orders as Spurs were awarded a penalty. Step forward Harry Kane to produce one of the worst penalties you’ll see, as a divot in the turf meant the ball would spiral up and over into the stand behind the goal.
Nicolas Otamendi – Manchester City were deserved winners as they travelled to face Hull City at the KCOM stadium on Monday evening. The first half was one for the defenders, as despite an injury to John Stones both sides were able to hold firm at the back. However, four unanswered City goals in the second half would see them back to Manchester with the three points. Kelechi Iheanacho netted his first goal for some time to send the away side home happy, and with Sergio Aguero to return in the near future there’s cause for optimism at the Etihad.
Dele Alli – Dele Alli was on form as Spurs travelled to Southampton on Wednesday, netting a brace on the way to a brilliant 4-1 victory. The first came when Alli brilliantly rose above Virgil van Dijk to equalise for his side with an excellent header after just twenty minutes. His second would come late on to seal the win, with Alli firing in low just moments after substitute Heung Min-Son had done the same. It’s a return to goal scoring form for Alli, who had thus far failed to match his incredible breakout season form from last campaign.
Pedro – Antonio Conte opted to deploy Pedro as a number nine instead of Michy Batshuayi on Saturday afternoon as they played host to Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge on Boxing day. His decision was quickly vindicated as Pedro produced a stunning effort to give the Blues the lead after 25 minutes. After receiving the ball from Cesc Fabregas, Pedro was quick to turn and loop a curling effort into the top corner past Artur Boruc. Eden Hazard doubled the lead from the penalty spot after he was brought down by Steve Cook, before Cook put through his own net after a Pedro shot deflected in off the defender. Chelsea find themselves six points clear at the Premier League summit.
Yaya Touré – Yaya was one of the stars of the show for City as they ran out clear 3-0 winners on Boxing day. The big Ivorian netted the opener for City when he calmly converted from the spot after Raheem Sterling was brought down in the penalty area by Andrew Robertson. It was Hull’s ninth penalty conceded this season, the most of any Premier League side this season by four. It was to get worse, as Kelechi Iheanacho’s tap in and Curtis Davies’ own goal would condemn Hull to yet another week at the bottom of the Premier League table.
Roberto Firmino – Things were looking grim for Liverpool and their fans when they fell behind to Stoke City at Anfield on Tuesday evening, however an attacking masterclass of sorts would send the fans home delighted with Jurgen Klopp’s men and their performance. John Walter put Stoke in front before a great save from Simon Mignolet was the only thing that stopped it from getting worse. Adam Lallana and Firmino provided a great response for the Reds, who added a third and fourth early in the second half, with Gianelli Imbula putting through his own net from a Divock Origi cross before a poor backpass from Ryan Shawcross left Daniel Sturridge with just Grant to beat. And he did. It finished 4-1 to leave Liverpool second, six points off leaders Chelsea.
Christian Eriksen – The Dane has been in good form of late, and continued that into Spurs’ victory over Southampton at St Mary’s, laying on two goals for his teammates as his side ran out deserved winners in the end. First, he curled in a corner that was met firmly by Harry Kane to end his run of three matches without a goal. Eriksen would create again, this time laying on Heung Min-Son to drill low past Fraser Forster in the Saints goal. Spurs find themselves in fifth position after the win, closing the game to just one point from the top four and North-London rivals Arsenal. Spurs will be looking to continue their good form into 2017.
Zlatan Ibrahimović – Manchester United and swede Zlatan Ibrahimović have found form at exactly the right time, and they continued that form as they put three past a poor Sunderland side at Old Trafford. Zlatan Ibrahimović was the star of the show by all accounts, assisting two and netting one for himself in a fine match for all involved. Daley Blind opened the scoring for Man United, before Ibrahimović himself netted from a great Pogba ball. United finished it off with one of the best goals you’ll see. Zlatan Ibrahimović crossed to Henrikh Mikhitaryan, who finished with a phenomenal scorpion kick, the likes of which you may not have seen. It was a superb strike and match for United, who will be a little disappointed that their clean sheet was taken by a late Fabio Borini consolation goal.
Written by Ryan Nevin (@RNevin7)