Gameweek 20 would see the first round of reverse fixtures, with each team having faced every other Premier League side. Several sides would play their first match of the new year, with Manchester United travelling to the London stadium to face West Ham United. Leicester City travelled to the Riverside to face Middlesbrough, who know they will have to improve if they are to maintain their Premier League status another season. Fellow strugglers Hull City travelled to the Hawthorns, while title-chasing Liverpool would face lowly Sunderland at the Stadium of Light. So, here’s the FPL Gameweek 20 Review…
Brad Guzan – American stopper Brad Guzan has had few chances since his summer arrival at newly-promoted Middlesbrough from Aston Villa. Having played two of the opening three Premier League games, Guzan saw fellow signing Victor Valdes take over as number one for the following half season. However, Aitor Karanka would place his faith in the USA international as they hosted Leicester City at the Riverside on Saturday. The game would contain few good chances, with Gaston Ramirez wasting the best of a bad bunch. Guzan did put in a good display, however, carrying out his simple duties with ease. The only real moment of controversy came when Robert Huth brought down Adama Traore, only for penalty claims to be waved away. Both sides will see this as a missed opportunity.
Ryan Shawcross – Having played for Stoke for approaching ten years, few are more popular than Ryan Shawcross, and the one-time England international put in a superb display as Stoke swept aside a struggling Watford side at the Bet365 stadium. Shawcross found himself free in the penalty area to put home the opener for the Potteries as they displayed their set-piece expertise yet again. Watford have struggled in recent weeks, with their poor form leading to some speculation over the future of manager Walter Mazzari. Belgium manager Marc Wilmots has been linked with the Hertfordshire club. Despite being seven points clear of the drop zone currently, Horns fans will be looking over their shoulders nervously as they enter the new year.
Leighton Baines – England international Leighton Baines has been in the form of his life in recent weeks, with his attacking displays leading to heaps of praise. The former Wigan Athletic man was one of the key men as Everton put three past Southampton at St. Mary’s on Monday. Having been frustrated in the first half, Enner Valencia would break the deadlock, before Baines himself doubled the lead just six minutes later from the spot after Maya Yoshida brought down the afore mentioned Valencia. Romelu Lukaku completed the victory as he ran on to a superb Tom Davies pass to slam into the top corner at the near post. It was impressive stuff from Everton, while Southampton remain in inconsistent form under Claude Puel this season.
Alfie Mawson – The former Brentford centre-half has really struggled for game time since signing for Swansea from Barnsley in the summer for a fee in the region of £5 million. Given Swansea’s form this season, it’s no surprise that they find themselves dead bottom of the Premier League, although they do hold a game in hand over the sides above them. They were victorious at Selhurst Park against Sam Allardyce’s Palace side. Mawson gave the Swans the lead after 42 minutes, only for a superb finish from Wilfried Zaha to level the game up as he hammered home on the turning volley. Palace thought they were good for a point considering how late Zaha’s equaliser had come, but with just two minutes remaining Leroy Fer dinked through Angel Rangel, who slotted past Wayne Hennessey to win it. It’s a poor result for Palace, who like many will be very nervous as we progress through this season.
Charlie Daniels – Bournemouth hosted Arsenal on Tuesday evening, as they looked to put an end to their shaky form. It wouldn’t start well for the Gunners, who went behind when marauding full-back Charlie Daniels was found in acres of space. He jinked past Hector Bellerin before slotting past Petr Cech. Callum Wilson would convert to double the Cherries’ lead, giving Arsenal plenty to do. In typical fashion, Arsenal seem to be falling apart at the moment, with fans coming to expect as much, although perhaps not this early on in a Premier League campaign. Daniels has been superb for Bournemouth the past few seasons, and has made himself a firm starter in the left back position despite the summer arrival of Australian Brad Smith from Liverpool for £6 million.
Gael Clichy – Manchester City hosted Burnley at Eastlands on Monday, with Pep Guardiola noticeably frustrated by his side’s display. The match’s real talking point would come on the half hour mark, when Brazilian Fernandinho would receive his third red card in just six matches as he went in dangerously on Johan Berg Gudmundsson. City would take the lead however when Gael Clichy cut inside onto his weaker right foot, before surprising everyone as he whistled a good strike right into the bottom corner. City doubled the lead as Sergio Aguero curled a brilliant effort past two players on the goal line after Raheem Sterling had been denied. Burnley pulled a goal back through Ben Mee but ultimately it wouldn’t be enough for Sean Dyche’s side.
Dele Alli – Spurs would play host to a Chelsea side on Monday for whom a win would break the English all-time record for consecutive league wins, 13. However, Spurs upstaged the Blues and swept them aside 2-0 at White Hart Lane. As the game stretched towards the end of the first half, it seemed to be headed for a stale mate. That was, before Christian Eriksen curled a brilliant cross into Alli, who thumped the header back where it came from, giving Thibaut Courtois absolutely no chance. Chelsea had a decent spell of possession and chances, however would regret not finishing them, when the same two players combined to yet the same effect. Alli found space at the back post and was found by Eriksen, before nodding down into the bottom corner to seal the points. Alli has been in superb form recently, as have Spurs, who will be looking for a top four place come May.
Ryan Fraser – One of the undisputed stars of the show at Dean Court was undoubtedly Scot Ryan Fraser, who won a penalty for his side when he got past Hector Bellerin only to be brought down by the Spaniard. Fraser would net himself to give the Cherries a 3-0 lead on the hour, when he shoved Bellerin on the touchline, only to dribbled in side and squeeze an effort through the legs of Petr Cech. Arsenal fans and players were incensed, as it seemed a clear foul in the build-up. The young winger has been in superb form when featuring for Bournemouth this season. Having spent much of last season on loan at Ipswich Town, he will be hoping to really cement his place as a starter in the Cherries side, and is going the right way about it.
Charlie Adam – Having started the season well, Stoke City made light work of Watford at the Bet365 stadium, with Charlie Adam starring as he laid on both goals for the Potteries. It was his corner that was turned in on the half volley by Ryan Shawcross. Adam was at it again when he swung in a low ball to the near post. Close your eyes, Sebastien Prodl. The centre-half took a wild swing at the ball, before Crouch turned the ball in from the centre of the six-yard box. It was Crouch’s second goal in as many games, with his previous one having come a massive nineteen months previous. The win leaves Stoke City in 11th position with Mark Hughes’ side looking a certainty for a mid-table position.
Olivier Giroud – Finding themselves 3-0 down after an hour at Bournemouth on Tuesday, Arsenal knew they would have it all to do late on, and managed to produce one of the comebacks of the season at Dean Court. Alexis Sanchez started the comeback, diving in to head home at the back post after 70 minutes. They would net again after 75 minutes as substitute Lucas Perez lashed a first-time volley across goal into the far corner after the ball broke loose in the penalty area. The finish set up one of the best ends to a match this season. As the clock ticked down, Bournemouth found themselves down to ten when Simon Francis was sent off for a mistimed challenge on Aaron Ramsey. Then, deep into injury time, Frenchman Giroud headed into the bottom corner to silence the home fans. There was some controversy over Giroud’s celebration as opposed to getting back to begin the match again.
Jermain Defoe – Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side came unstuck at the Stadium of Light on Monday, as they laboured to a 2-2 draw with David Moyes’ Sunderland courtesy of two spot kicks from the ever-reliable Jermain Defoe. The Reds went in front when Daniel Sturridge nodded in from a scuffed Dejan Lovren volley. Things seemed to be going well until a challenge from Ragnar Klavan gave Defoe the chance to equalise, which he did, beating Simon Mignolet despite the Belgian going the right way. Sadio Mane would then tap in after a horrendous effort at a headed clearance from Didier Ndong. It seemed finished until a silly handball from Mane would give Defoe the chance to snatch a point, drilling home from the spot and sending Mignolet the wrong way in the process.
Written by Ryan Nevin (@RNevin7)