Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Silva lining up with derby stars

Gus Poyet: Celebrates two of his players making the Team of the Week
David Silva's match-winning performance earns him a place in our Team of the Week, taking his place alongside two Sunderland derby heroes.
Check out our latest Team of the Week and then let us know your top XI using the story comment facility at the bottom of the article.
TEAMtalk's Top Men (4-4-2): Pantilimon; Zabaleta, Okore, Terry, Cresswell; Larsson, Reed, Silva, Coutinho; Austin, Carroll.
Costel Pantilimon (Sunderland): Adam Johnson may grab the plaudits for his winning goal in the Tyne-Wear derby, but the undoubted unsung hero not only in that game, but in Sunderland's season overall, is keeper Pantilimon.
Drafted in for the error-prone Vito Mannone earlier in the campaign, the Romanian kept his fourth clean sheet in eight games at St James' Park. Brilliant stops from Ayoze Perez and Moussa Sissoko - including one just before Johnson's winner - kept Gus Poyet's men in the game and on course for a vital victory. Pantilimon has the best saves to shots ratio of any Premier League keeper this season (82%), and continues to prove his worth to the cause.
Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City): Much like Pantilimon in the unsung hero mould, right-back Zabaleta remains one of Manchester City's most vital players among more recognisable star names. A typically reliable shift in defence was, as usual, matched by his considerable attacking threat against Crystal Palace. In a game where City struggled to break down their stubborn opponents, it was the Argentinian's attacking endeavour which set up David Silva's opener, and he was a constant thorn in Palace's side with the best passing accuracy of the 22 players who started (94.2%).
Jores Okore (Aston Villa): The Dane only made his return last month after an anterior cruciate knee ligament injury sidelined him for 14 months, but he showed just why he's so highly-rated against Manchester United. Tasked with handling Radamel Falcao, the central defender put in a dominant and assured performance in another makeshift Villa backline with the most clearances (nine), and the joint-second most interceptions (three) and blocked shots (one). No wonder Chelsea were so heavily interested two years ago.
John Terry (Chelsea): His 650th appearance for the Blues encapsulated just why the 34-year-old continues to play a key role as captain. Faced with Peter Crouch against Stoke, Terry was always unlikely to win many aerial clashes, but a typically battling performance from the defender began with a customary goal, meaning he has now scored in 15 consecutive Premier League seasons.
He made the joint-most clearances (eight) along with central defensive partner Gary Cahill, while only Nemanja Matic (87.8%) bettered his pass success-rate (87.5%). All in all, it was a very John Terry-like performance.
Aaron Cresswell (West Ham): How long until the former Ipswich man is touted for an England call-up? Another impressive performance from the left-back helped West Ham maintain their excellent run as they head into Christmas in the Premier League top four for the first time in their history. The 25-year-old has been one of the most consistent performers of the season so far for the Hammers, and was a key component in yet another victory on Saturday.
Sebastian Larsson (Sunderland): Another who will be a victim of Adam Johnson's last-minute winner when this derby is remembered in a decade or so, Larsson put in a man of the match performance that made it possible. While his perfectly-weighted assist for Steven Fletcher's crossbar-smashing effort showcased his abilities going forward, the Swede was tireless and relentless all afternoon.
Harrison Reed (Southampton): It looks as though the Southampton conveyor belt of talent has produced another potential star in the making, if the 3-0 win over Everton is anything to go by. On the way to ending a run of five straight defeats, Ronald Koeman handed 19-year-old Harrison Reed his first ever Premier League start. The midfielder looked far from overawed by the occasion however, putting in a quite incredible 14 tackles during the game. The next highest was team-mate Jose Fonte, with just seven, as Reed acclimatised to the top tier with ease.
David Silva (Manchester City): As City eventually cruised to their sixth straight win in all competitions, it's easy to forget that perennial goal hero Sergio Aguero has missed three of them, as well as most of the victory over Everton. Manuel Pellegrini needed someone to step up and inspire City in his stead, and Silva has most certainly done just that. His two-goal salvo against Palace rescued a vital three points in the Premier League title race, and the Spaniard is truly hitting his top form in perfect time.
Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool): It wasn't his best performance for Liverpool by any stretch of the imagination, but it was one of his most important. Flanking Raheem Sterling, Coutinho was a constant menace in the draw against Arsenal, terrorising Per Mertesacker in particular. The outpouring of relief at his well-taken opener was palpable throughout Anfield, and only three players had more touches during the game (81) - Mamadou Sakho, Steven Gerrard and Lucas Leiva.
Charlie Austin (Queens Park Rangers): During the process of scoring QPR's first Premier League hat-trick since Bradley Allen in 1993, former non-league striker Austin's stock continues to rise heading into January.
His three-goal rescue act against West Brom means the 25-year-old has scored or assisted 65% of QPR's goals this season; more than any other Premier League player. With 11 goals this season, just Aguero (14) and Diego Costa (12) lead him, while the next highest English scorer is Saido Berahino (seven). Roy Hodgson will find it hard to ignore the hitman if such form continues, while similar could be said of other potential Premier League suitors.
Andy Carroll (West Ham): One of the main beneficiaries of West Ham's new-found attacking football has to be giant striker Carroll. Coming back from an injury-blighted spell at Upton Park so far, Carroll was then faced with dislodging Diafra Sakho or Enner Valencia. Having been given his chance recently by Sam Allardyce however, Carroll has grabbed it with both hands.
An excellent finish against Leicester represented the 25-year-old's first Premier League goal with his feet since April 2013, but it's his prowess in the air which remains his most obvious asset. Few stats exemplify this more than the following: Peter Crouch has won the most aerial duels this season with 93 in 15 appearance. Graziano Pelle is third with 70 in 17 games, with Steven Caulker on 66 in 15. In second place? Carroll, with a quite ludicrous 74 aerial battles won in just seven appearances so far this season. Another one for Mr. Hodgson to reconsider...

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