Every week we review three studs and three duds from the previous round of Premier League action. Which players shone brightest in Gameweek 23? Who let the side down?
Roberto Firmino (Liverpool)
PlayON Price: £10.3m
GW 23 Points: 3,825
If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs…
It’s reasonable to say that there were very few level heads at Carrow Road on Saturday afternoon, but in relative terms, Roberto Firmino had the poise and zen-like calm of a Buddhist monk. Two goals and an assist were welcome notches on the belt for the Brazilian, who looks to be hitting his stride in England after some inconsistent displays in the early stages of the season.
In the absence of Daniel Sturridge and Phillipe Coutinho, and with Christian Benteke out of favour, the burden of creative and attacking responsibility has fallen largely on the shoulders of the ex-Hoffenheim man – and he’s responding in the best way possible. With goals.
Whether taking up positions on the flanks or at the focal point of attack, he’s more than pulling his fair share of weight by scoring five goals and four assists in a Liverpool side that otherwise seems to have developed a taste for self-sabotage this season.
Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)
PlayON Price: £15m
GW 23 Points: 3,150
He could have had three. He probably could have had four, but with with Sergio Aguero, every goal is a godsend for both Manchester City fans and his fantasy managers alike – the latter, who perform a balancing act every weekend to either get him, or keep him in their fantasy XIs.
In Gameweek 23, it certainly worked out. His penalty and a deft finish saved City from a blow to their title chances against a West Ham team that were, in truth, probably the better side.
Aguero and Enner Valencia were the individuals trading blows in terms of goals – two apiece – but the real battle was between the Argentine and Dimitri Payet – both of whom were running the show for their respective sides. He looks fit, sharp and he’s back in among the goals – with Sergio Aguero on song, City must be favourites for the league title.
Ben Foster (West Brom)
PlayON Price: £7.2m
GW 23 Points: 1,520
Boaz Myhill was an able and at times outstanding deputy over the past ten months, but there’s no disputing West Brom’s number one shirt.
Ben Foster was back between the sticks with a clean sheet, after a cruciate injury put him out action for the best part of a year. A 0-0 bore draw was the end result in a Midlands derby between the Baggies and Villa, but it was Foster who made it so.
The Englishman made four saves across the ninety minutes, a number that ranked him as the goalkeeper with the most saves of the weekend without conceding a goal.
Declan Rudd (Norwich City)
PlayON Price: £5.4m
GW 23 Points: -400
Five goals. Five goals conceded by one team was once unheard of in the Premier League – a scoreline more suited to one of Barcelona/Madrid’s routs of the Primera Liga. Nowadays, it’s as common as fish and chips.
Declan Rudd was just the latest custodian to be on the end of a five goal assault and his opposite number – Simon Mignolet – narrowly avoided the same fate, as Liverpool stole a 5-4 victory at the death.
It wasn’t all Rudd’s fault however. The defence were equally inept. Captain Russell Martin presented him with a disaster backpass which Milner duly latched out past the Norwich keeper. If that lapse in judgement didn’t happen, the Canaries may have bagged at least a draw.
John Stones (Everton)
PlayON Price: £7.7m
GW 23 Points: 275
Sticking with the theme of poor defensive order – the Toffees defence once again showed its inability to fix itself, or at least Roberto Martinez’ unwillingness to make the necessary changes to assess their shortcomings at that end of the field.
Weeks upon weeks of thrilling attacking play are constantly undermined by at best slack, and at worst disastrous defending. Tim Howard has come in for a slating certainly, but John Stones was the primary guilty party on Sunday.
The £40 million rated centre half put his ‘keeper in no man’s land with an undercooked backpass, causing Tim Howard to bundle over Andre Ayew in the penalty area. The resulting spot-kick was scored.
His second mistake of the evening, he couldn’t quite help – Ayew’s shot took a wayward deflection off the defender to bounce haplessly over the goal line. Everton now boast the worst home defensive record in the Premier League – 22 goals conceded. Something’s got to give.
Per Mertesacker (Arsenal)
PlayON Price: £7.6m
GW 23 Points: -260
The final entry in our weekly Chumps shortlist, and perhaps the one who made the most costly mistake of the weekend action. Arsenal will not have a better opportunity to win the Premier League than the one that they currently have in their grasp. However, in Gameweek 23, the Gunners failed to gain ground on league leaders Leicester City and crumpled against their old adversaries, and masters of one-up-manship, Chelsea.
Who better to ruin an Arsenal weekend than Diego Costa? A master of the dark arts, at times it seems as if Costa would rather get a man sent off than go clean through on goal. That’s certainly the way it seemed on Sunday. Mertesacker swung what looked like a old piano leg at a ball just out of his lengthy reach, and promptly sent Costa hurtling to the turf.
Arsenal played the next 75 minutes with ten men and of course it was Costa who went on to score the definitive goal. A cruel twist of fate but Arsene Wenger can only point the finger of blame in one direction – and it isn’t toward Stamford Bridge.