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Premier League team of the week: Christmas edition

Who starred over the festive period?

The Premier League returned with a bang after the World Cup with two games in five days as the midway point of the season looms. Sides were left at varying strengths, with those who contested the World Cup final offered a rest, but another misstep by Manchester City saw Arsenal extend their lead at the top of the table to seven points, courtesy of wins over Brighton and West Ham.

The Cityzens, meanwhile, were held to a draw by a determined Everton side, who in doing so took themselves out of the relegation zone despite a loss to Wolves days earlier. On the other side of Manchester, Erik ten Hag’s side picked up a perfect six points, while Liverpool followed suit to drag themselves back into the race for the top 4, taking advantage of slip-ups from Chelsea and Tottenham.

Another massive winner were Fulham, who also picked up six points despite missing a penalty, while back-to-back defeats for West Ham have left Moyes staring down the barrel.

So, which individuals impressed in their side’s pair of fixtures?

GK: David De Gea (Manchester United)

Manchester United were one of just three teams to win both of their games over the festive period, but while David de Gea had little to do in the first, he was vital in the second. A pair of excellent saves against Wolves preserved his second consecutive clean sheet, and back-to-back wins for Erik ten Hag.

RB: Ashley Young (Aston Villa)

At 37, Ashley is not so young anymore but continues to prove his ability even when asked to play out of position. A solid performance against Liverpool even in defeat was followed up by an excellent outing against Tottenham, including a fabulous goal-line clearance with the game still at 0-0. Villa eventually ran out 2-0 victors, but it could have been a very different story if not for his heroics.

CB: Tim Ream (Fulham)

CB: Luke Shaw (Manchester United)

More than a few eyebrows were raised when Shaw was preferred to Harry Maguire in the heart of Manchester United’s defence, but the left-back repaid the faith shown in him by Erik ten Hag with two outstanding performances alongside Raphael Varane, keeping two clean sheets as the Red Devils picked up six points out of six.

LB: Andy Robertson (Liverpool)

Much of the focus in recent months has been on the opposite flank with Trent Alexander-Arnold, but Andy Robertson continues to deliver for the Reds. A pair of excellent performances included him becoming the highest-ever assisting defender against Aston Villa, before the Scot also impressed against Leicester City in another narrow win.

CM: Casemiro (Manchester United)

Paul Pogba is probably wondering why it took Manchester United until the summer he departed to sign an out-and-out world-class defensive midfielder, but Casemiro is certainly proving himself that. The Brazilian was imperious against Nottingham Forest in the centre of midfield, before turning in another strong performance at Molineux to ensure that the Red Devils kept a clean sheet and propelled themselves into pole position for a top 4 finish as it stands.

CM: Joao Palhinha (Fulham)

A goal to win the game against Southampton was the cherry on the cake of a pair of very impressive performances from Fulham midfielder Palhinha, with the Portuguese general returning from the World Cup in good form despite minimal action.

With him in front of the Cottagers’ defence, breaking up play and setting away a dangerous front three, it is little surprise to see Marco Silva’s side so high up the Premier League so far.

CM: Martin Odegaard (Arsenal)

Probably the most in form Premier League player right now, Martin Odegaard has been nothing short of magnificent for the Gunners as they stretched their lead over second-place Manchester City to seven points with a thumping win over Brighton at the AMEX stadium.

His pass for Gabriel Martinelli’s goal was nothing short of World Class, while his own goal wasn’t bad either as he added a goal and an assist to the two assists that he registered against West Ham on Boxing Day.

RW: Bukayo Saka (Arsenal)

Another Gunner in red-hot form, Saka has continued to underline his importance to the Gunners with a goal in both of their games over Christmas. The 21-year-old already one of the best wingers in the Premier League, and his value is only increasing with every passing game.

ST: Ivan Toney (Brentford)

Ivan Toney’s longer-term future in the Premier League remains unclear following his investigation into 282 betting breaches by the FA, but for now he continues to bang in the goals for Brentford. A goal against Tottenham to help earn a point against Antonio Conte’s side was followed up by the opener against West Ham to ensure that the Bees took four points from their two games over Christmas, and propelled them up into the top half of the Premier League.

LW: Marcus Rashford (Manchester United)

Impressive in their 3-0 win over Nottingham Forest with a goal and an assist, Rashford was left on the bench to begin with against Wolves due to disciplinary reasons. However, when his side needed a match-winner he stepped up from among the substitutes to find a winner, and help Manchester United take six points from six.

Who did we miss?

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Ben Browning

Football writer and analyst. Long-time writer of all things Arsenal and avid watcher of European football. Happy to discuss all things football over on Twitter.

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