Chelsea moved top of the Premier League with their sixth straight win, climbing above previous leaders Liverpool, who dropped points at Southampton.
Arsenal were also held to a draw at Manchester United, while there were wins for Manchester City,Tottenham Hotspur,Bournemouth and Watford.
Sunderland helped their fight against relegation with a win against Hull, but Swansea go bottom after drawing at Everton.
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Goalkeeper – Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea)
Thibaut Courtois is starting to look as safe as houses again. He only had two real saves to make in the entire match against Middlesbrough and he was equal to the test.
The Belgium international had his difficulties last season and was being asked to play like a sweeper at times in order for his defence to hold a high line, which didn’t suit him at all.
But now he is performing in a new-look back five and looking like a top-class keeper again. And we all know you can’t win the Premier League title without one.
Wing-back – Seamus Coleman (Everton)
He’s only gone and done it again. Seamus Coleman just adores scoring goals. I desperately wanted to put Manchester United’s Antonio Valencia in my team of the week for the way he played against Arsenal. But I just had to select Coleman for such a wonderful headed goal against Swansea, and for his all-round commitment.
I’ve seen some impressive headed goals at Everton over the years but nothing that even comes close from a full-back.
Nevertheless, Everton could have lost this game, which would have compounded manager Ronald Koeman’s first mini-crisis at Goodison. It’s clear the beating dished out by Chelsea a couple of weeks ago is still weighing heavily on Everton minds.
Centre-back – Virgil van Dijk (Southampton)
Virgil van Dijk was absolutely brilliant throughout Southampton’s draw with Liverpool – and his performance was typified by a tremendous tackle on former team-mate Sadio Mane.
But it was the Dutchman’s discreet tug on Roberto Firmino’s shirt inside the box that changed Southampton’s fortunes.
None of the officials saw it, which was just as well for Southampton and Van Dijk. Such an offence would have resulted in a penalty, almost a certain goal for Liverpool the way James Milner has been tucking them away, and an immediate suspension for Van Dijk.
In this case, discretion was certainly the better part of valour.
Centre-back – David Luiz (Chelsea)
If you want to know the individual who has made the difference in this new Chelsea back five, you need look no further than David Luiz.
Against Middlesbrough, he never missed a header, a tackle, or an interception. In fact, he was the architect of the move of the match that resulted in Pedro’s strike crashing against the underside of the bar.
Luiz has been immense since his return to Stamford Bridge. The victory over the Boro was as emphatic as it was stylish and takes them to the top of the Premier League table for the first time since May 2015.
Chelsea are the best team in the league at the moment, with steel and flair in equal proportions. The late, great Howard Kendall once said that winning trophies was like sipping champagne; once you’ve had a taste, you keep going back for more.
Antonio Conte has enjoyed a sip or two of success over the years. By the look of his new-look Chelsea team’s recent performances, both he and they are developing a taste for more in the months ahead.
Centre-back – Nathan Ake (Bournemouth)
On-loan Chelsea defender Nathan Ake was superb against Stoke – but how the Potters did not win this game I will never know.
Referee Roger East must hold his hands up. He missed one of the most blatant penalty decisions ever witnessed as he waved play on when Ryan Shawcross scythed down Callum Wilson, yet penalised Simon Francis for what can only be described as clumsiness.
I’ve often argued that defenders can’t afford to be clumsy in the box, but this decision was particularly harsh.
So, it was just as well that Ake provided the finish that gave Bournemouth all three points. East can now rest easy, knowing that following his decision, any other outcome would have been a travesty, regardless of how well Stoke played.
Wing-back – Marcos Alonso (Chelsea)
I must be honest; I wasn’t sure about Marcos Alonso as Chelsea’s left-back, but that was probably due to having watched Ashley Cole for a number of seasons.
However, with every clean sheet Chelsea have achieved this season, Alonso has grown.
Against Middlesbrough, he started to look more reassured going forward, always making himself available, and even forcing an impressive save out of Victor Valdes.
Chelsea have struggled to find a naturally left-footed full-back since the departure of former England international Cole. Now they have one, and boy does it make a difference.
Midfielder – Yaya Toure (Manchester City)
I have said it before and I will say it again: Manchester City cannot afford to leave a player with Yaya Toure’s ability out of the squad.
Admittedly it was a new slimmed-down version of the former African Footballer of the Year in action against Crystal Palace, but what a performance – he destroyed them.
It is all very well Pep Guardiola standing his ground over the well-publicised row with the player and his agent. But what took place in the meantime – home draws against Everton, Southampton and Middlesbrough – was enough to make City fans weep.
The way Toure’s team-mates celebrated his two goals against Palace was also very telling. It seemed as if every player in the City team was just delighted to have him back. Palace, on the other hand, have problems.
Midfielder – Juan Mata (Manchester United)
What a goal it was by Juan Mata to put United ahead against Arsenal. You will have pros all over the country – and most of them strikers – purring over this finish by the Spaniard.
Take into the consideration the following:
- With the speed of the ball coming towards him, he can’t take a touch to bring it under control because the chance will have gone, so it must be a one-touch finish.
- He has to dispatch the ball toward the goal at the same velocity with which it arrives at his feet, keeping his shot down but moving it away from a world-class goalkeeper desperate to stop it.
- Mata refuses to collapse under the weight of expectation – even though all the fans watching recognise this is a real chance.
Roll that all together and we might just begin to get a sense of Mata’s moment. Welcome to Manchester United v Arsenal.
Midfielder – Roberto Pereyra (Watford)
It was a wonderful finish by Roberto Pereyra to put Watford 2-0 up against champions Leicester City. In fact, he should have scored a second with a header and would have done if it were not for the brilliance of Ron-Robert Zieler in Leicester’s goal.
This versatile Argentina international has made an art out of playing on the left, cutting inside and using his right foot to devastating effect.
Quite why Leicester didn’t prepare for this beforehand, I am not entirely sure – but they clearly paid the price.
Meanwhile, Foxes manager Claudio Ranieri must be embarrassed by their recent Premier League results. Leicester have become totally absorbed by the Champions League but what’s the point of that if they get relegated? The way they are playing, it is not out of the question.
Leicester are the Premier League champions and it’s about time they started playing like it.
Striker – Victor Anichebe (Sunderland)
In a game where 4-4-2 is regarded by many as obsolete, Jermain Defoe and Victor Anichebe will prove to be a very effective partnership if David Moyes has the nerve to play the formation at home.
I am constantly being reminded by one of my erstwhile colleagues that I have never managed and therefore cannot possibly appreciate what it takes to make the big decisions.
Well, he may have a point. But what managers do not often appreciate is that fans want their teams to have a go regardless of the risks and especially at home.
Anichebe offers Sunderland and Defoe another dimension when they play together up front. I do not need to have been a manager to see that. Perhaps those who have managed might keep that in mind when they get together at their next annual protection society meeting.
Striker – Jermain Defoe (Sunderland)
150 not out. That is the stat everyone will be talking about after Jermain Defoe produced another superb finish against a defensively poor Hull City.
What was most telling about this fixture was that Defoe finally has another striker to work with.
It was a profitable decision by David Moyes to employ Victor Anichebe in a more advanced role as the game went on. Yet I cannot see Sunderland escaping the dogfight at the bottom of the table unless they are more adventurous in their home matches.
What Moyes does away from home to salvage points is another matter entirely, but at home he must play two up front. Moyes may manage at the Stadium of Light – but if he doesn’t see the light soon, not even Defoe and all his goals scoring prowess will save him.