We are reaching the end of this season and, inevitably, teams around Europe and worldwide are preparing themselves for the summer transfer window. The focus for many will be on exciting prospects and young talents from around the globe. Here is a list of 13 talented African footballers who are going to be high on […]
The penultimate game week of the Premier League season saw many sides play two matches in a week with the title being clinched and the final relegation position confirmed, leaving just the top four race left.
Many sides had nothing to play for position wise going into the fixtures, causing Harry Kane to controversially miss out on this week’s Names despite scoring five goals due to the lack of importance of Spurs’ fixtures.
Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool)
Liverpool took a big step towards Champions League qualification producing a dominant performance to beat West Ham United 4-0. The result means Liverpool just need a victory over already relegated Middlesbrough on the final day to finish the season in the top four.
In recent weeks it has been the Brazilian Philippe Coutinho who has stepped up for Liverpool. Against West Ham he was once again the best player on the pitch. Coutinho produced a superb pass from deep to play through Daniel Sturridge who rounded the keeper for the opening goal after 35 minutes. Coutinho grabbed two goals himself in the second half. The Brazilian reacted quickest after Gini Wijnaldum had hit the crossbar, picking up the ball on the edge of the area before bypassing a few West Ham defenders and firing into the bottom corner. His second saw him finishing a quick flowing counter just five minutes later. Divock Origi sealed the win with 15 minutes remaining.
Coutinho was deployed in a deeper position against West Ham and seemed to enjoy the time and freedom he was given. He has often been linked with big money moves to both Barcelona and Real Madrid, although it seems neither Liverpool nor Coutinho have any intention to part company this summer, at least.
Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea)
Chelsea produced a battling performance to defeat West Brom 1-0 to become Premier League champions once again. The Blues then celebrated their win in an entertaining 4-3 victory over Watford at Stamford Bridge just three days later.
Cesar Azpilicueta has been a stalwart in the Chelsea defence for the past few seasons and has once again proved how good he is this season, seamlessly slotting into one of the three central positions in the Chelsea team. In the game against West Brom, Azpilicueta showed how capable he can be going forward with the vital assist for Michy Batshuayi to claim the league title. Azpilicueta was then one of just two players kept from the starting line-up for the game against Watford and the Spaniard managed to celebrate the title win by scoring a rare goal when he drilled in the second Chelsea goal of the game.
— César Azpilicueta (@CesarAzpi) May 15, 2017
Azpilicueta played as the wing back against Watford and his ability and versatility means he is one of the first names on the Chelsea team sheet. Chelsea now have just one league game left – and an FA Cup Final – which could see Antonio Conte win the double in his first season in England.
Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal)
Arsenal kept their faint top four hopes alive with wins over Stoke City and Sunderland. The Gunners overcame Stoke City on Saturday in a 4-1 victory before defeating Sunderland 2-0 in the week.
No surprises for guessing which player was crucial in both matches with Alexis Sanchez grabbing a goal and an assist against Stoke – and then both goals in the win over Sunderland. Arsenal had taken the lead through Giroud at Stoke before Sanchez played a perfectly weighted ball through to Mesut Ozil who slotted in. Stoke pulled a goal back through Peter Crouch (albeit via a handball) and looked threatening to the Arsenal defence. Sanchez, though, put the game beyond doubt with a run and strike into the corner of the net.
Arsenal dominated the match against Sunderland but were frustrated by the performance of Jordan Pickford in the Sunderland goal. That was until a lovely move which involved Granit Xhaka and Ozil set up Sanchez to tap in to an open net. Sanchez then added his second from a rebound after a Giroud effort was parried by Pickford.
Arsenal will be determined to keep Sanchez this summer but with it looking likely that the North London side will not be in the Champions League next season, Sanchez may decide now is the time to move on.
Kyle Naughton (Swansea City)
Swansea City ensured their Premier League survival with a win over Sunderland, defeating the Black Cats 2-0 at the Stadium of Light. Swansea’s win, along with Palace’s result, means Paul Clement and his side stay in the top flight.
Swansea took the lead after just nine minutes when Gylfi Sigurdsson’s long-range free kick was headed in by Fernando Llorente. After that goal, Swansea looked comfortable against a Sunderland side whose efforts in the game were labelled as pathetic by pundits and their manager post-match.
Swansea though knew they needed the second goal to secure the win and they got it through an unlikely source in Kyle Naughton. Right back Naughton had not scored in 60 appearances for Swansea but lashed in a fantastic right-footed strike to send the Swansea fans wild and secure their Premier League status for another year.
Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace)
— Crystal Palace F.C. (@CPFC) May 17, 2017
Crystal Palace ended their relegation fears with a 4-0 thumping of Hull City at home. The win also confirmed the Tigers return back to the Championship.
Wilfried Zaha has been by far Palace’s player of the season. So it was perhaps fitting that it was Zaha who got the opening goal to set Sam Allardyce’s side on their way. He capitalised after a mistake by Andrea Ranocchia. The winger raced onto the loose ball after the Italian had missed his clearance to slot Palace into the lead. A Christian Benteke header from a corner before half-time doubled Palace’s lead. With Hull chasing the game in the second half, the home side scored two goals in the final five minutes through a Luka Milivojevic penalty and a Patrick Van Aanholt finish.
Zaha has scored seven goals and nine assists in the League this season. It’s a tally that easily surpasses his previous best totals in the Premier League. In the past few weeks there have been reports that Zaha is willing to sign a new five year deal, news that will delight the Palace fans.
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