Back from a week off due to international play, the Best XI did okay for itself in Week 8, producing a return of two goals, three assists, and three clean sheets.
In goal, Petr Cech unfortunately allowed a goal 10 minutes into Chelsea’s match with Cardiff City after defender David Luiz’s error directly allowed a scoring opportunity. Despite being beaten once, the keeper made two saves during the game.
Then, both defenders Leighton Baines, who received a yellow card for simulation, and Laurent Koscielny were part of defenses that were scored against once, but West Brom’s Jonas Olsson made a team-high nine clearances en route to securing a clean sheet versus Stoke City.
Across the midfield, while Yaya Toure failed to score at West Ham, Andros Townsend continued his strong form by leading Tottenham with five shots attempted, five successful dribbles, and a goal in Spurs’ clean sheet win over Aston Villa. Meanwhile, Michu and Frank Lampard were both part of attacks that scored four goals in their respective matches and while neither scored, Michu picked up a clean sheet and Lampard provided an assist.
Up front, although Romelu Lukaku could not find the scoresheet and was taken off after 68 minutes, Olivier Giroud notched two assists for Arsenal and Daniel Sturridge, recipient of a yellow card, scored his league-leading seventh goal for Liverpool.
Looking ahead to Week 9, which nearly marks being a quarter of the way into this season, many tasty fixtures await. While all 20 teams will be in action, some of the weekend’s most intriguing matchups include the Tyne-Wear derby (Newcastle versus Sunderland), Aston Villa versus Everton, and the colossal Chelsea-Manchester City tie Sunday.
With some tightly contested games bound to unfold this weekend, let’s take a look at potential difference-makers in this week’s Best XI:
Wojciech Szczesny (Arsenal) – Although Arsenal has only kept one clean sheet so far this season, the Gunners travel to play a Crystal Palace team that has scored just six goals to date and sacked their manager Ian Holloway earlier this week. Along with the favorable matchup, Szczesny has averaged over three saves per game this season.
Luke Shaw (Southampton) – Southampton impressively earned a late point at Old Trafford last weekend and currently leads the league with just three goals allowed this season. Although they host a Fulham team fresh off a four-goal performance, the Cottagers had just five goals through the season’s first seven matches, so a clean sheet is a realistic expectation for Shaw, who also provides some attacking support.
Kyle Walker (Tottenham) – Walker averages just under one shot per game from his left-back position in a Spurs defense that has kept five clean sheets through eight games this campaign. With a home date versus a Hull City side that has lost three-of-four road games thus far, the Englishman looks a promising pick this weekend.
Jonny Evans (Manchester United) – United have suffered through a rollercoaster beginning to their season, but after posting a clean sheet in their mid-week Champions League match, the Red Devils welcome Stoke’s league-worst goal record to Old Trafford on Saturday. Additionally, the Potters have been shut-out in two of their last three league games.
Mesut Ozil (Arsenal) – Coming off a wonderful two-goal performance last weekend, the German is pitted against a Crystal Palace team that has lost its last five matches and allowed 13 goals over the same span. Also, given Eagles are currently without a manager, Saturday’s match heavily favors Arsenal.
Eden Hazard (Chelsea) – After a slow start to the season, Hazard has netted four goals in Chelsea’s last three games in all competitions. The Blues host a Manchester City team that boasts a +11 goal difference record at home this season, but an even total on the road, so look for Chelsea to capitalize in this weekend’s tussle of titans.
Emanuele Giaccherini (Sunderland) – Put nicely, Sunderland has been awful this season. That being said, the Black Cats will look at this weekend’s derby against Newcastle as a perfect opportunity to revive their season in front of their home crowd. Giaccherini has scored two of his side’s five goals this campaign, so he seems their best bet going forward, which Sunderland certainly will do come Sunday.
Andros Townsend (Tottenham) – Given a rest during Tottenham’s mid-week Europa League match, Townsend figures to return for this weekend’s match with Hull City. The flying winger is definitely making a case to be in England’s World Cup squad and will aim to at least double his seasonal goal total of one when Sunday rolls around.
Loic Remy (Newcastle) – Remy leads Newcastle with five goals and eight shots on target so far this season. While archrivals Sunderland will go for the jugular in this weekend’s derby, Remy figures to benefit from the openness of Sunday’s match, being that the Magpies and Black Cats have combined to allow 34 goals through just eight games to this point.
Olivier Giroud (Arsenal) – The Frenchman, as previously mentioned, produced two assists last weekend and also scored in the Gunners’ mid-week Champions League match. Crystal Palace currently holds the league’s second worst defensive record, while Arsenal boasts the second best goal tally, so Giroud should see his share of scoring opportunities Saturday.
Christian Benteke (Aston Villa) – A hero at Villa Park, Benteke made his return from injury with a substitute appearance last weekend, but figures to be in the starting XI when the Villains host Everton on Saturday. Villa have not scored in their past two matches, so having their talisman back in the fold could rejuvenate their attack to the pleasure of the home crowd this weekend.
Shaw – Walker – Evans
Ozil – Hazard – Giaccherini – Townsend
Remy- Giroud - Benteke