Week 9’s Best XI was reminiscent of Stoke City: solid in defense (five clean sheets), but little cutting edge going forward (one goal, no assists).
Between the posts, Wojciech Szczesny made four saves and kept a clean sheet - just his second of the season - in Arsenal’s 2-0 win at Crystal Palace.
Defensively, Luke Shaw was heavily involved last weekend, making three tackles and six clearances as Southampton secured a clean sheet. Likewise, Kyle Walker led Tottenham with 72 passes made and two shots on goal as Spurs held Hull City scoreless. Rounding out the group, Jonny Evans and Manchester United allowed two goals to Stoke City in a home victory.
While the defense held its own, last week’s midfield was one to forget. Mesut Ozil and Andros Townsend both received clean sheet points, but Eden Hazard failed to produce much of anything against Manchester City and Emanuele Giaccherini spent the entirety of Sunday’s derby with Newcastle watching from the bench.
Up front, Loic Remy played just 70 minutes for the Magpies, but Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud managed to score his fifth goal of the season while leading the Gunners with five shot attempts. Finally, Christian Benteke missed an eighth-minute penalty kick in Aston Villa’s 2-0 loss to Everton.
In all, a disappointing squad, but that’s how the cookie crumbles sometimes.
Looking ahead, Week 10 of Premier League action features all 20 teams and the usual variety of lopsided, competitive, and critical matchups.
In some of the expectedly uneven ties, Manchester City hosts Norwich City and Southampton plays Stoke City.
Conversely, sixth-place Everton versus fourth-place Tottenham should make for a more competitive outing, but two fixtures take the cake in terms of vitality this weekend.
The first ever Welsh Derby (Cardiff City – Swansea City) in Premier League history should result in an absolutely electric atmosphere, no matter the differing statuses of the two teams thus far.
Then, the marquee matchup of Week 10 will take place at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday, when league-leaders Arsenal welcome third-place Liverpool in a match that will decide how the top of the table looks moving forward.
One final thing to consider when setting lineups for this weekend is the Capital One Cup matches that took place during this week. Be sure to double-check injuries and results to avoid selecting a player who may be rested or ruled out of this weekend’s run of games.
With the stage set, here’s a look at the projected Best XI for Week 10 of the Premiership:
Michel Vorm (Swansea City) – In what should be a fiercely competitive battle, Vorm’s Swansea travel to take on their Welsh rivals Cardiff City this Sunday. In a game neither side will want to lose, don't expect many offensive fireworks, instead a chippy, defensive battle could unfold. If so, Vorm and Swansea’s top-flight experience could prevail in a hostile atmosphere.
Gareth McAuley (West Bromwich) – After a run of five unbeaten league games, during which they conceded just three goals, West Brom was unable to contain in-form Liverpool last weekend, losing 4-1. However, the Baggies are gifted with a potential bounce-back game at home versus manager-less Crystal Palace on Saturday, so a clean sheet could be in the offing for McAuley.
Dejan Lovren (Southampton) – Anchoring the league’s best defense to this point of the season, Lovren has been a part of five clean sheets in his last six matches. Couple that with the fact that Stoke City has not scored in their last three matches at the Britannia Stadium, and the odds point in favor of Lovren.
Rafael da Silva (Manchester United) – After missing the early part of this season due to injury, Rafael has returned of late to provide additional attacking prowess down Man United’s right side. As an unused substitute in the Red Devils’ poor defensive effort against Stoke last weekend, Rafael was reinserted into the starting lineup that won 4-0 in the Cup this week, likely earning the Brazilian another start at Fulham this weekend. Additionally, the Vidic-Ferdinand partnership is expected to return for United’s defense, boosting Rafael’s stock even more.
Oscar (Chelsea) – Oscar’s breakout season (four goals in nine appearances) could not have come at a better time. With his home country of Brazil slated to host this summer’s World Cup, the 22-year-old has emerged from a crowded Chelsea stable of attackers to become the Blues’ first-choice No. 10. After sitting out this week’s Cup match, Oscar should be fresh to take on a Newcastle side that played 120 minutes Wednesday. Further, Newcastle currently has allowed the third-most goals in the league this season.
David Silva (Manchester City) – Having only featured as a second-half substitute in Man City’s Capital One Cup match Wednesday, Silva should be fit enough to play when Norwich City visits the Etihad Stadium on Saturday. Given that Norwich allowed a combined seven goals in their respective matches against Chelsea and Arsenal earlier this season, City should find little trouble adding to their league-leading goal tally Saturday. Expect Silva to be instrumental as his team dominates possession.
Adam Lallana (Southampton) – With two goals and two assists this season, Lallana’s play is garnering more and more attention around England of late. While the crafty winger is pitted against a steady Stoke defense, the Potters could be without their giant German, Robert Huth, this weekend. Look for Lallana to be active as Southampton seeks to continue its streak of six games unbeaten in the league.
Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal) – Despite the splashy signing of Mesut Ozil and the encouraging form of Olivier Giroud, Ramsey has arguably been Arsenal’s best player this season. A true box-to-box midfielder, Ramsey has five goals and four assists so far and should play a huge role in Sunday’s game with Liverpool. The Welshman did play 81 minutes against Chelsea in the mid-week, but given the importance of this weekend’s tussle, expect Ramsey to be one of the first names on manager Arsene Wenger’s team sheet.
Sergio Aguero (Manchester City) – With seven goals and two assists in eight Premier League appearances this season, Aguero has starred in new manager Manuel Pelligrini’s potent attack. The Citizens will be eager to avenge their crucial loss to Chelsea last weekend – a game in which Aguero scored their only goal – in a favorable matchup against Norwich City on Saturday. Aguero has scored four goals in his last three league starts versus the Canaries, so he’ll be licking his lips in anticipation of this weekend’s match.
Robin van Persie (Manchester United) – The Dutchman always faced an uphill battle to duplicate his unbelievable goal record from a season ago, but nonetheless, van Persie has found the back of the net an impressive five times in eight league appearances this season, including goals in back-to-back games. With Man United coming off a 4-0 Capital One Cup win this week, morale should be high when they visit Fulham - a team they have beaten in their last six competitions - this Saturday. Van Persie should also benefit from defender Brede Hangeland being a doubt for this weekend’s match.
Luis Suarez (Liverpool) – Since returning to the Premier League from suspension, all Suarez has done is score six goals and assist another in four matches. Coming off a hat-trick versus West Brom last weekend, the Uruguayan will face a tougher opponent in Arsenal this weekend. After an offseason saga linking him to the Gunners, look for Suarez to spearhead Liverpool’s attack Sunday at the Emirates Stadium, where Arsenal and Liverpool have scored a combined 14 goals in their last six tussles.
McAuley – Lovren – Rafael
Oscar – Silva – Lallana – Ramsey
Aguero – van Persie - Suarez