Looking back, last week’s Best XI’s seven offensive players probably should have all came from the defensively-optional nine-goal Arsenal-Manchester City tie, but with a total of one goal, three assists (including one from its captain), and one clean sheet from the entire side, the Best XI fared well nonetheless.
At goalkeeper, Tim Howard made two saves during Everton’s victory over Fulham, but was beaten by a 67th minute penalty-kick to prevent a clean sheet.
Defensively, Branislav Ivanovic and Chelsea were unable to hold Crystal Palace scoreless at home, and the Serbian earned a yellow card as well. However, James Tomkins passed a late fitness test to keep his place in West Ham’s defense, which posted a clean sheet against Sunderland. Rounding out the group, Bryan Oviedo attempted two shots during his team’s 4-1 win, making minimal contribution.
Across the midfield, despite picking up a yellow card, David Silva scored his first league goal in over month against Arsenal, a game in which Best XI teammate Mesut Ozil provided an assist. On the down side, Oscar only featured as a 62nd minute substitute versus Crystal Palace, while Michu led the line for Swansea, but only mustered one shot on goal during a 1-1 draw.
Up front, last week’s captain, Romelu Lukaku, provided an assist, Roberto Soldado was blanked at home by Liverpool, and Wayne Rooney set up Manchester United’s final goal in their 3-0 win at Aston Villa.
All 20 teams are at it again this gameweek, with Arsenal hosting Chelsea on Monday in a very pivotal matchup at the top the table.
Then, two teams sliding from the top half play, with Southampton and Tottenham both looking to stop the bleeding they’ve endured of late. However, Spurs will attempt to do so without manager Andre Villas-Boas, who was sacked after last week’s home thumping by Liverpool.
Villas-Boas could be bound for West Brom, who also opted for a switch at manager this week, relieving Steve Clarke of his duties. The Baggies host Hull City on Saturday.
On more positive notes, Manchester City has a favorable opportunity to improve their away form against 19th place Fulham, while Liverpool eyes a tasty home date with Cardiff City.
In all, many storylines lead the Premiership into this weekend’s slate of games, but to add another, every team plays again the day after Christmas. Being so, expect managers to plan accordingly and be sure to check back during next week for Boxing Day’s Best XI.
Until then, here’s gameweek 17’s crop of potential fantasy standouts.
David de Gea (Manchester United) – After spitting time in goal last season, de Gea has averaged three saves and kept four clean sheets (three at home), while starting all of United’s 16 games thus far this term. Additionally, the Spaniard has not allowed a goal in any of his last three outings across all competitions, so a matchup with a West Ham side scoring less than a goal per road match should favor de Gea this weekend.
Vincent Kompany (Manchester City) – While City’s defense has proven to be much stiffer at home, after last Sunday’s win over Arsenal, the team should be motivated to take another step toward the league’s summit at Fulham this weekend. The Cottagers have lost seven of their last eight Premiership matches, netting just six goals over that span, so Kompany should have a relatively relaxing day in defense as his side dominates possession.
Glen Johnson (Liverpool) – Currently, Liverpool are tied for the second-best home defensive record, while their opponents this weekend, Cardiff City, are tied for the second worst away scoring record. Besides that, Liverpool are coming off a clean sheet and Cardiff being held goalless in four of their last six add to Johnson’s prospects for this weekend.
Phil Jagielka (Everton) – Undefeated in their last nine, the Toffees are among the most in-form teams in the league at the moment. With a joint-best defensive record and a history of four straight clean sheets against Swansea, Jagielka makes for a fine defensive choice.
David Silva (Manchester City) – Previously sidelined for over a month due to injury, Silva returned last week to score goals against European Champions Bayern Munich and Premiership leaders Arsenal. This weekend he faces much easier competition in 19th place Fulham.
Theo Walcott (Arsenal) – In his first start since September, Walcott scored a brace at Manchester City, the team currently boasting the league’s best home record. While they were the speed merchant’s first goals of this season, he looked dangerous throughout the match, putting four shots on target. Come Monday, Walcott faces a Chelsea side that’s proven to be vulnerable on the road, so expect goals at the Emirates, with Walcott a likely candidate.
Eden Hazard (Chelsea) – As mentioned, Chelsea travel to Arsenal this gameweek. The Gunners are reeling from leaking six in their last showing and will be without starting defender Laurent Koscielny (knee) on Monday. Being so, Chelsea’s attackers should like their chances of scoring, but since Hazard has received the most consistent playing time of late, he’s the choice of the group this week.
Nathan Redmond (Norwich City) – Redman’s Canaries have somewhat surprisingly climbed to 14th position and will look to continue their ascendency at last place Sunderland on Saturday. No team has allowed more goals at home than the Black Cats this season and the same can be said for Norwich on the road, so expect the goalkeepers to be busy at the Stadium of Light. With Redman leading his team in shots per game (2.6) and assists (three), he makes for a solid under-the-radar selection.
Alvaro Negredo (Manchester City) – In his first English campaign, Negredo has enjoyed being a part of City’s league-leading attack, contributing seven goals himself. This weekend, the striker goes against Fulham’s league-worst defense. Further, with teammate Sergio Aguero (calf) out, Negredo’s production could spike as he’s targeted more in goal-scoring positions.
Rickie Lambert (Southampton) – The Saints have failed to win their last five league matches, so Sunday’s tilt versus a Tottenham team in disarray should have them eager to rebound. Similarly, club legend Rickie Lambert will hope for a personal bounce-back by breaking his streak of five scoreless games as well.
Luis Suarez (C) (Liverpool) – If anyone on the planet is playing better than Suarez right now, feel free to leave a comment below and let me know. Otherwise, with eight goals and three assists in his last three outings, and now 17 goals and four assists in just 11 appearances this season, Suarez deservingly earns this week’s captain designation. It probably wouldn’t matter who he plays, but at Anfield against Cardiff City only boosts his prospects.
Kompany – Johnson – Jagielka
Silva – Walcott – Hazard – Redmond
Negredo – Lambert - Suarez