It is time once again for the MFF team of the month. With February overlooking the Premier League’s inaugural winter break, selecting a team was at times more complex than usual. Twelve teams played four games, and eight teams played three, making things unbalanced, but nonetheless, an XI has been strung together. This month’s formation can play out as 5-3-2 or a 3-2-1-2-2, as the five defenders selected have three fullbacks within them.
Rui Patricio (Wolverhampton)
The Portuguese number one has overall done well since coming to England in 2018. And now after a slightly shaky start to the 2019/20 campaign, he is back in rhythm. Wolves did not concede a goal in February in their three league matches, and the keeper did his part. Patricio was positioned well to stop his fellow countryman Bruno Fernandes, as Wolves drew 0-0 away at Manchester United in their first game. In their second game at home to Leicester, he saved well from Youri Tielemens’ deflected drive as they got another point. In their last match they beat Norwich 3-0, and Patricio made a save down low from Max Aarons in the second half to preserve his clean sheet run.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Manchester United)
Wan-Bissaka has not underperformed since signing for United in the summer, but as one of their two new major signings at the back, he has of course been widely scrutinized. United have been much better at the back recently and Wan-Bissaka has mainly been consistent. The Red Devils backline were not breached in February in their three games. He is overall this season second in the league in tackles made with 91. Wan-Bissaka’s offensive work is maligned, as he used to play on the wing in his younger days at Crystal Palace, so therefore more is wanted from him. He restored some faith as he chipped in with an assist for Anthony Martial’s header to open the scoring in the 2-0 away win over Chelsea with a lovely cross to get his second assist of the season.
Harry Maguire (Manchester United)
Maguire is the most expensive defender in football ever, so unfortunately despite him having nothing to do with the price tag, things are expected of him. He has had some good games for United, but this is clearly not enough for some. As Ashley Young departed for pastures new at Inter Milan, Maguire has been given the captaincy, and is now needed to make a real mark and influence the United backline even further. February was not a bad start to his first full month with the armband, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men did not let a goal in. Maguire scored a towering header to seal the 2-0 win at Chelsea, despite the fact he should not have been on the field after kicking out at Michy Batshuayi. The England international is second in the league in headed clearances overall with 78, and is looking more settled game by game.
James Tarkowski (Burnley)
Burnley earned themselves 8 points in February, as they were unbeaten in their four matches, getting two wins and two draws. Along with keeper Nick Pope (who has the most clean sheets in the league), Tarkowski has been steady at the back, and the Clarets only conceded one goal in the month. We will see if he is in Gareth Southgate’s plans for the 2020 European Championships, but he is certainly making it hard to leave him out. Burnley play a low block, so will of course concede a lot of the ball to the opposition, and Tarkowski is second in the league in both blocks (35), and clearances (146).
Enda Stevens (Sheffield United)
As Chris Wilder’s Sheffield United continue to graft through a season beyond their wildest dreams, their defence is the main reason behind it. They have only scored 29 goals in their 27 games, so it has been key that they stood firm at the back. Stevens has been flying up and down the left side for the Blades since August, and has been key in his wing back position giving width to a midfield that can sometimes be quite narrow. United played three times in the month, and were undefeated as they gained seven points. The Irish international got on the scoresheet for the second time this season, as he opened the scoring in the 1-1 home draw with Brighton at Bramall Lane with a powerful volley in their last game of the month.
Marcos Alonso (Chelsea)
Back in Chelsea’s championship winning side in the 2016/17 season and also in the 2017/18 campaign, Alonso was the hottest full back (wing back) in the league. Nowadays he is in and out of the side with Cesar Azpilicueta and Emerson both getting game time at left back too. Alonso was still able to prove his worth for the Blues, despite only starting two of their four games in February. Frank Lampard changed formations for the last two matches of the month, playing three centre halves allowing Alonso to bomb on from wing back. He answered his managers’ call by scoring three goals. Firstly he scored what turned out to be the winning goal as Chelsea beat Spurs 2-1, with a sweet left foot hit. He then grabbed a vital equaliser with a smashing volley as the Blues drew 2-2 away at Bournemouth.
Jordan Henderson (Liverpool)
Liverpool’s captain only featured in two of their four matches in February, but if anything, his absence in the last two games, showed exactly why he is so important to the team. The Reds escaped through a very good first half by Southampton to start the month, by eventually going on to win 4-0. Henderson and Roberto Firmino were the star performers, and Henderson rammed in the second goal, before producing a smart ball to Mo Salah to make it 3-0. In their next match; Liverpool were having trouble breaking down Norwich, when Henderson picked out substitute Sadio Mane, whose volley won the game. Henderson then picked up a hamstring injury and Liverpool just got past West Ham 3-2, and then lost their first match of the season at Watford. His influence and consistency was clearly missed.
Son Heung-Min (Tottenham)
With Harry Kane out for what could be the rest of the season, Son, just like last year when Kane was out is whom the goalscoring responsibility mainly lays on, and he made sure he delivered. Spurs endured a first half of constant Manchester City pressure, before eventually coming through with a 2-0 win to begin February’s proceedings. Son grabbed the second goal with a low finish to ice the game. Jose Mourinho’s men then went to Aston Villa, and Son stole the three points with his second goal in injury time to win it 3-2. If there was an element of luck with his first, as he missed a penalty and then scored the rebound, his second was clinical. Son raced through after a mistake by Bjorn Engels, and then when the angle looked against him, he slid the ball past Pepe Reina. All made even more impressive by the fact Son was playing with a broken arm it was later found out, and he will now miss the rest of the season.
Nicolas Pepe (Arsenal)
It is easy to look and think ‘why Pepe?’ but the Ivorian although still finding his feet in the Premier League, is ever improving. Pepe was level with Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino with three assists in February, which was the most in the league. Pepe has edged Firmino out of this XI, as Firmino’s assists all came in one game, and Pepe also scored in the month, whereas Firmino did not. Pepe was only on the bench for Arsenal’s trip to Burnley. But in his first start of the month, he scored and assisted twice, as Arsenal blitzed Newcastle in the second half to win 4-0 at the Emirates. In their next home game, the Gunners beat Everton 3-2, and it was Pepe’s corner that was headed in by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to win the game. A long way to go, but Pepe is getting better.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal)
Arsenal’s captain occasionally picks up some harsh criticism. The aim for your frontmen is to score goals, but despite doing this, some still find other ways to get at him. The fact is without Aubameyang’s goals, lord knows where Arsenal would be. After leading the league in scoring with 3 goals in in 3 games in February, he has now scored 17 of the Gunners’ 39 goals (44%). He also now is joint overall with Jamie Vardy at the top of the scoring charts, as Vardy has not scored since December. The Gabonese international bounced back from a below-par game against Burnley, to score the opener as Arsenal beat Newcastle 4-0. He then bagged a brace as Arsenal won 3-2 against Everton. The first goal was Thierry Henry-esque as he ran through at pace and calmly slotted into the corner.
Matej Vydra (Burnley)
Since coming to Burnley, Vydra has played a bit-part role. But he was a pivotal part of why Burnley picked up 8 points in February as they went unbeaten. He did not play in the goalless draw at home to Arsenal, but came off the bench to win the next game away at Southampton. The winning goal at St Mary’s was a thing of beauty as he controlled the ball on his chest, knocked it past the oncoming defender and then unleashed a left foot volley that flew past Alex McCarthy. The Clarets’ top scorer Chris Wood was out of Burnley’s next game against Bournemouth. This meant Vydra was rewarded with a start, and he opened the scoring, as he expertly turned Simon Francis before a thumping finish past Aaron Ramsdale. Sean Dyche will now have a selection headache when all his strikers are fit.