How’s your FPL team? MFF December Team of the month – by Daniel Dwamena
It is time for the December MFF team of the month. With the December schedule being so busy, the month was filled with managers rotating their sides, but as always we have put together eleven of the top performers for you. There were also games postponed due to coronavirus outbreaks, so some teams played six games whereas other teams played just five. This attacking team takes on a 3-4-3 formation.
Emiliano Martinez (Aston Villa)
Martinez impressed so much for Arsenal in the second half of last season after their number one keeper Bernd Leno fell injured, that he became a wanted man. His form gave him the belief that he could be a number one choice and he decided to leave north London after spending 10 years at the Gunners. Thus far it has been so far, so good for him as he shows everyone that last season was not just a flash in the pan. The Argentine stopper leads the league with eight clean sheets and four of them came in Villa’s five December games. Martinez made 22 saves in the month as Villa picked up 11 points with 3 wins and 2 draws. In Villa’s first outing at Wolves he made a key save from Leander Dendoncker in a 1-0 win. Next up in a goalless draw with Burnley he made a vital first half from a Chris Wood header. In the 3-0 home win against Crystal Palace, at 0-0 he brilliantly denied Wilfried Zaha from close range. Martinez is in the conversation for being the best keeper in the league so far this season and Villa fans will hope his great form continues.
Ben Mee (Burnley)
Sean Dyche’s men had just five points before December began, and there was major concern that this may be the season that they do not have enough to stay up. Club captain Ben Mee had been out injured, but came back in November, and bar a blip in their annual 5-0 thrashing by Manchester City, there were signs of improvement at the back for the Clarets. Things came together in December as Burnley took 11 points from a possible 18 available to move up to 16th, and Mee’s leadership as well as keeper Nick Pope have been the key reasons behind the mini-revival. They produced a disciplined display to win 1-0 at Arsenal in their most impressive result of the month. Mee won an important header at home to Wolves from a set piece that eventually led to Chris Wood’s goal that turned out to be the winner as they triumphed 2-1. Mee concluded the month by scoring the winning goal as Burnley edged past Sheffield United 1-0 at Turf Moor.
Joel Matip (Liverpool)
There was much concern for Liverpool fans when Virgil van Dijk and then Joe Gomez picked up long-term injuries, but Joel Matip when fit has always been a consistent performer for them. Whilst Fabinho has also been very good filling in at centre half for Jurgen Klopp, Matip’s contribution on both ends of the pitch cannot be overlooked. Liverpool had struggled for clean sheets so far this season, but the Reds kept three clean sheets in December, and Matip was stellar in the two games he played of those three shutouts. On top of that the Cameroonian helped himself to a goal with a close range header in the 4-0 home win against Wolves to begin the month. Liverpool then drew with Fulham, and Matip was then rested for their 2-1 home win over Spurs. He came back into the side for the 7-0 demolition of Crystal Palace where his assisted Mo Salah’s first goal. In the game, the centre back was assisting again when his delightful pass allowed Sadio Mane to give Liverpool the lead in their 1-1 home draw with West Brom.
Yerry Mina (Everton)
Everton enjoyed an unbeaten December in the Premier League, which included four straight wins seeing them climb back into the title frame. Everton’s four December wins came when they switched to a back four after playing three at the back in their 1-1 draw with Burnley to start the month. They had three clean sheets in their five December games and Yerry Mina continues to put in good performances for the Toffees at the back. Mina is 11th in the league with 61 clearances thus far, mainly down to how dominant he is in the air. He displayed his aerial ability at the attacking end as he grabbed the winner with a near post header, as Carlo Ancelotti’s men beat Arsenal 2-1 at Goodison Park. Before that win they had already kept a clean sheet in another huge home win as they just got past Chelsea 1-0. In a month where main man Dominic Calvert-Lewin only scored one goal, it was imperative they were solid defensively and they were.
James Maddison (Leicester)
Maddison was eased into this season after having a minor hip operation in the short break before the 2020/21 campaign. He did not start his first league game until late October, but now he is consistently starting again his class is evident. December opened with Maddison playing a lovely through ball for Jamie Vardy to score a winner against Sheffield United in the 90th minute as they prevailed 2-1. Next up Maddison was to get a brace as the Foxes blew Brighton away in the first half in a 3-0 win. His first goal was a low left footed shot that Brighton keeper Mat Ryan should have done better with. There were no doubts about the quality of the second goal as Maddison collected a pass from Vardy, and did a few step-overs before unleashing a curling shot into the top corner again with his weaker left peg. Maddison was unlucky to have a brilliantly taken goal ruled out in the 2-0 away win at Spurs. He did get himself another assist as he laid on Harvey Barnes’ goal in the 2-2 draw with Manchester United.
Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United)
Bruno Fernandes’ effectiveness cannot be denied. His instant impact on Manchester United since signing in January has been amazing. Fernandes ended the year with ten Premier League goals thus far in the 2020/21 campaign and three of those goals came in December. It is not just goals that the Portuguese midfielder has provided however as he assisted four times during the month also. In United’s first game of December; Fernandes came off the bench to assist Paul Pogba for the equaliser against West Ham, before they went on to win 3-1. There were no Fernandes contributions in back-to-back games against Manchester City and Sheffield United but he was back at it when they thumped Leeds. He set up Scott McTominay for the opening goal before scoring twice himself as they won 6-2 at Old Trafford. Fernandes scored and assisted again as United drew 2-2 away at Leicester. The month concluded with him providing a great assist to Marcus Rashford with a long pass to set him away for a deflected injury time winner at home to Wolves.
Anwar El Ghazi (Aston Villa)
Aston Villa manager Dean Smith started the season with Trezeguet as one of his wide men, but since Anwar El Ghazi has come into the side in Trezeguet’s absence he cannot stop scoring. The Dutchman had been maligned by some of Villa fans, but he began the month with the winning penalty away in the 1-0 win at Wolves in the fourth minute of injury time after coming off the bench. Ollie Watkins was the most recent penalty taker for the Villans, but after a miss away at the end of November against West Ham, captain Jack Grealish gave the responsibility to El Ghazi. His teammate Tyrone Mings jumped to his defence saying Villa fans should apologise for the recent unfair criticism of him after he scored such an important goal. Since that goal he has been rewarded with a starting berth and he has not looked back. After a goalless draw with Burnley, he bagged a brace away at West Brom in the derby including another penalty. He then produced a sublime finish for the third goal in the 3-0 home victory over Crystal Palace. El Ghazi ended December with the equaliser as Villa got a point at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea to complete an unbeaten month. December saw El Ghazi score an impressive five goals in five games.
Marcus Rashford (Manchester United)
He may be fighting the government but Marcus Rashford is doing his actual paid job on a football pitch really well. Rashford redeemed himself after hitting the post away against West Ham to later on score United’s third as they came from behind to win 3-1. After a goalless draw at home in the Manchester derby, he was then at the double as the Red Devils came from behind once again away from home to beat Sheffield United 3-2. Rashford was ironically not amongst the goals in United’s 6-2 disposal of Leeds, but he opened the scoring next up in a 2-2 draw with Leicester. Before his goal he will have kicked himself for a missed point blank header, he then should have scored in the second half, but as he did not find the corner Kasper Schmeichel made a great save to deny him. The England international was to end the month as the hero as his deflected shot gave Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men an injury time 1-0 success over Wolves.
Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)
By his standards Sterling has had an inconsistent start to the season, but in December he was more like old self, contributing heavily to City getting themselves back into the title picture. Sterling scored the opener as Pep Guardiola’s men won 2-0 at home to Fulham to start the month off. He also won the penalty for the second goal that Kevin De Bruyne tucked away. City drew a non-eventful Manchester derby with United, before Sterling assisted the opening goal as the Cityzens were held to a surprise 1-1 home draw with West Brom. Here Sterling’s cut-back was put away by Ilkay Gundogan. The England international was the match-winner grabbing the only goal as City edged out Southampton at St Mary’s in their next outing. Sterling was to assist Gundogan again this time for the first goal as City beat Newcastle 2-0 at the Etihad on Boxing Day.
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
It has seemed at times like Mo Salah has not been near his best so far this season, but the Egyptian still finds himself the Premier League’s top scorer. Salah ended December with 13 goals overall so far and 5 of them came in the month. Liverpool were having a tight game with Wolves to start the month when Salah seized on a Conor Coady error to give them the lead, as they went on to win 4-0. Salah also assisted a Joel Matip header in this game. After Liverpool struggled in their next game against Fulham, it was Salah to the rescue as his late penalty got them a 1-1 draw at Craven Cottage. In the Reds’ next name; Salah’s deflected shot gave Liverpool the lead as they beat Tottenham 2-1 at Anfield. Next up despite being on the bench for 57 minutes, Salah came on to score twice and get an assist in a 7-0 romp away at Crystal Palace. Salah’s second was a brilliant curling shot into the top corner.
Jamie Vardy (Leicester)
Vardy is indispensable to Leicester, and December once again showed why. Even when he is not scoring his intelligent running to create space for others, and his pressing when Leicester are not in possession is so vital to the way that they setup. Vardy began December with yet another important goal as he stole three points for the Foxes with a 90th minute goal at Sheffield United with a typical finish for them to win 2-1. Leicester then beat Brighton 3-0 with a clinical first half display. Vardy was involved in James Maddison’s opener as he occupied defenders, then he scored himself, before assisting Maddison’s second. Leicester were then beaten at home by Everton, but they responded with a huge 2-0 win away at Spurs. Vardy scored from the spot for the first goal, and then his header went in off Toby Alderweireld for an own goal for Leicester’s second. Leicester then drew 2-2 with Manchester United and Vardy’s shot went in for an own goal off of Axel Tuanzebe to salvage a point.