MFF January Premier League Team of the Month
A new year, and a new month, means a new MFF team of the month is here. Another uneven month in terms of games played, had some teams playing as many as six matches, as they played a game that they had in hand. Some teams were to only play four times, but as usual we have strung 11 of the best performers together. January’s team takes on a 3-5-2 formation.
Robert Sanchez (Brighton)
Brighton fans had every right to be wary at first when Robert Sanchez displaced Mat Ryan as their number one keeper, but Sanchez is proving himself. In fact he is looking so comfortable now that Ryan has been allowed to go on loan to Arsenal to be their number two keeper. The year began with Brighton being involved in a crazy 3-3 draw with Wolves. They then went to the Etihad and were only beaten 1-0, as Sanchez made a series of saves. He denied Kevin De Bruyne no less than three times; otherwise the contest would have been over in the first half. Sanchez did get some fortune with Raheem Sterling blasting a late penalty well over the bar. After those two games however, Sanchez would not concede a goal for the rest of the match, as he picked up three consecutive clean sheets. Brighton won 1-0 at Leeds and then drew 0-0 with Fulham. They ended the month finally getting their first home win of the season over Spurs as Sanchez made four saves to help secure the points.
John Stones (Manchester City)
Despite the fact John Stones started the first league game of the season against Wolves, as the games went on (new signing) Ruben Dias, Eric Garcia and Nathan Ake all seemed to be ahead of him. Injuries to Laporte and Ake got him back into the mix. and since late November he has forged quite the partnership with Dias. The only goal City conceded in January came in their first game, which was a 3-1 win at Chelsea. In their third match; they beat Crystal Palace 4-0 and Stones was to get his first Premier League goal for Manchester City with a header from a delicious outside of the foot cross from Kevin De Bruyne. Stones’ second goal came as he reacted quickest after Dias’ effort was saved, to fire a low left footed shot for 3-0. Stones will surely be back in the frame for England the way he is currently performing.
Rob Holding (Arsenal)
Former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger once said that he is sorry Rob Holding did not cost £55m. This was in regards to the fact that he believed otherwise people would be raving about him if he had cost much more money than the £2.7m they paid Bolton for him in 2016. Holding has at times produced glimpses that he could be a solid centre half, and now in his fifth season at the club he is becoming a consistent and more reliable part of Mikel Arteta’s plans. Holding assisted Kieran Tierney’s wonderful strike against West Brom in Arsenal’s 4-0 win to start the year. Arsenal only let in one goal in January, a month that included goalless draws at the Emirates against Crystal Palace and Manchester United, and Holding was one of the better players in both games. Holding is 8th in the Premier League this season with 84 clearances, which is critical as Arsenal are nowhere as gun-ho as they were under Wenger. It remains to be seen whether Holding has alerted England Manager Gareth Southgate with his form.
Ruben Dias (Manchester City)
Pep Guardiola has recently described Ruben Dias as ‘undroppable’, and right now it is easy to see why that is the case. Despite the fact Manchester City conceded 5 at home to Leicester before Dias starting playing for the club, they easily now have let in the least amount of goals in the league. Since November; Dias has had a great partnership with John Stones, and the pair have only amazingly conceded one goal since starting together in the league. And that was only a consolation goal in the first game of the month as City beat Chelsea 3-1. City then won 1-0 at home again against Brighton. In the next game, Dias was involved in the third goal, as Guardiola’s men beat Crystal Palace 4-0. His header was saved before John Stones scored from the rebound. Dias is 3rd in the league in completed passes showing his composure on the ball as well as his evident high concentration levels at the back. The Portuguese has settled extremely quickly since coming from Benfica, and City are in pole position to win their third title in four years because of it.
Paul Pogba (Manchester United)
Since arriving for just under £95m in 2016, Paul Pogba has had some very good games, but has yet to properly justify the fee paid for his services. Now in his fifth season at Old Trafford he is finally consistently displaying the greatness that we all know he possesses. United beat Aston Villa 2-1 in their first game of the year, and despite Pogba not getting a goal contribution, he was pulling the strings in midfield in the first half as United played some good football going forward. Pogba was then to win the decisive penalty in the second half that turned out to be the winning goal. The Frenchman was the match winner at Turf Moor as United won 1-0 against Burnley thanks to his deflected shot. He missed a huge opportunity in the goalless draw with Liverpool, but he bounced back in the next game at Fulham. Pogba’s stunning left foot drive from outside the box gave United all three points.
Ilkay Gundogan (Manchester City)
Back in 2019, Pep Guardiola described Ilkay Gundogan as one of the best signings in Manchester City’s history. Whether at the time you perceived it to be hyperbole or not, you may now have to take it rather seriously. The German international scored five goals in Manchester City’s six January games as Guardiola’s men gained maximum points. Gundogan produced a textbook turn and finish to give City the lead in their 3-1 win at Stamford Bridge over Chelsea. Gundogan was to score another fine goal as he curled a shot into the top corner for City’s second goal in their 4-0 win over Crystal Palace. The Cityzens struggled to breakdown Aston Villa but eventually triumphed 2-0. Gundogan was to score the second goal from the penalty spot. Next up, a 5-0 rout of West Brom saw two more Gundogan goals, both were expertly finished, and he is currently virtually unstoppable.
Tomas Soucek (West Ham)
West Ham took Tomas Soucek on loan from Slavia Prague in January 2020, and got a big enough sample size to warrant signing him permanently in the summer for just shy of £15m. The Czech Republic international has taken to the Premier League like a duck-to-water, and has started every league game for David Moyes’ side this season. His box-to-box presence and eye for goal has had Moyes liken him to Marouane Fellaini, who was so important for Moyes back when he was in charge of Everton. West Ham won 1-0 at Everton on New Year’s Day, thanks to Soucek’s vigilance as he turned in a ball across the face of goal by Aaron Cresswell. West Ham went on to win four games in a row in January thanks to Soucek getting a brace away at Crystal Palace in a 3-2 win. The first was a header from a Michail Antonio ball into the six-yard box. The second was a tidy control and finish from a Cresswell free-kick. Week-by-week he continues to impress.
Youri Tielemens (Leicester City)
After what was kind of a slow start to the campaign, Youri Tielemens is now well into gear as Leicester mount their title challenge. His adaptability in the centre of midfield means that Brendan Rodgers heavily relies on him, and January showed why as he helped them to 10 points out of an available 15. The Belgian international finished smartly for what turned out to be the winner as they edged past Newcastle 2-1 at St James’ Park. Leicester next were to win 2-0 at home against Southampton and Tielemens assisted both goals. The first assist was finished brilliantly at the near post by James Maddison. The second an easy finish for Harvey Barnes as the Saints were caught out chasing an equaliser late on. It was Tielemens to the rescue in Leicester’s penultimate game of the month; as he scored a second half leveller to salvage 1-1 draw with Everton at Goodison Park.
Bukayo Saka (Arsenal)
Since Bukayo Saka burst onto the scene there are not too many games that he has not impressed in. This season he has continued to flourish and was pivotal in the Gunners going unbeaten in January and duly moving up the table. Arsenal began the year with a 4-0 rout of West Brom, and Saka scored the second goal after a lovely team move. After a goalless draw at home to Crystal Palace, the 19-year-old was on the scoresheet again in a 3-0 home win over Newcastle. He calmly slotted in the second goal after good work by Emile Smith-Rowe. In what looked like a tricky game on paper, Arsenal won 3-1 at Southampton in their next away game. Saka put Arsenal 2-1 ahead showing great composure to go around Alex McCarthy (who randomly thought he could get to the ball) and finished with his weaker foot into the unguarded goal. The England international then laid the third goal on for Alexandre Lacazette.
Michail Antonio (West Ham)
With Sebastian Haller now sold after only being at the club for 18 months, West Ham needed someone to step up, and the fit again Michail Antonio obliged. David Moyes wants to make sure that further fitness issues do not come to the fore and he is managing Antonio’s minutes, and Antonio has been using his time to full effect. His directness, movement and hold up play causes defences all types of issues and also brings the Hammers’ midfielders into play. Antonio only came off the bench in West Ham’s 1-0 away win at Everton on New Year’s Day, but after the Haller sale he showed his worth with two match winners. The first came in the 1-0 home win over Burnley. Antonio was left alone as Burnley froze and he turned in from close range. Antonio would have had a second, but Ben Mee cleared his header off the line. His second game winner came at home to West Brom as he made it 2-1 with a great volley from Andriy Yarmolenko’s header.
Harry Kane (Tottenham)
Harry Kane’s worth to Tottenham was shown even when he was not on the pitch in January. Jose Mourinho’s men began their month at home to Leeds, and Leeds started well until a Kane penalty set Spurs on their way. Kane then played a really good ball to Heung-min Son to make it 2-0, as they combined for a goal yet again. It was the 13th time they had combined for a goal this campaign, which tied the Premier League record with four months of the season still left for them to break it. Kane scored again with a really good header from a textbook cross from Sergio Reguilon to give Spurs the lead at home to Fulham, before they were pegged back as Fulham took a point. England’s captain was at it again as he fired home from outside of the box into the bottom corner to put Spurs 2-0 up at Sheffield United in a 3-1 win. Kane came off at half-time as Tottenham were beaten 3-1 at home against Liverpool. His absence then meant that they were toothless as they concluded January with an abject display losing 1-0 away at Brighton.
Written by @DubulDee