After a hectic Christmas schedule in the Premier League, things are slowly returning back to normal. A weekend off from league football for the FA Cup provided a chance for rest and rotation for some of the league’s key players. The English league showcased another exciting weekend, with Liverpool keeping their unbeaten run against Jose Mourinho’s Spurs, and Southampton getting their own back on a Leicester side that thrashed them 9-0 back in October.
Here are the key influential players that caught our eye this weekend.
1 – Danny Ings (Southampton)
Without a doubt the most in form player of recent weeks is Danny Ings. A player who has had a career plagued by injuries, he has reminded everyone of his class once he manages to get a run of games under his belt.
After the terrible defeat to Leicester, Southampton looked doomed. Now, Hasenhüttl’s side are playing good football. They are taking big scalps, and hunting down teams that have wronged them in the past. At the forefront of this turnaround is Danny Ings.
Continuing his great run of form, he scored his 14th goal of the season! This achievement puts him up to 2nd in the Premier League top scorers list. But look deeper into the stats and there was more to the player than his goal.
In the 2-1 win against 2nd place Leicester, Ings posted these stats:
- 9 shots, including:
- 5 shots on target
- 2 times hit the woodwork
- 4 attempted dribbles
- 49 touches (only 4 Southampton players had more)
These are the stats of a hungry striker, always looking for opportunities to test the keeper, keep the play moving, and pressure a team who have dominated them in the past. Despite getting the one goal, the Englishman will be slightly disappointed. Hitting the post twice he could have had a new ball to take home if things went in his favour.
2 – Roberto Firmino (Liverpool)
As Liverpool continue their dominance of the league, posting their 20th win in 21 games, it is clear the whole team is working like clockwork. The exploits of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané leaves defenders waking up in cold sweats. The player that sometimes goes unmentioned though is Roberto Firmino.
Firmino doesn’t play as a typical number 9. He’s no poacher. He won’t be there on the end of the crosses, or making the runs in behind the defence. Happy to drop back and take the ball with his back to goal, a little backheel or a pass spread wide will keep the game going. What he does is provide the perfect link from midfield to attack. And goals. He scores goals.
Saturday’s winner against Spurs was the Brazilian’s ninth of the season. What makes it even more impressive is that they have ALL come away from home. And 5 of them have been winners. In a team with big personalities sometimes individual awards can fog the minds of the very best. Firmino, however, just loves to win. This article shows the way Firmino can influence a game, both on and off the pitch
3 – Brandon Williams (Man United)
Luke Shaw, Marcos Rojo and Ashley Young have been just three of the players who have tried to nail down the left back spot at Manchester United. Of the three of them, it is former winger Young who seemed to have the most success.
Luke Shaw has been unlucky with injuries and, with long spells on the sidelines again this season, that spot has been up for grabs. Step forward 19-year-old Englishman Brandon Williams.
The next name to join the ever expanding list of Manchester United’s academy graduates, the former under-18s captain seems to have all the qualities of a modern day attacking full back.
As shown in this article, WIliams is able to bomb forward and provide back up to the attacking line. A great young talent, there is no doubt we will be seeing more and more of him in the future.
In the game against Norwich, Williams was able to display what many knew he could do. As shown in his heat map he actually spent most of his time in the Norwich half! His influence came when he won the penalty for Rashford’s second goal, with a driving run into the penalty area only to be touched by Tim Krul.
He even had an opportunity to get on the scoresheet himself but unfortunately couldn’t take it in what can only be described as a defenders finish!
Providing the attacking yin to defensive-minded Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s yang, have Manchester United finally found their constant full backs?
4 – Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester)
Surprisingly, our final key player didn’t play a single minute this weekend. In fact he is ruled out with injury for at least the next three weeks.
Jamie Vardy and James Maddison have undoubtedly stolen the headlines in Leicester’s remarkable season so far. The two Englishmen have racked up a whopping 23 goals and 7 assists between them this season. A player that has been just as important, though, is Wilfred Ndidi.
Brendan Rodgers’ side play a 4-1-4-1 formation, with attacking full backs Chilwell and Ricardo Pereira, 4 attacking midfielders, and one striker, usually Vardy, up at the top. This means that there can be a lot of defensive work to do when possession is lost, and the tireless Ndidi has been there time and time again to make the tackle and help his team.
In the way that N’Golo Kanté and Fernandinho have provided the solid foundations to their attacking team in the CDM role, it really is hard to understate Ndidi’s importance to the way Leicester play. Hamza Choudhury was used as a successful replacement when he came on in the second half against Aston Villa, however in the Southampton game, he looked somewhat lost.
Ndidi’s absence will be a big issue for Leicester if they cannot find a way to make do while he is on the sidelines.
There were some headlines this Saturday! Aubameyang’s red card means Arsenal will be without their main man for the next few weeks. Spurs will have to make do without Harry Kane, and Chelsea come out on top this week in what is a real roller coaster of a season.
Just one of many more exciting weeks of Premier League football.
Who was your teams’ key player this Saturday?