Premier League Team of the Week – Odegaard, Alexander-Arnold, Toney

Sports Mole picks its first Premier League Team of the Week for 2023, including Martin Odegaard, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ivan Toney.

New Year, same Premier League. All 20 teams limited their midnight celebrations to gear up for their final fixtures of 2022, or in some cases, holding the honor of kicking off what promises to be a spectacular 2023.

arsenal entered the New Year seven points clear at the top of the table after a nervous 4-2 win over Brighton & Hove Albionextending their lead over Manchester City after the champions could only draw 1-1 with Everton.

Newcastle United remain on the podium despite being held to a goalless draw by Leeds Unitedwhile Manchester United have broken into the top four after a 1-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Tottenham Hotspur failed to displace the Red Devils in the Champions League spots after going down 2-0 to Aston Villawhile Liverpool failed to score themselves against Leicester City but still came away with a 2-1 triumph.

Chelsea ended the gameweek with a 1-1 draw away to relegation-threatened Nottingham Forestbut Fulham are threatening a European charge after leaving it late to see off Southampton 2-1.

Elsewhere, Crystal Palace eased to a 2-0 success away at Bournemouthwhile Brentford‘s short trip across the capital to West Ham United ended in a 2-0 victory.

Here, Sports Mole picks its first Premier League Team of the Week for 2023.


DEFENSE

Trent Alexander-Arnold in action for Liverpool on October 1, 2022©Reuters

For the second gameweek in a row, Leeds United’s number one Illan Meslier acts as the last line of defense in our Team of the Week, with good reason too. As Newcastle huffed and puffed, the Frenchman kept the Whites’ house standing with five saves and five high claims in torrid conditions.

Meslier earned most of the plaudits, but the efforts of Liam Cooper did not go unnoticed either, and the 31-year-old forces his way to a spot in the backline after winning three of his four aerial duels, as well as posting four tackles and three interceptions in an assured performance.

As was the case with Leeds, Brentford also came under the cosh against West Ham, but Ethan Pinnock was here, there and everywhere to thump the ball away – making a whopping 14 clearances and also creating two chances for his teammates in a hard-fought triumph.

Since bursting onto the Anfield scene, Trent Alexander-Arnold‘s attacking qualities have often outweighed his acumen at the back, but it was the opposite story against Leicester. Despite failing to showcase his best qualities in the final third, the Englishman nullified Harvey Barnes throughout the game, making four tackles and four interceptions to silence a few defensive doubters.

In contrast, Nottingham Forest’s Serge Aurier had the desired impact in the penalty area to help Forest claim a deserved draw against Chelsea. The Ivorian’s smart take-down and volley – the final goal of the gameweek – earned the Tricky Trees a hard-fought point at the City Ground and has given the strugglers a solid foundation to build upon for the remainder of the year.


MIDFIELD

Martin Odegaard celebrates scoring for Arsenal on December 31, 2022©Reuters

Douglas Luiz‘s proposed summer move to Arsenal may have fallen through, but Gooners still reveled in the Brazilian’s exemplary performance against Tottenham Hotspur. Luiz’s long-range shot triggered Villa’s opening goal after Hugo Lloris spilled his effort, and the 24-year-old then proceeded to finish calmly from John McGinn‘s delicate chipped pass in a deserved success for the Lions.

Having taken the Premier League by storm since arriving from Sporting Lisbon, João Palhinha is worthy of European football, and as things stand, the Portugal midfielder could potentially lead the Cottagers into continental competition. As well as providing a domineering presence with six tackles and three interceptions, Palhinha’s late header denied Southampton a priceless point at Craven Cottage and boosted Fulham’s top-seven bid.

Elation was also present for another capital club on New Year’s Eve, thanks in no small part to the elegance and flair of Arsenal captain Martin Odegaard. The Norway international’s half-volley into the ground left Brighton number Robert Sanchez rooted to the spot – his seventh goal of the season – but his Kevin DeBruyne-esque long pass for Gabriel Martinelli‘s goal only enhanced his reputation as one of the division’s top playmakers.


ATTACK

Everton's Demarai Gray celebrates scoring their first goal on December 31, 2022©Reuters

Whether it be a corner to the back post or a smartly-worked routine, Michael Olise had it all in his locker for Palace against Bournemouth. The former Reading starlet’s first delivery was on the money for Jordan Ayew to score his side’s opener, and he switched things up not long after, claiming his second assist for Eberechi Eze after a well-taken short corner.

Nails were bitten around Brentford as fans waited anxiously to learn the extent of Ivan Toney‘s injury, but the striker was at his clinical best before being taken off on a stretcher against West Ham. After reacting quickest to prod home his side’s opener, the England striker then produced a well-executed ball over the top to set up Josh Dasilvaand Bees supporters have received the unexpected good news that Toney could be available for their imminent showdown with Liverpool.

A Team of the Week inclusion involving Man City usually means a customary place for Erling Braut Haaland, but not this time. The Norwegian did score his 21st Premier League against Everton, but a thunderbolt of a strike from Demarai Gray saw Everton leave with a point, and some have already hailed the Englishman’s strike as the future goal of the season.


PL TOTW GW17

Sports Mole’s Premier League Team of the Week (4-3-3): Meslier; Alexander-Arnold, Cooper, Pinnock, Aurier; Luiz, Palhinha, Odegaard; Olise, Toney, Gray


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