After another week of Premier League action, we saw Manchester City add a little more heat to the title race by closing the gap to Arsenal to three points, while Southampton at the bottom cut ties with head coach Nathan Jones after throwing away a lead to lose to ten-man Wolves.
Calls for Brendan Rodgers to be sacked earlier in the season now seem a distant memory after Leicester secured a 4-1 win over Spurs, and in analyzing the PFF grades and data we have found space for two players who stood out in the victory to warrant selection for our XI.
Goalkeeper: Vicente Guaita, Crystal Palace
There was no let-up for the Palace goalkeeper in the crunch match against Brighton at Selhurst Park, as the visitors dominated play. Guaita’s 85.7% shots on target saved rate was the highest of anyone to face five or more, guiding Palace to a point when his opposite number Roberto Sanchez was at fault with a gaffe that allowed James Tomkins to equalise.
Right-back: Luke Ayling, Leeds United
Leeds captain Luke Ayling barely put a foot wrong despite suffering defeat to rivals Manchester United. Still managerless after the sacking of Jesse Marsch, Ayling showed his leadership in registering an 86.5 challenge grade and 88.0 passing grade – both rank in the top 3 among all full-backs.
Center-back: Adam Webster, Brighton & Hove Albion
Webster’s performance will deliver a selection headache for Roberto De Zerbi once Levi Colwill returns from injury in the coming weeks. We wrote last month about the impact Colwill had had for Brighton to keep Webster out of De Zerbi’s plans, but on his return to action he was perfect on all eight aerial duels. This contributed to an overall challenge grade of 86.3 for Webster, the third-highest among central defenders to go in tow with a 77.6 passing grade.
Center-back: Luke Shaw, Manchester United
Manchester United’s defence, transformed into a robust unit under Erik ten Hag, pivoted to an experimental center-back pairing of Shaw and Harry Maguire for the trip to Leeds and was able to come away with a clean sheet.
With usual starters Raphaël Varane and Lisandro Martinez afforded a rest by ten Hag, Shaw was up to the task with a respectable 72.7 challenge grade on 18 challenges in total. While he was able to revert to his usual left-back position later in the game from where he provided the assist for Marcus Rashford’s goal.
Left-back: Pervis Estupiñán, Brighton & Hove Albion
The top-graded crosser of anyone in the Premier League this week with a grade of 90.2 off his seven cross attempts, Estupiñán showed high quality in Brighton’s clash with Crystal Palace in setting up Solly March to score at the far post for Albion.
While they were left to settle for a point amid VAR controversy which saw a goal for Estupiñán disallowed, his 73.7 challenge grade was also above average to rank 16th out of 50 qualifiers at his position – the first time he has recorded a challenge grade over 70.0 in the last four games.
Midfielder: Stefan Bajčetić, Liverpool
It has been clear for all to see Fabinho’s drop-off in quality this season for Liverpool and the problems in midfield that have arisen as a result, so to see Bajčetić come to the fore in the Merseyside derby will be very welcome to Jurgen Klopp.
At 18, Bajčetić has shown steady improvement with each performance in going one better than his 80.5 challenge grade last week against Wolves with a starring performance at Anfield on Monday evening. His 86.9 challenge grade ranks second among all midfielders and his 72.0 passing grade is a season-best for the young Spaniard.
Midfielder: Rodri, Manchester City
Rodri executed the most line-breaking passes of any midfielder in Manchester City’s comfortable victory over Aston Villa. Two of his 12 completed line-breaking passes broke the defensive line, a key factor in his 83.3 passing grade and four chances created (tied-1st among all players).
It was the seventh game this season in which Rodri has recorded more than 100 passes, achieving at least a 90% completion rate against Villa as well as in four of the other games.
Right winger: Solly March, Brighton & Hove Albion
Like Rodri, March was also a creative force for his team with all four of his key passes leading to a chance. He left it up to himself to score the goal which gave Brighton the lead and continue his own good form since the departure of Leandro Trossard last month to Arsenal.
In the four games since, no Brighton player has contributed more chances (9) than March or goals (4).
Left winger: Harvey Barnes, Leicester City
The usual suspects of Harvey Barnes and James Maddison inspired Leicester’s convincing win over Tottenham, but it was Barnes who graded the better of the two as both players found the net.
An 85.0 shooting grade is Barnes’ second-best all season, marginally behind the 86.5 grade he earned versus Nottingham Forest back in October.
Striker: Ivan Toney, Brentford
Toney was a complete nuisance for Arsenal’s defensive pairing of William Saliba and Gabriel to deal with, with Saliba in particular put to the sword by the Brentford forward. Involved in a monster 31 challenges in total, Toney earned an elite challenge grade of 91.4 in a match where Saliba earned 44.1.
This season there have been nine occasions when a player has competed in 30 or more challenges in a match, Toney has accounted for four of them, all the while managing to achieve a shooting grade of 75.6 against Arsenal – ranked 4th among all strikers this week.
Striker: Kelechi Iheanacho, Leicester City
Kelechi Iheanacho ranked directly above Toney in our shooting grades for his one goal, one assist display for Leicester. The Nigerian’s goalscoring form looks set to keep Jamie Vardy on the bench for now, attaining a 77.6 shooting grade in the win over Spurs – bettering his previous best of 76.5 secured last week against against Aston Villa.