Alexis Sanchez

BenjaminWills’Blog Premier League Team of the Season so far (2014/15)

The Premier League always offers drama, excitement, and talking points, and the 2014/15 season has not failed to disappoint so far. Here are the 11 men who have caught the eye of BenjaminWills’Blog from August to December.

Goalkeeper: David De Gea (Manchester United)

Spain international De Gea has really made an impact in English football after overcoming a stuttering debut season in 2011/12 and is considered by many to be one of, if not the, best Goalkeeper in the Premier League.

De Gea has managed six clean sheets this season so far despite playing behind a much talked about inexperienced Manchester United defence that has included the likes of Tyler Blackett and Paddy McNair at centre back as well as winger Ashley Young as a makeshift wing-back.

He has made a string of impressive stops, most notably from Bryan Oviedo against Everton in the dying stages to keep it at 2-1 and in the home clash with Liverpool where Raheem Sterling looked certain to score.

Saving from Private Bryan: De Gea keeps out Oviedo

Saving from Private Bryan: De Gea keeps out Oviedo

Honourable Mention(s): Robert Green (QPR) who has made the most saves so far this season with 59 and Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea) who has kept the most clean sheets (Seven) and least goals conceded (14).

Right Back: Nathaniel Clyne (Southampton)

Southampton have surprised many this campaign, spending a large section of the latter end of 2014 in the top four despite losing five first teamers and their manager in the summer.

The Saints have conceded just 15 goals in their 19 games with season with only leaders Chelsea conceding less (14) with Clyne part of an impressive foursome that also features Jose Fonte, Toby Alderweireld and Ryan Bertrand.

Clyne is the most proficient tackler in the league with 48 successes when attempting to win the ball and his quality displays were rewarded with his full England debut against Slovenia in November.

Clyne-ing up the pecking order: England may have found their right-back.

Clyne-ing up the pecking order: England may have found their right-back.

Honourable Mention(s): Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City) and Branislav Ivanovic (Chelsea).

Centre Back: John Terry (Chelsea)

Many have compared the current Chelsea team to that of 2004/05 where they romped to the title with a record 95 points.

One of the few surviving members of that side is captain John Terry who, if you go by stats, is performing even better than he did 10 years ago.

He has won a higher percentage of his tackles, more of his duels, and conceded less fouls. To quote a famous Chelsea banner; “Captain. Leader. Legend”.

Better at 34 than 24? John Terry is in fine form.

Better at 34 than 24? John Terry is in fine form.

Centre Back: Toby Alderweireld (Southampton)

Tobias Albertine Maurits Alderweireld, or “Toby”, to his friends, Alderweireld has been the cement in the heart of the Saints’ defence with partner Fonte while Bertrand and the previously mentioned Clyne are doing the business on the flanks.

Alderweireld swapped the Spanish capital for the South Coast in September to get more first team football, he is getting it, and his performances make you wonder why he has not had a look in at Vicente Calderon.

The Belgian defender has won 17 tackles, losing just 12, won 22 aerial duels, made 89 clearances while comitting zero defensive errors. His loan at St.Mary’s could well be made permanent in the near future.

TA

To-by or not To-by: Will Southampton make his loan deal permanent next Summer?

Honourable Mention(s): Winston Reid (West Ham) and Jose Fonte (Southampton).

Left Back: Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea)

Chelsea fans’ Player of the Year last year Azpilicueta is shining again this term, although he is naturally a right back, “Dave” has taken to the other side like a duck to water.

So much so that even Champions League runner up Felipe Luis has failed to dislodge his spot in the Chelsea 11.

He has made great strides since his under the radar £7 million arrival from Marseille in August 2012 and has proven to be a fine replacement for Ashley Cole.

Just call me Dave: Azpilicueta has faultlessly made the transition from right to left back.

Just call me Dave: Azpilicueta has faultlessly made the transition from right to left back.

Honourable Mention(s): Aaron Cresswell (West Ham), Kieran Gibbs (Arsenal), Ashley Young (Manchester United) and Ryan Bertrand (Southampton).

Right Midfield: Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal)

It is a surprise to no-one how much of an impact Alexis has made on the Premier League in such a short space of time.

The Chilean terror arrived in North London from Barcelona for £35 million five months ago on the back of a successful World Cup, scoring two goals in four games as Chile reached the last 16 ahead of holders Spain in Group B.

And he made an immediate impression on Gunners fans, helping his new team to a 3-0 win over Champions Manchester City in the Community shield on his debut and soon started scoring goals. 10 of them in fact, in 18 games, making him the fourth top scorer so far.

Agent of Shield: Sanchez has been Arsenal's Superhero.

Agent of Shield: Sanchez has been Arsenal’s Superhero this season.

Honourable Mention(s): Eden Hazard (Chelsea)

Centre Midfield: Cesc Fabregas (Chelsea)

Arguably the player of the season so far, Cesc Fabregas’ form on his return to the Premier League has picked up from when he departed Chelsea’s London rivals Arsenal in 2011.

Back then he had already established himself as the sixth best assister in Premier League history with 71 in eight years but has leap-frogged former Arsenal team mate Thierry Henry into fifth since his move to the West side of the capital.

Fabregas has contributed 13 assists in his 18 games in a Blue shirt, with two goals to his name as well. He is Chelsea’s most influential player in the final third by a mile.

Absolutely Fab-ulous: Fabregas is arguably the Player of the Season so far.

Absolutely Fab-ulous: Fabregas is arguably the Player of the Season so far.

Centre Midfield: Nemanja Matic (Chelsea)

While the aforementioned Fabregas is the go to guy to put the finishing touches to Chelsea’s attacking play, Nemanja Matic is very much the man who gets things started.

Fabregas, Eden Hazard and Diego Costa are often the subject of the plaudits to the 41 goals the Blues have scored this season (joint highest in the league with Manchester City), Matic has been the driving force behind them.

BenjaminWills’Blog has waxed lyrical about Matic in the past and it appears this season the imposing Serbia anchor man is getting the praise he so truly deserves.

Comeback King: Matic has become Chelsea's most important player three years after his exile.

Comeback King: Matic has become Chelsea’s most important player three years after his exile.

Honourable Mention(s): Gylfi Sigurdsson (Swansea), Alex Song (West Ham), Christian Eriksen (Tottenham) and Michael Carrick (Manchester United).

Left Midfield: Stewart Downing (West Ham)

If there is one player from this side that is best defined as the “most improved” then Stewart Downing is that player.

The revitalised England winger has scored four goals, assisted six and created 54 chances already this campaign while he only managed three goals, two assists and created just 62 chances throughout the whole of last season.

In the first half of 2014/15, he has set up more goals than the heavily praised David Silva who has just two assists to his name and created 31 chances with Downing also boasting more key passes (48) to Silva’s 29.

It is a completely different Downing to the one who scored zero goals and fashioned zero assists in the 2011/12 season for Liverpool.

Happy Hammer: Stewart Downing is back to his best.

Happy Hammer: Stewart Downing is back to his best.

Honourable Mention(s): David Silva (Manchester City)

Striker: Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)

The Premiership’s top marksman at the halfway stage is a deadly diminutive forward that goes by the name of Sergio Aguero.

A World Cup runner up in July, Aguero has bounced back from that bitter disappointment and has rediscovered his scoring boots after he failed to find the back of the net in Brazil.

He is having no such problem domestically though, scoring 14 goals and is eight clear of City’s next top scorer Silva. It says a lot about Aguero that he is had his injury issues this season but is still top of the league’s goal scoring charts.

Argentine Assasion: Aguero is in hot form as ever.

Argentine Assasion: Aguero is in hot form as ever.

Striker: Diego Costa (Chelsea)

Costa arrived on English soil to more than a few doubters to his ability, but, he has, quite literally, pushed all of that to one side.

The imposing Brazilian-born Spaniard, 25, has bulldozed his way past most Premier League defences and notched 13 goals from 54 shots in the process as Chelsea have stormed to the summit.

That tally is one less than Aguero with 14 (one came from the penalty spot) while the little Argentine needed 22 more shots than his fellow former Atletico star striker.

Deadly Diego: At long last Chelsea have found a striker they can rely on.

Deadly Diego: At long last Chelsea have found a striker they can rely on.

Honourable Mention(s): Charlie Austin (QPR) and Graziano Pelle (Southampton)

Here is BenjaminWills’Blog Team of the Season so far in graphic form then:

Graphic

TOTS graphic provided by @YidNick

Chelsea 2-0 Arsenal

Chelsea ended a high tempered London derby triumphant over Arsenal, winning 2-0 at Stamford Bridge thanks to goals from Eden Hazard and Diego Costa.

Costa sealed the three points 12 minutes before the end when he lobbed Wojciech Szczesny after being set up by a delicious Cesc Fabregas pass that beat the Arsenal defence all ends up.

Hazard opened the scoring for the West Londoners when his run where he dribbled past three despairing defenders culminated in Laurent Koscielny bringing down the Belgian in the box and the defender maybe should have been shown his marching orders.

23-year-old Hazard stepped up himself and slotted it past Szczesny with 27 minutes played.

Events off the pitch were the main talking points of the first half however with managers Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger engaging in a touchline spat as a result of a crunching Gary Cahill challenge on Alexis Sanchez.

Wenger was of the opinion Cahill should have seen red for his foul and, after some wind up tactics from his adversary Mourinho, pushed the Portuguese coach in the chest.

Calum Chambers was arguably fortunate to stay on the pitch as well, not picking up a second yellow card for pulling down Andre Schurrle.

Eden Hazard opens the scoring from the spot.

Eden Hazard opens the scoring from the spot.

Arsenal also had reason to feel adjudged by referee Martin Atkinson when Jack Wilshere’s shot was blocked by the hand of ex Gunner Fabregas.

Chelsea were worthy winners but an early injury to Thibaut Courtois provided a minor bleak point to their victory. He was replaced by Petr Cech 24 minutes in.

Chelsea: Courtois (Cech ’24) Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta, Matic, Fabregas, Schurrle (Mikel ’69), Oscar (Willian ’87), Hazard, Diego Costa

Subs not used: Zouma, Filipe Luis, Salah, Remy

Arsenal: Szczesny, Chambers, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Wilshere (Rosicky ’83), Flamini, Cazorla (Oxlade-Chamberlain ’69), Ozil, Alexis, Welbeck

Subs not used: Martinez, Monreal, Coquelin, Campbell, Podolski

CEEFAX MATCH REPORT: SAINTS STUN ARSENAL IN LEAGUE CUP

A wonder goal by Nathaniel Clyne sealed a 1-2 win for Southampton.

His 40th minute winner sent Southampton through to the next round of the League Cup at the expense of favourites Arsenal.

Alexis Sanchez’s free-kick initially put Arsenal in front after 14 minutes but a penalty from Dusan Tadic six minutes later pulled Southampton level.

Clyne’s winner, a swinging shot from the edge of the area five minutes before half time, put Southampton in the hat for the fourth round.

Arsenal 2-2 Manchester City

Title contenders Arsenal and Manchester City battled to a 2-2 draw at the Emirates stadium, three of the four goals coming in the second half.

Sergio Aguero gave Manchester City the lead 28 minutes into the game when he arrived on the edge of the six yard box to nip in and score from Jesus Navas’ pass.

Nacho Monreal, who kept his place despite Kieran Gibbs’ return from injury was at fault as Navas was given acres of space on the right hand side.

Jack Wilshere tied the game up just after the hour, providing the finishing touch to a typical Arsenal build up of neat passing play. Wilshere gilded past Gael Clichy and dinked the ball over Joe Hart after a one-two with Aaron Ramsey.

Alexis Sanchez completed the second half turnaround 16 minutes before the end, superbly volleying in a Wilshere header after Ramsey’s cross wasn’t dealt with efficiently enough by Vincent Kompany.

Martin Demichelis ensured City went back to Manchester with a share of the spoils however when he headed home a corner seven minutes from time, being left unmarked by the Arsenal defence.

Jack the lad: Wilshere equalizes for Arsenal

Jack the lad: Wilshere equalizes for Arsenal

 

Manchester City had chances to win the game in the closing stages, putting the Gunners under the pressure with a late flurry and even had the ball in the back of the net, but Samir Nasri was offside.

Their best opportunity however was shortly after their opener but David Silva’s effort was well kept out by Wojciech Szczesny but in reality, the Spaniard should have put his side further ahead.

Arsene Wenger will be happy that his side picked up a point today as Arsenal’s record against the top four was poor last season but a late injury to Mathieu Debuchy could be a severe one and it will have left a sour taste in the mouth of his manager.

Debuatant Danny Welbeck was also replaced on 88 minutes due to injury.

Arsenal: Szczesny, Debuchy (Chambers ’81), Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Flamini (Arteta ’90), Wilshere, Ramsey, Alexis, Ozil, Welbeck (Oxlade-Chamberlain ’88)

Subs not used: Ospina, Gibbs, Cazorla, Podolski

Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Clichy, Fernandinho (Kolarov ’77), Lampard (Nasri ’45), Navas, Silva, Milner, Aguero (Dzeko ’67)

Subs not used: Caballero, Sagna, Mangala, Sinclair

Arsenal 1-0 Besiktas

Arsenal booked their place in the Group Stages of the Champions League for the 17th season in a row with 1-0 win over Besiktas thanks Alexis Sanchez’s first goal for his new club.

The £35 million signing from Barcelona netted with a first time finish in first half stoppage time that in truth should have been saved by Tolga Zengin in the Besiktas goal.

A neat little one-two between Jack Wilshere and Mesut Ozil ended up at the feet of Sanchez who had the simple task of scoring his first goal in Arsenal colours.

It could be a confidence booster for the marquee addition who has been somewhat disappointing in England in the early stages of this season.

He should have grabbed a second though when Wilshere played him with a disguised pass in early in his second half but the Chilean’s shot was deflected out for a corner.

Sanchez Strikes: Alexis sends Arsenal through to the Group Stages.

Sanchez Strikes: Alexis sends Arsenal through to the Group Stages.

Besiktas had a major penalty shout in the first half when a slip from Wilshere caused Ramon Motta to go down in the box before he had the chance to unleash a shot on goal but referee Pedro Proenca waved play on.

A nervy game burst into life with 15 minutes remaining as Arsenal looked to seal the tie, first Santi Cazorla somehow failed to convert from a two on one situation and then Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain fired straight at Zengin from six yards following Monreal’s cross.

Soon after Mathieu Debuchy was dismissed for a second bookable offence and then substitute Calum Chambers was bizarrely booked for entering the field of play before instructed by Proenca.

Debuchy will now miss the opening group game for the Gunners due to his suspension.

Card happy Proenca dished out nine yellows in total (two to Debuchy) in what was a hot tempered clash at the Emirates.

Arsenal meanwhile await the group stage draw which is made tomorrow at 16:45 BST.

Arsenal: Szczesny, Debuchy, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Wilshere, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Flamini, Cazorla, Ozil (Chambers ’77), Alexis

Subs not used: Martinez, Coquelin, Rosicky, Podolski, Campbell, Sanogo

Besiktas: Zengin, Koybasi, Franco, Gulum, Motta, Hutchinson, Kavlak (Uysal ’77), Pektemek, Ozyakup, Sahan (Tore ’63), Ba

Subs not used: Gonen, Kertulus, Sivok, Frei, Tosun

Besiktas 0-0 Arsenal

Arsenal were held to a 0-0 draw in an intimidating Ataturk stadium and have been left with a job to do next week in London which Aaron Ramsey will miss due to his red card.

The energetic Welshman, 23, was given his marching orders ten minutes from time when he tripped Oğuzhan Ozyakup which warranted his second yellow card.

Besiktas began the game with a bang when Demba Ba rattled the bar in the first few seconds, letting fly from the half way line that caused Wojciech Szczesny more worries than it perhaps should have done.

Ba came close again soon after but his volley was well kept out as Arsenal found themselves on the back foot early on.

Olivier Giroud failed to inspire in an Arsenal shirt again, his worst offense being unable to get the ball out from under his feet when under pressure from a defender from point blank range on goal.

Soon after the French forward found himself on a two-on-one situation but his attempted pass to a colleague was easily cut out.

Jack Wilshere had an effort of his own but his tame curler from the edge of the box was gathered well by Tolga Zengin.

It was former Arsenal loan target Ba who looked most dangerous though, some jinking footwork on the edge of the box set him up well but he dragged his shot wide.

Slavan Bilic’s side started the second half as they ended his first, Olcay Sahan curled an effort narrowly past the post though.

Substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain produced the best chance of the encounter with two minutes left but he could only hit the post with his attempt.

Arsenal though were largely pedestrian in the Turkish capital, failing to create any real clear cut opportunities and must improve next week if they are to reach the Champions League group stages for the 15th time in succession.

 

Besiktas: Zengin, Koybasi, Motta, Gulum, Franco, Sahan (Tore ’73), Kavlak, Uysal, Ozyakup (Koyunlu ’81), Pektemek (Tosun ’88), Ba

Subs not used: Gonen, Kurtulus, Sivok, Boral

Arsenal: Szczesny, Debuchy, Chambers, Koscielny, Monreal, Arteta (Flamini ’50), Wilshere, Ramsey, Alexis (Oxlade-Chamberlain ’72), Cazorla (Rosicky ’90), Giroud

Subs not used: Martinez, Bellerin, Miquel, Campbell

Arsenal 2-1 Crystal Palace

A 90th minute Aaron Ramsey goal broke the hearts of a determined Crystal Palace side to give Arsenal a deserved three points on the opening day of the Premier League season.

Ramsey fired home from point blank range with the goal gaping following Julian Speroni’s save from Mathieu Debuchy’s shot.

It was cruel on plucky Palace who until then had defended resolutely to keep the likes of Santi Cazorla and new £35 million man Alexis Sanchez at bay for the majority of the match.

Crystal Palace, once again in the temporary hands of Keith Millen, took a shock lead at the Emirates stadium though after 35 minutes when Hangeland headed in Jason Puncheon’s corner.

Zonal marking let Arsenal down as it so often has done in the past. Hangeland lost his marker, bizarrely the tiny Alexis Sanchez, with ease and seized on the cross before a daydreaming Koscielny and made it 0-1 Palace for his first goal in three years.

Hangeland was guilty of poor marking from a set piece ten minutes later however, coincidentally it was Koscielny atoning for his error to head Arsenal level in first half stoppage time.

Heading for greatness: Koscielny equalizes for Arsenal

Heading for greatness: Koscielny equalizes for Arsenal

Puncheon received his marching orders two minutes from time when a late challenge on substitute Nacho Monreal merited a second yellow card and shortly after Palace were punished.

Arsenal: Szczesny, Debuchy, Koscielny, Chambers, Gibbs (Monreal ’53), Arteta, Wilshere (Oxlade-Chamberlain ’69) Ramsey, Alexis, Cazorla, Sanogo (Giroud ’62)

Subs not used: Martinez, Coquelin, Rosicky, Campbell

Crystal Palace: Speroni, Kelly, Dann (Delaney ’75), Hangeland, Ward, Puncheon, Jedinak, Ledley, Bolasie (O’Keefe ’90) Campbell (Gayle ’85), Chamakh

Subs not used: Hennessey, McCarthy, Bannan, Murray

 

Community Shield report: Arsenal 3-0 Manchester City

Arsenal became the first FA Cup holders to win the traditional curtain raiser that is the Community Shield since Chelsea in 2009 with a 3-0 win over Premier League Champions Manchester City. Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud provided the goals at Wembley.

Cazorla opened the scoring with 21 minutes on the clock when he nestled in a left foot from the edge of the box after advantage was played following Drederick Boyata’s foul on Jack Wilshere.

Spain International Cazorla, 29, scored Arsenal’s first goal in May’s FA Cup final and now has another Wembley goal to his collection.

The scorer of the winning FA Cup goal, Aaron Ramsey, doubled their lead three minutes before half time when he drilled in a shot from six yards past Willy Cabellero after a nice touch away from Matija Nastastic. Yaya Sanogo’s hold up play against Boyata was exemplary as he set up Ramsey.

Super Santi: Cazorla opens the scoring at Wembley

Super Santi: Cazorla opens the scoring at Wembley

Half time substitute Olivier Giroud made sure of the victory  on the hour mark with a long range strike that deflected off Nastasic and dipped over the despairing debutant Caballero.

Manchester City were limited to chances in the first half with the centre back pairing of Calum Chambers and Laurent Koscielny not allowing any direct shots on the Arsenal goal.

Mathieu Debuchy was less impressive however with City regularly having joy down the left flank, most notably when Alexandar Kolarov broke clear of Debuchy but his squared pass was just behind the on rushing Samir Nasri to trouble Wojciech Szczesny.

Things barely improved in the second 45, only Stefan Jovetic came relatively close when his shot was palmed away by Szczesny 56 minutes in.

Arsenal: Szczesny, Debuchy, Koscielny (Monreal ’45), Chambers, Gibbs, Arteta, Wilshere (Flamini ’68), Ramsey (Campbell ’85), Alexis (Oxlade-Chamberlain ’45), Cazorla (Rosicky ’70), Sanogo (Giroud ’45)

Subs not used: Martinez

Manchester City: Caballero, Clichy, Boyata, Nastasic, Kolarov (Richards ’76), Navas (Sinclair ’85), Fernando, Toure (Zuculini ’60), Nasri (Silva ’45), Jovetic, Dzeko (Milner ’60)

Subs not used: Hart, Rekik

Man of the match: Olivier Giroud

 

Brazil 1-1 Chile (Brazil win 3-2 on penalties)

Hosts Brazil booked their place in the Quarter Finals with a win over Chile but had to rely on a penalty shootout.

Gonzalo Jara, recently released by Nottingham Forest, had the unenviable role of having to score the deciding penalty but his spot-kick hit the post and away to send Brazil through.

David Luiz, Marcelo and Neymar all netted from twelve yards for El Selecao while Maurico Panilla, Alexis Sanchez and Charles Aranguiz could not convert for Chile.

Paris Saint-Germain’s latest signing Luiz kneed the Brazilians in front 18 minutes in after Thiago Silva headed on Neymar’s corner for a simple finish for his new teammate.

Sanchez leveled the scores after 32 minutes when Brazil lost the ball cheaply from a throw in in their own half. Sanchez slotted home past Julio Cesar with ease after being given the time and space by the Brazilian back line.

Chile almost spoiled the party in the last minute of extra time but Pinilla could only hit the bar with a fierce drive in the dying seconds.

Brazil thought they had a winner ten minutes into the second half when Hulk shinned in an effort but after consideration from his linesman, Howard Webb ruled that the Zenit man controlled the ball with his arm.

Hulk also should have made it 2-1 to Brazil seven minutes before the end but had his shot brilliantly saved by Claudio Bravo.

The two teams had to settle for penalties though and it was Brazil who would book themselves a spot in the last eight.