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Premier League Team of the Week - Virgil van Dijk, Gabriel Jesus, Nicolas Pepe

Sports Mole selects its Premier League team of the week for gameweek 21, including Virgil van Dijk, Gabriel Jesus and Nicolas Pepe.

The opening gameweek of 2020 saw Liverpool secure a full year unbeaten in the Premier League by beating Sheffield United 2-0 at Anfield, preserving their 13-point lead at the top of the table in the process.

Leicester City had cruised past Newcastle United and Manchester City beat Everton on New Year's Day to temporarily close the gap, but they remain a long way adrift of Jurgen Klopp's relentless champions elect.

The rest of the top half endured a gameweek to forget, though, with no team outside those three that began the year in the top 10 picking up a victory.

Chelsea were held by Brighton & Hove Albion, Wolverhampton Wanderers lost at a resurgent Watford, Tottenham Hotspur were beaten by Southampton and Manchester United lost to Arsenal, who picked up their first win under new boss Mikel Arteta.

There were also significant results at the other end of the table as Aston Villa overcame Burnley and West Ham United thrashed Bournemouth in David Moyes's first game of his second spell.

Here, Sports Mole selects its first Premier League team of the week for the new decade.



PL TOTW GW21

There were not many outstanding goalkeeping performances this week, but Alex McCarthy gets the nod having made five saves to protect Southampton's clean sheet against Tottenham - something which was integral to them picking up another win on their recent charge up the table.

Speaking of clean sheets, Arsenal kept a rare one against Manchester United in a much-improved defensive display that was led by David Luiz, who looked every inch a captain on his way to making more clearances and blocks than any other Arsenal player.

Liverpool will have wins that generate more headlines than their triumph over Sheffield United on Thursday, but the manner in which they swatted the Blades aside was hugely impressive. United have troubled most teams in the league this season, including Liverpool themselves in the reverse, but they could not get close to them at Anfield and that was largely down to the trio included in this team.

Virgil van Dijk made more clearances and blocks than any other Liverpool player, in addition to dealing with the few United breaks which got past the midfield, while Andrew Robertson was more of a presence going forward and showed that with his assist for Mohamed Salah's early opener.

It was in midfield where Liverpool really dominated, though, recording more successful passes than they ever have in a Premier League game before. Jordan Henderson was central to that as he dictated the tempo of the match, as well as dropping in to help out the defence when required.

One player who has repeatedly impressed this season despite Norwich's struggles is Emiliano Buendia, and he was once again the standout performer in their draw with Crystal Palace. It was an all-round display from the playmaker, who made nine tackles and embarked on seven dribbles - both more than anyone else on the pitch - in addition to registering an assist.

Reece James, Jack Stephens, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Cesar Azpilicueta, Georginio Wijnaldum, Wilfred Ndidi, James Maddison and Declan Rice all deserve mentions, but it is a West Ham duo which completes the back four and midfield three.

Ryan Fredericks was a constant presence down the right flank and helped himself to an assist, while captain Mark Noble led by example with two goals to see him draw level with Paolo Di Canio on a club-record 78 Premier League goal involvements for West Ham.

A number of attacking players are unfortunate to miss out on this week's XI, including Salah, Sadio Mane, Jack Grealish, Gerard Deulofeu, Ayoze Perez, Sebastian Haller and Danny Ings.

It says a lot for Adama Traore that he beats all of those players into the front three despite ending up on the losing side for Wolves at Watford. The flying winger was responsible for a whopping 16 of Wolves' 19 dribbles during that match and certainly did not deserve to be beaten on an individual basis.

Traore's inclusion forces Nicolas Pepe over to the left side, with Arsenal's record signing finally beginning to show why the club spent so much money on him. The Ivory Coast international took his first goal well, hit the post with a fine effort and caused United plenty of other problems during his time on the field.

Leading the line this week is Gabriel Jesus, who helped himself to a well-taken brace which ultimately proved to be the difference in Man City's 2-1 win over Everton, stepping up to the plate to leave Sergio Aguero unneeded on the bench.

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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Liverpool27261064174779
2Manchester CityMan City27183668293957
3Leicester CityLeicester28155854282650
4Chelsea2713594537844
5Manchester UnitedMan Utd27118841291241
6Tottenham HotspurSpurs2711794436840
7Sheffield UnitedSheff Utd27101072925440
8Wolverhampton WanderersWolves2791263832639
9Arsenal2781363936337
10Burnley27114123339-637
11Everton27106113641-536
12Southampton27104133448-1434
13Crystal Palace2789102432-833
14Newcastle UnitedNewcastle2787122441-1731
15Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton27610113239-728
16Bournemouth2775152643-1726
17Aston Villa2774163452-1825
18West Ham UnitedWest Ham2766153248-1624
19Watford2759132443-1924
20Norwich CityNorwich2856172551-2621

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