Premier League Team of the Week feat. Arsenal and Spurs Stars
Goals were once again the order of the day in the Premier League over the weekend and these came to our screens both as part of drubbings and some tight affairs. Perhaps the story of the week in the build-up to the most recent matches has been Jurgen Klopp beginning his journey in the Premier League at Anfield. In a game of questionable quality at times, both sides exhibited high pressing and this prompted more than a few defensive errors at either end. However, the match ended goalless and Klopp will probably be the happier of the two managers going into next week. As his team avoiding conceding any goals, it ended a run of eight games without a clean sheet. Dealing with a squad ravaged by injuries in his first week at the helm at Anfield, the former Dortmund manager will be pleased with the application displayed by his fit players.
There were two comprehensive victories for both Manchester clubs on Saturday, with The Red Devils’ 3-0 triumph over Everton at Goodison Park being the more impressive due to the nature of their opponents. A thoroughly accomplished display from back to front from LVG’s side was testament to the Dutchman’s adjustments in both their tactics and personnel. The blue half of Manchester produced something of a rout, with Raheem Sterling really coming to the party in the absence of several first-team regulars. A hat-trick for the former Liverpool man set the tone for a fine 5-1 result by Pellegrini’s troops.
Chelsea and José Mourinho were handed a fairly routine 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge and this result will do something to dilute the ill-feeling around the club. With a raft of noteworthy changes made to the starting eleven by the Portuguese manager, his decisions were justified but there is a long way to go for the men in blue. Leicester City came back from two down yet again; with Jamie Vardy’s heroics at the forefront of their fight-back, once more showing a terrific resolve and never believing that they are defeated.
Rather surprisingly given their horrendous early season form, the heaviest defeat of the weekend was handed out by Newcastle United as they smashed Norwich City 6-2 at St. James’ Park. Fans of The Magpies could not hope for a better way to stop the slump that had seen their side endure their worst start in 117 years. Four goals from summer signing Georginio Wijnaldum grabbed the headlines and heading into the Tyne-Wear Derby next weekend; a fixture in which Newcastle have been consistently poor in the last few seasons, the anticipation will only be heightened.
Simon Mignolet: As one of the players who will have offered encouragement to Jurgen Klopp, Simon Mignolet was a key factor in securing the new boss’ first point at the Merseyside club. While his distribution was as questionable as ever, the Belgian’s undoubted shot-stopping ability came to the fore when it mattered most, keeping Liverpool’s clean sheet intact. Communication and skill with the ball on the floor clearly still needs some work, but with his pre-existing attributes and obvious strong desire, there is a solid grounding in place already.
Mignolet was the nemesis on Spurs’ attackers throughout the game. Clinton N’Jie; an early substitute in proceedings, blew hot and cold in a stereotypical fashion and in his brightest moment, nearly curved a shot past the Belgian stopper. Great awareness on Mignolet’s behalf allowed him to detect where N’Jie was aiming and spring towards the far corner in anticipation. Liverpool’s number 22 played a major role in continuing Harry Kane’s goal-scoring drought in the Premier League. The hitman looks entirely bereft of confidence and Mignolet was able to dominate a one-on-one situation with the Spurs number 10 in the first half. Another stop in the second half was even more impressive as the shot was made all the more awkward to deal with by a deflection in front of him. His reflexes did not let him down, and could become a key man for Klopp if the German does indeed guide his troops into the top four.
Carl Jenkinson: The man on loan from Arsenal showed tremendous attacking intent all day against fellow Londoners Crystal Palace, combining well with whichever of West Ham’s fluid attacking players found their way onto his flank. Jenkinson created chances for others with deliveries from the right flank and also opened up space to be exploited by his team-mates. This determination to place The Eagles on the back foot was typified when he ran beyond a blissfully unaware Wilfried Zaha to open the scoring for the day. In doing so, the young Englishman struck his second in as many matches to embark on an unprecedented run in front of goal.
Jenkinson did not forgo his defensive duties either though, working hard until the end and he made five clearances, with a few coming in relatively desperate situations for his side. As West Ham’s incredible away record continues, so does Jenkinson’s series of impressive displays.
Laurent Koscielny: Watford’s Troy Deeney and his strike partner Odion Ighalo have proven already in the Premier League that they are a force to be reckoned with and despite their best efforts, Laurent Koscielny kept them at bay. The Frenchman seemed to always be the Arsenal man to get his body in the way of attempted crosses from The Hornets and engage in a physical battle with the Nigerian in particular. Over the course of the ninety minutes, the speedy defender made seven clearances and intercepted on six occasions.
Perhaps the most important individual moment came while the match was still goalless. Deeney had been released into space and Koscielny was left scrambling, having to deal with the duo by himself. However, a combination of pace and determination allowed him to stretch out a desperate leg and block the pass across the box. As Mertesacker continues to age and Gabriel’s displays are inconsistency personified, Koscielny remains the only constant in the Arsenal back-line.
Jan Vertonghen: Although Toby Alderweireld has been the more impressive one of the pair in my view, Jan Vertonghen has more than played his part in Spurs’ defensive solidity in the Premier League thus far. Envigorated by the arrival of enigmatic and enthusiastic coach Jurgen Klopp from his self-imposed sabbatical, Liverpool’s players were keen to exhibit a high pressing game. This inevitably left the Spurs back-line under pressure and in tight spaces with several attackers buzzing around with seemingly boundless energy. Not deterred by this though, Vertonghen remained composed and kept his head at vital times.
In addition to the intelligent and bold defending, he demonstrated an excellent level of anticipation to snuff out potential danger, making five interceptions in the ninety minutes and eight clearances too. Vertonghen was able to capitalise on the new-found possession of the ball too, distributing passes both short and long to encourage Spurs’ more advanced players to attack Liverpool’s goal.
Danny Rose: As a player who is involved in a genuinely intense battle for a starting berth from week to week, Danny Rose has not seen a vast number of first team opportunities come his way so far in the Premier League season. Therefore, it is important that he sets out a marker to Pochettino whenever a chance is granted and he certainly did that against Liverpool in my view.
Partly as a result of a raft of injuries and also due to Klopp stamping a mark on his new side, Liverpool lined up in a somewhat unexpected way on Saturday. Their narrow formation frequently left Rose with a conundrum of who to divert most of his attention to. With Milner, Lallana and Coutinho all preferring to come inside with the ball at their feet, Clyne was the only man on the right flank to maintain width against Rose. However, this did not necessarily simplify the task for the Spurs left-back, as he could not afford to be dragged out of shape or simply follow the ball. Making eight tackles and four tackles, I feel that he dealt with the threat well and was far more impressive than N’Jie; operating beyond him on the left flank, in terms of getting forward in an attempt to hurt Liverpool. It is displays such as this which will continue to give Pochettino a pleasant selection headache when choosing between Rose and Ben Davies.
Georginio Wijnaldum: Snatching the headlines as Newcastle United put Norwich City to the sword, Georginio Wijnaldum bagged four goals to take his Premier League tally for the season up to six. In a game where defending was hardly of the highest standard, the Dutchman exposed some worrying failings in the back-line of The Canaries. After producing a composed finish for his first, Wijnaldum came up with two very similar headers to put his side in the driving seat. The first of the pair came after he arrived left in the penalty area from a position on the left and calmly nodded home from six yards out. In a fashion which copied this almost perfectly, the summer acquisition from PSV rose highest in the penalty area once again. This pair of headed goals added to a couple that he has already notched against Chelsea and Southampton in previous matches. This means that out of his six goals in total, four have come from his head; a fabulous statistic for a player who is hardly the biggest or most physically imposing. It seems as though Wijnaldum is developing a knack that Tim Cahill exhibited whilst on these shores, ensuring that his runs and leaps are timed perfectly to maximise his effectiveness in the 12 yard box.
The Dutchman’s fourth goal was a thing of beauty and one that really put the icing on the performance for Newcastle and the individual in question. Norwich had been left hopelessly exposed at the back and Wijnaldum capitalised on the space afforded to him. Brimming with the confidence of recently becoming just the seventh player from his nation to bag a hat-trick in the Premier League, he let fly from 25 yards out and; courtesy of a slight deflection, the ball nestled into the far corner of the net. He has already been one of the very few shining lights in McLaren’s side so far this term and along with Ayoze Perez, has to step up to the plate week after week to drag The Magpies out of a relegation battle.
Moussa Dembelé: As the last of three Belgians in my Premier League Team of the Week, Moussa Dembelé produced arguably the strongest performance of them all. With the absence of Eric Dier, Nabil Bentaleb or Joe Mason in the heart of Spurs’ midfield, Dembelé was handed an increased sense of responsibility. Whilst Liverpool’s midfield was not necessarily the most offensively minded, he could not afford to forgo defensive requirements. The most notable moment in my view was when the former Fulham midfielder put in a terrific challenge on Divock Origi as the Liverpool forward bore down on goal, showing another side to his game which is often unseen or overlooked. He made nine tackles and five interceptions in total.
Furthermore, Dembelé was very neat and tidy in possession and despite being clearly focused on the defensive aspect of his game, still gave Pochettino’s side an attacking impetus, sparking offensive moves with five take-ons. Dembelé formed a stable and productive partnership with Dele Alli and was indeed the primary provider for chief creator Christian Eriksen.
Aaron Ramsey: The Welshman is developing into a very well-rounded footballer and using all of his skills to impact proceedings from the right flank. This is hardly Ramsey’s favoured role but such is Wenger’s belief in his ability; and the fluidity that his presence brings to the side, the versatile number 16 is integral to Arsenal’s ambitions. The goal-scoring touch of a couple of seasons ago has not returned to him this term, as his strike against Watford was in fact his first in all competitions this year. This distinct lack of confidence when faced with the goalkeeper in his way does show from time to time when Ramsey fluffs his lines despite being presented with relatively clear cut opportunities. Arsenal fans will have to hope that the fact he was able to notch a somewhat scruffy one against Watford will spawn a change of fortune in the near future.
Whilst Ramsey’s prowess is primarily in the attacking aspects, his defensive intensity and willingness to work back is an important portion of Arsenal’s overall endeavour. Due to his prior experience in central areas, he often comes infield to lend a hand to Coquelin and Cazorla, possessing a range of passing which is sufficient to spring attacks on the opposite flank. Aaron Ramsey was a vital component in Wales’ successful Euro 2016 qualifying campaign and capped off a fine week in style, grabbing a goal for his national team and The Gunners in the space of four days.
Raheem Sterling: In scoring a hat-trick against Bournemouth, Raheem Sterling became the second City player in as many matches to hit at least three goals in the same game. He was the integral part of City’s attacking triumvirate which put Bournemouth to the sword after such a promising start from the south coast outfit. Doubters and critics have inevitably been quick to get on the back of the former Liverpool winger following the manner of his multi-million pound move from Merseyside. Sterling has been on the end of relentless abuse and has frequently been Pellegrini’s first choice to be withdrawn from the action. This has; rightly or wrongly, sparked talk of the Argentine manager becoming frustrated with the Jamaican-born flyer. While he was brought off against Bournemouth too, the marked difference in reception around the ground was all too obvious. Sterling being substituted meant that he could receive the acclaim of supporters and the isolated gratitude of his manager. This could well prove to be a pivotal day in the career of Raheem Sterling at The Etihad.
The former QPR attacker generally operated in behind Wilfried Bony while occasionally drifting to either flank. The fact that a central role was his primary location is a strong show of faith by Pellegrini given the presence of De Bruyne in the team, as the Belgian was shifted to the left of a three.
When the first half was less than ten minutes old, Sterling demonstrated a developing poacher’s instinct to react first; albeit in a position slightly beyond the last defender, to score the opener. His second goal was beyond doubt the most impressive. Deploying his frightening pace to exploit a relatively high line, Sterling timed his run to perfection which placed him in the position to score. From then on, he was calmness personified to dance past two defenders; seemingly with all the time in the world, before calmly slotting past Federici. He had secured his hat-trick before half-time, profiting from Navas’ incredulous dallying when faced with an open net, as the ball eventually fell to the feet of the number seven. Having seen his latest goal-scoring exploits, you have wonder how much his experiences playing through the middle for Liverpool have benefitted the City winger’s overall progression and potentially his long term role for Manchester City.
Anthony Martial: Ever since his arrival on deadline say, Anthony Martial has operated through the middle as an archetypal number nine with Wayne Rooney in the hole behind him. However, another successful tactical switch from Louis Van Gaal saw the young Frenchman moved to the left flank. Here though, Martial was much more than just a winger, using his wide array of attributes to threaten Everton and counter their attacks too.
It was a bold move; but one proven to be wise; by LVG to shift the Player of the Month for September away from his favoured position. This award is testament to his terrific start to life in the Premier League, overcoming those who suggested he would fall far short of living up to the £36 million fee. Martial demonstrated terrific defensive application and was able to assist Marcos Rojo in nullifying the significant threat of Seamus Coleman. Whilst a player in his position could be expected to rest on his laurels a little, Martial did no such thing and continued to track back, showing intelligence and maturity, putting the team’s success uppermost in his thoughts.
Jamie Vardy: Despite the magnificence of Riyad Mahrez in the opening weeks of the campaign, Jamie Vardy has arguably been the most consistent performer from match to match. He bagged a brace to rescue Leicester City’s perilous position of two goals down. He was the Premier League’s top goal-scorer with seven going into the weekend and his advantage over his competitors has only been extended. Vardy’s run in front of goal now stands at six games running, and maintaining this form could be the key to keeping The Foxes in the hunt for European places. Running his socks off as ever, the Southampton defence became stretched even when they appeared to be in a strong position.
Jamie Vardy benefitted greatly from the introduction of Mahrez and Dyer at half-time, powering a close-range header home from the rapid right-footer to initially pull a goal back. The Algerian then pulled a clever ball back to Jamie Vardy but the former Fleetwood striker could only blast over. This was apparently not sufficient warning for Southampton’s players as the same pair of players combined once more, this time Vardy made no mistake from inside the penalty area. Leicester’s upcoming opponents must be wondering how they can stop the former non-league forward.
Featured Image: All rights reserved by Alex Hannam
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