This weekend’s games saw Manchester City pick up another solid victory and a clean sheet to partner it nicely. The Citizens look in ominous form so far, seeing off defending champions Chelsea and Europa League hopefuls Everton without conceding a goal. Speaking of Chelsea, The Blues got their title defence back on track with a hard-fought win at The Hawthorns and Bournemouth picked up their first Premier League points of the season, just emerging victorious in a seven goal thriller against West Ham United. With plenty of impressive displays to choose from, who has made it into my Premier League team of the week? Leave your opinions and alterations in the comments section, on the TBR forum, or on twitter @TBRFootball .
Jack Butland: The Stoke City goalkeeper; handed the number one spot after Begovic’s departure, appears in my Team of the Week for the second consecutive time, repeating his heroics this time against Norwich City. Once Russell Martin had squeezed a shot through Butland’s legs to equalise Diouf’s early opener, the England international became a brick wall between the sticks. He did not put a foot wrong during the ensuing onslaught from Alex Neil’s Canaries and was the defining reason for Stoke leaving East Anglia with a point to show for their efforts.
His saves arguably became increasingly impressive as the minutes ticked away. At the start of the series of wonderful individual moments, Butland produced a fabulous finger-tip save from a Dorrans drive to direct the ball onto the post and away from danger. This scenario was closely replicated a few minutes later in the game too, with the same result – the former Birmingham City goalkeeper coming out on top. When interviewed after the match, Butland claimed that his clawed stop of a Nathan Redmond side-footer was his personal favourite. He had to drop very low and did well to divert the ball away from onrushing attackers. In my view, he perhaps kept his best for last, pulling off a point blank save from Cameron Jerome as pressure on the Stoke City goal really intensified. Jack Butland achieved this scintillating Premier League showing with the hindrance of a broken finger, making his performance even more praiseworthy.
Seamus Coleman: Everton’s number 23 was their stand-out performer against Manchester City, using his powerful running and stamina to great effect around both penalty areas. After a solid showing in the first 45 minutes, Seamus Coleman really came into his own in the second half. The Irishman had to deal with a left side of Man City’s attack which seemed to pour forward at will and he often found himself overloaded when David Silva joined in on that flank too. As Tom Cleverley tired on the right of midfield, Coleman was afforded little protection against a rampant Sterling and Kolarov but was nonetheless more than impressive.
Although the crucial first goal for Pellegrini’s men came from some neat play on their left; with both Sterling and Kolarov involved, the blame cannot be placed at Coleman’s feet. He showed boundless energy to track back with the Jamaican-born winger, composure and strength to find an exit route from tricky situations, before frequently being the one to spring a counter-attack. Once a transfer target for Manchester United, Seamus Coleman showed once again why he would fit in at a truly elite club. Dangerous crosses and driving runs at the heart of The Citizens’ back line proved to be the most potent outlet for Everton and with Leighton Baines on the treatment table for the foreseeable future, Coleman can become a vital attacking force from the flanks.
Chris Smalling: Partnering Daley Blind for the third consecutive match in this season’s Premier League, Chris Smalling put in his most complete display thus far. The England defender was fairly anonymous and could well have gone under the radar for some viewers, but this is only due to his efficiency throughout the game, completing the majority of his tasks with minimal fuss.
Newcastle’s target man through the middle; Aleksandar Mitrovic, applied himself well throughout the game in stark contrast to previously overly emotional and wholly ineffectual displays. However, Smalling marshalled his physical presence to great effect and also overcame the threat from another new Geordie recruit – Georginio Wijnaldum – who offered terrific pace and trickery. The 25 year old centre half made 9 clearances and won 5 of his aerial battles, forming a towering presence at the heart of The Red Devils’ back line.
Not only was the former Fulham man sound in defence, he also demonstrated a promising proficiency at taking the ball out from the back when a lack of options presented themselves in midfield. Smalling proved to be important to the flow of Manchester United’s attacks against the Tyneside outfit, injected a much needed urgency to proceedings at times. The question now is whether he can translate this trait to the international arena in order to aid England in an area which they frequently suffer from? It sowed the seeds of a vision of Rio Ferdinand in his pomp.
Fabricio Collocini: After Newcastle United had experienced a pretty disappointing start to life in the Premier League under their new coach Steve Mclaren, they needed lion-hearted displays from their key men. Fabricio Collocini; club captain, certainly answered that call as he defended against the relentless onslaught from the Red Devils. His commitment to throw his body into challenges and in the way of shots was perhaps the most glaring facet that had been missing from Newcastle’s performances in the eyes of the Geordie faithful. With seven clearances in total and an additional two blocks, the Argentine frequently took matters into his own hands.
His overall display was top class but there are a few instances which spring to mind which really epitomise Collocini’s mentality during the game at Saturday lunchtime. The first came relatively early in the first period when Newcastle had yet to establish themselves on the game at all. Their captain was forced to sprint towards a poised Wayne Rooney in order to close down the space and then nick the ball off his toes just before the England captain unleashed a goal-bound shot. Then in the dying embers of the match, Collocini was there again to produce a last ditch block from close range to deny a vicious Antonio Valencia shot.
After some debatable performances over the course of the last couple of years, onlookers at St. James’ Park will hope that this marks the return of their captain to top form and even a turning point for the club as a whole.
Robbie Brady: Frequently deployed in his time at Hull City as a left wing-back or even a more offensive midfielder, Alex Neil has shown faith in the opening three matches to play Robbie Brady in an orthodox left-back role. His defensive qualities were occasionally called into question under Steve Bruce, but he performed admirably against a flying winger in the shape of Xherdan Shaqiri, making six tackles over the 90 minutes. The Swiss star would have been exceptionally keen to impress following his arrival from warmer climes, so Brady’s success at keeping his contribution fairly subdued should not be overlooked.
Undoubtedly the stronger aspect of his game, the Irishman was excellent going forward for Norwich City. He created seven chances for his team-mates and but for the brilliance of Jack Butland in the Stoke City goal, Norwich’s new number 12 could well have bagged a hatful of assists to add to his Premier League tally.
James Morrison: West Bromwich Albion’s home game against Chelsea could well prove to be the most eventful of James Morrison’s career. After his side won a penalty in the early stages when Matic upended a weaving McManaman, Morrison insisted that he took the spot-kick, taking the ball away from the recognised man; Chris Brunt. Opting to go for power, Morrison blasted the penalty low and straight down the middle of the goal where Courtois’ outstretched leg was able to keep it out. It is testament to the character of the energetic midfielder that he did not let the situation weigh him down. Quite the opposite in fact, as it seemed to give him the inspiration to reach another level.
In an accomplished overall performance, the Scottish international had a 100% pass completion rate and ran his socks off for Tony Pulis’ side. The first of Morrison’s two goals on Sunday afternoon came from a position very near the penalty spot. The lashed first time strike into the back of the net followed by a poignant celebration suggested that West Brom’s number 7 was all too aware of the significance of the moment. A deft touch with his head to divert a scything McManaman cross into the top corner gave The Baggies hope of completing a memorable comeback. By the end of the game, you would have to say that a draw would have been a deserved result for the magnificent Morrison and hard-working West Brom.
Ross Barkley: Local hero and one of England’s great hopes in the years to come, Ross Barkley continued to show the best of his game as Everton ran out second best to an ominously efficient Manchester City. Intent on denying space, Martinez set his side up with an interesting formation and as such, Barkley had to manage his time between central and wide areas. Not always able to dedicate himself solely to creativity, the 21 year old completed one of the more mature performances that I have seen from him whilst still allowing his undoubted talent to flourish.
The Merseyside-born Barkley yet again demonstrated his effectiveness at picking up possession in a slightly deeper area of the field before turning and running at defenders. On several occasions, he produced surging bursts complete with equal amounts of power and skill to breeze past a hapless Touré or Fernandinho. Appearing in my Premier League team of the week on consecutive instances, Barkley looked to be the player that his team-mates most expected an end product from. Quite a weight of expectation at a tender age but if his performances so far this season are anything to go by, their faith is not at all misplaced.
Riyad Mahrez: The Algerian trickster is another player to have made his second appearance in the team of the week for a season that is only three games old. Riyad Mahrez continued his astoundingly brilliant start to Premier League life this season, scoring his fourth goal of the campaign to grab a point at home to Tottenham Hotspur. This record is in stark contrast to last term where he was only able to notch up the same number in 30 appearances.
The goal itself was a peach of a finish, representing great anticipation to initially collect the ball in space before curling a finessed strike past the clutches of Hugo Lloris. Mahrez could well have had a penalty in the first half too, dazzling his way past Jan Vertonghen before hitting the deck and rather unfortunately being told to get to his feet. Although his left foot is his primary asset, the mercurial talent showed his ability to cause a threat on his right side too. One of four successful take-ons resulted in him smashing a shot against the base of Lloris’ near post with his weaker foot being the driving force. Dangerous crosses a plenty, Mahrez is hitting unprecedented heights on a consistent basis this season and will surely continue to add both goals and assists as Leicester City attempt to maintain their position near the summit of the Premier League.
Pedro: The name on everyone’s lips over the last week as his seemingly inevitable move to Old Trafford was scuppered at the final hurdle by José Mourinho, Pedro was quick to show his new benefactors exactly what they had shelled out for. The €30 million acquisition from Catalan giants Barcelona seems to have developed an instant understanding with Chelsea’s other attacking players, exchanging in several neat interchanges of possession throughout the game against West Brom. In addition to this, his work rate both in attack and when attempting to win the ball back for his team fits right into the Mourinho mould. This mentality has been honed while starring for the Spanish champions and is the kind of attitude which should result in a great deal of appearances under the Portuguese manager.
There was certainly an element of fortune surrounding Pedro’s debut goal for Chelsea, but he must be credited for his persistence that caused the uncertainty in West Brom’s defensive ranks in the first place. As mentioned earlier, his link-up play with the likes of Hazard and Costa seemed to come naturally, indeed he supplied an assist for the burly forward’s back-post finish. The diminutive Spaniard very nearly put another goal on Costa’s plate at a later stage in the game after whipping in a beautiful cross, only for Chelsea’s number 19 to blast agonisingly wide.
New to the west London club’s ranks, Pedro may well have had his induction process eased by the presence of fellow Iberians Fabregas and Azpilicueta. Nevertheless, to perform as he did on his debut in a foreign league after not having a great deal of minutes under his belt in pre-season is admirable, and should strike fear into the hearts of Premier League defences across the nation.
Bakary Sako: The revered trio for The Eagles of Bolasie, Zaha and Puncheon have a new member to add to one of the Premier League’s most feared attacking force. Bakary Sako was Crystal Palace’s greatest threat all afternoon as his side just managed to nick a 2-1 victory against Aston Villa, due in no small part to his personal endeavours.
The Mali international has attracted attention for at least a couple of seasons whilst at Wolves, proving to be too good for the lower divisions. Even so, you have to be surprised at the immediacy of his impact following the move from Molineux. Sako appeared extremely confident in his own ability from the early stages, representing the apparent lost art of a winger taking on his opposite number. The pacey left-footer impressed with his direct approach a keen eye for goal, attempting six shots in total with five forcing a save from Brad Guzan.
In what was already proving to be a promising debut, Sako added the icing on the cake with a goal to secure all three points for the south London outfit. He showed a willingness to close down and then capitalise on Amavi’s error by thundering a sweetly struck drive into the far corner. Despite this showing, I still wonder how frequently we will see him in the Premier League with Crystal Palace’s heralded riches in this position. However, if he continues in this vein, Pardew must find a way to accommodate him.
Callum Wilson: There was no way that Bournemouth’s hat-trick hero; incredibly his first as a professional, could be excluded from my Premier League team of the week. Callum Wilson demonstrated the difference that is required at this level of the game. Eddie Howe’s team had certainly played some attractive football in their opening two matches but; due to a combination of a lack of cutting edge and a helping of misfortune, they had notched neither a point nor a goal before their trip to the Boleyn Ground.
Step up Callum Wilson. After bagging 23 goals at a ratio just shy of one in two in all competitions last campaign, the young Englishman revived that poacher’s instinct this weekend. The former Coventry City striker lives on the shoulder of the last defender and seemed constantly keen to spin into space and stretch the opposition. This is all well and good, but the south coast outfit need him to stick the ball in the back of the net over anything else. Starved of service and chances somewhat in the previous 180 minutes of football, his confidence will now have sky-rocketed and Premier League defences will need to have their wits about them in the coming weeks.
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