Liverpool consolidated their position in the top six with a comfortable win against Southampton. They were quick to take the lead through Roberto Firmino and that was followed up before half-time with another goal from Mohamed Salah. The Egyptian now has 22 Premier League goals for the season as he continues to prove that he is one of the leading players in the division. Although the home side didn’t look like a team in the relegation zone, their lack of quality in the final third was a concern. Here are three talking points from St Mary’s Stadium:
Liverpool’s attack is not missing Philippe Coutinho
It was a huge blow to lose Philippe Coutinho during the January transfer window, but the side have continued to impress and it looks like he wasn’t as important as many first thought. Since the sale of the Brazilian, the Reds have scored two or more goals in all but one of seven matches that they have played. Against Southampton, they were at their free-flowing best and it was two of their front three that shone.
Salah was regarded as a good signing when he joined from Roma, but his achievements will have surprised even his biggest advocates. The Egyptian forward is one of the favourites to win the Golden Boot come the end of the season. He currently trails Harry Kane by one goal. Considering that he isn’t a natural striker, his form in front of goal is massively impressive.
Meanwhile, Roberto Firmino continues to perform to a high standard. The 26-year-old has contributed 12 goals and six assists. That is a great return for the Brazilian.
Mauricio Pellegrino is under pressure
Southampton have been one of the best teams outside of the top six during recent seasons. During the last campaign, they finished in 8th position and reached the League Cup final. Despite those achievements, Claude Puel was given the sack due to his style of play. It was seen as dull in the stands, but their decline this season has shown that decision to be a mistake. On Sunday, they slipped back into the relegation zone and they are in huge danger of being relegated.
There is only one point that separates them from 17th, but it is a big mental barrier to be in the bottom three, as it leaves the team with no margin for error. A lot of the teams in the bottom half have changed their manager this season. There is no sign that Southampton are close to pulling the trigger, but it is an option that remains open to them if they want to try and give the club a boost in the relegation fight.
The Saints have a good run of fixtures to come in Burnley, Stoke City, Newcastle United and Swansea City. These matches will shape their season and Pellegrino hasn’t shown enough to suggest he can deliver the results required. If they struggle in the first couple, a change of manager is inevitable.
Virgil van Dijk was excellent on his return to St Mary’s
The Dutch international was always likely to be the focus of attention during the match, as he left Southampton to join Liverpool in January. His actions during the summer did little to warm him to the Saints’ supporters and they let their feelings known on Sunday. Van Dijk was roundly booed every time he touched the ball.
It is a huge test of a player to rise above the atmosphere, but Van Dijk did superbly and delivered an assured performance. He was one of the best performers on the South Coast and played a key part in the visitors keeping a clean sheet.
His aerial presence is known and it was evident on Sunday as he won five aerial duels. Defensively, he rarely put a foot wrong, as he completed four ball recoveries and made seven clearances. Van Dijk showed himself to be a leader as he regularly shouted instructions and made sure that the side remained organised. Liverpool lacked that at the beginning of the season and they look a lot more solid as a result.
Newcastle United summer transfer failure Alassane Pleaa scores hat-trick in 11-1 debut win
The Frenchman had a debut to remember for Borussia Monchengladbach.
Plenty of teams found themselves linked with the services of French forward Alassane Plea this summer. With good reason as well. The Nice attacker had scored 21 goals and assisted seven in the 2017-18 campaign.
One team who were reportedly keen on his signature were Newcastle United. As reported by The Chronicle, Newcastle had a £20 million bid for the player rejected in July. It appeared the Frenchman had become the club’s main striker target, an area Rafa Benitez was very keen to improve.
In the end, Newcastle had to settle for a swap deal involving Dwight Gayle that saw Salomon Rondon arrive at St James’ Park.
Plea meanwhile has just had an excellent start to life at his new club.
The Frenchman did leave Nice this summer. He joined Bundesliga side Borussia Monchengladbach for £22 million, meaning the Magpies were only £2 million short of his asking price.
Yesterday, he made his debut for Gladbach and promptly scored a hat-trick to announce himself to his new fans. It is certainly worth noting that Gladbach won the game 11-1 against Hastedt in the DFB Pokal. Plea was one of three men to score a hat-trick, along with Thorgan Hazard and Raffael.
Despite the fact it was a stroll in the park, Plea still has three goals from just one game at his new club.
Newcastle fans were left frustrated at their summer business, with failing to meet an asking price for Plea certainly a talking point.
If he can take his form in the cup into the Bundesliga, then Newcastle will be made to regret not spending £2 million more in the summer.
Premier League Team of the Week II: Featuring Manchester City and Chelsea favourites
Who made The Boot Room’s Team of the Week for Game Week Two?
The Premier League action continued with a flurry in Game Week Two as Manchester City stole the headlines, reclaiming their spot at the top of the Premier League table with a 6-1 thumping of Huddersfield Town.
The weekend also saw wins for Chelsea, who made it two victories from two, and Leicester City, despite being reduced to 10-men, while Cardiff emerged from the early kick-off on Saturday with a point after a 96th minute penalty save to ensure a goalless draw.
Following the weekend’s fixtures, The Boot Room picks its six-a-side Team of the Week.
Cardiff City goalkeeper Neil Etheridge claims his place between the sticks after his heroics against Newcastle United. After a string of first half saves to deny Rafa Benitez’s side, he then saved brilliantly from Kenedy’s penalty to ensure the Bluebirds secured a point. This is the second time in as many weeks that the Filipino ‘number 1’ has denied an opponent from the spot, following his success against Bournemouth‘s Callum Wilson in Game Week 1. Newcastle marked a well-deserved clean sheet for 28-year-old, who is quickly proving his worth to Neil Warnock’s promoted side.
In defence, Manchester City’s Benjamin Mendy features after his influential display against Huddersfield. Not willing to allow his attacking teammates to claim all of the plaudits, the Frenchman’s marauding performance down the left flank proved a thorn in his opponent’s side from start to finish. So prolific was he, down the left hand side of the pitch, that he picked up two assists and could have had several more, such was his involvement in the final third. While this wasn’t a display of text book defending, his contribution cannot go unrecognised.
Under Maurizio Sarri, Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso has been required to play a more disciplined role than the Spaniard is typically used to. Nonetheless, while he is continuing to adapt to playing in a back four, and looking a little exposed defensively at times, his attacking instinct have shown no signs of letting up. The Spaniard showed good awareness to pick out Pedro for Chelsea’s opening goal against London rivals Arsenal, before showing composure to score the winner with the score tied at 2-2.
City’s David Silva has always been an absolute joy to watch and it was no different on Sunday. Making his 250th Premier League appearance – becoming the only the fourth Spaniard to reach said milestone – the 32-year-old ran the show from a central midfield position. Providing a match-best six key passes for his Manchester City teammates, Silva also had the chance to enjoy his own moment in front of goal, firing in a superb free-kick which beat the opposition ‘keeper at his far post.
Leicester City’s James Maddison looks as though he has played in the Premier League throughout his entire career. The 21-year-old, former Norwich City man has fitted seamlessly into Claude Puel’s side and already looks a player worthy of building a team around. In his favoured ‘number 10’ role he grabbed his first top flight goal against Wolves on Saturday, while weighing in with an all-action performance to ensure the 10-man Foxes didn’t let slip their two-goal lead.
City’s hat-trick hero, Argentine striker Sergio Aguero was a shoe-in for the Team of the Week after his display against the Terriers. The 30-year-old looks hungrier for goals than ever under Pep Guardiola and he repaid his manager’s decision to pair him alongside Gabriel Jesus with a clinical performance. City have only played three games this season and, already, Aguero has five goals to his name. After long-awaited knee surgery at the end of last season, he could be set for a remarkable, record-breaking season.
Everton loan watch: Garbutt woes continue, Onyekuru scores, Martina must wait
Everton saw Henry Onyekuru net his first goal of a loan spell at Galatasaray this weekend.
Luke Garbutt – Oxford United
The left-back’s poor form continued this week. He was hauled off after 62 minutes as Oxford United lost their third game in a row in League One, 4-1 to Portsmouth.
He might find himself out of the team for the midweek clash with Accrington Stanley.
Henry Onyekuru – Galatasaray
A day to remember for the Nigerian forward. He scored his first goal for his new club. It also proved to be the winner in a 1-0 triumph over Goztepe.
Shani Tarashaj – Grasshoppers
Was not in the matchday squad as Grasshoppers changed things up for a Swiss Challenge Cup match v lower league opposition SC Buochs.
Ashley Williams and Cuco Martina – Stoke City
The Potters are still looking for their first win of the season. They fought to a 2-2 draw with Preston North End this weekend.
Martina was not in the squad. However, Williams started and finished the game.
Antonee Robinson and Callum Connolly – Wigan Athletic
Wigan drew 2-2 with Nottingham Forest this weekend. Both men featured. Robinson played the full 90 minutes, whilst Connolly came on for the final 15.
Nikola Vlasic – CSKA Moscow
The young Croatian played 80 minutes on his debut for the Russian side. CSKA defeated Arsenal Tula 3-0.
Kevin Mirallas – Fiorentina
La Viola’s opening game of the season at Sampdoria was postponed following the tragic Genoa bridge collapse. Genoa’s game with AC Milan was also postponed following a state of emergency being called for the city.
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