It’s that time of the weekend again, where I assess the best and worst of the Premier League weekend just gone. There was enough incident at Stoke alone to fill a team but with 18 teams in action, there’s plenty of headline-makers around the country to make a team, along with a manager to try and make sense of it all. Back to a good old fashioned 4-4-2 this week.
Matt Ryan – It doesn’t come much better than last minute penalty saves but that is what Matt Ryan pulled out of the bag for Brighton on Saturday. It wasn’t the worst penalty from Charlie Adam but Ryan made a terrific save but he owes a drink to Lewis Dunk, which we’ll come on to shortly. Kasper Schmeichel should be delighted Ryan saved the pen as it’s saved him being included for assisting nearly as many of Man City’s goals as Kevin De Bruyne. One of the worst keeping performances I have ever seen in the Premier League. Contrast that with Martin Dubravka who might have made the best debut by a goalkeeper in Premier League history. Prove me wrong people.
Lewis Dunk – Alright, he probably didn’t get the ball, but he put his body on the line and threw himself at Charlie Adam and got the bit of luck his keeper deserved for saving the pen. Statistically, you’d have to say it’s an incredible tackle, seeing as a foul wasn’t given. Dunk and Duffy typify Brighton’s spirit and their form will go along way to deciding Brighton’s fate.
Chris Smalling – If you’re a 6 foot 3 centre-half, the last thing you should be doing is getting booked for diving. Smalling has been overlooked by England manager Gareth Southgate for not being good enough on the ball, whereas now he can add diving to the list of things he doesn’t excel at. To make matters all the better, Newcastle scored from the resulting free kick. Oh, Chris. I’d sit well away from Jose on the journey home.
Florian Lejeune – The Frenchman has had a mixed start to Premier League life, after being maimed by Harry Kane half an hour into his debut he’s struggled to regain his place, mostly because when he has played he’s made mistakes. Not Sunday. I could have picked any of Newcastle’s outfield players but I’ve gone for Lejeune because of his goal-saving block after Alexis Sanchez had rounded Dubravka. Quite why Sanchez didn’t just tap it in rather than wait for the defender to recover I really don’t know but these are the margins that give Newcastle a vital 3 points.
Virgil van Dijk – VVD got the treatment from his former fans after making his first return to St Mary’s but responded with a very assured performance that meant Southampton didn’t really look like scoring. To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a team look less likely to score than Southampton in the second half. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them remove the manager soon, as much as it’s not nice to speculate I think the situation is getting critical.
Ki Seung-Yeung – A great time to score his goal in 18 months from one of Swansea’s forgotten men. Such a key part (pun intended) of Swansea’s success in previous campaigns, Ki like Nathan Dyer has been recalled to the first 11 and he repaid his new manager’s faith with an arrowed effort to give his team a vital win against Burnley. 14 points from 7 Premier League games for Carlos Carvalhal is quite the achievement.
Jese – I could blame Charlie Adam for missing the pen but Jese’s histrionics were just ridiculous. It’s like they don’t want other Premier League fixtures and have no memory of the goings on at Crystal Palace a few months ago where Benteke missed. Oh well. Silly Jese.
Kevin De Bruyne – Much like Mkhitaryan last week, De Bruyne landed a hat-trick of assists which basically sums up the season he is having. Yet another beautiful painting by the artist, or whatever you want to call him. There’s a real chance that this is the season pundits run out of expressions that say how good somebody is, so there’s always that to look forward to. De Bruyne is Man City’s only player to start every Premier League game this season, which in itself is an achievement given Mr Rotation is in the dugout.
Rajiv Van La Parra – I’m going to contradict myself slightly here but the only time it is acceptable to change penalty takers is when you are 3-1 up on 95 minutes and your striker is on two goals for the day. Not for Rajiv. He shooed Mounie away and probably claimed goal difference could be a factor or something. He might be right, but to get relegated by a single goal would take a ridiculous set of circumstances to occur. It’s also not the point that Mounie has had one of the goals taken off him, Van La Parra didn’t know that. Unless he himself is the dubious goals committee. That’d be something.
Alexandre Lacazette – Can you really be upset at being benched when you cost £50m but you miss chances like Lacazette did on Saturday? He had a great chance at the death to be a hero and pay back some of that price tag but like his earlier effort his shot ended up nowhere near the goal and it’s looking like Aubameyang will just replace him rather than play alongside him. A huge shame for an obviously talented striker but he hasn’t been good enough for Arsenal, and he also made Wenger angrier than I have ever seen him without it involving a match official.
Sergio Aguero – We have rules for players who score hat tricks, score free kicks and goalkeepers who save pens. I don’t have a precedent for strikers who score four but it goes without saying that Aguero would be in this week’s team. Besides, that fourth goal…where did that come from? Just when you think you’ve seen everything a player has in their locker he comes up with a rasping, dipping 25-yard drive. Whilst wearing one glove. It always looks better when it goes in off the bar, yes. But bloody hell. What a player. Why is Pep so keen to bring Jesus in?
Claude Puel – Puel hasn’t got much wrong since he went to Leicester and things were looking pretty good at half-time against Man City. 1-1 at the Etihad is practically a win. Anyway, for some reason, Puel changed to a back 4 and brought on Danny Simpson, which is never the answer. The result? Sergio Aguero being practically unmarked for a half and 4 goals. Bit of an error.
That’s it for this week but I’ll be back again with more soon.