The big game of the Premier League weekend was a disappointment as Liverpool and Manchester City played out a stale 0-0 draw at Anfield on Sunday evening.
The big winners were Bournemouth – brilliant in dismantling Watford – and Manchester United, who fought back from 2-0 down to beat Newcastle amid a background of almost deafening noise surrounding their manager.
But who shone enough to make it into my Team of the Week?
Goalkeeper – Asmir Begovic
Watford defender Christian Kabasele’s challenge on Asmir Begovic was bordering on assault. The Bournemouth goalkeeper recovered without any fuss and went on to keep a clean sheet in a very impressive away performance by the Cherries.
Why manager Javi Gracia didn’t take off Kabasele at that point, having already been booked, requires an inquest. As for Kabasele, the central defender then has two tugs at Joshua King’s shirt and brings him down for a penalty. Did he not realise he was already on a yellow card?
Did you know? Asmir Begovic kept his first clean sheet away from home in the Premier League since January, when Bournemouth won 3-0 at Stamford Bridge.
Defenders – Hector Bellerin, Conor Coady, Joe Gomez
Hector Bellerin: So the Unai Emery revolution continues. I said last week that the new manager is going to get it right at the Emirates. The Gunners didn’t even have their best player on show against Fulham.
With Mesut Ozil out with a back injury, Arsenal still shifted the ball around Craven Cottage as though they had the entire freedom of Hammersmith and Fulham. Hector Bellerin was right in the heart of the action and looks like he is back to his attacking best.
Did you know? Hector Bellerin has made two assists already in the Premier League this term (in eight appearances), having made three in 35 outings in the competition in 2017-18.
Conor Coady: Why hasn’t this lad had an England call up? He has captained his country at almost every level, was outstanding for Wolves last season in their title winning year and has made the transition from Championship football into the Premier League like a duck to water.
Against Crystal Palace Coady was outstanding and he remains the central pillar of a Wolves team who have raced to 15 points already this season with extraordinary competence.
Did you know? Conor Coady has made six blocks in the Premier League this season; the joint-most of any Wolves defender, alongside team-mate Willy Boly.
Joe Gomez: In a game at Anfield where very few people managed to keep their cool, Gomez did. Virgil van Dyke uncharacteristically blew a gasket when he charged into Leroy Sane to give away a penalty. Dejan Lovren was also lucky not to have given away two penalties as Liverpool looked more jittery than I have seen them for some time.
Gomez, meanwhile, looked as safe as houses. Whether this young man plays in the centre of defence or as a full-back he is an outstanding defender and one you can rely upon.
Did you know? Liverpool have only lost one of the last 25 games that Joe Gomez has played in the Premier League.
Midfielders – Ross Barkley, Paul Pogba, Lucas Torreira, Gylfi Sigurdsson
Ross Barkley: What a way to celebrate your return to the England squad. Ross Barkley’s performance against Southampton smacked of a player who has rediscovered himself.
His move to Chelsea opened up a number of opportunities for a player with enormous talent who had lost his way at Everton. Barkley played a pivotal role in Chelsea’s victory over the Saints, scoring his first goal for the club and setting up Eden Hazard for his excellent finish.
Did you know? Ross Barkley became the first Englishman to score and assist in a Premier League game for Chelsea since Frank Lampard in December 2013.
Paul Pogba: Jose Mourinho owes Paul Pogba an apology. What a second-half performance by the France international. He was the only Manchester United player who had showed any bottle in a team who, at one stage, became frightened of their own shadows against Newcastle.
The tension at Old Trafford has largely been inflicted by their own manager. Fortunately Pogba, oblivious to Mourinho’s continual rantings, took the game by the scruff of the neck, probing and driving his team to victory. Not only did the World Cup winner save United against Newcastle, he might have saved Mourinho’s job for now. Many a player would have let Mourinho sink.
Did you know? Paul Pogba has had a hand in 29 Premier League goals under Jose Mourinho at Manchester United (13 goals, 16 assists), more than any other player.
Lucas Torreira: He might have been the smallest man on the field but that didn’t stop the Uruguay international from being the most dynamic individual against Fulham. Torreira is having a massive impact on the Arsenal team and an even bigger one on Arsenal fans. They love him.
Did you know? Arsenal have won each of the three Premier League games that Lucas Torreira has started, with the team keeping two clean sheets in that time (one goal conceded).
Gylfi Sigurdsson: He’s only gone and done it again! Sigurdsson’s 50th Premier league goal, and 19th from outside the area, was as good a strike as you will see. No one has scored more goals outside of the area than Sigurdsson since 2012.
I normally don’t give a fig about stats but these I have to take seriously. I said last week that he can’t score a simple goal and for some reason they have to be corkers or nothing at all. Everton are starting to look an interesting proposition under Marco Silva.
Did you know? Everton midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson’s 50th Premier League goal makes him the second Icelandic player to reach the milestone in the competition – Eidur Gudjohnsen is the other with 55.
Forwards – Joshua King, Alexandre Lacazette, Eden Hazard
Joshua King: Bournemouth 3-0 up against Watford at half-time? I thought the teleprinter had made a mistake.
It was the Cherries’ 10th game of the season and brought their sixth penalty, which King was happy to put past Ben Foster. The striker also scored his first goal of the season in open play. By this time Watford looked finished.
I must say the Hornets have a reputation of putting it about a bit and against Bournemouth Christian Kabasele and Watford paid the price.
Did you know? Bournemouth’s Josh King has scored 34 goals in the Premier League – only four other Norwegians have scored more in the competition (Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Steffen Iversen, John Carew and Tore Andre Flo).
Alexandre Lacazette: He’s in a fantastic vein of form at the moment and scoring some fabulous goals. Give this lad a sniff of goal and it’s in the back of the net. He’s putting them away like a kid eating Smarties.
What a difference a few weeks makes, along with an injection of confidence. It’s not that long ago that Lacazette couldn’t get into the Arsenal starting XI and questions were being raised about his future at the club. No one is asking those questions anymore.
Did you know? Arsenal’s Alexandre Lacazette has been directly involved in six goals in five starts in the Premier League so far this season (4 goals, 2 assists).
Eden Hazard: Yet another masterclass from Hazard against Southampton. Without doubt the best player in the Premier League and on current form arguably the best player in Europe. The only problem Chelsea face is what happens if they lose the Belgian through injury? There is a feeling the Blues may be a tad over-reliant on him.
Did you know? Chelsea’s Eden Hazard scored and assisted in a Premier League game for the first time since October 2016 – which was also at St Mary’s against Southampton.
Now it’s your turn
You’ve seen my picks this week. But who would you go for?
Pick your XI from our list and share with your friends.
The Crooks of the matter
How good was it to hear from one of the greatest players England has ever produced this week? The interview with Kevin Keegan on Saturday’s edition of Football Focus could have, in my view, lasted an hour. The two-time European Footballer of the Year spoke with the same passion and enthusiasm for the game that made him one of the greatest competitors I have ever seen on a football field. In fact I can’t remember seeing a footballer with more courage.
It was that courage that led Keegan to take the England job and that same nerve that saw him lead his beloved Newcastle United to the top of the Premier League table in January 1996. It was also the same man who, as a player, made it crystal clear that he would stand squarely behind the PFA in the event of any attempt by the Football League to renege on their contract with the players’ association.
How fitting then, as he promotes his biography, My Life in Football, that the one matter that troubles him more than any other is the ticketing prices Premier League clubs are charging fans in this period of unprecedented wealth in the sport. His almost desperate concern that businessmen appear to be running the game, at the expense of the man on the street whose presence brings the game alive, sticks in his throat.
Keegan was always a man of the people, and should be at the heart of the game in some capacity to quell the game’s commercial excesses. The new chairman of the Premier League perhaps?