Goalkeeper: He was much maligned at times last season, but when Liverpool needed Simon Mignolet to ride to their rescue at Leicester, he didn’t let them down. With the Reds’ 3-1 lead having been reduced to 3-2, Mignolet saved a Jamie Vardy penalty and earned victory, leaving Gab Marcotti to say: “Let others debate whether it should have been a penalty … he snuffed out Vardy’s spot kick.”
Right-back: Chelsea are hitting their stride in style, and Cesar Azpilicueta was as stylish as anyone in their thumping victory at Stoke. Moments in, his ball over the top set up the first goal in Alvaro Morata’s hat trick, and he laid on the striker’s third as well as showcasing his usual defensive composure. “A fantastic, reliable player for Antonio Conte,” says Paul Mariner, with Marcotti and Steve Nicol in agreement.
Centre-back: Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho was the first to admit that his side could have played better at Southampton. But they won again, and Mourinho was quick to hail the role played by his defenders. Phil Jones shone, producing the most tenacious of displays and winning a string of important challenges. “Outstanding,” says Nicol, while Mariner is left admiring “a powerful display at the heart of the defence — no frills and very effective.”
Left-back: For a while, it looked as though Tottenham were cruising at West Ham and their defenders wouldn’t need to worry too much. But the Hammers, three goals down, battled back into a game that showcased both sides of Jan Vertonghen — striding forward to keep Spurs on the front foot earlier on and then leading the defensive resistance as late crosses began to fly in. “Majestic at the back, joining in attacks, right on top of his game,” says Mariner.
Jan Vertonghen Catherine Ivill – AMA/Getty Images
Left midfield: It’s goals, goals, goals for Manchester City, with Pep Guardiola’s side a whirlwind of creativity that proved far too much for Crystal Palace. Few City players appear to be enjoying life more than Leroy Sane, who opened the scoring and then provided two assists after the break to keep City rolling and earn the unanimous approval of our selectors. “Creates endless mismatches with his movement,” says Marcotti, while Mariner opts for “irresistible” and Nicol goes for “dynamite”.
Central midfield: Plenty of Liverpool fans must have wondered whether they would see Philippe Coutinho in their club’s shirt again. Well, they have — and now it’s as though he has never been away. Coutinho was back to his best at the King Power, setting up the opener for Mohamed Salah and bending home an outstanding free kick. “Quite the comeback. Scores a goal, sets up another and makes it seem as if this summer was just a bad dream,” says Marcotti, while Nicol believes Coutinho “answered those who questioned his attitude.” Mariner’s verdict? “The magician returns.”
Central midfield: Talking of people making things happen brings us neatly to Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen, the conductor in chief against West Ham. Spurs could have had a hatful and Denmark international Eriksen was at the heart of the best things they did, with his customary inventive passing augmented by a fine low finish that put them 3-0 up. “Scored a cracker, and at the hub of the supply line to Harry Kane and Dele Alli,” says Mariner, with Nicol seconding the appreciation.
Right midfield: Sometimes it feels as though if it’s Team of the Weekend it must be time to talk about David Silva — and so it proves. Silva produced another of his fleet-footed masterclasses against the grounded Eagles, his sharp pass paving the way for Sane’s goal and his consistently deft use of the ball keeping City purring. “He makes it look easy — and it is, for him,” says Marcotti, while Mariner adds: “Week after week, the City architect makes my team. He makes the game effortless and always seems to have time.”
Forward: The Diego Costa era at Chelsea is over. Now it’s about Alvaro Morata, whose great start shows no signs of abating. He was imperious as Chelsea waltzed to their win at Stoke, with his hat trick making it six goals in six Premier League games. The first was the classiest of finishes after he had controlled a long pass forward, the second deft and the third a right place, right time tap-in. “Superb,” says Nicol, while Mariner announces: “Chelsea fans can relax — they have a top goalscorer in their ranks.”
Forward: Nicol sums it up succinctly — “It’s Harry Kane doing what Harry Kane does,” and Kane just keeps doing it. The Tottenham striker was too hot for West Ham, bamboozling the defence with almost everything he did and scoring twice — a tally that could easily have been double that. Kane is on peak form, even moving Mauricio Pochettino to declare love for him. “Scores two, could have had five and hits the woodwork twice,” says Marcotti, while former striker Mariner is quick to praise another key side of Kane’s game, noting: “His hold-up play and work-rate out of possession are magnificent.”
Forward: Sometimes when you look back over a season, the unlikeliest player turns out to have been the catalyst for a turnaround. Could that be the case at Everton? With 77 minutes gone and Bournemouth 1-0 up, the sense of early-season crisis around Goodison Park was growing. Step forward substitute striker Oumar Niasse, tipped to leave as part of Ronald Koeman’s rebuild. Niasse blasted home the equaliser — but he wasn’t finished there and struck again from close range to complete a recovery that might just prove a turning point for his team. “From zero to hero,” says Nicol.
Manager: Watford ended last season in something close to disarray, their campaign having descended into a struggle for goals and results. Manager Walter Mazzarri was on his way, and the club turned to Marco Silva. What a shrewd move that has turned out to be so far — the Hornets are in sixth place with 11 points from six games after their last-minute winner at Swansea. “He’s doing a great job,” says Nicol, while Mariner tips his hat to a “magnificent” win in Wales.