Premier League football returned this weekend, after two weeks off for international football, and there was no shortage of storylines, exciting games, and excellent performances.
The weekend kicked off with Tottenham Hotspur travelling to West Ham, as Jose Mourinho took charge of the North London club for the first time, and secured a 3-2 win. Saturday also saw late drama at the Emirates Stadium as Arsenal scraped a point against a so far-underwhelming Southampton side and were subsequently booed off the pitch. There was also a shock result at Goodison Park, where Everton were comfortably beaten by a Norwich side that had failed to win a game on the road all season. This only served to increase the pressure on an under-fire Marco Silva, who has been flirting with the sack for a good 12 months now. The late fixture on Saturday also saw the weekend's headline fixture take place, as Manchester City hung on for three points against a vibrant, exciting Chelsea side that went head-to-head with the defending champions for 90 minutes at the Etihad Stadium.
The only game on Sunday saw Sheffield United continue their excellent start to the season, with a pulsating 3-3 draw with Manchester United, a game that the Blades arguably should have won, despite the Red Devils showing some real fight in the closing stages.
So, from all the action we've seen this weekend, it's time to pick out the top 5 performers.
Jose Mourinho's tenure as Tottenham Hotspur boss got off to the perfect start on Saturday, as he watched his side beat city rivals West Ham United fairly comfortably at the London Stadium. One player who was very much the driving force for Spurs in this game was their Korean superstar, Heung-Min Son.
Son opened the scoring for Spurs in the 36th minute as he finished off a lovely passing move with his left foot, arrowing it into the bottom corner past a hapless Roberto. 6 minutes later, Son turned provider as his dangerous ball across the box was tapped in by Lucas Moura to put Spurs 2-0 up at the interval.
However, his influence in this game went beyond just a goal and an assist. Son had a total of 43 touches of the ball which included him completing 28 passes in the game, with 13 of them played forwards, and 3 of them leading to shots. He also showcased his industry, by completing 2 tackles and winning 1 aerial duel, and finished the match with an expected goals and assists value of 1.37.
Under Brendan Rodgers, Leicester City have looked like a world-class side this season. The quick passing, high-tempo style implemented by the former Liverpool and Celtic manager has proven to be an excellent fit for this young, energetic Foxes side who continued their fairytale start to the season by beating Brighton and Hove Albion at the Amex Stadium thanks to goals from Ayoze Perez and Jamie Vardy.
However, to anyone watching the game, it was clear that it was not those two, but rather England international James Maddison who deserved to take home the Man of the Match award. Frequently finding pockets of space in which to work, Maddison proved a thorn in the side of Graham Potter's men all game long.
Maddison completed 87.5% of his passes, with 22 of them reaching the final third, and 4 of them leading to shots. He had 3 shots himself and was unlucky to not find the net in this game. For good measure, he also completed 5 tackles and made 2 blocks, putting in as complete a performance as you could expect from someone playing primarily as a creator. He also had 65 touches of the ball, and lost possession of it only twice, to round off another exceptional outing.
For a Norwich City side that had failed to win any of their away games in the league this season, not many would have given them a chance when they travelled to Goodison Park to take on Everton. Despite their shaky form, the Toffees would have backed themselves to get three points at home to the newly-promoted side.
However, it was Norwich who emerged victorious, with Scotland midfielder Kenny McLean providing much of the attacking impetus while also ensuring the Canaries remained defensively solid. This was no mean feat considering how they have struggled at the back recently.
McLean had a total of 72 touches and 51 attempted passes, both team highs, and only second on the pitch to Everton's Lucas Digne. 35 of his passes were into the final third, and he also completed 1 dribble and 2 tackles. Most impressively, however, McLean won an unbelievable 12 aerial duels in the game, nearly a quarter of the 47 that were contested in the game, which displayed his commitment to the cause, something Norwich have desperately required throughout the season and was vital to their victory.
Under Sean Dyche, Burnley have been transformed from a Championship club to a constant fixture in the Premier League, thanks to the 'Ginger Mourinho' being as tactically adept and intelligent as he is. It does help, however, for a historically 'small' club to have a steady backline, which Burnley certainly have, and the leader of that is undoubtedly James Tarkowski.
At the weekend, as Burnley thrashed Watford at Vicarage Road, Tarkowski managed to get himself on the scoresheet late on, poking home a late set-piece to ensure that the Hornets were condemned to yet another loss.
However, despite his goal-scoring exploits in this particular game, Tarkowski proved his worth to Burnley by marshalling the defence expertly, and in the process, making sure that Watford were limited to low-risk shots from outside the area. Thus, helping his side maintain a clean sheet. Interestingly, Tarkowski did not make a single tackle in this game, but showcased his exceptional ability to read the game by making 2 interceptions, 6 clearances and 4 blocks, as well as winning 7 aerial duels. If he can keep up this form, expect Burnley to continue to bother the big boys in the league.
The standout fixture from this weekend's Premier League action, was, quite clearly, Manchester City versus Chelsea, a game of massive significance for the defending champions, as anything but a win would see them fall 10 points or more behind league leaders Liverpool. They did get the three points, but it was a bit scratchy, and one man who made it extremely difficult for them was Chelsea's Mateo Kovacic.
Kovacic has not always had the best time at Chelsea since arriving in 2018, but he has shown glimpses of what he is capable of in several games this season, and possibly outdid himself in what has been one of Chelsea's biggest game thus far.
The Croatian midfielder put in an awesome display at the Etihad Stadium, which started with him playing a delicious ball over the top of the City defence for N'golo Kante to open the scoring. He was metronomic in midfield, completing 90 of his 95 attempted passes, both game-highs, as well as having 113 touches of the ball in a game where Chelsea made sure a team managed by Pep Guardiola recorded its lowest possession percentage, at 46.7%. He also completed 3 of his 6 attempted tackles, and made 2 interceptions as well as making 17 passes into the final third.
If Kovacic keeps up this sort of form, expect Chelsea to continue to go from strength to strength.Published 25 Nov 2019, 21:15 IST