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‘The Big Six’: Team of the Weekend, Game-week One
Finally, we are up and running. After months of pre-season anticipation, agonizing transfer sagas, and the slow hum of the managers’ mind games gradually starting to grind into gear; the Barclays Premier League is officially back in business!
The first round of games this weekend brought with it much of the trademark drama the EPL is so known for, including one shocking result, a dramatic late winner, a handful of debuts to remember, and some dodgy refereeing decisions. We also witnessed the first voyage of revolutionary technology, the GDS (goal decision system) at the Emirates Stadium and at Stamford Bridge, with positive results!
Here is ‘The Big Six’, Team of the Weekend for Game-Week One:
Simon Mignolet, Goalkeeper, Liverpool:
With Pepe Reina’s acrimonious exit to Rafa Benitez’ Napoli still fresh in the minds of the Anfield faithful, what was needed was a strong debut from the new Liverpool number one on Saturday. The Belgian certainly delivered, and it was his dramatic late penalty save from perennial penalty miscreant, Jon Walters, that secured the victory and the three points against Stoke.
“It was the debut that you dream of,” said Mignolet after the game,
“I had hoped to do something like that but you never really think that you will.” [source: Express]
Pablo Zabaleta, Defender, Man City:
The ageless Argentine makes the first team of week after a robust performance, full of attacking forays in the 4-0 victory over a poor Newcastle outfit on Monday. His assist for Nasri’s goal was the icing on the cake which saw Man City keep an opening day clean sheet, and move top of the table.
Kolo Toure, Defender, Liverpool:
The Ivorian’s free transfer to Liverpool over the summer was a shrewd bit of business from Brendan Rogers. With miles left in the 32 year old’s tank, Toure was rock solid against Stoke on Saturday, putting in a decent case for his permanent inclusion in Liverpool’s new look back-line. With Martin Skrtel having looked shaky over the past season, Toure could well be in for a run in the team as Liverpool chase that coveted return to European competition.
Gary Cahill, Defender, Chelsea:
With Chelsea’s backline chock full of quality, it was up to the 27-year-old to prove that he could still ride with the very best. Partnering John Terry in the heart of the Blues defence, Cahill put in a most solid shift in what was a victorious second debut for boss Jose Mourinho, whose side ran out 2-0 winners over Hull on the Sunday.
Patrice Evra, Defender, Man Utd:
With the failed double bid for Everton duo, Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines still gracing news-stands around the country, Man Utd’s long-serving, controversy magnet, Patrice Evra had a point to prove on Saturday. The Frenchman’s place in the Utd backline would be under serious threat if the club successfully capture Baines, one of the best left backs in the country.
Evra, to his credit, put in a good showing against Swansea in the 4-1 win, showing his quality both in defence, and higher up the pitch. The 32-year-old must now keep up that intensity for the foreseeable future, as his own future at the club continues to be scrutinised.
Coutinho, Midfielder, Liverpool:
The wiry Brazilian flyer, Coutinho, may not have got on the score sheet on the weekend, but his performance against Stoke was full of brilliant attacking invention and effortless guile. He tormented the Potters all game long, threading eye-of-the-needle passes through a beleaguered Stoke backline, dancing in from the touchline, and linking up well with his colleagues.
He could well have been the instigator of more goals for the Reds on the day, and his will surely be a name that peppers the back pages many a time as the season progresses.
Frank Lampard, Midfielder, Chelsea:
The timeless classic amidst the modern funk, ‘Super’ Frank Lampard came up trumps once more this weekend, with an absolute blunderbuss of a free kick that ensured a Blue victory over newly promoted, Hull City.
Jose Mourinho was gushing with admiration for his unfading midfield gem as, despite his age, his star was as bright as it ever was. Lampard will be used carefully by Mourinho over the course of the season, as at 35 years old, he can no longer go through a 50 game season unscathed. But with his glorious footballing brain, and evident dead-ball ability, there will be plenty more outings for the Chelsea legend yet.
Yaya Toure, Midfielder, Man City:
The second Toure brother to make it into the team of the week, Yaya continued from where he left off last season against Newcastle on Monday; by disposing of the opponent’s midfield with a lethal combination of raw power, lung-less running, and deft vision.
His newly formed partnership with new signing Fernandinho showed instant promise against a Newcastle side which verged on self-destructive at times. His 100th game for the club, Toure capped off a superb opening day run out with a vicious free kick that took the game completely away from Alan Pardew’s side.
Danny Welbeck, Striker, Man Utd:
So often a foil for the omnipresent Van Persie, Welbeck came into his own in the 4-1 demolition of Swansea on Saturday. Playing merry hell with the Welsh side’s defence, the Englishman scored a wonderful brace, and showed new boss, David Moyes, that he is finally ready to step up to the plate for the Champions.
Moyes has cottoned on to Welbeck’s potential this season, saying,
“The first one he got at Swansea I liked because it was a tap-in. The second one was the sort of finish of someone with confidence who’d scored 20 goals in the Premier League would score with the way he finished it, with the flick over the boy’s head and I told him that.
“I think we’re going to try and encourage him to be a 15-20 goal striker and do everything we can to do so.” [source: Mail]
Roberto Soldado, Striker, Tottenham Hotspur:
Another player to enjoy a special debut, Spurs’ new £26m man, Soldado, bagged the winning goal in the 1-0 win over Crystal Palace on Sunday. Looking every bit the deadly striker Tottenham fans have craved, the Spaniard swaggered around up top, linking up superbly with his teammates, and proving that there is a bright future despite the outcome of the Bale saga.
With Real Madrid’s seemingly endless pursuit of the Welshman threatening to belittle Andre Villas-Boas preparations for the new season, Soldado’s match winner was the perfect tonic.
Spurs defender, Michael Dawson certainly sees Soldado as a player that can push the club to the next level,
“Roberto has been in a week or so and played (in the friendly) against Espanyol,” Dawson said,
“The fans saw a little bit of his quality then and I’m sure he will score plenty of goals for us in the Premier League.
“You look at his movement. He can send you one way and then another. He is a top player, a top signing. You want to keep improving as a club and that’s what we’ve done this summer. Now it’s up to us to go out there and perform. You can never stand still – you always want to improve on the year before.” [source: Express]
Robin Van Persie, Striker, Man Utd:
It seems not a week can go by without the Dutch maestro proving that he is the premier striker in the English top flight.
With two outlandishly classy goals in the win against Swansea, Van Persie effectively showed that, despite the ever-present doubters of the Utd machine, the Champions are still the team to beat.
With the Rooney saga taking a new, rather visual twist after the England striker’s second half appearance on Saturday, Van Persie still managed to take center stage ahead of the troubled 27-year-old.
While the idea of Wayne Rooney turning out for Chelsea may continue to seem troubling, and rather odd for Utd fans everywhere, the sight of their superstar Dutchman gloriously battering opponents on a weekly basis will surely go a long way in soothing any qualms about their former hero exiting the club.
What does everyone think? Any players I’ve missed? Get involved in the comments below!