SASoccermag takes a look back at the first week of action from the Premier League and identifies who stood head and shoulders above the rest to qualify for the best XI of matchday one.
This week’s formation: 4-2-3-1
Goalkeeper: Tom Heaton (Burnley)
Though the newly promoted side were condemned to a narrow 1-0 loss in their opening Premier League tie against Swansea City, it could have been a lot worse if not for Heaton’s heroics in goal. The 30-year-old made seven saves as the minnows frustrated the Swans until almost the very end.
Left Back: Andrew Robertson (Hull City)
Having been handed the job of shackling arguably the best player in the Premier League last season in Riyad Mahrez, the 22-year-old Robertson proved more than up to the task. The left back closely shadowed his opponent and proved immune to his trickery or pace, depriving the Foxes of their most creative outlet.
Centre Back: Eric Bailly (Manchester United)
Bailly continued his impressive form since making his switch from Spanish outfit Villarreal. The 22-year-old put in a physically powerful and determined performance as he made a string of tough challenges and looked largely untroubled both in the air and defending one-on-one.
Centre Back: Craig Cathcart (Watford)
27-year-old Northern Irishman Cathcart proved a pillar of strength at the back for Watford as the side drew their opening game away to Southhampton. Though a late goal for the Saints took the shine off Watford’s performance, the defender was nevertheless instrumental in shutting down attack after Southampton attack.
Right Back: Antonio Valencia (Manchester United)
Asked to play out of position at the back for much of his time with the Red Devils, Valencia put in one of his most assured performances yet. Making short work of his defensive duties, the Ecuadorian also threatened with his marauding overlapping runs, causing problems at the back with his movement and dangerous crossing ability.
Centre Midfield: Fernandinho (Manchester City)
While Manchester City got off to a laboured start in their 2-1 victory Sunderland, the Brazilian looked one of the players most comfortable in adapting to Pep Guardiola’s style of play. Tactfully dropping off to assist his centre backs when necessary and assured in his passing, Fernandinho helped recycle possession and keep City’s play ticking over.
Centre Midfield: Santi Cazorla (Arsenal)
Despite Arsenal being completely overrun by Liverpool in midfield, the introduction of Cazorla off the bench saw the Gunners steady the ship. The Spaniard restored composure to the side and proved instrumental in leading their ultimately unsuccessful comeback as he assisted twice in the 4-3 defeat.
Left Wing: Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
The Belgian looked back to his best in Chelsea’s tough opener against West Ham United as his devastating dribbling and incisive passing created the Hammers all sorts of problems. The star came close on several occasions as he cut inside from the left channel, while he also netted a penalty as Chelsea claimed a 2-1 victory.
Attacking Midfield: Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool)
Perhaps the standout player of the week, Coutinho turned the Reds’ clash with Arsenal on its head as he netted a spectacular free kick. Looking lively and proving difficult to contain, the midfielder grabbed his second with a darting run into the box. Following his substitution with cramp, Liverpool noticeably wobbled.
Right Wing: Sadio Mane (Liverpool)
Immediately settling into manager Jurgen Klopp’s starting lineup the wing proved a nightmare for Arsenal’s patched up defence. Exploiting his pace, power and direct style of play, the Sengelse was a constant threat, as he bagged one of Liverpool’s goals in an explosive start to the second-half.
Striker: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Manchester United)
Despite a slow start, Ibrahimovic came to life in the second-half of Manchester United’s 3-1 victory over Bournemouth. The 34-year-old superstar threatened with his powerful and aerial ability while he also slipped through Wayne Rooney with an incisive ball. The forward then netted with an impressive strike from distance.
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