Merseyside contributes most to this week’s Team of the Week following blistering performances from Liverpool and Everton, while Norwich, Manchester United, Stoke and Swansea complete the XI.
At first glance, Chelsea’s 1-0 win over Norwich appears to be an unconvincing win for the surprise strugglers, but it’s worth noting that John Ruddy prevented it from being a cricket score.
Willian, Diego Costa, and Nemanja Matic were all denied by the legs of Ruddy, while Cesc Fabregas joined the list of those who failed to beat the once-capped England goalkeeper.
Only an unstoppable Costa effort in the second-half denied the 29-year-old a clean sheet at Stamford Bridge.
Right-back: Seamus Coleman (Everton)
Everton’s 4-0 dismantling of Aston Villa was a beautiful exhibition of ‘total football’ from Roberto Martinez’s side, and right-back Seamus Coleman played his part.
The highly-rated Irishman put in a superb first-time cross for Romelu Lukaku’s first of two goals, and also helped himself to a clean sheet – not that Villa had much opportunity to threaten.
Centre back: Chris Smalling (Manchester United)
Louis van Gaal has been no stranger to criticism from a section of Manchester United fans for the team’s lack of attacking football, but defender Chris Smalling has flourished as a result.
United’s – and England’s – most improved defender put in another accomplished performance at Vicarage Road, and even almost scored in the Red Devils’ 2-1 win.
Smalling made a number of key clearances, and one of David De Gea’s fine saves was aided by the defender blocking a Watford shot, before he almost found the net with a late header.
Centre back: Martin Skrtel (Liverpool)
When a team wins 4-1, you do not expect to refer to a good defensive display as a focal point, but Martin Skrtel provided that on Saturday evening, and, of course, he was a threat to the opposition goal too.
Skrtel has now scored four goals against Manchester City after netting against them at the weekend with an uncharacteristic pile driver, but it was his defensive duties that were most crucial.
Sergio Aguero, arguably the league’s best striker, was kept at bay by the Slovakian – unstoppable goal aside – as Skrtel was a rock at the back in an accomplished and unexpected Liverpool win.
Left-back: Erik Pieters (Stoke City)
Stoke’s 1-0 win over Southampton was the Potters’ third clean sheet on the bounce, and their fifth in six games. Erik Pieters put in a good defensive shift at left-back and was useful at the other end too.
Southampton were subdued for large portions at St. Mary’s, and could not break a typically stubborn Stoke down.
Pieters punished the hosts for that with a cross from the left which was flicked in by ex-Barcelona, Roma, and Ajax forward Bojan.
Centre midfielder: Ross Barkley (Everton)
Ross Barkley’s scintillating form continued at the weekend with two goals and an assist in Everton’s stylish win over Aston Villa.
Barkley opened the scoring after only 17 minutes of play when he was left with a simple tap-in as a result of a sweet move from the Toffees that involved almost every player.
He doubled his personal tally three minutes before half-time with a composed finish from 12 yards after a goalmouth scramble, and then turned provider to set up Romelu Lukaku’s second goal with a first-time pass.
Centre midfielder: Jonjo Shelvey (Swansea City)
Garry Monk inexplicably finds himself under pressure at Swansea City, and, as odd as that sounds, that pressure would have increased had a Jonjo Shelvey-inspired Swans not fought back from two goals down against Bournemouth.
Josh King and Dan Gosling put the Cherries 2-0 up in Wales, but City hit back when Andre Ayew scored a back heel after Shelvey’s header.
Shelvey then equalised with a cool, composed penalty in the 39th minute.
Wide midfielder: Gerard Deulofeu (Everton)
It takes some doing to be named Man of the Match when two other players on your team score twice, but that’s exactly what Gerard Deulofeu managed on Saturday with a world-class display.
Deulofeu demonstrated what once made him a Barcelona player with an outing that no-one wearing claret and blue could cope with, as the Spaniard was involved in almost every goal.
Barkley’s first goal was assisted by the energetic winger, as he played in Lukaku for his original blocked shot in the build-up to the second, and he broke from midfield to pass to Barkley, who squared the ball to Lukaku for Everton’s fourth of the afternoon.
Wide midfielder: Roberto Firmino (Liverpool)
Jurgen Klopp’s hard-working German Gegenpressing had a Brazilian Samba style in Liverpool’s 4-1 annihilation of title-challenging Manchester City as Firmino and Philippe Coutinho blew Manuel Pellegrini’s side away.
Firmino scored one, had a part to play in two more of the goals, and was a general headache for the whole 90, as was Coutinho.
Eliaquim Mangala’s own goal came after Firmino’s ball across the box, Coutinho linked up with his fellow Brazilian for his strike, and the roles reversed for Firmino’s finish.
Centre attacking midfielder: Phillipe Coutinho (Liverpool)
What Firmino could do, Coutinho could do as well, as he also scored and set up the summer signing for a goal of his own.
Coutinho’s effort against City means that, like Skrtel, he has now scored more against the 2014 champions than he has against any other Premier League team.
Firmino could be on the path to a similar stat thanks to his simple finish that was produced after some super work by the former Inter Milan starlet.
Striker: Romelu Lukaku (Everton)
Much like many other of his Everton team-mates, Lukaku had a weekend to remember – his was better than most though as he became only the fifth player to net 50 Premier League goals before the age of 23.
Only Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen, Wayne Rooney, and Cristiano Ronaldo reached this feat before Lukaku, and thanks to his brace yesterday, the Belgian was the fourth-youngest of the five to do it.
He headed in a Coleman cross to double Everton’s lead mid-way through the first-half, and he slotted home past Brad Guzan just before the hour mark to complete the trouncing.
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