Team of the Week: Unlike Ian Wright, which goalscorer is not a 'genuine finisher'?
Manchester City capitalised on Sadio Mane’s sending-off to put five unanswered goals past Liverpool and go level on points at the top of the Premier League table with Manchester United.
Jose Mourinho’s men remain unbeaten, but could only draw 2-2 at Stoke, while Chelsea made it three wins in succession with a 2-1 victory at Leicester and Watford kept pace with a 2-0 success at Southampton.
There was a first win for Brighton and another for Newcastle, but Crystal Palace remain without a point or a goal to their name.
You can see the thinking behind my team below but, first, have a go at picking your own team of the week.
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Goalkeeper – Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea)
When there are 27 goals scored in the Premier League during one weekend it is particularly difficult to find a goalkeeper who has had an outstanding performance. However, you do occasionally find some goalkeepers that, during a goal fest, change the face of a game.
That’s what Courtois did when he foiled the counter-attack led by Leicester’s Riyad Mahrez in the first half at the King Power Stadium, producing a quite brilliant save at a crucial time in the match. It gave Chelsea time to regroup, continue with their strategy, and pose their own threat.
The game was also far from over when Courtois gave away a penalty in the match. Cesar Azpilicueta’s back-pass left the Belgian so exposed and in such a perilous situation that he had little chance of getting to the ball before Leicester striker Vardy, who used every ounce of his experience to take advantage of the keeper’s position. Courtois got a hand to the penalty, which must have frightened the life out of Vardy, but it was not enough to keep the ball out of the net.
Nevertheless, Courtois kept his nerve and went on to play a vital role in Chelsea getting maximum points in a game that could have gone very differently had it not been for that outstanding save in the first half.
Defender – John Stones (Manchester City)
With Vincent Kompany out through injury (again) it was left to Stones – left out in recent weeks – to take control of matters at the heart of Manchester City’s defence.
All credit to Stones for his performance. The way he controlled matters for City prior to Mane’s sending-off was impressive, especially in light of Nicolas Otamendi’s shocking defending. There was a moment in the first half when City suddenly looked completely vulnerable, largely due to the Argentine’s lack of defensive awareness. Stones took it upon himself to take charge of the situation and save them from conceding a goal.
It was a clear indication to me that Stones was growing as a defender and may one day be relied upon to take over from Kompany.
There are still more difficult tests for Stones to face before I am totally convinced and playing against 10 men isn’t one of them. However, this is an English hopeful who can still fulfil his potential and on this performance the signs are very encouraging.
Defender – James Tarkowski (Burnley)
I am selecting Tarkowski for his endeavour, spirit and commitment. On another day, Burnley would have been beaten out of sight by Crystal Palace.
Christian Benteke should have had a hat-trick in Sunday’s game and Scott Dann a brace, while James McArthur and substitute Levi Lumeka should have converted what were simple headers. Do these players realise they are subjecting manager and Dutch legend Frank de Boer to a slow and painful footballing death?
Meanwhile, Tarkowski organised Burnley’s defence so effectively when called upon it seemed to create an element of anxiety for Palace when it mattered.
I hope Palace give De Boer a little longer to prove himself and the players an opportunity to return some of the faith the manager has placed in them. They owe him that much.
Defender – Jamaal Lascelles (Newcastle)
It was Jamaal Lascelles’ block on the line that set up both the 1-0 victory for Newcastle at Swansea on Sunday and the tone for the entire team’s performance.
If ever you wanted to give your manager a lift on his sick bed (Rafa Benitez was absent through illness) then a classic away win is certainly the way to do it.
Lascelles’ contribution to the victory was a bit special. But does owner Mike Ashley really expect a young side, giving everything at the moment, to survive the season in the Premier League with the resources he has given them? If he does then he is living in cloud cuckoo land.
Ashley needs to get his hand in his pocket and invest properly in a team the city of Newcastle deserve. They have a great manager, an amazing set of fans and a team clearly proud to wear the shirt.
Benitez has brought some wonderful young talent through and made players out of them. Players like Matt Ritchie and Lascelles have developed brilliantly under the watchful eye of the Spaniard and they deserve more support and their manager the finances to enable him to give the team a real chance of survival. It’s the least Ashley can do.
If not, he should sell the club and let someone else do it.
Midfielder – Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City)
De Bruyne’s first pass to set up Sergio Aguero for Manchester City’s opening goal against Liverpool was delightful and the second for Gabriel Jesus was even better.
I’ve labelled De Bruyne the ‘king of the assists’ for some time now, certainly since the demise of Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil in that department.
As for Liverpool, Jon Moss was absolutely right to send Sadio Mane off for what looked, in my opinion, a dangerous and reckless tackle on City keeper Ederson. The argument that a foul should not be determined by the severity of the injury it causes is something out of a 1982 World Cup semi-final nightmare, when Harald Schumacher escaped without even a booking after knocking Patrick Battiston unconscious.
What nonsense. How else do you assess the severity of a tackle, especially when that tackle is late?
The game has changed immeasurably from the days when players could simply take out an opponent and be praised by his team-mates for the skill with which it was executed or worse, see the incident totally ignored by the officials.
Why Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp should display such disapproval about the challenge on Ederson is incongruous to me. It was City manager Pep Guardiola who should have felt aggrieved. Thank goodness the game has moved on. Well done referee Jon Moss.
Midfielder – Christian Eriksen (Tottenham)
The flick from Christian Eriksen to Dele Alli in one second-half Tottenham attack at Everton was simply exquisite and could have provided Harry Kane with his hat-trick. The move was worthy of a goal all by itself and it took quite a save from Jordan Pickford to stop Spurs from going further ahead.
Looking at both teams on paper I was a bit surprised by Tottenham’s 3-0 victory, yet it should have been more.
The performance of Eriksen signified just how important he is to Tottenham’s fortunes. The Dane is playing as well as he was at the end of last season.
The big question is, when is this team going to come to terms with their new home? Is Wembley – where they are playing while White Hart Lane is redeveloped – so daunting? I agree with former Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp, who said that if Spurs had been playing at White Hart Lane this season they would be his tip for the Premier League title. They would be mine too.
But they are not at the Lane this season and even with Eriksen pulling the strings, the signs don’t look great.
Midfielder – Pascal Gross (Brighton)
I heard Brighton boss Chris Hughton say on Football Focus this weekend how he was realistic enough to accept that he is in a different league to quite a number of teams in the Premiership.
Well, the reality is he is in the same league whether he likes it or not and he had better tell his owners the truth – Brighton will not survive the season unless they buy in the January transfer window, having failed to make an impact in August.
Make no mistake, Brighton’s victory over West Brom was a fantastic effort, particularly under the circumstances. But don’t be fooled, this Brighton side is not good enough to survive in its current state. Gross’ brilliant two-goal performance against the Baggies is merely papering over the cracks.
Even Tony Pulis, who is normally very protective of his players in public, had to come clean and criticise their attitude after the game. Brighton cannot survive on the occasional charitable offer from teams who can’t be bothered and that’s what West Brom’s performance amounted to.
Other teams, even in the league Hughton and his owners think they are in, won’t be offering such lame performances as West Brom in the future.
Midfielder – Benjamin Mendy (Manchester City)
This player is growing on me. I liked him when he was at Monaco and I selected him in my team of the week after his debut against Bournemouth. His quality on the left side was conspicuous in that game and it looked even more potent this weekend against Liverpool.
Mendy delivered a ball in the first half across the face of the six yard box that had me screaming ‘what a ball!’ David Beckham in his heyday couldn’t have delivered a better cross. It was like a boomerang. The sad thing was that when the pass fell to Kyle Walker he didn’t go and whack it.
However, Mendy got the reward his deliveries deserved when another raid down the left saw his cross land perfectly at the feet of Leroy Sane, who put the ball in the back of the net where it belonged.
While Mendy quietly gets on with his job, he looks like a player very capable of leading in a battle. Manchester City have not had anyone like that in their team for some time.
However, when I took one look at the Liverpool defence I thought to myself ‘that back four is rubbish’. Regardless of Mane’s sending-off, you cannot win games, never mind titles, with that defence.
Forward – Harry Kane (Tottenham)
Fortunately, August is over for Harry Kane (who is yet to score in the month during his pro career). But how can world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua have had more victories at Wembley than Tottenham this season? A line Arsenal fans take great delight in repeating to me every time they see me…
While our neighbours may find hilarity in Tottenham’s relocation difficulties, it is becoming quite serious for Tottenham fans.
Away at Everton, Spurs looked imperious. It could have been 4-0 before the break.
Kane should have had a hat-trick but settled for his 100th and 101st goals in a Tottenham shirt, which puts him among some of the best strikers ever to have played for the club. And to think former boss Andre Villas-Boas didn’t think he was good enough for Spurs’ first team.
Forward – Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting (Stoke)
The first time I clapped eyes on this player I thought he looked interesting. He didn’t strike me as a player who was going to be a prolific goalscorer for Stoke, but one more likely to get his share, lead the line and help the team win football matches. Against Manchester United he did all of those things.
I also caught a glimpse of him playing for Cameroon against Nigeria in two very gruelling World Cup qualifiers recently, and although the Indomitable Lions only collected one point from the two fixtures against the Super Eagles, it would appear Choupo-Moting has returned energised from his involvement.
Meanwhile, this 2-2 draw will feel like a defeat to United boss Jose Mourinho. Manchester City have closed the gap at the top of the table and, while it is early days in the season, this was a game United should have won based on chances.
I also want to discuss Paul Pogba’s new hairstyle, which features a red streak. I only mention it because he clearly wants to bring it to our attention. There is so much for the midfielder to do at United and he still insists on behaving like an adolescent.
Granted, a hairstyle is not going to determine how well he can control a ball or make a pass, but it does say something about where his mind is at the moment. If you are going to attract attention to yourself on a football pitch do it with goals and performances, not cheap gimmicks and marketing tricks.
Forward – Danny Welbeck (Arsenal)
When Danny Welbeck scored his first goal in Arsenal’s 3-0 win over Bournemouth on Saturday, my first thought was that it came off his shoulder.
The number of times I have seen Welbeck score goals that aren’t clean connections makes me wonder, is he what you would call ‘a genuine finisher’ in the same way you would categorise other Arsenal forwards like Ian Wright, Dennis Bergkamp or Thierry Henry? Not in my opinion. But does that matter when you are a very willing athlete who will score goals provided he remains fit and healthy?
So what, you might say. When the ball ends up in the back of the net, who cares how it got there? Well genuine finishers do.
I was so impressed when Welbeck scored his second and when he almost got a third with the most exquisite chip. But even if he had scored that attempted effort, my opinion of him would not have changed.
The difference is that I’ve seen Wright, Bergkamp and Henry all score goals like the one Welbeck went for and missed with remarkable regularity.
Arsenal might have brushed aside Bournemouth but until the Gunners have genuine finishers in the team they can forget about Premier League titles.