The Premier League finally returned to action this week after an imperious summer of football with the Euro Championships in France as well as the madness in the transfer window which is still at its peak. A few surprising (somewhat) results came about with a depleted Hull City beating Champions Leicester City in the opening fixture and Arsenal losing 3-4 at home to Liverpool after what was a horror of a defensive performance. Tottenham’s failure to overcome Everton as well meant that none of last season’s top three were able to secure a victory on the opening day. There were, however, a few star performances and they make the cut in The Sports Lowdown’s team of the week.
Goalkeeper: Maarten Stekelenburg (Everton).
The Dutchman, who spent last season on loan at Southampton, has made a permanent move to Everton in the summer. He replaced the departed Tim Howard and avoided competition from Joel Robles to make the starting position his own, putting in a stunning shift. He saved three of the four shots he faced and help Everton earn a point after Erik Lamela cancelled out Ross Barkley’s fifth-minute opener.
Defence: Antonio Valencia (Manchester United), Eric Bailly (Manchester United), Curtis Davies (Hull City), Andrew Robertson (Hull City).
Antonio Valencia brought out the form that earned him a high regard in his earlier years in his performance against Bournemouth. Despite not having an assist to his name, he caused fear in the Bournemouth backline with his darting runs and had a major role to play in the second goal, which was scored by Wayne Rooney.
Eric Bailly takes one of the two centre-half spots. The Ivorian had a monstrous Premier League debut and was voted as the man of the match – his second in as many competitive games for United. 3 successful tackles, 2 interceptions, and 7 clearances ensured a flawless performance in the Red Devils’ backline.
Curtis Davies led Hull City in defence as the home side pulled off the shock result of the weekend by beating champions Leicester City. The defence, especially Davies had a huge role to play as they were able to shut out the offensive talents of Jamie Vardy, Ahmed Musa and Riyad Mahrez. The captain constantly kept out the Leicester attack with his command and aggression.
Andrew Robertson played fearlessly at left back, keeping out last season’s Player of the Year Riyad Mahrez. With all the pace in the Foxes’ side, Robertson’s composure and skill was able to nullify Ranieri’s side’s attack and pull off a major morale boosting win for the faltering Tigers.
Midfield: Fernandinho (Manchester City), Robert Snodgrass (Hull City), Phillipe Coutinho, Sadio Mane (Both Liverpool), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City).
Pep Guardiola is well-known for making his holding midfielders the pivot of his teams and Fernandinho was able to excel in that role. Having completed nearly 82% of his passes and providing significant support in attack as well as defence, the Brazilian was able to control the tempo of his side and power the Citizens to victory.
Robert Snodgrass put in a tireless display and scored the winner against Leicester, thumping the ball past Kasper Schmeichel. He was a constant threat to the Leicester defence and was arguably the best player in the opening round of fixtures. If Hull are to stay up, Snodgrass will be crucial to them.
Phillipe Coutinho showcased his talents on the grandest stage once again with a blistering performance against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium. A stunning free-kick to the left of Petr Cech followed by a sublime move containing 19 passes for his second goal once again reminded the Premier League of his ginormic talents.
Coutinho’s partner in crime, Sadio Mane also gets a spot in this week’s team. The £30 million man shone in pre-season and did so once again on his competitive debut. He troubled Arsenal left-back Nacho Monreal throughout the game and brought relative pace and width to the side – an attribute Liverpool fans have been craving. His goal was the icing on the cake after a fine first-half performance.
Raheem Sterling put his Euro 2016 woes behind him and put on arguably his best performance in a sky blue shirt since his hat-trick against Bournemouth. He was taken down after a mazy run early on to win a penalty – which was converted by Sergio Aguero – and was a constant threat down the wing.
Attack: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Manchester United).
Zlatan Ibrahimovic rarely goes anywhere without attracting attention and he did so again on his Premier League debut. His goal at Dean Court killed off Bournemouth, giving him the unique record of having scored on his Champions League, Serie A, La Liga, Ligue 1 and now, his Premier League debut.