Things aren’t looking good. On what is supposed to be the most highly anticipated and busiest month of the footballing season, the Premier League looks like it could be in trouble, with match cancellations piling up due to the pandemic.
Due to the sheer number of teams suffering with absences, it looks like another season postponement could well be on the way – but hopefully not anywhere near the length or significance of the previous one that we had to endure during the spring months of 2020.
For now, football continues, with our 17th edition of Stars of the Week featuring a reduced pool of just seven matches compared to the usual ten. The games that went ahead featured plenty of talking points, though, with league leaders Manchester City smashing Leeds United 7-0 and Chelsea being held to a 1-1 draw against Everton in a tie marred by absences.
With plenty of Premier League action still taking place, here are our five star picks from a relatively small Matchweek 17.
Stars of the Week: Matchweek 17
Goalkeeper: Jordan Pickford (Everton)
With a high number of players missing, Everton faced a daunting task when they visited Stamford Bridge on Thursday night to face Chelsea, even though the hosts themselves were also suffering with absentees.
Despite the odds being against them, Everton dug deep to earn a point, and there is no question that the Toffees have goalkeeper Jordan Pickford to thank. The England goalkeeper made fantastic saves to keep out Christian Pulisic and Mason Mount in the first half, and did brilliantly to tip away Thiago Silva’s header to preserve a point late on in the game.
Overall, Pickford made nine saves throughout the match, turning in what was almost certainly his finest performance of the season so far.
Defender: Romain Saiss (Wolverhampton Wanderers)
After four matches without a goal, Wolves got back on the winning trail on Wednesday night with a narrow 1-0 victory at Brighton and Hove Albion.
Whilst maintaining the usual defensive solidity that has been a feature throughout their season, it was centre back Romain Saiss who made the difference for the away side in front of goal. Following a poor delivery from a corner, a second ball was floated into the Brighton penalty area and Saiss brilliantly volleyed home a side-footed finish to give his team the lead.
As well as having a good game defensively, making five interceptions to help his side maintain a clean sheet, Saiss also continued to show an impressive level of attacking intent, striking the woodwork in the second half.
An excellent performance from Saiss and a fine return to form from Wolves.
Midfielder: Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
How’s that for a display from the league leaders? Having gathered considerable momentum in recent weeks, Manchester City turned up the heat on their title rivals in Tuesday night’s clash with Leeds, dismantling the Whites with a 7-0 drubbing and possibly the greatest team performance of the season.
Amidst all of the astonishing individual performances for City, the irrepressible Kevin De Bruyne stood out considerably, especially when you remember that he’s only just returning from a spell on the sidelines. After being slid through on goal during the first half, the Belgian smashed a strike past the onrushing Illan Meslier with his weaker left foot. During the second 45, he struck an even better shot with his stronger right foot, beating Meslier from outside the box to make it 5-0.
De Bruyne is back, and don’t we just know it.
Forward: Phil Foden (Manchester City)
After the scintillating display of brilliance that Manchester City served up against Leeds, it can be easy to forget that the reigning champions don’t even have a recognised striker. That fact makes the performance of midfielder Phil Foden, operating up front as a false nine, even more impressive.
Last season’s Premier League Young Player of the Season was on top form here, slotting home the opening goal after the ball broke to him, and rounding off the scoring with a pinpoint corner that Nathan Ake duly nodded home. As well as the goal and assist, Foden was involved in many of City’s greatest moves, and Leeds simply couldn’t live with him.
Who ever said City can’t cope without a striker?
Manager: Pep Guardiola (Manchester City)
Even by Guardiola’s standards, this really was a special performance to rival any that he’s overseen at Manchester City.
Despite the contrasting fortunes of the two teams this season, City’s matchup with Leeds would’ve been seen as a potential banana skin, following the Whites smash-and-grab 2-1 victory at the Etihad last season. Instead, the hosts ruthlessly blew away their opponents to ensure that there was no chance of history repeating itself.
Pep set his team up perfectly here, with the decision to replace the suspended Joao Cancelo at right back with John Stones proving to be a successful one. The passing and intensity of City was far too much for Leeds, and in truth, the hosts could’ve scored even more goals.
Even without a recognised striker, City are currently playing as well as they ever have done under Guardiola, a testament to the great manager’s lasting genius.
Manchester City and England fan. Writer of opinion and features on all things Premier League and beyond.