Isn’t it so nice to know that the annoyingly frequent international breaks are now behind us and that we now have uninterrupted Premier League football until March?
Despite crucial international fixtures being played into the middle of last week, there was little sluggishness on display from the Premier League’s many returning internationals, as we were welcomed back to a hatful of goals in Matchweek 12.
The main headline of course is Watford’s 4-1 thrashing of Manchester United, a result that brought the Solskjaer era to an end after weeks of speculation. Closer to the top of the table, Liverpool and Manchester City dismantled Arsenal and Everton respectively to keep pace with Chelsea, and relegation threatened Norwich City and Aston Villa each got off to the perfect start under their new managers.
From the sublime to the spectacular, here are our five choices for this season’s 12th edition of Stars of the Week.
Stars of the Week in Matchweek 12
Goalkeeper: Emiliano Martinez (Aston Villa)
Following the sacking of Dean Smith during the international break, the Steven Gerrard era began with a bang at Aston Villa, as the midlands side defeated Brighton 2-0 in a tense encounter.
Two late goals ultimately decided the contest in favour of the hosts, but prior to that breakthrough they had their goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez to thank for keeping Brighton at bay.
The Argentine palmed away a thunderous near post-strike from Leandro Trossard during the first half, and later rushed off his line to close down an instinctive effort from Tariq Lamptey. He was less busy after the break, but he’d done enough to provide his team with a platform to go and snatch the victory.
Villa fans might remember that he put in a stunning performance against the same opposition last season, and he was on top form here once again.
Defender: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)
Another week, another attacking contribution from Liverpool’s flying fullback Trent Alexander-Arnold, who demonstrated his quality once again in a 4-0 hammering of Arsenal.
Following a frustrating first half, it was a typically brilliant set-piece delivery from Alexander-Arnold that found the head of Sadio Mane to put the Reds 1-0 up shortly before the break. After setting up the opener, the right-back then rounded off the goals by going on a trademark overlapping run and putting in a perfect cross for Takumi Minamino to make it 4-0.
Incredibly, Alexander-Arnold has 38 assists since the start of the 2018/19 season, more than any other player in that time. After a wobble last season, this is just the latest evidence that he’s back to his best this time around.
Midfielder: Rodri (Manchester City)
It seemed like business as usual for Manchester City on Sunday, as the champions swept aside a lacklustre Everton 3-0. But as simple as it looked for the champions, it was made to look so by defensive midfielder Rodri, who ran the show from start to finish.
With star defender Ruben Dias rested, Rodri did an exceptional job of shielding the somewhat unfamiliar centre-back partnership of John Stones and Aymeric Laporte, winning three tackles, three duels and making four ball recoveries.
His 115 passes and 94% passing accuracy stats underline the extent to which he controlled the game, and his incredible strike to make it 2-0 was simply the cherry on the cake to cap a world class performance.
By far one of the best midfielders in the league this season, the days of the Spaniard being unfavourably compared to Fernandinho now feels like an increasingly faint memory.
Forward: Emmanuel Dennis (Watford)
All of Watford’s victories so far this season have included a big contribution from new striker Emmanuel Dennis, and that trend continued on Saturday as the Nigerian tore Manchester United to shreds.
After Watford had twice failed to seize the initiative from the penalty spot, Dennis got the Hornets back on track with a precise cut-back to striker partner Josh King, who had a simple finish to put the home side 1-0 up.
With his side 2-1 up in stoppage time, Dennis took no pity on United, sliding in fellow attacker Joao Pedro to make it 3-1 from a tight angle, before rounding off the scoring himself after latching onto a long ball from goalkeeper Ben Foster.
The Nigerian really has made a terrific start to life in the Premier League, and currently only Mohamed Salah has more combined goals/assists than Dennis in the top flight so far this season.
Manager: Claudio Ranieri (Watford)
Manchester United may be on a run of form so dreadful that it resulted in their manager’s dismissal, but even so, few would’ve envisioned the ease with which Watford took them apart at Vicarage Road.
Much credit then to Claudio Ranieri, who led his team to their second memorable win already since he arrived at the club in October. The Italian went for a brave setup against United, fielding an attacking line-up that paid off spectacularly.
The pace of Dennis and Ismaila Sarr was too much for United to handle, and Watford’s pressing forced the error from Harry Maguire that resulted in a red card, ultimately sealing the victory.
With Watford sitting four points clear of the relegation zone following two wins from his first five games, it is so far, so good for Ranieri, whose side will need to take confidence from this win with some tricky fixtures coming up.
Manchester City and England fan. Writer of opinion and features on all things Premier League and beyond.