The Premier League is back, and from what feels like a relatively long break as well. Following game after game after game in December, the close of the festive period gave way to the usual early year domestic cup action, with the league only returning in full this weekend.
As much as we all enjoy the FA Cup, the eagerly awaited return of league action reminded us of what we’d been missing, even if the league is still facing the ongoing issue of regular match postponements. This time around, things weren’t so bad at least, with the eight games featuring at its forefront a decisive victory for Manchester City against Chelsea, and a stunning victory for Leeds United on the road at West Ham.
Manchester City and Leeds United players weren’t the only ones to shine this weekend, however. From the eight matches that took place, here are our five stars of the week.
Stars of the Week in Matchweek 22
Goalkeeper: Jose Sa (Wolverhampton Wanderers)
Another week, another stunning performance from Wolves’ Jose Sa. Whilst the 3-1 scoreline in Wolves’ favour against Southampton looks relatively comfortable, in reality it was anything but, and Sa once again had to be at his best to help the hosts weather some tricky periods. The Portuguese goalkeeper made fine saves from Mohammed Salisu and Romain Perraud in particular to keep his side in front.
Although he was beaten from distance late on, Sa can take little blame for conceding what was nothing less than a stunning free kick goal. Overall, he made nine saves, achieving a 90% save percentage, as his brilliant individual season and Wolves’ extremely strong defensive record continued.
Defender: Andrew Robertson (Liverpool)
Much has been made of Liverpool’s potential struggles this month with Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane both on AFCON duty, but the Reds showed few signs of weakness against Brentford on Sunday, emerging as comfortable 3-0 winners.
Whilst right back Trent Alexander-Arnold has been taking much of the plaudits this season, it was his fullback partner Andrew Robertson on the opposite side who enjoyed a better performance in this game. Always on the front foot, as you might expect in a game like this, the Scotland captain produced a stunning assist when his inch-perfect, long range cross found the head of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to put the game beyond Brentford.
Robertson also defended stoutly, making two interceptions to soften Brentford’s threat, and his 106 touches throughout the game underlined his influence from the left flank.
Midfielder: Jack Harrison (Leeds United)
It may have taken Leeds United’s Jack Harrison a long time to net his first goal of the season, but after finally getting on the scoresheet last time out against Burnley, Harrison went on to produce a simply phenomenal performance at West Ham on Sunday.
After sweeping home a finish from inside the box to give his side the lead early on, Harrison then bundled the ball in from a corner to put his side in front again with a 2-1 lead. When Leeds were pegged back again early in the second half, it was Harrison once again who saved the day for the Whites, racing into space and dinking a finish over Lukasz Fabianski to complete a remarkable hat trick.
It was one of the finest individual performances of the season from the attacking midfielder, a one-man show that earned Leeds a victory which could turn out to be priceless for the club at the end of the season.
Forward: Adam Idah (Norwich City)
Relegation-threatened Norwich City have had to wait a long, long time for a goal, with the side netting zero in December, but two came at once for the Canaries against Everton to earn a hugely significant win.
Instead of Teemu Pukki, this time it was Adam Idah who led from the front for Norwich and found the performance that the team had been crying out for. Having already gone 1-0 up courtesy of a fortuitous own goal, Norwich quickly put together another counter attack that found Idah in the box, and his poked finish proved to be the winning goal against the Toffees.
The Republic of Ireland striker was a handful all afternoon for the Everton defence, and a performance like this offers encouragement that he could play a key role for Norwich up front in the remainder of this season.
Manager: Marcelo Bielsa (Leeds United)
The victories achieved by Manchester City and Norwich City this weekend were certainly impressive, with Pep Guardiola and Dean Smith rightfully getting plaudits for how their teams performed, but this week’s star manager is Leeds United’s Marcelo Bielsa for leading his side to a terrific win over West Ham.
Although Leeds still have a way to go defensively, the attacking football on display here was much more reminiscent of the Leeds side that impressed so much last season. Always brave and on the front foot, it was the team’s relentless pressing that ultimately forced the error from the hosts, which led to Harrison’s winning goal and a memorable victory.
From a low ebb in December, Bielsa’s Leeds have started 2022 with back to back league victories, as they begin to look increasingly capable of putting their early season struggles firmly behind them.
Manchester City and England fan. Writer of opinion and features on all things Premier League and beyond.