After perhaps the quietest international break to have taken place in a long time, the Premier League finally returned for a first round of games in February. Although Chelsea’s current participation in the Club World Cup means that our wait for a full, ten game matchweek goes on, the entertainment on show from the nine matches that took place was a welcome return from the mid-winter break.
In the race for top four, Tottenham were dealt a stunning blow by Southampton who pulled off a dramatic late victory in North London, whilst Arsenal got back to winning ways with a narrow victory at Wolves. Meanwhile, Manchester City and Liverpool both won comfortably to maintain business as usual at the top of the table, whilst at the other end of proceedings Newcastle United pulled off a fantastic victory over Everton to squeeze out of the relegation zone.
Nine matches, five standout individuals. Here are our latest Stars of the Week.
Stars of the Week: Matchweek 24
Goalkeeper: Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal)
A difficult first month of 2022 for Arsenal was quickly forgotten with a gritty 1-0 victory at Wolves, taking advantage of top four rivals Tottenham and Manchester United who both slipped up beforehand. Although further questions over Arsenal’s discipline emerged with yet another red card, goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale ended up being the team’s hero once again.
It wasn’t quite as dramatic as some of his performances so far this season, but Ramsdale stood firm in the Arsenal goal to help his team over the line. The England goalkeeper made four saves in total, and his palming away of a cross rapidly followed by a fine stop from Romain Saiss epitomised his strength of character when the 10 men of Arsenal looked likely to concede a late equaliser.
Another one for the highlight reel for Arsenal’s player of the season so far.
Defender: Kieran Trippier (Newcastle United)
In a so-far gloomy season for Newcastle United, January started to see a bit of an upswing in form, and now, bolstered by some illustrious winter transfers, Newcastle have just claimed by far their best win of the season with a 3-1 triumph over Everton.
Right back Kieran Trippier was comfortably the standout signing of the winter transfer window, and he lived up to that hype with a terrific performance against the Toffees. Although he could do nothing to prevent Newcastle going down to a freak own goal, his pinpoint corner immediately afterwards got his side straight back into it, with Everton scoring an own goal themselves. And of course, he sealed the win with a sublime free kick goal late on.
Defensively Trippier excelled as well, with nine tackles and two interceptions. A star performance from the new star man.
Midfielder: Philippe Coutinho (Aston Villa)
From one returning La Liga player to another, in Aston Villa’s thrilling 3-3 draw with Leeds United in Matchday 24 it was Philippe Coutinho who stole the show for Villa once again with another masterful midfield display.
With the hosts going 1-0 down early, Coutinho’s swivel and shot into the corner of the Leeds net soon brought his side level, and shortly after the Brazilian laid on a stunning pass for Jacob Ramsey to give Villa the lead. Coutinho didn’t stop there though, and claimed another assist for Ramsey just before half time with another perfectly weighted ball.
In the end Coutinho’s performance was dampened by some poor Villa defending which threw away the victory, a recurring theme in their up-and-down campaign. But based on the ability Coutinho has shown so far in his short time at Villa Park, he certainly could be the one to lift the team to the next level.
Forward: Diogo Jota (Liverpool)
A comfortable win for Liverpool over Leicester probably wasn’t too far away from what most onlookers expected, even in spite of the Foxes’ surprise win over the Reds just six weeks ago. However, whilst some of the pre-match focus inevitably fixated on Mohamed Salah’s return to the matchday squad following the end of the African Cup of Nations, it was teammate Diogo Jota who stole the show.
With Leicester’s defensive frailties at set pieces being exploited for the umpteenth time this season, it was Jota who profited, scoring an easy goal on the rebound after Virgil Van Dijk’s header was saved. The Portugal attacker was too much to handle for Leicester all evening long, having four shots on goal, and he netted a second strike late on after taking Joel Matip’s pass in his stride and hammering his shot past Kasper Schmeichel.
Only Salah has more Premier League goals this season than Jota, and he is now undoubtedly as important as anyone to Klopp’s rampant Liverpool.
Manager: Ralph Hasenhuttl (Southampton)
We finish as always with our manager of the week, and whilst Newcastle’s Eddie Howe is certainly a contender, the only truly deserving manager of the accolade this week is Southampton’s Ralph Hasenhuttl, following an astonishing win over Tottenham.
It was plain to see that the Saints were still buoyed by their fighting draw with Manchester City the other week, and Hasenhuttl went for the same brave approach at White Hart Lane. Although Southampton fell behind twice in the game – the second time somewhat controversially following a likely foul on Armando Broja – they didn’t stop fighting, and incredibly scored two quick-fire late headers to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
It certainly wasn’t an undeserved win, either – the Saints had a greater share of possession and far more efforts on goal than their more favoured hosts. Another terrific result for the South Coast side early on in 2022.
Manchester City and England fan. Writer of opinion and features on all things Premier League and beyond.