As the Premier League returned following the second international break already this season, there were certainly no signs of hangover amongst the league’s many returning footballers, as the competition burst back into life for Matchweek 8.
The big headline of the weekend was Leicester’s emphatic victory over Manchester United, which shattered United’s 29-game unbeaten run away from home. Elsewhere, Liverpool carried out a stylish demolition of Watford, league leaders Chelsea recorded a narrow win over Brentford, and Wolves completed an astonishing comeback in the final ten minutes to defeat Aston Villa in a West Midlands Derby.
It was certainly a triumphant week for teams on the road, with half of the fixtures ending with an away team victory. Here are our picks for the five Stars of the Week.
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Stars of the Week in Premier League – Matchweek 8
Goalkeeper: Edouard Mendy (Chelsea)
Chelsea played out a hard-fought victory in a London derby against Brentford on Saturday evening, the first time that the two sides had faced each other in the top flight since 1947. But in the battle between the Premier League new boys and the Champions of Europe, the difference maker turned out to be Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy.
After a quiet first half in which Ben Chilwell had put the Blues a goal to the good, Mendy produced a stunning second half performance to help his side survive a Brentford onslaught. The Senegal keeper made point blank saves from Ivan Toney, Saman Ghoddos, Pontus Jansson and finally from a spectacular overhead kick by Christian Norgaard.
A perfect reminder, if one was needed, of why Chelsea’s giant between the sticks was voted as last year’s Champions League Goalkeeper of the Season.
Defender: Angelo Ogbonna (West Ham United)
A promising start to the season for West Ham was dented with a late, late defeat to Brentford in Matchweek 7, but the Hammers got right back on track with a thoroughly impressive win over Everton on Sunday.
In a game where both defences gave relatively little away, it was West Ham’s Angelo Ogbonna who was the unlikely hero for the away side. Other than defending stoutly with four ball recoveries and two successful tackles, the centre back eventually made the difference with an excellent flicked header from a corner to put his team 1-0 up in the latter stages of the game.
The Italian’s efforts were paramount to West Ham becoming the first side this season to keep a clean sheet at Goodison Park, with his winning goal capping a fine performance.
Midfielder: John McGinn (Aston Villa)
A promising game for Aston Villa ended in extreme disappointment against West Midlands rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers, as the Villans completely lost control of the game at 2-0 up to crumble to a 3-2 defeat.
In spite of the bruising result, an important positive was the exemplary performance of Scottish midfielder John McGinn. Early into the second half, McGinn caught the visitors’ defence flat-footed with a pinpoint cross onto the head of Danny Ings, who duly opened the scoring.
Around 20 minutes later, a loose ball fell kindly for McGinn outside the area, and the midfielder struck a bullet of a strike that flew into the bottom corner via a deflection.
It was a shame for Villa that they capitulated as they did, but it certainly wasn’t through a lack of trying from their impressive #7.
Forward: Roberto Firmino (Liverpool)
Mohamed Salah netted another stunner and Sadio Mane scored his 100th Premier League goal in Liverpool’s dismantling of Watford, but it was striker Roberto Firmino who went home with the match ball following a fine hat-trick.
As the Reds cruised through the 90 minutes and cut Watford apart almost at will, Firmino found the net with a simple tap-in from Milner’s cross in the first half, and then doubled his tally with another tap-in after capitalising on a near own goal from Craig Cathcart. He rounded off an exceptional individual and team performance in the final moments by touching in Neco Williams’ ball across, completing his hat-trick.
It was Firmino’s first treble in the league since 2018, and only the second one that has been scored in the English top flight this season. Perhaps more importantly for the forward, it may silence some critics who often poke holes in his goal record in recent seasons.
Manager: Brendan Rodgers (Leicester City)
It may have been a weekend scattered with success for away sides in the Premier League, but Brendan Rodgers’ managerial masterclass in Leicester’s 4-2 home victory over Manchester United stood out as one of the landmark results of this season so far.
Employing their usual, high energy pressing style against the Red Devils, Leicester took advantage of a team that has been accused of being top heavy and exploited their vulnerabilities to perfection.
The high pressing forced an error from the United defence that led to Youri Tielemans’ stunning equaliser, and Leicester’s decisiveness at set pieces made the most of a couple of notable absences for United at the back to seal an emphatic victory.
It was the first time that United had tasted defeat on the road in the Premier League since a loss to Liverpool back in January 2020. On the flipside, for Leicester City, it was a critical win that could well spark their season into life.
Manchester City and England fan. Writer of opinion and features on all things Premier League and beyond.