Following the latest round of Premier League action, we pick out some of the heroes and villains from the best and worst of the weekend’s fixtures.
Manchester United inflicted the final nail in Nuno Espirito Santo’s coffin at Tottenham after outclassing the North Londoners on Saturday evening, a much-needed win for the Red Devils spelling the end for the Spurs boss.
Chelsea enjoyed a weekend to savour after winning at Newcastle and seeing title rivals Liverpool and Manchester City both drop points, the latter beaten 2-0 at home by Crystal Palace in the shock of the weekend.
Elsewhere Burnley battered Brentford to record their first win of the season, whilst Arsenal’s upturn in fortunes continued after beating Leicester at the King Power Stadium.
Heroes and Villains from the Premier League weekend
Hero – Aaron Ramsdale
It never ceases to amaze just how quickly things can turn around in football.
Three games into the season and Arsenal were in a state of disarray, bottom of the division without a single point or goal scored, with fingers pointed in the direction of Mikel Arteta and his recruitment team.
Fast forward a little over two months and the Gunners are within touching distance of the top four, unbeaten in seven Premier League fixtures and showing encouraging signs, their youthful side growing in confidence following this weekend’s 2-0 win at Leicester.
Central to their success at the King Power Stadium was Aaron Ramsdale, a signing questioned by many after arriving in a £24m deal after successive top-flight relegations.
✋ All the stops
🎯 All the distributions
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) October 31, 2021
Ramsdale has not only since silenced the doubters but turned a large majority into believers, grabbing his opportunity – both literally and figuratively – with both hands after being introduced to the side in September, with the 23-year-old yet to find himself on the losing side for the Gunners
Ramsdale was brilliant in the win at Leicester as he made eight saves and demonstrated the quality of his distribution, the pick of the bunch a miraculous save to turn James Maddison’s free-kick onto the crossbar.
Villain – Aymeric Laporte
Aymeric Laporte has returned to prominence at Manchester City this season after falling out of favour last term, but the centre-back endured a nightmare performance as the champions lost at home to Crystal Palace.
The Spain international’s sloppiness in possession saw him dispossessed by Conor Gallagher in the build-up to Wilfried Zaha’s opener, before the defender found himself turned and dismissed after hauling down Zaha in first-half stoppage time.
Really disappointed with the outcome today. Hard to get my first red wearing this shirt, credit to all the guys for fighting on the pitch until the end. Sorry for the loss, still we have a lot to take. Lose together, win together. Thanks for the unconditional support 💙 pic.twitter.com/RRIFsAb850
— Aymeric Laporte (@Laporte) October 30, 2021
The red card provided City with a disadvantage they were unable to overturn, whilst his forthcoming suspension – which will include next weekend’s Manchester derby – hands John Stones an opportunity to regain his place in the side.
Hero – Adam Lallana
Brighton’s impressive start to the season continued with a draw at Liverpool this weekend, the Seagulls fighting back from two goals down to secure a valuable point on Merseyside.
The fixture also saw Adam Lallana return to Liverpool for the first time since crowds returned to football, with the midfielder having signed for Brighton on a free transfer in 2020 after finding opportunities limited at Anfield.
The 33-year-old starred during the Seagulls’ spirited performance, bringing the industry and invention that encapsulated his best performances during six seasons with the Reds.
Lallana won six of his seven duels and won five of six attempted tackles, whilst creating two chances and providing the assist for Leandro Trossard’s equaliser.
Jurgen Klopp was gushing in his praise for Lallana following the fixture, conceding that only fitness issues prevented the midfielder from a more prominent role in his side, with the former England star’s mix of technique and tenacity a perfect fit for Klopp’s side.
Villain – Nuno Espirito Santo
Nuno Espirito Santo’s reign at Tottenham is over, dismissed after just 10 league fixtures in charge following the club’s woeful defeat to Manchester United.
Having been named as the Premier League’s Manager of the Month in early September, the following two months have seen Spurs lose five of their past seven games to increase the scrutiny on Nuno’s position.
The former Wolves boss was far from Spurs’ first choice during the summer and proved the wrong man at the wrong time for a side lacking direction, his unimaginative football raising criticism and alienating senior players.
The statistics are damning with Spurs joint-bottom of the Premier League for shots this season, whilst the North Londoners better only Norwich for goals scored and xG accumulated.
Saturday’s loss saw Spurs fail to register a single shot on target on home soil and the fans calls for change have been answered by a board who now have major decisions to make.
Hero – Edinson Cavani
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sought experience as the Red Devils manager desperately sought a result this weekend, his faith in a veteran front two proving vindicated during the club’s 3-0 win at Tottenham.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani started together for the first time as teammates in the capital, with two of the past decade’s best goalscorers combining to great effect.
Solskjaer revealed Cavani’s inclusion – just his second start of the season – was reward for some fine performances in training, with the Uruguayan international running himself into the ground for the cause.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) October 31, 2021
The 34-year-old chased and hassled the Spurs defence throughout, whilst he took his goal in expert fashion after being played in by Ronaldo.
Ronaldo and Cavani are each into the latter stages of remarkable careers and will not be able to combine on a weekly basis, but this was evidence that it is a potent partnership that can bear fruit for Solskjaer’s side this season.
Villain – Dean Smith
Is Dean Smith under pressure?
Four straight defeats have left Aston Villa just three points above the relegation places, their strong start to the season having been replaced with a concerning run of form.
Villa were beaten 4-1 at home to West Ham on Sunday, the third straight fixture in which Smith’s side have conceded three or more goals in the Premier League.
😢 4 goals conceded
🟥 1 sending off
❌ 4 successive defeats
😲 15th in the table
Happy Halloween, Dean Smith 🎃 pic.twitter.com/O3NLXMQBWO
— ODDSbible (@ODDSbible) October 31, 2021
Having offset the £100 million sale of Jack Grealish with the signings of Emiliano Buendia, Leon Bailey and Danny Ings, Smith has so far failed to find the balance in his new-look side as Villa continue to adjust to life without the influential former club captain.
The club’s upcoming fixture list will spread further concern should performances not improve, with Villa facing improving sides in Southampton, Brighton and Crystal Palace in their next three, before clashes with Liverpool, Leicester and Manchester City.
Smith has done a fine job with his boyhood side, but now needs to show he can weather this storm.
Hero – Declan Rice
“There was a bargain to be got with Declan Rice at £100m. That bargain is now gone.”
Those are the words of David Moyes last week when questioned on Declan Rice, having seen interested sides refuse to meet West Ham’s valuation of the midfielder during the summer.
Rice has since ignored the transfer speculation to enjoy a career-best run of form, evolving into one of the Premier League’s most complete midfielders and starring as the Hammer’s driving force.
The 22-year-old was brilliant as Moyes’ side won 4-1 at Aston Villa, creating one and scoring another with a driven finish from distance.
After 10 games, Declan Rice is the only player in the Premier League this season with:
◉ 10+ clearances
◉ 10+ tackles made
◉ 10+ interceptions
◉ 10+ aerial duels won
◉ 10+ chances created
◉ 10+ take-ons completed
◉ 10+ touches in the opp. box
The complete midfielder. 🙌 pic.twitter.com/CAQDlpVE6Q
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) October 31, 2021
Rice’s game has often been about his defensive strength with the England international diligent in his defensive duties, snuffing out opposition attacks before getting his side on the front foot.
This season has seen Rice take his game to greater heights, however, driving forward from midfield and carving out opportunities further forward, with the midfielder having already provided six-goal involvements for the campaign across all competitions.
Transfer interest is only likely to intensify should his performances continue to elevate to new levels, with the all-action Rice spearheading West Ham‘s push for Champions League qualification.
Villain – Matt Ritchie
Newcastle’s new ownership will now be in no doubt at the size of the task facing the regime, with the Magpies remaining winless after 10 games of the Premier League season.
Investment is desperately needed during the winter window once the appointment of a new manager is finalised, the current side facing a fight to survive following a torrid start to the season.
Newcastle held out for over an hour before Chelsea’s class shone through at St James’ Park this weekend, Reece James scoring twice for the visitors after dominating his duel with Matt Ritchie.
Ritchie was signed as a right-winger during Newcastle’s time in the Championship, but symbolises the lack of investment in recent seasons with the 32-year-old now finding himself at full-back and bidding to nullify some of the Premier League’s best wide talents.
He was given a torrid time by the powerful James this weekend and the Magpies continued overlooking of Jamal Lewis – a specialised left-back who left Norwich with a burgeoning reputation – remains puzzling.
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