Following the weekend’s Premier League action, we pick out some of the heroes and villains from the best and worst of the weekend’s fixtures.
Chelsea are the early pacesetters after securing a 2-0 win at London rivals Arsenal, with club record signing Romelu Lukaku up and running after marking his second debut for the club with a goal at the Emirates.
Elsewhere Manchester City welcomed newly-promoted Norwich back to the Premier League with a 5-0 thumping at the Etihad, whilst there were wins for Liverpool, Tottenham, Brighton and Aston Villa.
Heroes and Villains from the Premier League weekend
Hero – Romelu Lukaku
Chelsea’s record signing got his second spell at the club off to a perfect start this weekend, scoring the opening goal as the west Londoners beat capital rivals Arsenal 2-0 at the Emirates.
Lukaku’s goal was just a small factor in a brilliant all-round performance from the Belgium international, who gave the Gunners backline a torrid time throughout with his power and movement.
The 28-year-old described his own performance as ‘dominant’ post-match and there was little arguing with that assessment as Lukaku bullied and bulldozed the Arsenal centre-back duo of Pablo Mari and Rob Holding.
The former endured a particularly painful afternoon of work as he was swatted aside by the unplayable Lukaku, whose arrival at Stamford Bridge has raised optimism over a sustained title challenge for Thomas Tuchel.
The early signs are that the Belgian may just be the missing piece in Tuchel’s title puzzle.
Villain – Pablo Mari
Heroes and villains can often go side by side, with Mari enduring a performance to forget as a timid Arsenal side were well beaten in Sunday’s showdown with Chelsea.
His personal duel with Lukaku was a one-sided affair as the burly Belgian made a mockery of his opposite number, with Mari weak in the challenge and unable to live with the forward’s pace and power.
The sole surprise was that Mikel Arteta allowed the duel to continue with Mari clearly overwhelmed, with huge question marks surrounding the Spaniard following his sub-standard showing at Brentford last week.
Mari will not be the first centre-back dominated by Chelsea’s number nine this season, but it wouldn’t be stretch to say Lukaku may not have an easier afternoon’s work.
Hero – Harvey Elliott
Much has been made about the relatively quiet nature of Liverpool’s transfer window so far, but a lack of incomings provides greater opportunity for those already in the club’s ranks.
Harvey Elliott has impressed Jurgen Klopp since returning from a fruitful loan spell at Blackburn last season, with the teenager handed his first ever Premier League start in the 2-0 win over Burnley this weekend.
The 18-year-old was given a ‘warm’ welcome to the Premier League from the travelling Clarets who hit the midfielder hard with some over-zealous challenges early on, but it’s an indication of Elliott’s mentality that he picked himself up, dusted himself down, and continued demanding possession.
It was easy to see why Fulham made Elliott the youngest player in Premier League history just a month after his 16th birthday, with the youngster instantly at home in the Liverpool midfield and showing signs of an encouraging understanding with Mohamed Salah.
Elliott has all the makings of a Premier League star and it will be a fascinating watch to see how his development unfolds amongst the first team at Anfield this season.
Villain – Adama Traore
Those who watched Wolves clash with Tottenham this weekend may raise their eyebrows at the inclusion of Adama Traore here, with the winger in frightening form to give Japhet Tanganga a torrid time.
Tanganga had excelled in shutting down Raheem Sterling and Jack Grealish against Manchester City last week, but struggled to deal with the threat of arguably the Premier League’s most unique talent.
For all of his explosive runs in behind however, Traore was Wolves’ biggest culprit when it came to spurning goalscoring opportunities, including a one-on-one that was thwarted by Hugo Lloris.
Having also been guilty of missing clear-cut chances during last weekend’s defeat to Leicester, Traore’s wastefulness saw Wolves fall to a second successive defeat.
Wolves have had 42 shots on goal across those two fixtures without scoring and with a clash against Manchester United to come next week, are at risk of heading into the international break without a Premier League point.
Hero – Gabriel Jesus
Gabriel Jesus has been linked with leaving Manchester City during the summer transfer window, the pursuit of Harry Kane seemingly spelling the end of the forward’s time at the Etihad.
Jesus has scored 50 league goals in just 79 starts since signing for City from Palmeiras, but has often struggled to convince that he is the player to lead the line at centre-forward.
The question marks surrounding his best position are set to grow after a brilliant performance on the right-hand side of the City attack this weekend, with Jesus involved in three goals as the defending champions thrashed Norwich 5-0.
Gabriel Jesus’ game by numbers vs. Norwich:
93% pass accuracy
9 touches in opp. box
7 duels contested
3 chances created
2 big chances created
Turned provider today. 🅰️🅰️ pic.twitter.com/mMVlWVFBzZ
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 21, 2021
Jesus’ driven low cross resulted in a Tim Krul own goal to open the scoring, before two surges down the right led to assists for Jack Grealish and Raheem Sterling.
Jesus has featured from the right for Brazil and has spoken of how he relishes the role, his performance this weekend having thrust City’s forgotten figure back into the spotlight.
Villain – Dimitris Giannoulis
Jesus’ rampaging runs down the right for Manchester City saw the Premier League champions thrash newly-promoted Norwich, with left-back Dimitris Giannoulis enduring a torrid time at the Etihad.
Daniel Farke’s side have been afforded few favours from the fixture computer with opening clashes against Liverpool and City, beaten by a combined score of 8-0 with Giannoulis suffering a nightmare start to his top-flight career.
After seeing opposite number Mohamed Salah involved in all three goals last weekend, the Greek international was ran ragged by Jesus against City and was promptly hauled off at half-time.
Welcome to the Premier League, Dimitris.
Hero – Danny Ings
Danny Ings has taken to the role of Aston Villa talisman immediately with goals in each of his two opening fixtures for the club, following last weekend’s penalty at Watford with a wondrous overhead kick against Newcastle.
It was a special goal from the summer signing and one that his side desperately needed, with Villa still trying to adjust to life post-Jack Grealish as their new additions bed into the side under Dean Smith.
The forward was forced to feed off scraps for much of the clash but produced when it mattered, turning a half-chance into a Goal of the Season contender after launching himself in the air to meet Tyrone Mings’ flick on.
— Aston Villa (@AVFCOfficial) August 21, 2021
History tells us that replacing a record sale with multiple arrivals in a bid to improve is far less straightforward than it sounds, but Ings’ early impact has been a positive one as Villa look to progress this season.
Villain – Anthony Martial
Anthony Martial returned to the Manchester United side this weekend, replacing Mason Greenwood at centre-forward with the latter shunted to a position wide on the right.
Greenwood had shone in a central role during the Red Devils’ 5-1 win over Leeds last weekend, a performance which was in stark contrast to the lacklustre showing provided by Martial at St Mary’s.
The France international looked off the pace following his return from a knee injury and was ineffective throughout, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer withdrawing the 25-year-old just before the hour.
Martial was amongst a number of poor performers with the midfield axis of Fred and Nemanja Matic also uninspiring, with Solskjaer’s decision to rotate his options a curious one from the outside looking in.