The weekend’s Premier League action saw a certain Argentine set further goalscoring records tumbling for Manchester City, whilst victory for leaders Liverpool saw their start to the season become the best of any side in the history of Europe’s top five leagues.
Elsewhere there was a huge win for Watford in a clash between two of the bottom three, whilst Southampton continued their Danny Ings-inspired revival with a shock win at top-four contenders Leicester.
It’s that time of the week again when we compile our best XI of the weekend’s action…
Goalkeeper: Martin Dubravka – Newcastle
Steve’s Bruce’s injury-hit side earned a valuable point from a difficult trip to Wolves this weekend, thanks largely to the performance of goalkeeper Dubravka.
The Slovakian international was at fault for Wolves’ equaliser during the corresponding fixture last season, but enjoyed a happier return to Molineux this time around, playing a crucial role in the 1-1 draw.
The 30-year-old’s point-blank save to deny Raul Jimenez was remarkable, before producing another fine stop to deny Pedro Neto and earn his depleted Newcastle side a result.
Right-back: Reece James – Chelsea
Back-to-back Man of the Match awards for the young full-back, who has now surely stated his case to be an automatic starter for Frank Lampard’s inexperienced side.
The 20-year-old was once again the stand-out player in Chelsea‘s 3-0 win over Burnley at Stamford Bridge, his excellent delivery from wide once again evident as the youngster provided the assist for Tammy Abraham’s goal.
Solid defensively and superb going forwards, James looks to a huge future ahead of him and adds to a wealth of young talent available to Gareth Southgate and England at right-back.
Reece James vs Burnley:
48/59 passes completed
7 times possession won
3 crosses completed
3 chances created
1 assist pic.twitter.com/G5TaAlSZUh
— Entirely Chelsea (@EntirelyChelsea) January 12, 2020
Centre-back: Virgil van Dijk – Liverpool
After struggling for clean sheets at the start of the season, Liverpool‘s defensive balance seems have been restored in recent weeks in what will surely be an ominous sign for those sides who habour faint hopes of catching the runaway leaders.
The reigning PFA Player’s Player of the Year was at his imperious best to deal with the threat posed by Son Heung-Min and Lucas Moura, his calming influence vital to a Reds side with defensive partner Joe Gomez wobbling on occasion.
Centre-back: Jack Stephens – Southampton
Having been hit for a Premier League record nine goals on their last meeting with Leicester, Southampton were out for revenge as they made the trip to a Foxes side sitting in the top two at the start of the weekend.
Much has changed for Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side since that hammering on the South Coast, with the prolific form of Danny Ings carrying the club away from relegation troubles. Whilst the forward has gained most of the headlines and scored again at the King Power Stadium, it must be noted that the Saints were much improved defensively from that horror show earlier this season.
Central defender Stephens largely nullified the threat of the Golden Boot leader Jamie Vardy, helping provide the platform for a come-from-behind win that leaves the club in the dizzy heights of 12th.
Previously a scapegoat, Stephens has been a player transformed recently and his Ayoze Perez-esque celebration shithousery further endeared him to the Southampton fans who are beginning to feel positive once more.
Left-back: Brandon Williams – Manchester United
Brandon Williams, you lucky boy.
The young full-back may have somehow contrived to miss a gaping goal and the chance to score against Norwich, but we’ve decided to let that slide and include the youngster in this feature, the 19-year-old’s performance at Old Trafford this weekend showing why he should now be Manchester United‘s first-choice left-back.
Bouncing back from a tough night against Manchester City the youngster was full of energy and intent, Williams winning the penalty for Marcus Rashford’s second with a typical burst forward.
The academy graduate must now be confident of keeping his place in the side, having provided the dynamism that has been lacking from the more senior Luke Shaw in recent months.
Midfield: Georginio Wijnaldum – Liverpool
Wijnaldum’s importance to the Liverpool side is often underrated, though the Dutchman was once again at his unsung best during the club’s victory at Tottenham this weekend.
The 29-year-old dominated in his one-on-one dual with Christian Eriksen and seemingly covered every blade of grass for Jurgen Klopp’s side, his ability to retain and recycle possession key to the league leader’s success.
Fewer players in the Premier League are better at protecting the ball than Wijnaldum, whilst his constant harrying and hassling of the opposition sets the tempo for his appreciative teammates to follow.
Wijnaldum immense performance in #TOTLIV. Never stopped running, pressing, attacking, tackling. Huge stamina and work ethic. Plus so intelligent in anticipating danger and keeping the shape, covering when required. #lfc
— Henry Winter (@henrywinter) January 11, 2020
Midfield: Kevin De Bruyne – Manchester City
It’s got to the point now where the Manchester City midfielder is almost a certain inclusion in this feature, such has been his level of performance for Pep Guardiola’s side so far this season.
The Premier League champions were at their ruthless best to thrash struggling Aston Villa this weekend, De Bruyne once again the architect of so much of their play during a comprehensive 6-1 victory.
The 28-year-old added two further assists to his league leading tally that now stands at 14, just six short of equalling Thierry Henry’s record for the most ever in a single season. His cross for Gabriel Jesus’ goal was out of this world, a pass few players in world football are capable of providing.
De Bruyne will face a fight from the likes of Sadio Mane, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Jamie Vardy for the Player of the Year awards, though it is difficult to argue any player is performing better at present.
Midfield: Abdoulaye Doucoure – Watford
Watford are on the charge, it’s now four wins in their past five fixtures and the Hornets are out of the relegation places at long last.
Nigel Pearson’s appointment as manager has helped galvanise the club, whilst the change in management has helped several of the club’s stars rediscover their best form. One such beneficiary has been Doucoure, the Frenchman being utilised in a central attacking role and getting back to his rampaging best.
It was Doucoure who would open the scoring in the 3-0 thrashing of Bournemouth this weekend, arriving into the box before firing home to put Pearson’s side ahead. Watford’s powerful midfield axis of Doucoure, Etienne Capoue and Nathaniel Chalobah has been central to their revived fortunes, the club coming back from the brink to give themselves a real chance of survival.
Right-wing: Riyad Mahrez – Manchester City
Has Riyad Mahrez truly arrived as a Manchester City player?
The Algerian has become an increasingly influential figure in recent weeks and it was his mesmerising feet that helped break the deadlock at Villa Park, weaving his way past several static defenders to fire Pep Guardiola’s side ahead.
Mahrez would make it two shortly afterwards after reacting first to a loose ball, the 28-year-old at his productive best during a comprehensive display from the champions.
It’s now nine goals and 11 assists in just 20 starts in all competitions for Mahrez so far this season, his undoubted quality beginning to shine through once again in a side packed full of talent.
20+ – Riyad Mahrez has 21 goals and 22 assists in all club competitions since the start of last season – he is the only Premier League player have scored both scored and assisted over 20 goals over this period. Visionary. pic.twitter.com/1IMmQBUoHD
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 12, 2020
Left-wing: Marcus Rashford – Manchester United
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United bounced back from their Carabao Cup semi-final embarrassment in some style against Norwich this weekend, scoring four times without a reply to maintain their hopes of securing a top-four finish.
Top scorer Rashford was once again key to their success at Old Trafford on his 200th appearance for the club, the England international scoring twice, his first a predatory finish before stepping up to convert his second from the penalty spot.
Concerns were made at the start of the season about the 22-year-old’s ability to score prolifically following the departure of Romelu Lukaku, but it’s now 19 goals in all competitions this season with 14 of those coming in the Premier League – only Jamie Vardy has more in the race for the Golden Boot.
Beyond proud to become the 3rd youngest player to hit 200 @ManUtd games 🔴⚪️
Can’t put into words what it means to follow Giggsy and George Best. Two goals and three points completes a perfect day 👊🏿 pic.twitter.com/X4g72EMH0S
— Marcus Rashford (@MarcusRashford) January 11, 2020
Forward: Sergio Aguero – Manchester City
The accolades and acclaim will be lavished on the Manchester City man following his hat-trick at Aston Villa, and rightly so for a player who continues to set goalscoring records tumbling.
Aguero’s treble took him to 177 Premier League goals, the Argentine eclipsing Thierry Henry as the most prolific foreign goalscorer in the division’s history and moving him level with Chelsea great Frank Lampard into equal fourth.
The 31-year-old’s hat-trick also saw him move clear of Alan Shearer for the most top-flight trebles ever scored, Aguero claiming the 12th match ball of his career in English football courtesy of another ruthless display of finishing.
No player with over 100 goals can better Aguero’s goals-per-game ratio, the City star rightly regarded as one of the greatest goalscorers the Premier League has ever seen.
See also – Premier League Weekend: Heroes and Villains