The opening weekend of the 2021/22 season certainly didn’t disappoint as Premier League football returned with a bang, the very first fixture seeing newly-promoted Brentford shock Arsenal.
Saturday’s fixtures saw fellow new boys Watford join the Bees in making a winning start to the campaign, whilst Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool issued statements of intent in the title race with comfortable victories.
Elsewhere West Ham edged Newcastle in an entertaining six-goal clash at St James’ Park, whilst Tottenham beat Manchester City as the latter began their defence of the title with defeat in north London.
Following a summer-long hiatus, we’re back to delve through the weekend performances with our first Premier League Team of the Week for the 2021/22 season.
Goalkeeper: David Raya – Brentford
Brentford’s starting side had just two Premier League appearances between them before their upset win in the season’s curtain-raiser, with goalkeeper Raya’s rise to the top division including a loan spell in non-league football at Southport.
The Spanish shot-stopper wasted no time in demonstrating he belongs at the highest level however, producing a commanding display in the 2-0 win over Arsenal and making strong saves to deny Emile Smith-Rowe and Nicolas Pepe.
Confident and assuring to the backline ahead of him, it’s easy to see why the likes of the beaten Gunners have been credited as admirers of the 25-year-old’s talents.
Right-back: Japhet Tanganga – Tottenham
A brilliant display from the defender who relished the opportunity to thwart the champions time and time again, producing a monstrous display at right-back in Spurs‘ 1-0 win over Manchester City.
There was no getting beyond the imposing frame of the 22-year-old who outmuscled and outfought Raheem Sterling and Jack Grealish throughout, dominating with his aggressive manner of defending.
Japhet Tanganga's game by numbers vs. Man City:
100% long ball accuracy
90% pass accuracy
4 duels won
4 fouls committed
No way past. ⛔ pic.twitter.com/Xo67Ngrgii
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 15, 2021
Tanganga was warned by referee Anthony Taylor on a couple of occasions for his over-zealous approach, but his determination was a major factor in Spurs beginning the season with three points.
Centre-back: Ethan Pinnock – Brentford
Another player who started their Premier League career in fine fashion after rising rapidly through the lower leagues, Pinnock produced a superb showing as the Bees stung Arsenal in their opener.
Pinnock was playing non-league football just four years ago, but did not look out of place as Brentford beat Arsenal to secure three points on their Premier League debut.
He stood strong in the face of pressure alongside Pontus Jansson and summer signing Kristoffer Ajer, and capped a dream debut in the top division with an assist for the opener.
Centre-back: Trevoh Chalobah – Chelsea
What a week it’s been for Trevoh Chalobah, who followed his Chelsea debut in the UEFA Super Cup with a first Premier League appearance and goal in the Blues’ season opener against Crystal Palace.
The academy graduate looked comfortable as part of the west London side’s back three and enjoyed a dream moment as he stepped forward confidently to rifle home a wonderful goal from distance.
Trevoh Chalobah's Premier League debut by numbers:
100% shot accuracy
100% take-on success
93% pass accuracy
18 passes into the final ⅓
4 duels won
2 aerial duels won
1 through ball
0 x dribbled past
Chelsea have a gem. 💎 pic.twitter.com/o9vuyZ4S2v
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 14, 2021
Few would have expected the 22-year-old to feature this season after returning from a loan spell at Lorient last term, but his early-season showings may just have prompted Thomas Tuchel into a rethink.
Left-back: Marcos Alonso – Chelsea
Chelsea are believed to have been open to allowing Alonso to leave this summer with the defender reportedly offered to Inter Milan in the early negotiations of the Romelu Lukaku deal.
Alonso used the club’s opening fixture to provide a timely reminder of what he can offer to this side however, scoring a fantastic free-kick to open the scoring against Crystal Palace.
No defender has scored more goals than Alonso (22) in the Premier League over the past five seasons, with the Spaniard proving a menace to the Eagles all afternoon with his energy, drive and delivery from wide.
Midfield: Abdoulaye Doucoure – Everton
Rafael Benitez’s reign at Everton began with a confidence-boosting 3-1 win against Southampton, with midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure starring as the Toffees came from behind to earn three points.
The Frenchman was strong in the challenge and dynamic with his forward runs, Benitez having provided the star with a greater licence to join the attack from midfield.
It was Doucoure who made the breakthrough for Everton after Richarlison had cancelled out Adam Armstrong’s opener for the Saints, lashing home a finish into the top corner to delight the returning crowd at Goodison.
Midfield: Bruno Fernandes – Manchester United
The first of two advanced midfielders in our Team of the Week, there could hardly have been a more perfect start to the season for Bruno Fernandes.
As ever, much of Manchester United’s best work came through the influential star who helped himself to a hat-trick as the Red Devils thrashed Leeds 5-1 at Old Trafford.
I was waiting for a full Old Trafford to score my first ever hat trick for this incredible club 😁
— Bruno Fernandes (@B_Fernandes8) August 14, 2021
After a quiet opening the Portugal international burst into life to help his side run riot, with Leeds inability to pick up his forward runs proving costly as he secured the match ball in clinical fashion.
Midfield: Said Benrahma – West Ham
Are we starting to see the best of Said Benrahma in a West Ham shirt?
The former Brentford midfielder has struggled to turn flashes of talent into consistent end product since making the step-up to the Premier League, but produced an excellent second-half showing as the Hammers came from behind to win 4-2 at Newcastle.
The Algerian’s combinations with Michail Antonio and Jarrod Bowen were encouraging, with Benrahma heading home just his second top-flight goal to equalise, before laying on an assist for Antonio to put the result beyond doubt.
Right-wing: Mohamed Salah – Liverpool
Liverpool‘s push towards the title started with an emphatic 3-0 win at newly-promoted Norwich, a clash that included the obligatory opening weekend goal from Mohamed Salah.
Salah became the first player in Premier League history to score on five consecutive opening weekends, netting the Reds’ third with a thumping finish after a corner broke to the Egyptian lurking just outside the area.
Mohamed Salah becomes the first player in Premier League history to score on five consecutive opening weekends ✨ pic.twitter.com/CRYJUynpIp
— B/R Football (@brfootball) August 14, 2021
Salah was earlier instrumental to Liverpool’s win and claimed the assists for each of the opening two goals, the 29-year-old primed for another huge season of goalscoring consistency and creative class.
Left-wing: Paul Pogba – Manchester United
Magnificent throughout as Manchester United dismantled Leeds on Saturday lunchtime, with Pogba bouncing back from a wasted opportunity early on to take control of the clash at Old Trafford.
Pogba’s passing range was exquisite and carved Leeds open time and time again, becoming just the eighth player to provide four assists in a single Premier League fixture.
Pogba’s inability to produce performances of this ilk consistently has been well-documented and discussed, but when in this sort of mood there are few midfielders capable of producing what he can with the ball at his feet.
Whilst uncertainty remains regarding his long-term future, there’s no doubt that Manchester United are a better side when he is it.
Forward: Son Heung-Min – Tottenham
Harry Kane’s absence meant that Son Heung-Min was the leading light of the Tottenham team this weekend, with the South Korean relishing the responsibility of being the north London side’s match-winner against Manchester City.
Son was at his industrious and inventive best operating in a centre-forward role, with the speed and cutting edge of the 28-year-old and Lucas Moura causing City all kinds of problems on the break.
7 – Son Heung-Min has only scored more against Southampton (11) than he has against Manchester City (7) in all competitions for Tottenham, while only Jamie Vardy (9) has scored more goals in all competitions against Pep Guardiola's Man City than the South Korean (7). Breakthrough pic.twitter.com/QMAyhRsegh
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) August 15, 2021
He netted the only goal of the game – continuing a fine goalscoring record against this weekend’s opponents – in classic Son fashion, cutting inside before bending a finish beyond Ederson to get the Nuno Espirito Santo era up and running.
Honourable mentions must go to Mason Greenwood, Bryan Mbuemo, Michail Antonio and Emmanuel Dennis in a Premier League weekend packed full of goals.