After the title race processions and record-breaking points totals of recent seasons, the 2020/21 campaign has been breath of fresh air so far with shocks, surprises and good old-fashioned upsets.
The latest round of action saw none of the traditional ‘big six’ secure victory in a fascinating weekend of Premier League action, the likes of Southampton, Leicester and West Ham maintaining their strong starts to the season with victory.
Fulham continued their recent improvement and were unfortunate not to take the scalp of the champions, whilst Arsenal’s miserable season went from bad to worse with a humbling home defeat to struggling Burnley and the Manchester derby proved a Saturday evening snooze-fest.
It’s that time of the week again where we compile our dream XI from the weekend’s action, here is the Football Faithful’s Premier League Team of the Week:
Goalkeeper: Nick Pope – Burnley
Burnley moved themselves out of the relegation places with a vital victory over struggling Arsenal, claiming a first top-flight victory over the Gunners since 1974.
It was a solid and resolute performance from Sean Dyche’s side who capitalised on a woeful showing from the north Londoners at the Emirates, securing an important 1-0 victory courtesy of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s own goal.
At the opposite end, Nick Pope continued his fine recent form to further stake his claim to become England’s number one, making several important stops including a brilliant save to deny Alexandre Lacazette.
Right wing-back: James Justin – Leicester
Fulham’s Bobby Decodova-Reid deserves a mention for his impressive adaptation to a defensive role and a stunning strike to open the scoring against Liverpool, but we’ve opted for James Justin at right wing-back following his role in Leicester’s 3-0 win over Brighton.
Less than two years ago the 22-year-old was playing in English football’s third tier, but he is now an important and versatile member of an impressive Foxes’ side in pursuit of Champions League football.
Justin brought energy and athleticism to both flanks in a fine performance from the defender, providing an outlet throughout and creating several opportunities with crosses and cut-backs into dangerous areas.
James Justin has to be the most underrated player in the Leicester squad right now.
Starts regularly in the Premier League and Europe just two-and-a-half years after being in Division 4 with Luton. That £8-10m fee looks a steal.
Versatile, comfortable. Looks undroppable.#lcfc
— Mr Geoff Peters (@mrgeoffpeters) December 13, 2020
The youngster was rewarded for an attacking display by providing an assist for Jamie Vardy, capping a superb showing as Leicester moved within a point of the league leaders.
Centre-back: Tosin Adarabioyo – Fulham
Tosin Adarabioyo decided to leave Manchester City on a permanent basis this summer, ending an 18-year association with the club in search of regular first-team football.
Fulham handed the 23-year-old an opportunity in the Premier League and the £2m fee looks like a shrewd investment, Adarabioyo having strengthened the heart of the Cottager’s defence alongside fellow summer signing Joachim Andersen.
The duo were commanding against Liverpool this weekend with Adarabioyo dealing with the threat of the visitor’s frontline admirably, dominating aerially and remaining alert to the runs of Mohamed Salah in behind.
Tough one to take yesterday after taking the lead. Thought we fought hard against the champions but we’ll take the point and move onto the next.
— Tosin Adarabioyo (@TosinAdarabioyo) December 14, 2020
After a nightmare start following promotion Fulham have shown plenty of encouraging sides, their new defensive partnership providing a platform on which to build.
Centre-back: Jannick Vestergaard – Southampton
Jannick Vestergaard’s fine form this season continued for Southampton this weekend, producing another outstanding display as the Saints thrashed Sheffield United to move into the Champions League places.
The Denmark international was dominant at the heart of the defence and won more duels (11) and aerial duels (8) than any other player on the pitch, whilst his ability to play from the back was once again evident with a number of long passes forward from deep.
Jannik Vestergaard vs. Sheffield United:
⬢ 100% take-ons completed
⬢ 100% tackle success
⬢ 93% pass accuracy
⬢ 79% duel success
⬡ Most duels won
⬡ Most aerial duels won
Another dominant centre-back display. 💪 pic.twitter.com/GUezvLYOUn
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 13, 2020
Vestergaard’s resurgence has been a key factor in a hugely impressive start to the campaign for Ralph Hasenhuttl and his side, who will no doubt be dreaming of Europe as confidence continues to grow around St Mary’s.
Centre-back: Angelo Ogbonna – West Ham
Another side with their sights set on continental qualification are West Ham, who continue to go from strength to strength under the guidance of David Moyes.
Moyes’ signings have helped transform a side that often flattered to deceive into a team full of energy and desire, whilst he has found a system that suits his squad with the use of a back three formation.
Central to that system is Angelo Ogbonna, who has marshalled the backline superbly over the opening weeks of the campaign to force his way back into the Italy squad after a two-year absence.
The 32-year-old was excellent once more in the 2-1 win at Leeds on Friday night, recovering from an early lapse of concentration for Mateusz Klich penalty to head home an emphatic winner for his second goal of the season.
Left wing-back: Antonee Robinson – Fulham
Arguably the most contested position on the team sheet with Everton’s Ben Godfrey in contention following his performance in an unfamiliar left-back role against Chelsea, but Antonee Robinson is selected as the second Fulham player to make our XI.
Robinson signed for the west Londoners from Wigan during the summer after seeing a move to AC Milan breakdown over medical concerns in January, his £2m fee looking a snip for Scott Parker based on this performance.
Antonee Robinson (23) v Liverpool
2 Dribbles completed
2 Aerial duels won
4 Successful tackles
80% Tackle success
— Mezzala Football (@MezzalaFtbl) December 13, 2020
The US international was classy throughout and largely nullified the threat of Mohamed Salah, influencing the play at both ends as he ventured forward whilst remaining disciplined defensively, tackling with tenacity and intent including one perfectly-timed penalty area challenge.
Midfield: Josh Brownhill – Burnley
Battling Burnley beat Arsenal to move out of the Premier League’s bottom three, the home side booed off at the Emirates as the visitors ended a 15-game winless run against their north London opponents.
At the centre of a spirited display from Sean Dyche’s side was Josh Brownhill, who worked tirelessly in Claret’s engine room to snuff out danger and unsettle the Arsenal midfield.
The 24-year-old has spoken of the work he put in during lockdown to improve his endurance and that application has paid off handsomely, Brownhill seemingly covering every blade of grass to pressure Arsenal into errors and set Burnley on their way to a vital victory.
Midfield: James Ward-Prowse – Southampton
Southampton’s skipper maintained his brilliant recent form with another display of creative quality this weekend, Ward-Prowse at the heart of a convincing victory against winless Sheffield United.
The midfielder was central to Southampton’s victory and played a key role in unlocking the visitor’s defence with his purposeful passing, whilst retaining the energy and industry which characterises his play.
Ward-Prowse was excellent in regaining possession and impressive when on the ball, a performance which has become the standard for the England international who continues to stake his claim for further involvement ahead of next summer’s European Championships.
Midfield: James Maddison – Leicester
James Maddison has become somewhat of a forgotten man amongst England’s creative options but provided a reminder of his quality this weekend, in a performance which suggested the 24-year-old is getting back to his best after injury.
Maddison scored his first brace for Leicester as the Foxes comfortably beat Brighton at the King Power Stadium, placing a calm finish for the game’s opening goal before sealing a 3-0 win with a brilliant second.
It was vintage Maddison as he manoeuvred an opening before curling home an unstoppable effort, taking his tally to five goals for the season in all competitions.
The likes of Jack Grealish and Phil Foden have moved ahead of Maddison in the pecking order at international level of late, though Gareth Southgate has an embarrassment of riches to choose from as he seeks the right midfield balance.
Forward: Ademola Lookman – Fulham
Ademola Lookman returned to the Premier League during the summer and his signing has been an inspired one from Fulham, the star having added an x-factor to their attack and proven a bright spark in their recent improvement.
Lookman was at his exciting best during the 1-1 draw with champions Liverpool at Craven Cottage, giving Trent Alexander-Arnold nightmares during the opening exchanges with his pace, movement and work-rate.
The 23-year-old provided the assist for Bobby Decordova-Reid’s goal and was lively throughout, an electric display from Lookman whose speed and dynamism has transformed a previously lacklustre attack.
— Ademola Lookman (@Alookman_) December 13, 2020
Lookman has responded well from his woeful and costly penalty miss at West Ham earlier in the campaign to emerge as arguably Fulham’s key player.
Forward: Jamie Vardy – Leicester
Jamie Vardy continues to do what Jamie Vardy does best as the talismanic figure in the Leicester attack, the forward seemingly on the periphery of their clash with Brighton before proving a decisive figure.
The 33-year-old took his tally to the season to 10 goals in just 10 league starts for the Foxes, turning home James Justin’s cross before providing an assist for James Maddison’s clincher at the King Power Stadium.
Present him with an opportunity and you will most certainly pay the price, Vardy as clinical as ever this season and right in the mix to win a second successive Premier League Golden Boot.
— Jamie Vardy (@vardy7) December 13, 2020
His strike against Brighton was the 113th of a phenomenal Premier League career for Vardy, moving him level with Ian Wright and Romelu Lukaku and into the division’s all-time top 20 leading scorers.