Each week we delve through the Premier League action and compile our divisional Team of the Week from the fixtures’ finest performances.
Premier League football returned with the opening weekend of the 2023/24 campaign and the first round of fixtures did not disappoint.
Newcastle made a statement after thrashing Aston Villa 5-1 at St James’ Park, last season’s top two in Arsenal and Manchester City made winning starts, and there were two thrilling draws in the capital on an enthralling Super Sunday.
Here is The Football Faithful’s Premier League Team of the Week:
Goalkeeper: Bernd Leno – Fulham
Last season the brilliance of Bernd Leno covered up for Fulham’s fragility at the back and the new season has started in similar fashion. Marco Silva’s side were second best for long periods at Everton, but snatched a 1-0 win in part to Leno’s heroics.
The German goalkeeper saved well from Abdoulaye Doucouré, before sprawling at the feet of Neal Maupay to save from close range. Leno was fortunate after James Tarkowski was harshly penalised for a foul on the goalkeeper in the build up to Michael Keane’s disallowed goal, but it was the luck Leno deserved after an excellent performance of shot-stopping.
⚠️ | QUICK STAT
Bernd Leno recorded 3.33 Goals prevented against Everton today — since the start of last season, no other Premier League GK recorded more than 2.55 Goals prevented in a single match. 🤯
— Sofascore (@SofascoreINT) August 12, 2023
The 31-year-old made nine saves – with eight of those coming inside the box – and has been a superb signing for Fulham since his cut-price move from Arsenal.
Right-back: Reece James – Chelsea
Reece James can be pleased with his first performance as Chelsea captain, with the right-back an impressive performer in the club’s 1-1 draw with Liverpool.
James created chances for Nicolas Jackson, Raheem Sterling and Ben Chilwell during a dynamic display from wing-back and the England international will be crucial to Chelsea’s hopes of a successful season.
new era loading… ps. we just getting started. pic.twitter.com/ALtYKlinO6
— Reece James (@ReeceJames) August 13, 2023
The 24-year-old was substituted after tiring late on, with Mauricio Pochettino confirming his withdrawal was down to fatigue and not injury. There will be collective sigh of relief at that news.
Centre-back: Joachim Andersen – Crystal Palace
Crystal Palace opened the campaign with a 1-0 win at Sheffield United, continuing their momentum under Roy Hodgson to start the season with three points.
Joachim Andersen was key to victory for the Eagles with a dominant defensive performance, one which saw the Dane make six clearances and win eight duels, while showcasing the expansive passing range Palace fans have become accustomed to with 10 accurate long balls.
🇩🇰 Joachim Andersen vs. Sheffield Utd:
• 2 shots on target
• 2 fouls won
• 3 tackles won
• 6 clearances
• 10 accurate long balls
• 3/4 aerial duels won
• 5/7 ground duels won
• 93% passing
• Clean sheet ✅
• SofaScore MOTM 🌟
Making it look easy 😎 pic.twitter.com/qF8kGVcCKn
— MatchdayCPFC (@MatchdayCPFC) August 12, 2023
Newcastle have been linked with a move to sign the 27-year-old, who alongside Marc Guehi forms one of the best centre-back pairings outside the Premier League’s ‘Big Six’.
Centre-back: Lewis Dunk – Brighton
So, so crucial to Roberto De Zerbi’s system at Brighton.
The Seagulls captain stood up to his task against Luton’s powerful forwards Carlton Morris and Elijah Adebayo, while showing his comfortability in possession with a pass completion rate of 93.2%. The pick of the bunch was a raking pass into the path of Pervis Estupinan, who raced in behind the Luton defence to tee up Evan Ferguson’s goal.
Was unfortunate to concede a penalty for handball, but overall a solid start for Dunk who will be hoping to remain in Gareth Southgate’s thoughts for September’s international break.
World class from the captain. 🤤 pic.twitter.com/869gd8IqhD
— Brighton & Hove Albion (@OfficialBHAFC) August 13, 2023
Left-back: Pervis Estupinan – Brighton
Estupinan was at his marauding best as Brighton began the season with a comfortable win against newly-promoted Luton Town.
The Ecuador international was full of energy down the left flank for the Seagulls and a constant creative outlet, providing seven crosses, creating six chances, and registering an assist with a pinpoint cross for Evan Ferguson to turn home in stoppage time.
Defensively the 25-year-old was solid with six ball recoveries and seems to have picked up where he left off last season. His adventurous game is perfectly suited to the demands of De Zerbi-ball.
Midfield: Rodri – Manchester City
Manchester City’s chief controller orchestrated an opening weekend win for the Premier League champions, who cruised to a 3-0 win at Burnley.
The Spaniard set the tempo and ran the game from the base of the midfield, producing an excellent overall performance and registering a goal and assist at Turf Moor. Rodri’s role is to control proceedings for the Citizens, but he also proved his value in attacking areas on Friday evening.
🎶 RODRI IS ON FIRE 🎶pic.twitter.com/Tb1Gyg3zAp
— Manchester City (@ManCityPT) August 12, 2023
The 26-year-old set up Erling Haaland’s opener with a header across goal, before rifling in the third to put the result beyond doubt. The best number six in the game right now.
Midfield: Sandro Tonali – Newcastle
Newcastle fans needed to wait just six minutes for Sandro Tonali to make his mark at St James’ Park, with the marquee arrival announcing his arrival in the Premier League with a debut goal.
The summer signing from AC Milan was excellent as Eddie Howe’s side roared to the top of the Premier League table, thrashing Aston Villa 5-1 on the opening weekend. Tonali was all-action on an an encouraging debut for Newcastle, pressing with purpose and retaining the ball well when under pressure in midfield.
Sandro’s off the mark! 🇮🇹 pic.twitter.com/O5WNkHMO1w
— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) August 12, 2023
His scored the first and had an instrumental role in two other goals as the Magpies recorded a big win. The early signs are positive that Tonali can have a major impact on this team.
Midfield: Enzo Fernandez – Chelsea
Mauricio Pochettino’s tactical tweak perhaps caught Liverpool off guard with Enzo Fernandez given greater licence to get forward and into the box. The Argentine had been expected to be the deepest of Chelsea’s three midfielders, but produced arguably his best performance for the club with an influential performance further forward.
Fernandez was dynamic off the ball and produced some delicious passes in possession, with Chelsea’s greatest threat coming when the World Cup winner interchanged with team-mates down the right-hand side. It’s clear to see on this performance why Chelsea desperately want to sign a defensive midfielder to compliment the 22-year-old.
Enzo Fernandez’s game by numbers vs. Liverpool:
90% pass accuracy
83 passes completed
27/33 final third passes completed
10/11 long balls completed
5/9 ground duels won
2/2 dribbles completed
2 key passes
Player of the match. 💫 pic.twitter.com/dfQMCX4BCn
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) August 13, 2023
Forward: Bukayo Saka – Arsenal
Arsenal’s most threatening talent against Nottingham Forest, Saka tormented Ola Aina during the opening exchanges at the Emirates. The 21-year-old doubled Arsenal’s lead with a stunning strike from the edge of the area, drifting infield before unleashing an unstoppable effort past Matt Turner.
It is a sight that is becoming increasingly familiar for Saka, whose goal return is capable of rising as he looks to take his game to the next level. Already established as one of the most effective wide-men in European football and still getting better.
Another scintillating Saka strike 🤯 pic.twitter.com/dwFG5p5KDg
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) August 13, 2023
Forward: Alexander Isak – Newcastle
Two fine finishes from a striker who is simply scintillating when in the mood.
Newcastle took a chance on Alexander Isak last summer, when other clubs had looked without pulling the trigger. The club-record investment has proven to be inspired to date with the Sweden international electric at his best.
Isak was integral to Newcastle’s 5-1 thrashing of Aston Villa on the opening weekend, turning in the Magpies’ second goal with a first-time finish. A constant problem as he stretched the Villa defence with runs in behind, he saved the best for last with an audacious chip after robbing Ezri Konsa of possession in a dangerous area. Cool, confident and clinical.
A beautiful finish from Alex Isak. 🍟👌 pic.twitter.com/HcdKyhqF2h
— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) August 13, 2023
Forward: Erling Haaland – Manchester City
Erling Haaland picked up exactly where he left off last season.
The Norwegian goal-machine took just four minutes to score the first Premier League goal of the new campaign and had his second before the break after an instinctive finish into the top corner.
Haaland is not always involved, but who cares when he’s as effective as this? The 22-year-old needs just half a chance to punish teams and Burnley felt the full force on Friday evening.
Our hunger remains the same! 👊🏻 pic.twitter.com/4vJRuX1d5b
— Erling Haaland (@ErlingHaaland) August 12, 2023
Breaking his own goal record will be a real aim for Haaland this season.