Two unlikely goalscorers helped title contenders Liverpool and Manchester City out of scrapes in the Premier League this weekend.
A Leicester defender set his team on the way to a 2-0 win at Crystal Palace and third place, while a Newcastle midfielder joined him in my XI after his brilliant strike and good display in the 3-2 win at West Ham.
Here’s my team of the week – have a read and select your own below.
Goalkeeper – Ben Foster (Watford)
Foster: I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it. Ben Foster was almost as impressive in the opposition’s penalty area as he was in his own. The former England international was in inspiring form and kept Watford in the game against a rampant Chelsea in the 2-1 defeat. His saves from Tammy Abraham and Christian Pulisic were outstanding and how Foster got his hand to Mason Mount’s power-drive I will never know. However, it was Foster’s jaunt up front in the last minute of the match that deserved more. His header produced the most spectacular save from opposite number Kepa Arrizabalaga in the Chelsea goal. Had Foster scored he would have had every right to retire.
Did you know? Foster made more saves (eight) than any other Premier League goalkeeper this weekend.
Defenders – Andrew Robertson (Liverpool), Steve Cook (Bournemouth), Caglar Soyuncu (Leicester), Kyle Walker (Manchester City)
Robertson: It’s looking ominous now. Liverpool’s last-minute victory, set up by Andy Robertson’s brilliant header, is what titles are made of. I remember this club dominating the scene during my own playing days – they did it then by wearing the opposition down and providing the killer touch in the dying seconds, and they are doing the same thing again 25 years later. For Robertson to find himself so high up the pitch at that stage in the game, only to be found by the most exquisite ball from Sadio Mane, says it all. Liverpool mean business.
Did you know? Robertson has scored two goals in his last six games for Liverpool in all competitions – one more than in his first 88 appearances for the club.
Cook: Steve Cook was unlucky not to make my TOTW last week after his header against Watford hit the bar. The Bournemouth captain marshalled his troops magnificently against what was a rather insipid Manchester United performance, matched only by their characterless away shirts. Is it me or have United gone from a club that takes pride in having some of the best footballers in the world playing regularly for the club, to becoming an auditions’ agency for promising youngsters?
Did you know? Cook made more clearances (nine) and played more passes (41) than any other Bournemouth player in their 1-0 victory.
Soyuncu: This lad can play. He made my TOTW earlier in the season just after Harry Maguire left for Manchester United. He looked good then, but away at Crystal Palace he looked even better. Soyuncu is starting to attract considerable attention and the sort that manager Brendan Rogers and Leicester could do without. The Turkey international did not give Crystal Palace forward Jordan Ayew a kick on Sunday and winger Wilfried Zaha was missing in action.
Did you know? Soyuncu became the second Turkish player to score in the Premier League for Leicester City, after Muzzy Izzet (33 goals between 1996 and 2004).
Walker: Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold would, under normal circumstances, have made my TOTW ahead of Kyle Walker. The Liverpool full-back was outstanding against Aston Villa, but so was Walker against a Southampton side who were at times quite brilliant. Alexander-Arnold demonstrated his extraordinary two-footedness and why he is such a serious threat to Walker’s international future. Walker, on the other hand, looks like he’s prepared to take on Alexander-Arnold’s challenge. The former Tottenham defender provided the assist and scored City’s winner, which may keep Alexander-Arnold and the Reds from getting their hands on that elusive title. I don’t think Walker is ready to completely relinquish his England position just yet either.
Did you know? Walker both scored and assisted in a Premier League game for the first time in his career (272 appearances).
Midfielders – John Lundstram (Sheffield United), Jonjo Shelvey (Newcastle), Jorginho (Chelsea)
Lundstram: This was an impressive performance by Sheffield United. The Blades seemed to cut through Burnley like a knife through butter. While it was the performance of John Lundstram that stood out, I could have selected any number of United players on this performance. I don’t know if actor Sean Bean still gets time to go and watch his cherished United, but if he does he must be loving this.
Did you know? This is just the ninth occasion a Sheffield United player has scored two-plus goals in a Premier League game, with Lundstram the first to do so since Nathan Blake against Newcastle in April 1994.
Shelvey: This player will look back on his career and genuinely wonder why he never won more caps for England. On his day he can be as good as any midfield player in the country, but his fitness levels have always been a cause for concern along with the potential to cause mischief. Against West Ham, Shelvey demonstrated just how effective he can be on the ball. The dilemma for Magpies manager Steve Bruce is: does he stick with Shelvey or return to those who can regularly provide the grit and the endeavour? If Bruce wants the credit Rafa Bentitez received from the Newcastle fans, he will need to get those decisions right first.
Did you know? Shelvey netted his first direct free-kick goal in the Premier League with his 31st attempt.
Jorginho: The ball from Jorginho for Tammy Abraham to score against Watford was out of this world. It was a move that doesn’t just happen by accident; this was phase of play that has been worked on and orchestrated by the coaching staff and players, and it was wonderful to watch. Last week it was Mateo Kovacic who made my TOTW at the expense of Jorginho, but the Italian made such an impact against the Hornets that I felt compelled to select him above Kovacic and fellow midfielder Willian, such was his performance.
Did you know? Jorginho has been directly involved in three goals in his 11 Premier League games this season (one goal, two assists) – more than he managed in his 37 appearances last season (two goals, no assists).
Forwards – Joshua King (Bournemouth), Tammy Abraham (Chelsea), Sadio Mane (Liverpool)
King: It’s normally Callum Wilson who gets the plaudits at Bournemouth, but on this occasion the centre-forward must give way to Joshua King. Manager Eddie Howe does not have to rely on Wilson to produce the goods all the time for the Cherries and can occasionally rely on King, as was the case against United. It would appear, however, that there seems an over-reliance developing by manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on Marcus Rashford. Solskjaer needs to be reminded that Rashford is only 22 and Manchester United one of the biggest clubs in the world. To ask such a young man to carry so much responsibility, often on his own, is bordering on carelessness. Fortunately, King doesn’t need to worry about such matters at Bournemouth.
Did you know? King’s goal ended a run of 358 minutes, three games and 50 shots without finding the net in the Premier League for Bournemouth.
Abraham: This lad is looking more like a Premier League centre-forward the more I see him. The awareness and movement from Abraham for Jorginho’s pass, which resulted in Chelsea’s opening goal, was outstanding. Abraham clearly has ability, but he is also brave and not afraid to go in where it hurts. A crucial quality for any striker. He’s also a team player. The assist for Pulisic was totally unselfish.
Did you know? Abraham both scored and assisted in a Premier League game for the first time in his career (44 appearances).
Mane: I said last week that Sadio Mane was carrying Liverpool and his performance against a stubborn Aston Villa proved it. The Senegal international was everywhere. If he wasn’t defending set-plays, he was providing defence-splitting passes for his team-mates to take advantage of – and they did. The ball for Roberto Firmino to convert was superb and the pass for Robertson to score was even better. The decision by VAR to rule out Firmino’s goal for offside was a joke. I thought the technology was there to highlight clear and obvious mistakes, not destroy wonderful passages of play. If that’s the best VAR can do they should throw the technology in the bin.
Did you know? Mane scored the 35th 90th-minute winning goal by Liverpool in the Premier League, 10 more than any other side in the competition’s history. Five of those have come since the start of last season, more than any other team.
Now it’s your turn
You’ve seen my selections this season. But who would you go for?
Crooks of the Matter
Any professional footballer who has suffered serious injury in their career will feel for Andre Gomes. The Everton midfielder left the field of play against Spurs after what appeared to be an innocuous challenge, but with what may be a career-threatening injury.
Every player who plays the game understands the risks involved. Football is a contact sport and injuries occur. Recently I selected Gomes in my TOTW for a superb performance against West Ham after the Portugal international had recently come back from a long-term injury.
To see Tottenham’s Son Heung-min inconsolable about the incident spoke volumes about just how distressing players find these incidents. To send Son off was, in my view, a travesty. The South Korean forward did nothing wrong.
In view of Son’s reaction to the incident, it was clear the player could not continue. In such circumstances the decent thing was for referee Martin Atkinson to ask Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino to substitute the player.
To send a player off when a tackle is reckless or out of control is one thing, but to do so only to compensate for a serious injury is not where the game should be heading.