Goalkeeper: Jordan Pickford (Sunderland)
Pickford has earned his stripes at Sunderland, spending time out on loan at six different lower-league clubs and he will need all the experience he picked up at Sunderland this season.
With Vito Mannone injured the 22-year-old England youth international has been thrown straight in at the deep-end, but if his performance against Tottenham on Sunday was anything to go by, he’ll be just fine. Pickford made eight saves – more than any other keeper over the weekend – to keep Spurs at bay and keep the score to 1-0. England’s goalkeeping reserves are in rude health.
Right-back: Seamus Coleman (Everton)
In the dark times under Roberto Martinez, Coleman began to regress. With Ronald Koeman inspiring dramatic improvement at Goodison Park, the Irishman already looks back to his best.
Against Middlesbrough, he terrorised the right-hand side of the pitch, using his supreme athleticism and fitness to bomb on the overlap time and again. Without sacrificing any defensive solidity he was able to complete five take-ons and score a well-worked goal. He received a flick from Romelu Lukaku before keeping his composure and firing into the bottom corner.
Centre-back: Aleksandar Kolarov (Manchester City)
Kolarov’s rebirth as a genuinely competent central defender has perhaps been the most surprising effect of Pep Guardiola’s arrival in Manchester this season. The Serbian was a flaky, error-prone left-back under his predecessor, Manuel Pellegrini, but just five league games into this campaign, he looks a completely different player.
Having switched seamlessly between left-back and centre-back this season, he operating from the centre against Bournemouth, spraying passes around confidently and generally looking the part. Kolarov completed more passes than any other defender on the weekend – some turnaround.
Centre-back: Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham)
The sign of a good team – and a good player – is the ability to bounce back. After suffering an extremely disappointing 2-1 loss in the Champions League group stage opener against Monaco at Wembley on Wednesday, Spurs bounced back strongly against Sunderland on Sunday.
And Vertonghen, who was partly culpable for both Monaco goals midweek, was back to his assured best, winning all his tackles, aerial duels and take-ons. The Belgian is a classy, composed defender and he proved it once again against the Black Cats.
Left-back: Christian Fuchs (Leicester City)
Fuchs, like the majority of Leicester players, was excellent last season. The Austrian left-back, like most of the best in his position, is as comfortable going forward as quietly going about his work in his own defensive third, and that was on show in Leicester’s 3-0 win over Burnley on Saturday.
He created five chances – more than any other defender on the weekend – and registered one assist; a fine outing from the experienced 30-year-old.
Centre-midfield: Idrissa Gueye (Everton)
Everton’s improvement this season has been staggering. Under Koeman’s guidance they have moved from a wide-open, seemingly unmotivated side, to a solid, organised and efficient machine.
The summer transfer window was notable for the silly amounts of money spent, but already the reported £7.1 million sent to Aston Villa for Gueye looks the shrewdest buy. The Toffees midfielder did his best N’Golo Kante impression against Boro, winning all eight tackles he attempted, sweeping up threats and putting the home side on the front foot.
Centre-midfield: James McArthur (Crystal Palace)
Another team on the up are Crystal Palace. Alan Pardew’s side seem to have put their crippling inconsistency behind them, with their impressive 4-1 win over Stoke on Sunday making it consecutive league wins.
While the two opening goals came from set pieces, McArthur was crucial to their victory, playing like a man possessed in the centre of the pitch. The Scot flew around the pitch, dominating the opposition, making five interceptions and capping the performance with a deserved goal.
Left-wing: Nacer Chadli (West Brom)
The performance of the weekend undoubtedly belonged to Chadli, who almost singlehandedly tore apart West Ham in West Brom’s 4-2 win at the Hawthorns on Saturday. The Belgian, at £13 million, is the Baggies’ record signing, and he played like it against the Hammers.
Chadli was an effective, if unspectacular attacker at Spurs, but he stepped up his game on his home debut, having a hand in every one of West Brom’s goals. He scored twice and assisted the other two in a frankly ridiculous display, which although aided by the Hammers’ shaky defending, was fairly astonishing.
Attacking-midfield: Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
Jose Mourinho must look back on his decision as Chelsea manager to sell De Bruyne and shake his head. The Belgian is beginning to look like one of the best players in the league and his £55 million transfer fee is making a lot more sense.
Against Bournemouth he was everywhere his team wanted him to be and everywhere Bournemouth didn’t. He opened the scoring with a clever free-kick underneath the jumping wall and capped his display with an intuitive and easy-on-the-eye assist for Ilkay Gundogan’s first City goal.
Right-wing: Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)
One of many beneficiaries of Guardiola’s tutelage is Sterling, who is beginning to ascend to the level his talent deserves. There was plenty of pressure on the 21-year-old when he made a big-money move from Liverpool to Man City and following a poor Euro 2016 tournament all eyes were on him.
Sterling has responded in the perfect fashion, looking confident on the ball and dangerous in attack. Against Bournemouth he looked like creating or scoring a goal every time he received the ball and flew past his fullback time and time again.
Striker: Islam Slimani (Leicester City)
Talking of pressure, a £30 million move which not only broke a club’s transfer record, but smashed it into tiny little pieces, will certainly add some. Not that you’d know it watching Slimani’s performance on debut.
Playing alongside Algeria team mate Riyad Mahrez he looked completely at ease, scoring twice from three shots on target to take the limelight. Not a bad way to endear yourself to the Foxes fans.
Write-up by Felix Keith at squakwa.com
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