It was, in the Premier League, a weekend of emphatic victories. Some were unexpected. Burnley’s 4-0 demolition of Bournemouth, though flattering, went entirely against the early season formbook.
For Manchester City and Liverpool, who cast aside Cardiff and Southampton respectively, it was less surprising. They are, just six games into the season, the overwhelming favourites for the title.
Typically, there were some superb individual performances as the Premier League’s top two swatted aside their hapless opposition. Riyad Mahrez, who scored twice as a second half substitute against Cardiff, was described as “an incredibly talented player” by City boss Pep Guardiola. Sergio Aguero was impressive, too.
But the most notable performances of the week came, perhaps, from players who might normally be overlooked.
Aaron Lennon (Burnley) vs Bournemouth
Aaron Lennon admitted it had been preying on his mind. “I should score more,” he said. On Saturday, at Turf Moor, he finally registered. He had not scored since March 2016.
It has, undeniably, been a difficult couple of years for the former England international. But he appears reinvigorated at Burnley, ready to perform with energy and vigour – as he did against Bournemouth – far more consistently.
Lennon was a constant menace for the Cherries defence. He is, at his best, evasive and tricky, with a centre of gravity so low he can be difficult to stop.
At Burnley, the hope will be that this display was not a one-off.
Ilkay Gundogan (Manchester City) vs Cardiff
It seemed that Ilkay Gundogan was everywhere on Saturday: at the start of every move, playing in teammates, finding space in advanced areas. He proved too much for Cardiff to handle.
The German controlled the game from midfield, roaming and penetrating with intricate passing and incisive, intelligent movement. And his goal, a sumptuous strike lifted into the top corner of the net, capped off a successful day.
In the absence of Kevin De Bruyne, Gundogan has emerged as an increasingly important player for Manchester City. It is performances like this that show why Guardiola placed so much importance on signing him from Borussia Dortmund.
James Maddison (Leicester) vs Huddersfield
It has been an impressive start to life at the King Power for James Maddison, signed in the summer from Norwich. By now it is hardly surprising when he turns in a performance of guile and creativity, when he fires in a free kick from 25 yards out or lays in a teammate to score.
Maddison has been doing it since he arrived at Leicester. His goal against Huddersfield was his third of the season; he has either scored or assisted in each of his last five Premier League games.
“Maddison improves game after game and he scored a fantastic free-kick,” said manager Claude Puel. “We didn’t know what he could give at the beginning of the season. He had only played in the Championship, but he has the quality to improve with us.”
It’s easy to forget that Maddison is just 21-years-old. If he continues in this vein, an England call-up will not be far away.
Xherdan Shaqiri (Liverpool) vs Southampton
There was some surprise when Jurgen Klopp chose to substitute Xherdan Shaqiri at half time of Liverpool’s comfortable 3-0 win over Southampton. The Swiss winger had been lively, perhaps looking to prove a point in his first start for the club.
That is what he did. Shaqiri played a key part in Liverpool’s first and third goals, helping ensure that the game was finished before half time. By then, Klopp had clearly seen enough to make a tactical switch. Shaqiri was withdrawn for James Milner, and Liverpool reverted to a midfield three.
“I said to Shaq at half time that I’d never taken a player off at half time after such an influential half,” said Klopp. “I’m not worried it will cost his confidence. He is a naturally confident boy, and he will play again. It’s all good.”
Joao Moutinho (Wolves) vs Manchester United
Wolves fans are still growing used to the benefits of having a midfielder who has played 113 times for Portugal, who has won a European Championship and reached a Champions League semi-final with Monaco.
At Old Trafford, Joao Moutinho turned on the style. He was a composed presence in midfield and scored the crucial equalising goal – a goal Wolves deserved having been unfortunate to trail at half time – with an accomplished left-footed finish. Even David De Gea, who so often seems unbeatable, was left helpless by its accuracy.
Moutinho, alongside Portuguese youngster Ruben Neves, is a key player in a Wolves team impressing since their promotion from the Championship.
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