With another Premier League weekend in the books, theScore looks at some of the winners and losers following the fifth Sunday in England’s top flight.
Winner: Marouane Fellaini
A popular target for both the derision of pundits and the pesky perils of lightning strikes, Marouane Fellaini’s spot in Manchester United’s starting XI for Saturday’s victory over previously unbeaten Watford was a deserved one. Slotted directly in front of United’s back four, the Belgian provided welcome insurance to a last line of defense that made costly errors against Brighton and Tottenham. He also assisted on Chris Smalling’s match-winner.
“I felt that my central defenders need, especially in this moment of a bit of instability, they need somebody to support them and give them the first wall, physically,” Red Devils boss Jose Mourinho said following the victory over Watford, courtesy of the Evening Standard’s Mark Mann-Bryans. “Marouane is giving us more than that, he is giving that but also quality and simplicity. He is playing simple and well. I’m really happy.” Mourinho is happy, proving that anyone is capable of change.
All good things must come to an end, though Watford may have been hoping to escape the holds of that adage for at least another couple of weeks. Following a run of four straight victories to open the campaign, Javi Gracia’s side tasted defeat for the first time this season with a 2-1 loss to the Red Devils.
A single defeat won’t define their entire season – especially against a top-four contender – but it isn’t the only loss a Hornet has had to swallow this week. Gareth Evans, the man behind the beloved Harry the Hornet costume, announced he was stepping away after a decade in the mascot’s role. His resignation follows a row with Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson, who, courtesy of Sky Sports, called him “disgraceful” for mocking Wilfried Zaha for a dive in 2016.
Winner: Leroy Sane
When you consider that Dele Alli, Harry Kane, Eden Hazard, and Gareth Bale have all been named PFA Young Player of the Year since 2014, it’s clear the award’s annual recipient becomes a fixture in his squad’s lineup going forward. That wasn’t the case for Leroy Sane, however, who, despite earning the prize for 2017-18, has been conspicuously frozen out of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City lineups this season.
When asked about Sane’s exclusions, Guardiola simply challenged Sane to earn his spot again. He provided the young German star the opportunity to do so Saturday against Fulham with his first start of the season. It took all of two minutes for Sane to respond, scoring City’s opener. His 90-minute performance was later lauded by Guardiola in his post-match presser – a notable win for the youngster who even had his body language questioned by Germany teammate Toni Kroos this month.
Winner: Olivier Giroud
Perhaps it’s his suave appearance that elicits critique from those on the opposite end of the Adonis spectrum, but Olivier Giroud has long been a popular subject of scorn despite being quite a tidy finisher boosted by top-tier hold-up play and a deceivingly quality first touch.
Those critical of the Chelsea striker have become a more reticent crowd after Giroud piggybacked his performances in France’s World Cup win in Russia with an effective role under Maurizio Sarri at Stamford Bridge. His link-up play with Eden Hazard has forged a lethal pairing that allows the Belgian to exploit dangerous positions, with Giroud assisting on two of the Blues star’s three goals Saturday against Cardiff City. Post-match, Hazard sang the praises of “maybe the best target man in the world.”
Loser: Harry Kane
If there was a match in which Spurs supporters hoped to see Harry Kane finally snap out of his league funk, it was against Liverpool. Instead, the World Cup Golden Boot winner’s impact was negligible at best, mustering just two failed 6-yard chances in the second half as Jurgen Klopp’s men ran out 2-1 winners.
As long as the 25-year-old isn’t nursing an undisclosed injury, Tottenham supporters have no need to ring the alarm just yet. But if his muted appearances become the norm going forward, Spurs gaffer Mauricio Pochettino will need to seriously consider resting the striker for a match or two after the midweek Champions League clash against Inter Milan.
Winners: Hammers’ reclamation projects
West Ham registered a maiden victory with Sunday’s comprehensive 3-1 result at Goodison Park as Manuel Pellegrini became the first manager to win on his birthday since Arsene Wenger did so last year – also against Everton – and it was a performance navigated by a pair of reclamation projects.
Both Felipe Anderson and Andriy Yarmolenko made the east London pilgrimage in the summer with once-promising careers laboring in a stagnant state, and both have boosted their profiles with the Hammers. Yarmolenko toasted his first West Ham start with a first-half brace – including a crafty curling effort – and technically gifted Anderson again showed glimpses of a skill set that was once the subject of opulent transfer rumors. Still, it’ll take a bit more from the duo to justify the reported total £50 million spent on transfer fees.
Losers: Porous Clarets
The Sean Dyche luster at Burnley is beginning to wear thin after the Clarets’ disastrous start to the 2018-19 season was dealt another blow Sunday at Wolves. Bounced from a first continental foray in 51 years following Europa League dismissal at the hands of Greek giants Olympiacos, Burnley have mirrored that tough result with dire form in England.
The defeat at the Molineux will sting after a characteristically strong defensive Burnley side conceded a season-worst 30 shots. “We are in a bit of a fog at the moment. Collectively we need to get out of it. You have to work to change it, so that’s the key,” Dyche told the BBC. “But we have been down this road before and we’ve managed, along with the players, to pull out of the fog.” Fog or no fog, the Clarets now sit bottom, with zero wins and four defeats on the spin. Ouch.