Football Features

Best & worst combined XIs from Premier League 2019/20 opening weekend

By Squawka News

The best and worst players from the 2019/20 Premier League's opening weekend.

Published: 16:54, 12 August 2019 | Updated: 20:09, 29 September 2019

Liverpool kickstarted the 2019/20 Premier League campaign with a resounding 4-1 romp over newly-promoted Norwich City in Friday’s curtain-raiser on.

Manchester City followed suit, beginning their ‘three-peat chasing’ title defence with a rout of their own in the early kick-off on Saturday, ruthlessly exposing West Ham 5-0.

In the other Saturday matches, Burnley and Brighton registered emphatic 3-0 victories against Southampton and Watford respectively, while Crystal Palace versus Everton finished a goalless stalemate, Bournemouth drew 1-1 with  Sheffield United, and Tottenham Hotspur left it late to clinically dispatch Aston Villa 3-1.

Arsenal registered a much-needed away win – and clean sheet – in their 1-0 triumph over Newcastle United, Leicester City and Wolves played out a 0-0 draw. The weekend signed off with Man Utd’s historic 4-0 win over Chelsea.

It’s safe to say there were some standout performers at the weekend, but of course, there were also some equally low-grade displays. So, which players have made the first best and worst XIs of the 2019/20 Premier League season?

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Goalkeeper: David de Gea (Manchester United)

One of nine goalkeepers to record a clean sheet this weekend, David de Gea played a key role in Manchester United’s 4-0 win over Chelsea. The Spaniard was back to his best in goal, keeping Chelsea out when called upon with reliable saves.

Key stat: David de Gea (7) made more saves than any other goalkeeper in the Premier League’s opening weekend.

Right-back: Ainsley Maitland-Niles (Arsenal)

Continuing his utility role for Arsenal, Ainsley Maitland-Niles put in an excellent performance against Newcastle United. The 21-year-old was strong defensively but also did his bit going forward, beating Jetro Willems before setting up the only goal of the game with a perfect cross.

Key stat: Ainsley Maitland-Niles (4) completed more take-ons than any player in Arsenal’s win over Newcastle.

Centre-back: Harry Maguire (Manchester United)

Another part of United’s defence in our Best XI, Maguire enjoyed a rock-solid debut, causing Tammy Abraham and then Olivier Giroud frustration at Old Trafford. The former Leicester City man was dominant in the air and is already looking like living up to his transfer fee.

Key stat: Harry Maguire (4) made more interceptions than any other player in Manchester United’s win over Chelsea.

Centre-back: Tyrone Mings (Aston Villa)

Until the 73rd minute, Aston Villa looked like they were going to be unbeatable at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium – and that was largely thanks to Tyrone Mings. The centre-back looked like a superhero, throwing himself in the way of everything aimed at Tom Heaton’s goal, and getting vital clearances out of the box before Tottenham’s attackers could even think of reacting.

Key stat: Tyrone Mings (17) made more clearances than any other player in the Premier League this weekend.

Left-back: Erik Pieters (Burnley)

Burnley impressed with a 3-0 win over Southampton on Saturday and possibly the standout performer from the match was Erik Pieters. The summer signing was solid in both defence and attack, winning a match-high four tackles and recording two assists.

Key stat: Only Paul Dummett (6) won more tackles than Erik Pieters (4) among defenders in the Premier League this weekend.

Right midfielder: Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City)

Back after a successful summer with the Algerian national team, Riyad Mahrez started the Premier League season with a bang. The winger was involved in all five of Manchester City’s goals at some point, officially recording two assists and winning the penalty from which Sergio Aguero scored.

Key stat: No player recorded more assists than Riyad Mahrez’s two on the opening weekend of the Premier League.

Central midfielder: Fabinho (Liverpool)

Although Liverpool did put four past Norwich to kick off the new Premier League season, one of their star performers came in a defensive role. Fabinho was virtually unbeatable sitting just in front of the Liverpool back four, making seven tackles and making two interceptions. The Brazilian has fully arrived.

Key stat: No Premier League player made more tackles than Fabinho (8) this weekend.

Central midfielder: Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)

Kevin De Bruyne endured a stuttered 2018/19. Injuries robbed the Belgian of any serious spell in the City starting XI.

But the midfielder was quick to remind everyone what he is capable of against West Ham, with an all-round solid display. De Bruyne set up Sterling’s first goal with a good pass through the defence but also chipped in, winning four tackles.

Key stat: Kevin De Bruyne created three chances in Manchester City’s 5-0 win at the London Stadium.

Left midfielder: Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)

After scoring in the Community Shield win over Liverpool, Raheem Sterling caused devastation to the West Ham backline to get City’s title defence off to a perfect start. The English winger scored a hat-trick away to West Ham, including a delightful chipped finish for his second and saw an assist chalked after drifting offside by the slimmest of margins.

Key stat: Raheem Sterling is the first player to score a hat-trick on the Premier League’s opening weekend since Didier Drogba in 2010.

Striker: Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur)

Harry Kane did not have the best start to Tottenham’s win over Aston Villa, wasting chances he otherwise would have been expected to score. But when his side needed him most to get the win late on, Kane reminded spectators of his clinical nature with two well-taken finishes to break Villa hearts.

Key stat: Harry Kane scored with both of his shots on target against Aston Villa on Saturday.

Striker: Ashley Barnes (Burnley)

Burnley struggled last season but Ashley Barnes ensured the Clarets got off to the best possible start this time around. After a frustrating first half, Barnes scored a brace to put his side in control and remind Southampton of just how good he can be in front of goal.

Key stat: Ashley Barnes has now scored 34 Premier League goal for Burnley, 14 more than any other player for the club.

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Goalkeeper: Angus Gunn

No goalkeeper wants to concede three goals on the opening matchweek of the season. Unfortunately, that’s what happened to Angus Gunn, who saw Ashley Barnes bag a brace and Johann Berg Gudmundsson open his account for the campaign.

The Man City academy graduate will no doubt want to impress Ralph Hasenhuttl with stern competition from Alex McCarthy waiting in the wings, but the 23-year-old struggled to keep the Clarets quiet; first, letting Barnes nutmeg him from distance for the opener, before allowing Gudmundsson to tuck home from an angle no ‘keeper wants to be beaten from.

Key stat: Gunn registered the second-worst save percentage (25%) of any goalkeeper in the Premier League over the weekend.

Right-back: Cesar Azpilicueta

The ever-reliable seasoned Spaniard had an afternoon to forget in the North West as he – along with his teammates – capitulated after the restart in the Blues’ biggest-ever Premier League defeat to Man Utd.

Azpilicueta was having a solid game during the opening exchanges, but collapsed in the second half, allowing Anthony Martial to outmanoeuvre him for the Red Devils’ second, before losing Marcus Rashford for the third and letting Paul Pogba effortlessly breeze past him to set up Daniel James for the fourth.

His defensive frailties at full-back were laid bare at Old Trafford and has even prompted manager Frank Lampard to hint at a “big” season for young right-back Reece James.

Key stat: Azpilicueta was the only defender on either side to be dispossessed in the match at Old Trafford and misplaced more passes than any Chelsea teammate (13).

Centre-back: Kurt Zouma

With David Luiz out of the picture and Antonio Rudiger injured, this was the perfect opportunity for Zouma to showcase his worth and illustrate exactly why he should be starting on a consistent basis in west London. But his Old Trafford showing, simply put, demonstrated the reverse.

The Frenchman was all at sea for the majority of the match, looking nervy in possession and stretched when United charged forward. It was Zouma’s mistake that ultimately cost his side the early penalty, and he never really recovered from there as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side ran rampant.

Key stat: Zouma is one of only four defenders to have registered an error leading to a shot in the opening Premier League weekend.

Centre-back: Jannik Vestergaard

The Great Dane struggled immensely in the second half at Turf Moor, with his 63rd-minute mistake opening the floodgates for Sean Dyche’s side to run amok in Lancashire. A hopeful Erik Pieters punt eluded Vestergaard, allowing Barnes to race through on goal and break the deadlock.

But this was not the only blemish on a disappointing performance, as he proceeded to lose Barnes for the second, standing statuesque as the Burnley forward evaded his presence to grab a double. And he didn’t exactly cover himself in glory for the third. A sloppy headed clearance put Ryan Bertrand under pressure before Gudmundsson dispossessed him. Vestergaard was hardly sprinting to close down the Iceland international, who caressed home for a third.

Key stat: No centre-back was dribbled past more times than Vestergaard (2) in the Premier League over the weekend.

Centre-back: Grant Hanley

It is never an easy task going to Anfield for the opening match of the season. Just ask West Ham fans how they coped last campaign. But the Canaries would have been hoping to at least make it 10 minutes before Liverpool went into beast mode.

With seven minutes on the clock, Hanley marked his return to the top flight with a mistimed clearance-cum-own goal, before allowing Divock Origi to spring past him and nod home for the fourth.

Key stat: Hanley failed to make a single successful tackle against Liverpool and was dribbled past more times than any defender (2) in the opening Premier League weekend.

Aaron Cresswell

Cresswell would have perhaps been relieved to have seen he was coming up against Riyad Mahrez, as opposed to Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane or Bernardo Silva. However he felt upon seeing the team news matters little. Cresswell was completely outfoxed, outmanoeuvred and outplayed by the Algerian.

In a match in which the Mahrez needed to make a statement, the former Leicester winger registered a hat-trick of assists while simultaneously leaving Cresswell at sixes and sevens.

Key stat: No player was dispossessed more than Cresswell (2) at the London Stadium on Saturday.

Central midfield: Abdoulaye Doucoure

Heavily linked with a move away from Vicarage Road over the summer, Watford arguably produced their best piece of business in the transfer window by retaining the tenacious Frenchman, Abdoulaye Doucoure. But he kicked off the new campaign in abysmal style, netting a 28th-minute own goal, while Brighton hammered three past his side.

The 26-year-old struggled to assert his authority in the middle of the park as he registered a underwhelming 75 per cent pass success rate, the second-lowest of any central midfielder on the pitch.

Key stat: Doucoure was one of two players to net an own goal in the opening Premier League weekend.

Central midfield: Morgan Schneiderlin

With Idrissa Gueye now out of the picture and even two other central midfielders leaving in James McCarthy and Muhamed Besic, this was Schneiderlin’s big chance to show Marco Silva that he has the capabilities of filling the void of PSG’s new midfield enforcer. Unfortunately for the Frenchman, he picked up two bookings in reckless fashion, including one for a petulant outburst, before being sent packing by referee Jonathan Moss.

Key stat: Schneiderlin was the only player sent off in the Premier League on matchweek one.

Right-midfield: Henrikh Mkhitaryan

This was meant to be it: Mkhitaryan’s chance to finally put to rest the demons of his time in England and explode onto the scene, showing Unai Emery that he had the capacity to form a ferocious wing-partnership with Nicolas Pepe.

But no. Once again the Armenian looked devoid of any confidence and a real shadow of his former Borussia Dortmund self.

In the first half, Mkhitaryan lacked invention, penetration and an eye for goal, blazing a glorious opportunity to break the deadlock over the bar, before he was ultimately withdrawn before the final whistle.

Key stat: Mkhitaryan had the worst dribbles success rate (20%) of any player at St. James’ Park.

Left-midfield: Ayoze Perez

As far as debut performances go, this one was exceptionally uneventful from Leicester City’s new £30m man, who struggled to create any sort of rhythm in the final third.

Deployed on the wing, but with license to drift infield, the Spaniard lacked a cutting edge going forward and showcased no understanding with what James Maddison and Jamie Vardy were trying to do.

Key stat: Perez registered no shots on target, failed to make a single key pass and completed just one dribble on his debut.

Striker: Andre Gray

Gray had Watford’s best chance to get their account up and running for the new season, but fluffed his lines and pelted straight at Mathew Ryan. Otherwise, he often cut an isolated and frustrated figure up top as the Hornets struggled to create any real semblance of an attacking threat going forward.

Key stat: During his 75-minute stint on the pitch, Gray registered just 14 touches, the fewest of any player to have started the match.

By: Harry Edwards (@harryedwards16) and Ben Green