VAVEL's Matchweek One Premier League Awards
(Photo by Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

After every Premier League matchday of the 2020/21 season, VAVEL will reveal its picks for best player, performance, manager and goal of the week.

The best of the action on the opening weekend of the campaign came at Anfield, where reigning champions Liverpool edged a titanic battle with newly-promoted Leeds.

Meanwhile, Arsenal and Chelsea kicked off the new season with more comfortable victories at Fulham and Brighton.

Spurs have already lost ground after falling to a home defeat against an impressive Everton.

And West Brom found their top-flight return against Leicester to be a baptism of fire.

Player of the week - Mohamed Salah

Many of the Matchweek One contenders were debutants. Willian seamlessly slotted into the Arsenal side, teeing-up all three of their goals at Fulham. Jeff Hendrick made one and scored another as Newcastle beat West Ham. And James Rodriguez was able to live up to the immense hype at Everton.

But it was Mohamed Salah who stole the show at the beginning of his fourth season at Liverpool.

Some would call a treble that includes two penalties a cheap hat-trick, though nobody would dare take anything away from the venomous strike in between, as unstoppably precise as it was powerful.

But it is Salah's all-round performance which secures him our award.

His seven successful dribbles and four chances created were more than anybody else in Red. He was an elusive, almost dominant presence from the right flank. Indeed, he was the only Liverpool player whose display merited more than a seven, maybe even a six out of 10, and that underlines his role as their saviour in a game which threatened to get away.

"Watching him on Saturday, it was almost like he was toying with the game, almost like he had the game in his hands," Gary Neville observed on Monday Night Football.

"Where is the best player in the world going to be in the next couple of years?

"Salah is not far away from it anyway, but to me on Saturday he looked like an absolutely different level."

Embed from Getty Images

Performance of the week - Leeds United

Yes, Leeds left Anfield empty-handed. Yes, "it was just a defeat," according to Marcelo Bielsa. And yes, promoted teams can't afford too many of those.

But supporters will be bursting with pride and excitement in equal measure. Liverpool haven't lost at home since April 2017 - a run that now stretches over 60 matches. But there were genuinely moments on Saturday evening, particularly at 3-3, when it looked like a team just up from the Championship would end that streak in remarkable fashion.

In attack, Leeds were clinical. They scored with 50% of their shots and all of their shots on target. They caught Liverpool out with their bravery - think of Jack Harrison successfully taking on Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez before drilling home in front of the Kop, or numbers surging into the Reds' box in the move that culminated with Mateusz Klich's strike.

Bielsa tore up the Anfield rulebook - sit deep and remain compact while trying to absorb pressure, waiting for a counterattacking chance whilst remaining wary of the dangers of overcommitment. And it was so nearly the undoing of last season's 99-point, all-conquering champions.

Defensively, it must be said that Leeds were opened up too easily, but both Robin Koch and Pascal Strujik, off the back of only five Championship appearances, were making unenviable debuts. Captain Liam Cooper was missing from the heart of the backline. 

And, but for a costly striker's challenge from Rodrigo, Leeds could well have resisted the late onslaught. 

Embed from Getty Images

Manager of the week - Carlo Ancelotti

An honourable mention in the performance of the week stakes, Ancelotti's Everton carried the ambition they have shown in the transfer market onto the pitch at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

The contrast between the two teams was stark. While Spurs looked uninspired, leggy, even disinterested, Everton were very well-drilled, dictating the game through their exceptionally-balanced midfield.

And that contrast extended to the new signings. In white, Matt Doherty seemed hesitant, unsure just how aggressive Jose Mourinho would like him to be on the right-hand side as Richarlison waited to pounce. It was very rare that he made the kind of incisive attacking run which became his trademark at Wolves. Meanwhile, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg was off the pace, as if he had been integrated too hastily.

Ancelotti threw his three, potentially game-changing midfield additions in at the deep end but they were all comfortable and totally attuned to their manager's instructions. This is no doubt testament to diligent work on the training ground.

After that crucial first summer window, Ancelotti's Everton look the part. They should finally mount a meaningful challenge for European football.

Embed from Getty Images

Goal of the week - Reece James

Until the final game of the round, it was between Salah's thunderous effort, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's sumptuous curled finish at the end of an an excellent Arsenal move, and Raul Jimenez's steered half-volley.

But then, moments after Chelsea had been pegged back by a determined Brighton, James picked up the ball around 30 yards from goal, nudged it forward unleashed an outside-of-the-foot shot which swerved into the top-right corner of Mat Ryan's goal.

No goalkeeper in the world would have a prayer of keeping out the right-back's barnstorming strike, which opened his Premier League account.

"I looked up and saw space and I had time," James explained. "I know have a good shot, so I thought, 'let me give it a go'."

It wouldn't be Matchweek One if we couldn't use the phrase 'early goal-of-the-season contender'.

VAVEL Logo