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.
In this round of fixtures, a depleted Liverpool were the only club to maintain their position in the top three, whilst the blue half of Merseyside were stunned by a Callum Wilson double at St James’ Park.
Leicester City seized the opportunity to climb to second in the table as they punished Leeds United 4-1, and Hasenhuttl’s Southampton side held out to claim all three points in a 4-3 shootout against Aston Villa.
Meanwhile, down at the foot of the table, a stunning strike from Ola Aina saw Fulham grab their first win since their return to the top flight.
Player of the week - James Ward-Prowse
It was a birthday to remember for the Saints’ set-piece specialist as James Ward-Prowse scored twice from free-kicks and set up another when Jannik Vestergaard’s bullet header flew past the Villa keeper. Even more impressive was that this all happened in the first half.
Finding the back of the net on two occasions from a similar area highlights the midfielder’s consistency from dead-ball situations. Of every Premier League player to have taken more than 50 direct freekicks since 2003-04, Ward-Prowse has the best conversion rate, with 12.5%.
Not only did the English midfielder become only the ninth player in Premier League history to score two freekick goals in a single game, his energy to cover all areas of the pitch was a key part of his awe-inspiring performance.
Having his work ethic spread to all areas of play was a massive boost for Southampton as they continue their fine early season form. The Saints’ captain was at the heart of his side’s performance at Villa Park.
“He is our role model for what we stand for”, an impressed Hasenhuttl told BBC Sport.
“When he gets a chance around the box, he is unbelievable, I am happy for him to have scored two but also because he supplied an assist for the first goal and for the one disallowed by VAR.”
Performance of the week - Leicester City
There have been so many times where Leicester City have mustered up the potent cutting edge necessary to rip through teams on the counterattack under Brendan Rodgers, and Monday night was no different.
Leicester find themselves second in the table after a fourth successive away win in the Premier League after their clinical finishes on a slippery surface resulted in Leeds’ heaviest defeat so far. The 4-1 scoreline could have been a lot worse after The Foxes were already two to the good in the first 20 minutes.
Jamie Vardy and Harvey Barnes were able to combine for the first goal in a fast-paced precisive move that owes thanks to Robin Koch’s misjudgment of the ball. Just 15 minutes later, Vardy was unable to convert a speculative diving header, but Youri Tielemans was there to latch on to the rebound.
Fast build-up play complemented by the willingness of the Leicester frontline to drive forward and press the Leeds defence proved to be too much for Marcelo Bielsa and his men. Despite Leeds’ second-half dominance, the depleted Leicester defence was able to keep Patrick Bamford and his attacking partners to the one.
Leeds were made to rue their missed chances when, in the 76th minute, the talismanic Jamie Vardy finally got himself on the scoresheet. The Yorkshire club’s night went from bad to worse as VAR gave The Foxes a penalty, which Tielemans tucked away into the top left corner.
Undeterred by the amount of changes in the backline, the defensive trio of Christian Fuchs, Wesley Fofana and James Justin were the foundation of a well-rounded performance from the Midlands club. The ability to take their chances in attack and equally weather the storm in defence is worthy of high plaudits.
“We defended well and found space to go forward”, Brendan Rodgers told The Guardian.
“It was disappointing to concede the goal we did at the start of the second half, but at least we showed we could play our way back into the game.”
Manager of the week - Jurgen Klopp
It is true that Brendan Rodgers provides a good case for being selected in this category, but the job Jurgen Klopp done this weekend must not be forgotten about in guiding Liverpool to a spot on top of the Premier League table.
If there was one term to describe Liverpool’s campaign so far, it would be ‘injury-ridden’. Having suffered injuries to Virgil Van Dijk, Fabinho and Joel Matip, the champions were left with one senior figure in the centre of defence.
Whilst many may have questioned Klopp for his decision to start Nat Phillips ahead of the impressive youth prospect Rhys Williams, it was this tactical masterclass that helped keep the physical presence of West Ham striker Sebastien Haller at bay. Furthermore, Liverpool have been subject to a lot of criticism in recent weeks for their poor defensive start to the season. Despite this, Klopp and his high defensive line find themselves top of the table, and the addition of Phillips in defence led to a man of the match performance from the 23-year-old.
West Ham have looked impressive recently having been undefeated in their last four Premier League fixtures, with hard-fought performances against Manchester City and Leicester among the pick of the bunch. It looked as though the Hammers were going to keep Liverpool quiet at Anfield and pick up yet another well-deserved point.
This was until Klopp’s substitutes, Xherdan Shaqiri and Diogo Jota, combined in the 85th minute to take the lead for the first time in the game. Overall, it was the Liverpool manager’s team selection and choice of substitutes that helped the Reds take all three points.
Goal of the week - Ola Aina
A goal that would have meant so much to Fulham fans as Ola Aina's speculative weak-foot shot from way outside of the box found the top left-hand corner of the West Brom goal.
This goal was one of two for Fulham that meant they secured their first win of the new campaign.