With the ball now rolling on the 2013-14 Premier League season, let’s take a look at how last week’s Best XI fared:
At goalkeeper, Simon Mignolet dazzled in his Liverpool debut, making a total of six saves, which included an 89th minute stop on a penalty kick, to secure the clean sheet.
In defense, Branislav Ivanovic, Jose Enrique, and Vincent Kompany each kept a clean sheet for their respective sides and Ivanovic added a goal to his output as well.
The midfield was propelled by David Silva’s goal and clean sheet, but his comrades failed to make much fantasy impact. Eden Hazard, who also tallied one clean sheet, went scoreless during Chelsea’s two games and teammate Juan Mata only played against Aston Villa. Finally, both Theo Walcott and Kevin Mirallas were held at bay, earning points solely for their minutes played.
Up front, Robin van Persie netted two goals in Manchester United’s weekend win and Christian Benteke scored three goals in his two games, despite a missed penalty kick. In all, the Best XI got off to a very commendable start.
This weekend’s fixtures feature a number of highly competitive matchups that make roster decisions difficult. Most notably, Chelsea travels to Manchester United in a very early-season tussle that complicates projecting either team’s fate. In addition, Swansea looks to rebound against Tottenham, Arsenal seeks redemption at Fulham, and Aston Villa continues their grueling first three games with a match versus Liverpool, to name a few other interesting tilts.
Unlike last gameweek, no team is scheduled for two matches this term and players will not be coming off international duty. However, Wednesday saw Chelsea and Villa square off, Arsenal play a Champions League qualifier in Turkey, followed by Tottenham playing a Europa League match Thursday in Georgia, so those four clubs face more limited preparation periods ahead of the latest fixtures. With the table set, let’s unveil this week’s Best XI team.
Asmir Begovic (Stoke City) – In his first game of the season last Saturday, Begovic made an eye-opening 10 saves at Anfield and allowed just one goal. This week, Stoke host newly-promoted Crystal Palace in manager Mark Hughes’ home debut for the Potters. After being held scoreless and placing an underwhelming total of three shots on goal last week at home against Tottenham, the Eagles travel to Staffordshire to take on a Stoke side known for defensive prowess, making Begovic a perfect candidate for a clean sheet and a complimentary amount of saves.
Leighton Baines (Everton) – Despite allowing two goals at Norwich City last weekend, Baines was his same astounding self. In defense, the world-class left-back made three tackles, two interceptions, and four effective clearances. Then, Baines sent in a whopping 12 crosses, with five on target. Those numbers don’t supply fantasy owners with points, but they paint the picture for Baines’ constant involvement for Everton. This weekend, the Toffees will welcome West Brom, who failed to score in their first game. Simply put, Baines should be highly active come Saturday and holds great clean sheet potential with possible bonus offensive contribution.
Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City) – The Argentine helped hold Newcastle scoreless in City’s first game Monday and added an assist as well, picking up from his impressive season last year. This weekend, the Citizens travel to Wales to play Cardiff. While the environment will be absolutely rocking for the Bluebirds’ first home Premier League match in club history, Man City’s top-flight experience should neutralize Cardiff on the pitch to the tune of another clean sheet.
Luke Shaw (Southampton) – Shaw and Southampton prevented West Brom from scoring last weekend. This weekend, his side hosts a Sunderland team that was shut-out in their first game. The marauding 18-year-old left-back is a solid bet to continue Southampton’s scoreless defensive record.
David Silva (Manchester City) – The Spainard scored just six minutes into the new season and looked stellar in Manuel Pelligrini’s revamped attack as City trounced Newcastle on Monday. With City pitted against Cardiff, who conceded two goals to West Ham last weekend, Silva figures to enjoy similar success again this weekend and could also add a clean sheet to his name.
Kevin Nolan (West Ham) – Nolan, a consistent goal threat throughout his career, found the back of the net in West Ham’s opening win against Cardiff last weekend. The Hammers travel to Newcastle on Saturday to play a Toon side that shipped four goals in their first game of the season Monday, so it wouldn’t be surprising if Nolan doubles his goal total this weekend.
Ross Barkley (Everton) – The 19-year-old played wonderfully in Everton’s season opener and scored as well. This weekend, Barkley and the Toffees will greet West Brom to Goodison Park in a matchup that favors the home team. With fellow midfielder Marouane Fellaini seemingly on his way out to Manchester United, look for Barkley to cement his place in Everton’s setup.
Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool) – Since joining Liverpool in the January transfer window last season, Coutinho has been quite impressive along the Reds’ left wing. Although he didn’t score last week, the Brazilian attempted five shots and on Saturday goes against an Aston Villa team that could be fatigued from playing three matches in one week to start the season.
Edin Dzeko (Manchester City) – The Bosnian was sensational against Newcastle on Monday, leading the line as Manchester City put four goals past the Magpies. Dzeko did not score in the aforementioned match, but he was credited with one assist and took a total of eight shots, evidencing his contribution in attack. This weekend, the Citizens face new-boys Cardiff City, making for a tasty figure to open Dzeko’s account this season.
Ricky van Wolfswinkel (Norwich City) – The Dutchman notched a goal in his Premier League debut and could be boosted this weekend with the return of instrumental wide-man Robert Snodgrass, who missed last weekend’s match with a groin injury. The Canaries will be at Hull City on Saturday and van Wolfswinkel could add to his tally against the Tigers.
Robin van Persie (Machester United) – Sure, van Persie is going against Chelsea’s water-tight defense that is even better with Jose Mourinho at the helm, but it is never wise to discount the United striker. With two goals to open the season versus Swansea last weekend, van Persie deserves a spot on this gameweek’s team regardless of his opponent.
Baines – Zabaleta – Shaw
Silva – Nolan – Barkley – Coutinho
Dzeko – van Wolfswinkel – van Persie