In the Premier League’s return from another international break, Gameweek 8 produced some fantastic individual displays.
The first of those came in the weekend’s first match, when Sergio Aguero stole the show by scoring all four of Manchester City’s goals in Saturday’s win over Tottenham.
Later on, offseason addition Diafra Sakho extended his goal streak to five by scoring in West Ham’s triumph at Burnley.
In a team effort, Newcastle earned a much-needed first victory of the season against Leicester City, while Everton doubled their win total by beating Aston Villa 3-0.
Back in London, Chelsea clinched their seventh win by topping Crystal Palace 2-1. However, Arsenal needed a late goal just to save a 2-2 draw versus Hull City.
The signature Saturday showing came from Southampton, as Ronald Koeman’s side slaughtered Sunderland 8-0. The star of the St. Mary’s Stadium spectacle was certainly summer signing Dusan Tadic, who scored his first goal of the season and sensationally set up four other scores for the Saints.
Come Sunday, an eventful final ten minutes or so saw QPR equalize Liverpool, then fall behind, then draw level again through a Steven Gerrard own-goal, before netting an own-goal themselves to lose 3-2.
Elsewhere, Swansea City’s winless streak extended to five games by losing 2-1 at Stoke City.
Finally, Manchester United’s road woes surfaced again, with West Brom forcing a 2-2 draw at the Hawthorns on Monday.
From those results, the Best XI featured a number of commendable contributors.
In goal, Adrian produced a pair of saves for West Ham, but was at fault for the lone goal the Hammers conceded to Burnley.
Defensively, Leighton Baines was extraordinary, supplying two assists and a clean sheet for Everton. Likewise, Nathaniel Clyne gathered clean sheet points in Southampton’s rout; however, by conceding a 90th minute goal, Branislav Ivanovic’s clean sheet effort for Chelsea fell just short.
Fortunately for the Best XI, Blues midfielder Cesc Fabregas scored his first goal of the campaign in that match, while Angel di Maria provided yet another assist for Manchester United.
Rounding out the midfield, Englishmen Jack Wilshere and Adam Lallana were both substituted off around the 65-minute mark in their respective matches. Although Wilshere was shown a yellow card, Lallana secured a clean sheet during his stint, since QPR did not score until the 87th minute.
Up front, captain Graziano Pelle continued his scalding hot form with two goals versus Sunderland. Similarly, Danny Welbeck scored for his fifth time in five total appearances with a late equalizer against Hull City.
Unfortunately, Edin Dzeko was left out of Manchester City’s 4-1 win, when strike-partner Aguero needed no help finding the net.
Overall, the side contributed four goals, three assists and three clean sheets.
Entering Gameweek 9, last season’s top four (Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal) are coming off midweek Champions League involvement, while Everton and Tottenham featured in the Europa League on Thursday.
Manchester City opens the proceedings once again, as Manuel Pellegrini’s second-place side travel to London to play surprising fourth-place West Ham in the weekend’s most top-heavy tussle.
Just behind West Ham, fifth-positioned Liverpool is tasked with overcoming their defensive struggles at Anfield against a Hull City side that has scored two goals in five straight matches.
Arsenal, who split points with the Tigers last Saturday, will head to the Stadium of Light to take on Sunderland, with the Black Cats still licking their wounds from last weekend’s assault.
Conversely, Southampton will aim for an eight-goal encore versus Stoke City on Saturday, before the clubs have a midweek rematch in the Capital One Cup.
Meanwhile, Crystal Palace will be looking for their first top-flight win at West Brom since 1973.
To close the day, Swansea hosts Leicester in a match of struggling sides, as Leicester’s three-game winless streak is trumped by Swansea’s five-game stretch of futility.
Newcastle will hope to make build a winning streak at Tottenham on Sunday, while a Burnley outfit facing Everton remains desperate for its first win of the season.
Then, the weekend’s marquee match, Manchester United versus Chelsea, is Sunday’s showcase, with Jose Mourinho’s men still unbeaten and Louis van Gaal still searching for answers defensively.
Finally, two teams that have lost three straight games cap off Gameweek 9, as Queens Park Rangers welcomes Aston Villa on Monday.
All things considered, it’s time to dive into this week’s Best XI.
Fraser Forster (Southampton)
Despite being thrust into Premier League action just over a week into his Southampton career, Forster has already cemented himself as the Saints’ No. 1 for years to come. Through eight games, the Englishman leads the league with four clean sheets and only five goals allowed. In doing so, Forster has only been beaten once at St. Mary’s Stadium, where he’ll host Stoke City this weekend. Not noted from their scoring prowess, only three teams have produced fewer goals than Stoke to this point in the season.
Seamus Coleman (Everton)
Following an exact one-month absence due to a head injury, Coleman returned last weekend to score his second Premiership goal this season and secure a clean sheet as well. In fact, through six outings across all competitions for Everton, the attack-minded Coleman boasts three goals and an assist. Defensively, the Toffees’ only two Premiership clean sheets have come in Coleman’s last pair of league outings. Although Coleman was rested for Thursday’s Europa League clean sheet effort, Everton’s backline will take confidence into Sunday’s match at a Burnley side tied for last in goals scored (four) on the season.
Ashley Williams (Swansea City)
With his team going through a rough patch lately, Swansea City captain Ashley Williams will have Saturday’s home match against promoted side Leicester City highlighted as a rebound opportunity. The center-half ranks fifth league-wide with 10.8 clearances per game, which has helped the Welsh club secure three clean sheets thus far. Two of those performances came at home, where Swansea has allowed just three goals on the campaign, leaving only Southampton and Chelsea with better defensive records at home. On the other hand, Leicester City is tied for last with merely one goal on the road this season, presenting Williams with a favorable Gameweek 9 matchup.
Eric Dier (Tottenham)
Another player with three clean sheets through the first eight weeks of this season, Dier also sports two goals on the campaign. That offensive return ranks third on Tottenham, who will be buzzing following a comprehensive 5-1 Europa League win Thursday at White Hart Lane. Spurs are at home again Sunday versus Newcastle, who have just two goals on the road to date. With the 20-year-old having secured Spurs’ right-back position in wake of Kyle Walker’s abdominal problem, Dier offers decent clean sheet potential this weekend, with bonus offensive points a distant possibility as well.
Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
Perhaps overshadowed by Chelsea leading the league in scoring, Hazard has just one goal and one assist from open play in the Premiership this season. No matter, the Blues’ 14-goal leader from last season has heated up lately, converting a penalty in Gameweek 7 and bagging a Champions League brace on Tuesday. Furthermore, with Chelsea striker Diego Costa (hamstring) potentially sidelined for this weekend’s match at Manchester United, manager Jose Mourinho may place more reliance on Hazard going forward. While Man U has averaged just one goal allowed at Old Trafford, Louis van Gaal’s remodeled defense has still been inconsistent this season. Meanwhile, Chelsea has been held under two goals just once so far and Hazard seems the Blues’ most likely candidate to find the net come Sunday.
Dusan Tadic (Southampton)
Among the very best signings made during the summer transfer window, Tadic is tied for the league-lead with seven assists, four of which came last weekend. The Serbian also notched his first Premiership goal last Saturday, after scoring 16 times in the Eredivisie last season. Fresh from an eight-goal outing, Southampton gets another home match this weekend, with Stoke City their foes this time around. In their last away match, the Potters allowed three goals to Sunderland, who are only averaging one score per game on the season. Considering Tadic tore apart Sunderland last Saturday, he could be poised for another standout display this Saturday.
Christian Eriksen (Tottenham)
Despite a brief stint of being deployed on the wing, Eriksen has proven to new boss Mauricio Pochettino that the prized No. 10 position is where he belongs. The 22-year-old has scored in consecutive Premier League matches and leads Tottenham with 2.8 shot attempts per game. Somewhat shocking, after doling out 10 total assists in his debut campaign for Spurs, Eriksen is yet to record an assist this season. However, with Tottenham coming off five goals in Europe on Thursday, Eriksen’s teammates are in fine finishing form. Even though he only featured as a second-half substitute in that match, Eriksen looks a dangerous proposition for Newcastle to deal with Sunday.
Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal)
A saving grace for Arsenal to this point, Sanchez has manufactured five goals and three assists in 11 total appearances for the North London club. One of each came in last weekend’s Premiership tie versus Hull City and this Saturday, the Chilean gets to run at a Sunderland defense reeling from shipping eight goals last time out. While that atrocity will surely motivate the Black Cats, Arsenal will still aim to take advantage of a vulnerable opponent. A non-stop competitor, Sanchez has scored in half of his six Premier League starts and could out-class a wounded Sunderland in the final third.
Graziano Pelle (Southampton)
Along with his teammate Tadic and manager Ronald Koeman, Pelle has proven to be another stellar Southampton signing plucked from the Eredivisie. By scoring twice last weekend, the talented Italian brought his total to six goals through eight league matches, which comes after he tallied 23 goals in 28 appearances for Feyenoord last season. Pacing his English outfit, Pelle’s 32 shot attempts (14 on goal) rank second in the entire Premiership. Following an eight-goal outburst at St. Mary’s Stadium last time out, Southampton will be chomping at the bit for another showcase. Five of Pelle’s six Premier League goals have come at home, so Stoke City may have their hands full Saturday against the reigning Premier League Player of the Month.
Romelu Lukaku (Everton)
The Toffees’ leader with over three shot attempts per game, Lukaku found the net for the third time last weekend versus Aston Villa. In doing so, the young Belgian helped Everton jump to fourth with 16 goals on the campaign. This weekend, Lukaku goes against a Burnley defense that has conceded nine goals over their past trio of matches. Lukaku also only played as a second-half substitute in Thursday’s Europa League fixture, so facing the Premier League’s current last-place team should peak his interest in front of goal, especially now that a more healthy Everton probably won’t let him drift out wide as much moving forward.
Sergio Aguero (C) (Manchester City)
Including Aguero’s four goals versus Tottenham last weekend, the on-fire Argentine has eight goals in his past five total appearances for Manchester City. Overall, Aguero boasts nine goals in eight Premiership showings this season, including one in all four of the Citizens’ away matches. With a trip to West Ham looming, the Premier League’s leader with 36 shot attempts (20 on goal) also totes three goals over his past pair of visits to Upton Park. Even further, Manchester City has scored 16 times across their last five games against West Ham across all competitions, which helps Aguero earn the Gameweek 9 Best XI captain’s armband.
Coleman – Williams – Dier
Hazard – Tadic – Eriksen – Sanchez
Pelle – Lukaku – Aguero (C)