Premier League weekend awards: Alexander-Arnold makes it a three-way title race
No round of the Premier League is completely drama-free. And fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), this weekend was filled with questions, controversy and an avalanche of goals.
The 'congratulations on participation' award
Have you or your child ever come home with a participation trophy after a complete failure at a sporting event? Will Marcus Rashford show off his new hardware? This weekend, Rashford was largely a passenger for Manchester United in the 1-0 defeat to Newcastle. During his 61 minutes on the pitch, Rashford produced zero shots, created zero chances and did not concede a single touch in the Newcastle penalty area.
The icing on the cake came eight minutes into the second half; after Tino Livramento passed him, Rashford started walking instead of trying to make up for his mistake. Any idea that Erik ten Hag would install the demanding, fluid football he coached at Ajax has long been undermined by the lack of urgency in his forward line and a disjointed midfield structure. But the performance away at Newcastle marked a new low for the Manchester United manager.
The blame is spread. Last week it was André Onana, the week before Scott McTominay. This week it is Rashford's turn under the United bus. His body language and laziness-like work rate remain problems. But hey, at least he showed up.
Player of the week
Trent Alexander-Arnold has had a great few weeks. He won a Three Lions version of The Great British Bake Off (earning him a Hollywood handshake in the process), scored the equalizer against Manchester City last week and then shone on Sunday. His late goal gave Liverpool a 4-3 draw against Fulham in a thriller at Anfield. Alexander-Arnold initially thought he had given Liverpool the opener after his free-kick came off the crossbar and crossed the goal line. However, it was credited as an own goal when it hit the Fulham keeper on the return leg. Alexander-Arnold finally found the net on 88 minutes, a clutch strike sealing the win.
His impact in front of goal was clear, but Alexander-Arnold was everything, everywhere, all at once for Liverpool on Sunday. Only Virgil van Dijk finished the match with more ball contacts than Liverpool's hybrid defender/midfielder. After starting at inverted right-back, Jürgen Klopp pushed Alexander-Arnold into midfield after Fulham had taken a 3–2 lead. Joe Gomez was deployed as right back, while Alexander-Arnold was given a free role further up the pitch; he rewarded the manager with the match winner from the edge of the penalty area.
Liverpool's reworked midfield has brought more craft and balance to the team. But Alexander-Arnold remains Klopp's creative fulcrum. They are now second in the league, two points behind Arsenal. If nerdy stats are your thing, Klopp's side are also above Arsenal in the league expected points table. We have a real title race with three players.
The 'ka-chow' award
Jay Rodriguez recorded the Premier League's fastest goal this season when he scored after just 15 seconds. A sublime cross from Charlie Taylor found the Burnley striker, who headed the ball into the bottom right corner. The goal not only opened the floodgates for Burnley in their 5-0 win over Sheffield United, but also helped the 34-year-old make Premier League history by becoming the first player to score in the opening fifteen seconds of two separate matches . His previous accolade came in 2013 when he scored for Southampton after 13.68 seconds at Stamford Bridge. As Lightning McQueen would say: ka-chow!
Statistic of the week
Arsenal joined the coveted 100 club with the opening goal on Saturday in the 2-1 win against Wolves. The Gunners got off to a flying start at the Emirates as Bukayo Saka scored inside six minutes. His neat finish was Arsenal's 100th goal of 2023 – they are the fifth team to reach that milestone in Europe's top five leagues. Manchester City (137), Real Madrid (119), Bayern Munich (111) and Bayer Leverkusen (110) are also on the list. Saka's goal was his 36th for the club in the Premier League, moving him past former Arsenal great Cesc Fàbregas.
The 'I'm not angry, I'm disappointed' award
You know that feeling. You've seen that look. They're not angry, they're just disappointed. You could see it in Pep Guardiola's eyes on Sunday. Despite City's crucial third goal against Tottenham, Jack Grealish was booked for unnecessarily kicking the ball away after a foul, ruling him out of a midweek match against Aston Villa. Grealish's suspension poses a problem for Guardiola against Unai Emery's high-flying Villa: Jérémy Doku suffered an injury in the draw and is doubtful for Wednesday, meaning Guardiola will have to reshuffle his front line without his top two options on the left.
But Grealish wasn't alone. Erling Haaland was less disappointed and simply angry with referee Simon Hooper. Hooper was one of the authors of this season's biggest refereeing mess in the match between Tottenham and Liverpool. That was a follow-up to the opening week fiasco between Wolves and Manchester United. His trilogy on Sunday was the latest entry in the franchise of what's going on with the officials: late in the match, Hooper initially played an advantage due to a foul on Haaland, before playing back to award a free kick despite that Grealish was running. without opposition on goal. Haaland was furious. Unlike most franchise fairs, Hooper at least gets points for originality.
Goal of the week
Despite serious competition from Dwight McNeil and teammate Alexander-Arnold, Alexis Mac Allister takes the gong. He scored a rocket for Liverpool in their dramatic 4-3 win over Fulham. It wasn't as flashy as Alejandro Garnacho's wonder goal the week before, but the finesse, control and power of his strike claim the prize this week.
The 'hero to zero' award
It's not often that a player scores from both ends of the pitch, let alone within three minutes. Son Heung-min opened the scoring for Spurs with the team's attack six minutes into the match against Manchester City. The visitors launched a counter on the right flank and Son made no mistake from close range. Although his goal gave Tottenham an early lead over the reigning champions, his elation would not last long. Three minutes later, City's free kick flew off his shin and zoomed past his own keeper Guglielmo Vicario. It was his first own goal of his career – he hopes it is the last.
Heroic performance of the week
In a weekend full of highs and lows, Everton's 1-0 win over Nottingham Forest went under the radar. Sean Dyche's side recorded their first win since having 10 Premier League points deducted for breaching financial fair play rules. It's hard not to see this as the beginning of their Cinderella story. For a club in huge struggle, Everton played tight, resilient football. Against all odds the side came together and delivered a solid 1-0 performance, with McNeil getting extra credit for an excellent goal. Should they have scored a little more goals than they did? Probably. But now that hopes have been revived, they could be the surprise underdogs of the season.
The VAR controversy of the week
Not a Premier League weekend goes by without a questionable VAR call. And this week we were treated to some real doozies. Despite the plethora of calls to choose from, a baffling moment late in the Chelsea-Brighton match topped the list. While Brighton trailed 2-3, they kept the momentum going after scoring in the second minute of extra time. The ball then hit Levi Colwill's face and bounced out of play behind the goal. The VAR official advised the referee to check the field monitor. Initially, Brighton were awarded a penalty, but the decision was overturned and Chelsea were awarded a drop ball. Confused? So everyone was in the ground. Brighton should have been awarded a cornerand had one last chance to put the ball in the penalty area in an attempt to score the equalizer.