Premier League best XI for matchweek 5, including Eden Hazard, Leroy Sane and Romelu Lukaku.
Wide forwards and versatile strikers had their way with Premier League defenders in Week 5 of the 2018-19 season. No player toyed with the opposition as much as Chelsea’s hat-trick hero Eden Hazard, who inspired a 4-1 win over Cardiff City to put the Blues top.
Hazard’s brilliance was almost matched by Leroy Sane. He responded to being recalled to Manchester City’s starting XI by sparking a 3-0 rout of Fulham on Saturday.
Wins for City and Chelsea put pressure on Manchester United to respond. Fortunately for the Red Devils, Romelu Lukaku is approaching peak form.
The prolific No. 9 helped United to a commendable away win over Watford.
Find out who else makes the team of the week:
Goalkeeper: Joe Hart, Burnley
Players on the losing end don’t usually make a team of the week. Yet it would be beyond harsh to overlook Joe Hart’s brilliant efforts in the Burnley goal.
Hart couldn’t prevent the Clarets from losing 1-0 away to Wolves on Sunday, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. The 31-year-old was in inspired form as he singlehandedly kept Burley in it for the best part of an hour.
Even after he conceded to Raul Jimenez, Hart continued to keep Wolves at bay. A series of fine saves prevented the hosts from adding to their lead. They also spared Burnley’s blushes somewhat.
The Clarets are yet to win in five matches, but Hart hasn’t been to blame. Instead the former England No. 1 is offering a timely reminder he’s still as talented as any keeper in the division.
It’s time for Three Lions coach Gareth Southgate to take notice.
Defender: Chris Smalling, Manchester United
Chris Smalling and goals usually only belong together when United are conceding. It was a different story at Vicarage Road, though, as Smalling put the Reds 2-0 up with a smart finish.
For a player who often struggles with the ball at his feet, Smalling showed off more than decent technique when volleyed in. He’d added to Lukaku’s opener and then proceeded to keep the door shut at the back for most of the remainder of the game.
Smalling’s task became tougher when Andre Gray got one back on 65 minutes. Not deterred, the powerful center-back stayed aggressive in the air and smart on the deck.
Not even losing Nemanja Matic to a red card deep into stoppage time gave Watford a route to an equalizer. Smalling’s commanding display was a big reason why.
United and manager Jose Mourinho have spent a lot of time bemoaning what they don’t have in defense. Smalling’s performance means they should focus more on the steady center-backs they do have.
Defender: Matt Doherty, Wolves
Wolves have built a solid start on an active and stingy defense. The key to the unit’s success has been a back five defined by wing-backs like Matt Doherty.
He was the best player on the pitch against Burnley. Doherty consistently raided the flank to pose a considerable attacking threat. His runs kept Burnley’s wingers on their heels and left the Claret’s back four stretched beyond breaking point.
Doherty’s menace in forward areas was best summed up by his contribution for the match-winner. The 26-year-old raced clear of Johann Berg Gudmundsson before teeing up Jimenez for a simple finish.
It was the most decisive raid of many from a player whose engine never quit:
Aside from breaking forward, Doherty also used recovery pace and good instincts to track runners and prevent Burnley from peppering the box with crosses.
In a season so far defined by full-backs like Liverpool’s Andy Robertson and City’s Benjamin Mendy thriving high up the pitch, Doherty should prove an invaluable weapon.
Defender: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Crystal Palace
Palace barely offered enough in attacking areas to scrape past Huddersfield. What the Eagles could count on was a stubborn rearguard action led by young left-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
The 20-year-old was forced to stand tall against a Terriers team determined to exploit width early on. Huddersfield continually spread the play wide and tried to get pace in behind.
While Chris Lowe teased in a few dangerous crosses from the left, Wan-Bissaka handled Elias Kachunga. Showing positional sense and awareness beyond his tender years, Wan-Bissaka denied crossing space and refused to be baffled by Kachunga’s tricks.
Palace’s budding young star was just as impressive going the other way. Wan-Bissaka consistently took the opportunity to turn defense into attack in an instant. The speed of his transitions were ideal for a side keen to play on the break away from home.
Midfielder: Eden Hazard, Chelsea
Hazard was simply on another level against the Bluebirds. He exploded into life to end the early frustration gripping Stamford Bridge after Sol Bamba had given Cardiff a shock lead in the 16th minute.
Home supporters needn’t have worried, though, not with Hazard in this form. The Belgium international clipped in two excellent goals to put Chelsea in front at the break.
Hazard had led Cardiff defenders on a merry dance for most of the opening 45 minutes. His combinations with target man Olivier Giroud were slick and precise.
While he didn’t sizzle quite as much after the break, Hazard still stroked in a penalty to end Cardiff hopes of a comeback. In the process, Chelsea’s No. 10 also underlined how he doesn’t need many opportunities to decide games:
If Hazard continues at this pace, a Ballon d’Or surely beckons.
Midfielder: Leroy Sane, Manchester City
Sane needed less than two minutes to show the Citizens why they need him. The dynamic 22-year-old put City in front with barely 120 seconds on the clock to underline his direct threat.
Acceleration and an appetite for goals mean Sane provides genuine cutting edge to City’s attack. He’s an obvious target for the many pass-masters in manager Pep Guardiola’s ranks.
Midfielders like David Silva, Fernandinho and Ilkay Gundogan can count on Sane running beyond markers and getting in behind defenses. Those qualities kept normally forward-thinking Fulham on the back foot at the Etihad Stadium.
Sane also eased the burden on striker Sergio Aguero to be the primary source of goals.
Guardiola has a plethora of options for attacking places, but he has to know City are better every time Sane is starting.
Midfielder: Granit Xhaka, Arsenal
It’s not often Granit Xhaka gets or even merits praise. He did both after a sterling display during Arsenal’s 2-1 win away to Newcastle.
Xhaka kept things moving at the heart of midfield by showcasing a quality too often missing from his game, namely, efficiency. The Switzerland international playmaker didn’t waste his passes against the Magpies.
He also stayed disciplined defensively, particularly during a first half when midfield partner Matteo Guendouzi continued to look raw. Guednouzi was replaced by Lucas Torreira after the break.
Yet instead of Torreira liberating Xhaka, it was the other way around. The latter sat deeper, allowing Torrerira to probe further forward, where the pint-sized midfield general added incisiveness and pace to Arsenal’s passing.
Torreira put the Gunners on the front foot, but the visitors still needed the left boot of Xhaka to take the lead. His sweetly struck free-kick arrowed into the top corner four minutes into the second half to continue a speciality for scoring from distance:
The confidence borne from his goal was obvious in the way Xhaka passed the ball after it. His diagonal ball over the top for Alexandre Lacazette may have been the pass of this young season.
There should never be any doubts about Xhaka’s technique or his eye for a pass. Eliminating mistakes and playing within himself remain priorities for this underrated midfielder.
Midfielder: Georgino Wijnaldum, Liverpool
Speaking of underrated, there may not be a more unappreciated midfield talent in the league than Georginio Wijnadlum. The versatile Netherlands international is the steady presence who adds balance amid the Reds’ otherwise frenetic desire to pour forward.
He can be overlooked by teams focused on subduing Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah. Wijnaldum showed it’s a mistake to forget about him when he put Liverpool in front against Tottenham at Wembley on Saturday.
Scoring his first away goal in England’s top flight was a decent landmark for Wijnaldum. He would have enjoyed more helping Liverpool leave London with all three points from a tricky fixture.
Typically, Wijnaldum’s other notable contributions involved neat and efficient passing from the base of midfield. He has intelligently remodeled himself into a deep-lying playmaker to find a place in a squad loaded with more progressive players in the final third.
The transformation has seen Wijnaldum forego his own attacking instincts, often displayed during his PSV days, for more discipline and patience. In the process, Wijnaldum has become as important to Liverpool as Salah, Mane or Virgil van Dijk.
Midfielder: Wilfried Zaha, Crystal Palace
It’s a mystery how Crystal Palace have managed to keep Wilfired Zaha out of the clutches of bigger clubs in recent years. More accurately, it’s baffling the division’s top six aren’t tripping over each other trying to sign the 25-year-old winger.
He’s a natural match-winner who can conjure magic from anywhere in the final third. The magic came from the flanks against Huddersfield, as Zaha danced off the wing to smash in the winner.
It was not only an emphatic rebuttal to all the rough treatment he’d received at the hands of the Terriers. The goal also continued a prolific recent scoring run any of the game’s big-name attackers would be proud of:
Afterwards, Zaha bemoaned the apparent impunity other players are granted to serially foul him, per BBC Sport:
"I feel like before anyone gets a red I’d have to get my leg broken or something. That’s why I lose my head. Why am I getting different treatment from other players?It makes you not want to go on a run because someone will come through the back of you, and it doesn’t allow you to express yourself."
Zaha gets roughed up because he’s such a threat. Yet he’s also a dazzling talent worth the price of admission whose career can’t be allowed to be derailed by cynical attempts to stop him.
Striker: Romelu Lukaku, Manchester United
Romelu Lukaku can be easy to criticize. His control isn’t the best, he won’t always look to link with others and he can be something of a flat-track bully.
Yet for every bad thing you can say about Lukaku he deserves credit for being a guarantor of goals. He found the net again to send the Red Devils on their way to ending Watford’s winning run.
His finish kept up a dream start to his United career in the league:
Lukaku has matured as a finisher since reuniting with Mourinho. He’s now less of a finesse striker and one more content to rely on his awesome physical power.
United will remain a title threat as long as Lukaku is in the lineup.
Striker: Marko Arnautovic, West Ham
Andriy Yarmolenko may have scored two of West Ham’s three goals to beat Everton at Goodison Park on Sunday. But it was Marko Arnautovic who truly made the Hammers tick on Merseyside.
The Austrian put on a masterclass of how to lead the line as a lone striker in the modern game. He was formidable with his back to goal, holding the ball up and releasing runners from wide areas.
It’s how the Hammers scored their first goal. Arnautovic held off a marker to play a neat one-two with Pedro Obiang, before spinning in behind for the return and selflessly laying the ball across for Yarmolenko.
Arnautotvic isn’t just West Ham’s chief source of goals. He’s also the club’s creative talisman:
His ability top link with others can make manager Manuel Pellegrini’s tactics work as the season progresses.