After every round of Premier League fixtures, we pick our team of the weekend, explain our selections and then invite you – our loyal army of readers – to pick your team of Top Men.
We’re looking for the players who caught your eye with dazzling displays or powerful performances on Matchday 1 (August 17-19). You can choose any formation and there’s no limit on how many players you can pick from each team – so have a think, then get involved.
TEAMtalk’s Top Men (4-4-2): Stekelenburg; Whittaker, Hangeland, Kolo Toure, Shaw; Navas, Barkley, Coutinho, Oscar; Dzeko, Van Persie.
Maarten Stekelenburg – Fulham
Brought in for around £3 million from Roma to replace the departing Mark Schwarzer, Maarten Stekelenberg proved his worth, and more, with an outstanding performance on his league debut. The Dutch number one made a string of brilliant saves to preserve his clean sheet and give Fulham the chance to claim victory. First the 29-year-old saved well from one of Sunderland’s new signings, Emanuele Giaccherini, before saving a dipping half-volley by another new-boy, Ondrej Celustka. Stekelenberg’s final act was to save a close-range Jozy Altidore shot before going off with a shoulder injury on 76 minutes.
Steven Whittaker – Norwich City
The hero for Norwich City on Saturday was not new striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel, although he did play his part, but right-back Steven Whittaker. Although the Scotsman only registered one goal last season for the Canaries, he scored his team’s first goal of the new season, and later claimed an assist, to give Norwich a 2-2 draw at home to Everton. He opened the scoring in some style, going past a couple of challenges and curling a shot past Tim Howard but on to the post. Not to be beaten, Whittaker reacted quickest from the rebound and slid the ball home. After Everton had gone 2-1 ahead soon after, the full back sliced a volley into the penalty area for Van Wolfswinkel to head home.
Kolo Toure – Liverpool
Having made just 15 league appearances last season for Manchester City, Liverpool fans could probably be forgiven for thinking Kolo Toure was a cover defender. Despite his wealth of experience, which includes two Premier League titles, a lack of regular first-team football in recent years could have diminished Toure’s top-flight ability. The Ivory Coast international was out to make a statement of intent on his Liverpool debut, defending with a passion and drive not dissimilar to Kop legend Jamie Carragher. But for a crossbar’s width, Toure would have topped off his commanding debut with a goal.
Brede Hangeland – Fulham
Fulham captain Brede Hangeland joins his goalkeeper in our Team of the Week, with the Norwegian being much of the reason Stekelenberg didn’t have to do even more. Having recently said that avoiding relegation is the club’s aim this season, fans could expect their club to do a lot more after a stellar defensive performance marshalled by Hangeland. The 32-year-old had a brilliant match, being a thorn in the side of Sunderland’s strikers and forcing the Black Cats to shoot from long distance in an attempt to find a way past. And with the Norway captain having signed a contract extension recently, it looks like he could be putting in more superb performances for years to come.
Luke Shaw – Southampton
Tipped as the next big thing in English football, Luke Shaw is well on his way to stardom. The 18-year-old continued to make the runs that have thus far defined his career, including winning a late penalty that Rickie Lambert duly converted. Of course his defensive efforts should not go unheralded, with the England Under 21 international continuing the trend of English left backs that have the ability to play at both ends of the field.
Jesús Navas – Man City
Manchester City showed off their title credentials with a 4-0 demolition of Newcastle United in an incredibly one-sided match, with new signing Jesus Navas being one of many positives for Manuel Pellegrini’s men. The Spain international, who finally sealed a Premier League move after years of speculation, ran Newcastle ragged as City romped to an easy victory, with the pick of the goals being Yaya Toure’s stunning free-kick. Navas appeared to justify his £15million price tag almost instantaneously, seamlessly fitting in with the 2011/12 champions to be a menace to the Magpies all night. The ex-Sevilla attacker would probably have won man of the match for his performance, if not for the outstanding contributions of another City player.
Ross Barkley – Everton
Another player to break through Everton’s youth system, the Toffees will be hoping to keep hold of Barkley in the way that they couldn’t with players like Jack Rodwell. After being sent out on loan to Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United last season, the 19-year-old looks to have secured his place in Roberto Martinez’s first-team plans with a commanding performance on Saturday. Not only did the England Under 21 international boss the midfield against Norwich City, he was not afraid to shoot, which led to a stunning goal. Picking up the ball after good work from Seamus Coleman, Barkley dropped the shoulder and switched the ball on to his supposedly weaker left foot, before unleashing an unstoppable shot past John Ruddy.
Oscar – Chelsea
Whilst not technically a traditional central midfielder, Oscar could have probably played anywhere on Sunday and been effective. There was originally some debate about what system Jose Mourinho would use to start his second tenure at Chelsea, but he opted for a similar system as last season and Oscar fitted in perfectly. The Brazil international was the lifeblood of Chelsea, contributing in every attack and always looking for that killer blow to heap more misery on Hull City. The Tigers couldn’t handle the creativity and pace of the 21-year-old, who opened the scoring after a fantastic team move involving Kevin de Bruyne and Eden Hazard.
Philippe Coutinho – Liverpool
Ever since his £8.5million move to Liverpool from Inter Milan in January, Philippe Coutinho has had the Premier League in awe. Scoring three goals and claiming seven assists in just 13 games last season, Coutinho seems to have been able to carry over his impressive form into this season. The Brazilian is considered Liverpool’s main source of chance creation, especially during the remainder of Luis Suarez’s 10-game ban, and he proved that on Saturday with his mesmerising runs and tricky feet. In fact, Coutinho created six chances against Stoke City, the most of any player on Saturday.
Edin Dzeko – Man City
Desperately unlucky not to score a goal of his own during Man City’s 4-0 mauling of Newcastle, Edin Dzeko was the mastermind behind the result. Having a part in two of the goals, the Bosnia international would have been on the scoresheet himself if not for a brilliant save by Tim Krul, who sprawled across his goal to deny Dzeko’s point-blank header. The 27-year-old probably wouldn’t have been too fussed though, after his cross was deflected to David Silva who opened the scoring inside just six minutes. Having often been touted as a ‘super-sub’ last season, Dzeko made the most of his start by assisting the second goal, this time a flick through to Sergio Aguero that left the entire Newcastle defence flatfooted.
Robin Van Persie – Man United
There was only ever going to be one man who scored Manchester United’s first goal of the season – Robin van Persie. Coming off the back of a 26-goal haul, and the Premier League golden boot, last season, questions were being asked about whether Van Persie was too old to have a third consecutive campaign where he was top scorer. The Dutchman appears to have dispelled those ideas in double quick time, bagging a brace as United beat Swansea 4-1 in Wales. Both of the 30-year-old’s goals could easily be Goal of the Season competitors, with the first an acrobatic attempt after good chest control. What makes the goal even more special is the fact he so nonchalantly used his highly unfavoured right foot to volley past a stranded Michel Vorm. For his second, the prolific striker was given far too much room by Swansea defenders and he lashed his 20-yard shot into the roof of the net, setting United well on their way to victory at a ground where they drew last season.