Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Couldridge
The Premier League’s clubs reconvened this weekend after an international break which included the closing of the summer transfer window. After much change of personnel and time on the training pitches with those who didn’t represent their countries, there were plenty of players who made their debuts on Saturday and Sunday. Here are the winners and losers.
Loser – Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
(Photo courtesy: Action Images)
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain wasn’t introduced in the easiest of circumstances – Liverpool was 2-0 down at Manchester City, and with 10 men following Sadio Mane‘s sending off – but the ex-Arsenal man had a wholly ineffectual half of football on Saturday.
The 24-year-old didn’t provide anything in an attacking sense – not one shot or key pass – and only touched the ball 17 times. Before Ederson Moraes was almost decapitated by Mane after 37 minutes, the City goalkeeper had 22 touches to his name.
“Baptism of fire or what?! Lacked awareness at times after coming on, being beaten to the ball waiting for it to arrive,” reads the five-out-of-10 assessment of the Ox by the Liverpool Echo’s Neil Jones.
With the 2018 World Cup in Russia drawing nearer, Oxlade-Chamberlain needs first-team minutes to safeguard his national team starting berth. He may have to subsist with some game time at right-back, deputising for the injured Nathaniel Clyne and raw teenager Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Winner – Davinson Sanchez
From his spot between Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen in a back-three, Sanchez didn’t dwell in possession or squander the ball with ambitious long passes; he dealt with danger by simply whacking 10 clearances.
When he did pass, it tended to be accurate and considered. Sanchez’s meteoric rise – from Colombia’s Atletico Nacional, through Ajax, and into the Premier League in little over a year – can continue when under the watchful eye of Pochettino and Alderweireld in north London.
Loser – Wesley Hoedt
The Hornets deservedly won 2-0 on the south coast and, although Hoedt showed some vision with his distribution, the Saints’ new Dutchman was out-performed by Jack Stephens in the middle of defence. His difficult induction left fans scratching their heads at why the promising partnership between Stephens and Maya Yoshida was broken up by manager Mauricio Pellegrino.
Winner – Levi Lumeka
Only one Crystal Palace player should’ve left Turf Moor satisfied with his showing: Levi Lumeka.
While his experienced teammates couldn’t find the back of Burnley‘s net with 22 attempts, Lumeka managed to carve out an effort from his short cameo – surprisingly, a header that was just off target from the left-sided attacker – and will hope to leapfrog Chung-yong Lee in the starting lineup after the South Korean’s costly error for Chris Wood‘s winner.
Lumeka, 19, has also done well to overtake Sullay Kaikai in Frank de Boer’s considerations. 22-year-old Kaikai has a wealth of senior outings under his belt through various loan spells, including two impressive temporary stints with Shrewsbury Town.
Loser – Renato Sanches
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There was plenty of excitement surrounding Renato Sanches‘ arrival at Swansea City. The Portuguese midfielder failed to impress in his rare opportunities at Bayern Munich last season, but is only one year removed from being one of the most exciting youngsters on the planet when he played a key part in Portugal winning Euro 2016.
The 20-year-old sidestepped and backed into space well in Newcastle United‘s Sunday visit, always offering an outlet for recycling possession or maintaining the tempo at the Liberty Stadium, but looked unfit and a little cowed by the booting and barging in a Premier League midfield.
Before he was substituted for Wilfried Bony (on his second debut for the Swans) after 69 minutes, Sanches hadn’t created a chance and contributed just one interception.
It’s too easy to make a knee-jerk assessment on Sanches. For Paul Clement to use his contacts to broker a loan for a player who cost €35 million last summer is a huge coup, and he joins an exciting midfield group in Wales including Tom Carroll, Leroy Fer, Roque Mesa, Sam Clucas, and speedy winger Luciano Narsingh.
(Photos courtesy: Getty, unless stated otherwise)