Don’t you just hate the international break? We’re literally coming off the most competitive international summer of the past four years and crap, unorganized international matches are here to interrupt the season that was just about to crack on. Back off, national squad. As always, this is FIFA’s fault. Anyway…
It’s been a breathless first month of the Premier League season. Sure, the good people supporting West Ham would love to have their memories erased after a sluggish first four games, but they still have all those shiny new signings to bring out for a spin. And what can we really take away from the first four games other than Watford are qualifying for Champions League? Heads up, Hammers.
Speaking of Watford, wow. Just wow. Stand up and take a bow Javi Gracia. The Hornets defense is looking impenetrable while Troy Deeney is out here looking like a ripped Wiz Khalifa, minus the tattoos and traces of marijuana smoke.
Watford proved they’re for real with a 2-1 victory over Tottenham. The only ball that found the back of Ben Foster’s net was from friendly-fire, but that didn’t stop Harry the Hornet’s men from cracking on for a come-from-behind W against half of the English national team.
Surely, Watford are the most disappointed about the arrival of the international break, but what about Cardiff City? Two goals against Arsenal for Neil Warnock’s squad. No point to show for it, but happier days could be around the corner for the Bluebirds, if they can keep the momentum going.
As always, this blog is a hobby of mine so I asked WhoScored.com to give me a hand. On to the Starssss!
3. Philip Billing, Midfielder — Huddersfield Town
The 20-year-old Danish midfielder picked the perfect time to score his first Premier League goal. 22-year-old Philip Billing pulled Huddersfield ahead in the 33rd-minute only to see his Terriers lose the lead two minutes later. That’s just the kind of season Huddersfield are having at the moment. But back to Billing!
Phil, as the club calls him, has quietly put together the best season for anyone in a Terriers shirt. That’s not really saying much but Billing has appeared to be more dangerous than striker Steve Mounie and fellow midfielder Aaron Mooy. Billing has played every minute in all four of the matches. He’s their highest rated player on WhoScored.com and for good reason —he’s averaging a combined 6.1 tackles + interceptions per match.
Is there a changing of the guard at midfield for the Terriers? Is there a possibility he charges on and gets bought by a bigger club who is closer to safety by January? Sorry, Huddersfield, I had to do it. It’s shaping up to be a long season.
2. Glenn Murray, Striker — Brighton & Hove Albion
Glenn Murray is quietly having a career season at the cool age of 34. Yes, the goals have been flowing and he’s winning header after header from long balls, but it’s his leadership and aggressiveness that’s dragged Brighton to four points through the first four matches. Just watch as he barks orders on the pitch on Saturday. His scowling of Anthony Knockaert earlier in the match seemed poetic when he found Murray later to put the Seagulls one goal away.
On the eve of 35 (September 25), Murray has fired eight shots this season and three have found the back of the net. He’s also drawing more than two fouls a game, which should have made a bigger impact against Fulham when he was taken down in the box but Pascal Groß missed the penalty.
Here’s another fun Murray note before we get to the first star: Since August 2017, Murray only trails Mohamed Salah, Harry Kane, Sergio Aguero, Jamie Vardy, Raheem Sterling, Romelu Lukaku and Roberto Firmino for goals scored in the Premier League. Not bad for a man started his career in the early aughts with Workington Reds
1. Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, Midfielder — Southampton
What a comeback for Pierre-Emile Højbjerg. One week after his dive in the box against Leicester got him sent off for yellow card accumulation, the Dane redeemed himself by playing lights out against a Wilfried Zaha-less Crystal Palace.
Højbjerg bossed the midfield against Palace, possessing the ball for nearly nine percent of the game. He was also active in the attacking half, just like he was against Leicester before he was sent off. And to be fair, outside the two yellow cards, he played well against the Foxes, too.
Højbjerg was able to serve his one-match ban earlier this week when Southampton beat Brighton & Hove Albion in the second round of that one cup everyone forgets the name of. The 23-year-old former Bayern Munich player returned to the lineup facing scrutiny from Saint fans who have failed to see him score since his signing from Munich in 2016. There’s also a reputation brewing for Højbjerg.
Earlier in the match, he blatantly dove to the ground after a challenge from a Palace defender. The NBC Gold broadcast became annoyed of his diving antics and called it out. Although his skill is obvious on the pitch, his goal against Palace shushed critics more than anything. This could finally be the year Højbjerg becomes the player Southampton needs him to be.
PS- Two stars for Denmark this week!
Matchday 4 Team of the Week
Glenn Murray — Brighton & Hove Albion
- Two goals on six shots (One penalty)
- Won eight aerials
- Drew a penalty
Troy Deeney — Watford
- One goal on three shots
- Won nine aerials
Adama Traoré — Wolverhampton
- One goal on two shots in 29 minutes off the bench
- Two key passes in five total passes
- Four dibbles
Pierre-Emile Højbjerg — Southampton
- One goal on three shots
- 93 total touches and possessed the ball for 8.3 percent of the game
- Two tackles, two interceptions and two clearances
- Won four aerials
Philip Billing — Huddersfield Town
- One goal on two shots
- 29 total passes for a 74 pass percentage
- Five tackles, three interceptions and two clearances
João Moutinho — Wolverhampton
- Three key passes on 61 total passes for a 94 pass percentage
- Possessed the ball for 7.3 percent of the game
- Three clearances, two interceptions and two tackles
Cédric Soares — Southampton
- One assist in three key passes on 32 total passes
- Six clearances, two tackles and an interception
Matt Doherty — Wolverhampton
- Three key passes on 33 total passes for a 77 pass percentage
- Won six aerials
- Two tackles and one interception
Craig Cathcart — Watford
- One goal on one shot
- 11 clearances, three interceptions and two tackles
- Won four aerials
Sean Morrison — Cardiff City
- One assist on three key passes
- Won 10 aerials — five more than anyone else
- Nine clearances and two interceptions
Alex McCarthy — Southampton
- Six total saves
- Kept a clean sheet when Palace had a 1.37 xG