Cheers to the Football: Matchday 1 Team of the Week

We’re back.

After 90 days or rest, relaxation and transfer drama, the Premier League has returned. The 2019-20 season welcomes back Norwich City, Sheffield United and Aston Villa to the collection of clubs outside the top 6. Along with these plucky clubs, a host of players return to their squads by managing to stay clear of a transfer to the all-powerful Top 6. Rest in power, Harry Maguire. At least most of these Outside the 6 stars have chairmen greedy enough to keep them where they are. But enough about Wilfried Zaha.

Matchday 1 blessed us with a jolting start of the season. Brighton have pundits questioning their relegation destiny. Burnley showed everyone they can do more than play defense. Crystal Palace still can’t finish at home. And the Blades showed us, yet again, why we love this game.

Billy Sharp undoubtedly made the loudest impact of the young season by pulling Sheffield United level on the road in the 86th minute. Not to be outdone, newly promoted Teemu Pukki of Norwich City announced his arrival along with Aston Villa’s John McGinn. Cheers to fresh legs at start the season and nipping goals against the big boys.

The race for the final Europa League spot was set for a flying start with Top 6 hopefuls (!?) Leicester City and Wolverhampton clashing at the King Power. But after a miraculous goal line clearance by VAR, a sluggish 0-0 stalemate was all these glory-hunting clubs could muster. Thankfully, we have 37 matches left on the itinerary.

But before next week’s action hits us like a clumsy Morgan Schneiderlin slide tackle, let’s honor our 3 stars of matchday 1.

Three Outside the 6 Stars of the Week

3. Jóhann Berg Gudmundsson, Midfielder — Burnley

We start the season with a controversial pick. Sure, Gudmundsson was relatively quiet for the first 74 minutes against Southampton. That would have been a fair assessment if you turned off the game after Burley went up 2-0 in the 70th-minute.

Then a moment of pure brilliance struck from the heavens to put the Saints to bed. Gudmundsson, scampering around on the right flank — opposite of where he spent most the game — stripped the ball of Saints’ defender Ryan Bertrand with a stealth left-footed toe poke. He fetched the ball and took two light, penetrating touches into the penalty area. As he stared down mentally-worn Southampton keeper Angus Gunn, he cocked his left boot back and unleashed a left-footed curler into the back of the net.

And as legends tend to do, he capped off this 10 seconds of class with a lengthy knee slide. Muah. Perfection from the Iceland international.

2. Lewis Dunk, Defender — Brighton & Hove Albion

Brighton made a lot of noise again in the transfer market during the summer window. But their most important move wasn’t an acquisition. It was hanging on to Lewis Dunk.

The new captain showed everybody why Top 6 clubs were swarming this offseason. Dunk controlled the center of the defense in Graham Potter’s new 3 center-back system. Dunk looked extremely comfortable distributing the ball to the midfield and forwards, which culminated in a beautiful assist on Neal Maupay’s debut goal.

It was a new, bright start for Brighton this Saturday under their new manager. For this momentum to keep pushing forward, Dunk will be at the wheel, pulling strings from the middle of the pitch and denying the opposition from threatening in the penalty area. Then again, the winter transfer window is always looming.

1. Ashley Barnes, Striker — Burnley

The Barnes Brace was a masterclass in opportunistic strikers making the most of a situation when there’s a sliver of hope. Give him an inch, and Barnes will give you a cracking goal to break the deadlock. Give him another inch and your opening weekend is ruined while you limp back to the South Coast.

What should make Clarets fans giddy about the opening weekend is Barnes outperforming his xG. The 29-year-old netted 12 goals last season, but had an expected goals of nearly 13.5.

On Saturday, his first goal’s xG was a minuscule 0.08. Yet he buried. His second of the day? 0.46. The 79th minute chance? Let’s just skip that one. The point is he made the most of his chances and that’s good enough to put you mid-table.

And Burnley have been crying out for a reliable goal-scorer to secure safety this season. If the first matchday is any indicator, Barnes could be their man as he transitions into his 30s.

Outside the 6 Team of the Week: Matchday 1

Goalkeeper

Mat Ryan — Brighton & Hove Albion

  • Clean sheet
  • 3 saves

Defenders

Ben Mee — Burnley

  • Clean sheet
  • 3 interceptions and 2 tackles
  • 8 aerial wins and 4 clearances

Shane Duffy — Brighton

  • Clean sheet
  • 2 interceptions and 4 tackles
  • 8 aerial wins and 6 clearances

Lewis Dunk — Brighton

  • Clean sheet
  • 92% pass percentage and 1 assist
  • 2 interceptions and 2 tackles
  • 3 aerial wins and 3 clearances

Erik Pieters — Burnley

  • Clean sheet
  • 2 key passes and assists
  • 2 interceptions and 7 tackles
  • 1 aerial won and 2 clearances

Midfielders

Davy Pröpper — Brighton

  • 1 assist on 38 completed passes for an 84 pass percentage
  • 3 tackles, 2 clearances and 1 interception

Dwight McNeil — Burnley

  • 4 dribbles
  • 4 tackles and 1 interception

Jóhann Berg Gudmundsson — Burnley

  • 1 goal on 2 shots
  • 3 dribbles
  • 2 key passes
  • 2 interceptions and 1 tackle

Wilfred Ndidi — Leicester City

  • 1 key pass on 58 completed passes for an 78 pass percentage
  • 5 interceptions and 4 tackles
  • 4 ariels wins and 2 clearances

John McGinn — Aston Villa

  • 1 goal on 2 shots
  • 8 tackles and 1 interception

Forward

Ashley Barnes — Burnley

  • 2 goals, 3 shots on target and 4 total
  • 5 aerial wins and 4 dribbles

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