What a weird season this is turning out to be. Leicester City, a preseason relegation candidate, are in second place. Manchester United is once again looking like a world class club for the first time since Sir Alex. Chelsea appears more concerned with avoiding relegation than competing for the top four.
It is a really good season to be a mid-table club, because the Premier League is wide open. And still, stars emerge. Here are three from this Premier League weekend.
Dimitri Payet, Midfielder, West Ham United
Payet was a reminder why Monday Premier League has become a must-watch. He scored two sensational goals against Newcastle, to give the Hammers a 2-0 victory in their last home match against the Magpies in the Boleyn Ground.
The first one was a curling strike from the top of the box into the top right corner of the Newcastle net, sending the crowd into an absolute frenzy. Payet came over from Marseille this summer for $18 million and has now scored three times in five games, propelling West Ham to a fifth place finish through five, trailing only Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United and the mighty Foxes of Leicester.
With a move to the much larger Olympic Stadium imminent, expect the Hammers to continue spending and making a push to finish in the top half of the league this season. Payet will be key to that push.
Steven Naismith, Midfielder, Everton
In a stunning upset home victory, Everton defeated Chelsea 3-1 in front of a sold out Goodison Park, with Steven Naismith, the 28-year-old Scottish international, scoring a hat trick to propel the home side to victory.
Chelsea has stumbled out of the gate this season, and with just four points from five games, find themselves dangerously close to the relegation zone. Everton, on the other hand, passed the ball at will through an old and slow Chelsea midfield, absolutely shredding central defenders on their way to goals.
After coming on as a substitute early in the match for Muhamed Besic, Naismith lit up the Chelsea defense with rangy strikes from the top of the box. Naismith was in a club with John Stones, two players looking to get transferred from Everton, but with both players putting on such fabulous performances against Chelsea, it’s no doubt they’ll be seeing more time in the Everton starting eleven.
After all, it’s hard to bench the guy who scores a hat trick against the defending champions.
Anthony Martial, Striker, Manchester United
As a 19-year-old professional soccer player, it’s quite an emotional moment when you score your first goal with a new team. Especially when that goal is for Manchester United, against hated rivals Liverpool, and is drawing comparisons to an early goal of legendary Arsenal striker Thierry Henry. But that’s exactly what happened to Anthony Martial this season, as United took down Liverpool 3-1.
Martial is the young, much maligned signing from Monaco, though he lived up to his expensive price tag this weekend. The French international is exactly what United have been missing this season.
With Wayne Rooney limited in fitness by his age, Martial provides a youthful burst of athleticism that makes the United attack downright deadly. One can only imagine what the future trio of Memphis Depay, Rooney and Martial can do to Premier League defenses as they get more acclimated to playing with each other in training.
Martial looked like a special talent against Liverpool, and while it remains to be seen if he can be consistent, he showed flashes of brilliance that can only be described as rare and incredible.