Twelve weeks into the Premier League season and finally the top of the table is starting to take shape. Well, sort of.
We saw a draw in the North London derby, breaking Arsenal’s winning streak against Tottenham and continuing the Spurs’ unbeaten run in the league. City, damaged by injuries, struggled to a goalless draw against Aston Villa. Meanwhile, their crosstown rivals looked dominant against West Brom. Leicester and West Ham remain in European places, while Chelsea mires in the relegation zone.
Here are the three stars of this weekend.
Jamie Vardy, Striker, Leicester City
While this is Jamie Vardy’s first appearance in the three stars this season, he has unquestionably been one of the best stories in the Premier League all year. Vardy has now scored in nine straight matches for Leicester City, with the mighty Foxes standing at third place in the table. Even the most optimistic Leicester fan couldn’t imagine such an incredible start from a team promoted just last year, and Vardy emerges as a big reason why they’ve started so hot.
The bad news for Leicester fans is it’s unlikely that Vardy stays with the Foxes next season. Rumors are already swirling around Europe that he could depart as early as the January transfer window. However, his emergence under new manager Claudio Ranieri illuminates the immense talent buried beneath the Nigel Pearson regime at Leicester last season.
Jesse Lingard, Winger, Manchester United
Many Manchester United fans pegged Memphis Depay as the young player most likely to break out in Louis van Gaal’s squad this season. While Memphis has failed to live up to expectations, United fans can be happy that they have a bevy of young talent buried deep in their club. One of those young talents emerged this weekend, as Jessie Lingard rewarded van Gaal for starting him with a goal against West Brom.
Lingard has been at United since age six, meaning he has spent the better portion of his life in the Manchester youth system. He has answered every question asked of him, especially with regards to his goal scoring ability.
In 2013, David Moyes loaned Lingard to Birmingham to see how he reacted to a harsh crowd environment. Lingard responded with a four-goal performance against rival Sheffield on Wednesday. The 22-year-old winger will certainly be one for the future at United, who now appear to possess an embarrassment of riches with the youth talent at Old Trafford.
Micah Richards, Center Back, Aston Villa
In Remi Garde’s debut as manager at Aston Villa, the Birmingham side were simply phenomenal. They looked completely different from their play under departed manager Tim Sherwood. They played tactically sound soccer throughout the 90 minutes. Even more impressive, they did it against prohibitive title favorites Manchester City.
The core of that Villa defense was undoubtedly anchored by Manchester City legend Micah Richards, who put on his best performance of the season against his former club. The back line Richards put together played such good defense that even City captain Vincent Kompany was impressed. Kompany told the Manchester Evening News, “there was almost a feeling around the ground that we could have played for another hour or two after this and wouldn’t have scored.”
If a world-class defender and the captain of one of the best offensive teams in the Premier League is giving that high praise to your defense, it probably played pretty well.
Under Garde, Villa looked like a totally different team, and as they face a relegation battle down the stretch this season, it will be interesting to see if a managerial change can make all the difference for the Villains.