Premier League Week 7 Picks: Big Names with a Point to Prove

Christopher Atkins@@chris_elasticoContributor IOctober 1, 2013

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 16:  Rio Ferdinand of Manchester United answers questions from the media during a press conference ahead of their UEFA Champions League match against Bayer Leverkusen at Old Trafford on September 16, 2013 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

With the shocks of the weekend still fresh in supporters' memories, attention now turns to the challenges ahead and how sides can either build on or rectify recent results in Week 7.

However, it is not only misfiring teams with a point to prove. Several of the league's most established names have come in for criticism after disappointing starts to the new campaign, bringing scrutiny upon their next outings.

With Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea, in particular, all attracting intense criticism, there are plenty of high-profile stars with question marks over their heads regarding current performance levels.

Which players must offer a greatly improved showing in this weekend's fixtures?


Joe Hart (Manchester City)

England No. 1 Hart has not had an easy start to the current campaign, with a couple of noticeable mistakes prompting questions over his form ahead of crucial upcoming international qualifiers for England.

In the recent defeat to Aston Villa, Hart was at fault for Andreas Weimann's final goal, as he rushed off his line only to allow the Austrian a simple toe-poke into the vacant net.

It may simply be a lack of confidence prompting some rash judgements, but Manchester City will be getting twitchy about what is now a poor run of form stretching back into last season. If the mistakes should continue much longer, his place in the side will surely be questioned.

City cannot afford another slip-up and, in an Everton side that have started the season well, will face a difficult opponent this weekend. Hart will come under physical pressure from imposing striker Romelu Lukaku and must prove he is not going to wilt under the weight of current criticism with an imposing performance.


Roberto Soldado (Tottenham Hotspur)

It is, perhaps, a little unfair to criticise Soldado after his fine assist for Gylfi Sigurdsson's goal against Chelsea at the weekend, but the Spaniard will be the first to accept his all-round contribution has not yet been good enough.

In six games, he has scored twice from the penalty spot, but failed to find the back of the net from open play. Spurs' late changes to their squad in August will not have helped, but their high-value summer striking addition must do better.

Soldado has now had several games to get used to his new teammates, with Christian Eriksen, Sigurdsson, Andros Townsend and Erik Lamela now beginning to settle into their new roles. Tottenham will expect to beat West Ham at White Hart Lane and, in turn, will expect their striker to contribute.

West Ham's physical style will be a good test of his adaptation to the Premier League, thus far, and a goal from open play would do much to stave off the critics who are beginning to emerge.


Eden Hazard (Chelsea)

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 28:  Eden Hazard of Chelsea controls the ball ahead of Kyle Walker of Tottenham Hotspur during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea at White Hart Lane on September 28, 2013 in London, England.
Clive Rose/Getty Images

Chelsea have been a far-from-free-flowing attacking force, thus far, this season, with the non-selection of Spaniard Juan Mata drawing plentiful media attention.

While Mata's direct competition, Oscar, has contributed goals in both Premier League and European competition, there has been a disappointing lack of goals and assists from both Eden Hazard and Andre Schurrle.

While Schurrle is new to the English game, and, thus, should be afforded some leeway, Hazard is a player with pretensions to be among the world's elite forward players. No goals or assists in six games is simply not good enough for a player of his ability.

He has, admittedly, been unlucky that some of the chances he has created have been squandered, but his general play has not been up to expected standards. He has given the ball away too regularly, completing just 60 percent of his passes against Spurs on Saturday, and has not been at his inventive best.

His early withdrawal after 69 minutes on Saturday should be warning enough that his contribution was not up to Jose Mourinho's high standards. He will now be expected to respond in style against Norwich at the weekend.


Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United)

It is debatable whether Ferdinand will even start the weekend's fixture with Sunderland, having been woefully poor in the Red Devils' loss to West Brom at Old Trafford on Saturday. Both Baggies goals, in part, can be attributed to poor defending from the England international.

Ferdinand made not a single tackle at Old Trafford, compared to the combined 10 made by his fellow defenders, while also losing all four of his battles in the air. Add in the ease in which he was beaten for West Brom's first goal and a lack of reaction to the danger of Saido Berahino on the second and it is clear that Ferdinand had an afternoon to forget in this instance.

Following a similarly disappointing showing in the Manchester derby, there will be doubts in David Moyes' mind about the 34-year-old's ability to contribute this season. Comfort on the ball is important, but a defender's primary duty is to ensure that goals are not conceded.

If given the opportunity to make amends, Ferdinand will know that he cannot afford another poor showing. With Jonny Evans, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling waiting patiently in the wings, Moyes has plenty of alternatives to choose from.