Hughes & Zeegelaar Impress Silva
As full home Premier League debuts go, Will Hughes’ and Marvin Zeegelaar’s couldn’t have been scripted much better. A goal, an assist, a clean sheet, three points and a jump up to eighth in the table. It was story-book stuff.
Hughes grabbed most of the headlines. He astutely found pockets of space in the No 10 role, linking the play intelligently and providing a clever conduit between the hard-working, high-energy midfield and Andre Gray, who was tireless in attack.
The former England Under-21 international took his goal with all the aplomb of a seasoned finisher and then weighted the pass beautifully for Richarlison to run onto and slam in the second. There was real feeling behind the standing ovation Hughes received when he was substituted seven minutes from time.
“He deserved the moment,” said Head Coach Marco Silva. “Last week [at Everton] he made his debut and did well. He repeated that and played very well again.”
Hughes has had to learn the art of patience since joining from Derby in the summer. The playmaker has been a peripheral figure, dipping in and out of the bench, and it took until the home game with Stoke for him to be given any Premier League minutes.
“He didn't give up, even some moments when he didn't stay in the squad,” added Silva. “He tried to improve every day. It's a good moment for him and I'm happy.”
Zeegelaar has had to be even more patient than Hughes: he’s had a watching brief, either from the stands or the bench, since signing from Sporting Lisbon at the end of the summer window.
Handed his chance yesterday at the expense of Jose Holebas, Zeegelaar survived being roughed up by Andy Carroll to put in an assured display down the left.
In putting over a cross for the first and producing another delicious centre across the face of goal in the second-half, Zeegelaar showed the sort of quality that saw him called up to the Dutch national side in 2016. You could certainly tell, by the way he raided down the left, that he started off his career as a winger.
“It was very good for me to see [him play like that] and I enjoyed his debut,” said Silva. “I know the player very well. He needed to adapt to the culture and the Premier League but now he knows better our philosophy. The answer he gave is not a surprise.”