Premier League Team of the Week
Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea has been much maligned this season after a series of high-profile mistakes, but has come back strong to turn in some impressive performances in recent weeks. At Carrow Road on Sunday, the Spaniard earned his side three points with three top-class saves to deny Norwich an equaliser. It's good to see the player earning headlines for the right reasons after a tough start to life in the Premier League.
For Arsenal's Bacary Sagna it was a day to remember, with the full-back notching his third league goal in Arsenal colours. With Arsenal 2-0 down in the first-half, Sagna's determination saw the defender make his mark with a fine back-post header and then continue to make an impression down the right flank for the remainder of the game. Several players have returned from injury in recent times, but Sagna's return may be the biggest boost of all to Arsenal's hopes of fourth place.
Another player who has been heavily criticised this campaign is Chelsea centre-back David Luiz. However, against Bolton the Brazilian gave a clear demonstration of the talent that caused Chelsea to part with £21.3 million for his services. A fine curled finish bagged a goal, but the defender also showed how he can perform in defence, handling Bolton's forwards with ease and proving to be a commanding figure in the air against some physical opponents.
As Stoke overcame Swansea at the Britannia on Sunday afternoon, it was Matthew Upson who will grab many of the headlines. An emphatic headed finish from Matthew Etherington's cross was undoubtedly the highlight, but the defender put in a fine performance all around the park. A couple of dangerous efforts in attack were complemented by key tackles in defence, as Stoke nullified the Swans' attacking threat.
Aleksandar Kolarov may not always be a first-choice selection at Manchester City, but if he can repeat his performance from Saturday on a regular basis, he will be soon. The full-back was influential in everything good about the Citizens' performance, providing two assists for his side and getting on the ball more than any of his team-mates. An almost faultless passing display added great width to the City attack, while the Serb helped nullify the threat of Junior Hoilett down the Blackburn right.
The first member of the midfield trio is Fulham's Moussa Dembele, who played in a deeper role alongside Danny Murphy. Fulham's midfield controlled the game against QPR, with the technical ability of Dembele, Murphy, Bryan Ruiz and Clint Dempsey too much for the home team (especially when they went down to ten men). Dembele was outstanding, rarely misplacing a pass, skipping past opponents and setting up Pavel Pogrebnyak's early decider with a delightful reverse pass. An indication of a long-term role, perhaps.
One of the most impressive team performances of the weekend was West Brom's 4-0 demolition of in-form Sunderland and central to that was Keith Andrews in midfield. The January signing from Blackburn has enjoyed a fantastic start to his West Brom career so far and continued his impressive form with a dynamic performance against the Black Cats. A curled shot into the top corner will be the moment that sticks in the memory, but it was his hard graft in midfield that caused Sunderland problems from early on. A demonstration of the box-to-box midfield role at its best.
There are some players who seem to defy the simple biology of the ageing process and Ryan Giggs is without doubt the most impressive of the Premier League's current crop. Sunday's encounter with Norwich was the 900th game of Ryan Giggs' Manchester United career and Giggs celebrated the achievement by turning home Ashley Young's cross at the back post with the 90 minutes already up. Alongside Paul Scholes, the midfielder was at his best, quietly keeping play ticking over in midfield, before turning up for his late intervention.
In midweek, as Man City brushed aside FC Porto in the Europa League, it was Sergio Aguero who drew many of the plaudits; on Saturday, it was no different. The Argentine has quickly become integral to the Manchester City side and is proving his worth with each passing game. Playing in the hole behind Mario Balotelli, Aguero was influential in orchastrating many of City's best attacks, alongside colleague David Silva. A goal was the personal reward, but it is the whole team reaping the benefits of Aguero's unselfish link-up play.
Robin van Persie has done little wrong all season, but on Sunday led the way for his team's impressive comeback with a fine captain's performance. A goal is almost expected for the Dutchman these days, but during Tottenham's bright start, Van Persie was causing all sorts of problems for the Spurs defence. Midfielder Tomas Rosicky and wide-man Theo Walcott also did their bit for the Gunners, but it was Van Persie who claimed the Man of the Match award for his goal and assist.
One man in fine form is West Brom forward Peter Odemwingie, who has now bagged five goals in his last two games. Following a hat-trick against Wolves, the Nigerian livewire grabbed two in Saturday's win over Sunderland to take his tally for the Premier League season to nine. A header and a tidy right-footed finish sent the Baggies on their way to a fine win.
Despite the impressive performances of West Brom, Manchester City and Chelsea in particular this weekend, it is Arsene Wenger who will take most pride in his team's performance. Scoring five goals against local rivals Tottenham is an impressive feat in itself, but the nature of the comeback, having been 2-0 down, made it all the more noteworthy. Wenger's side have often been criticised for their lack of mental strength, but showed it in abundance to win so emphatically after a poor start.