Team of the Week
On a particularly poor weekend for Premier League goalkeepers, Aston Villa's veteran custodian Brad Friedel put in a relatively strong performance. Belying his age, Friedel displayed impressive agility on occasions, particularly when denying first Martin Petrov and then Matthew Taylor.
An unexpected inclusion now, with David Bentley's roommate in the Tottenham doldrums filling our right-back spot, step forward Alan Hutton. The man Spurs signed for a fee in the region of £9 million enjoyed one of his better afternoons at White Hart Lane, although it says a lot for his career this far in North London that his major contributions were being fouled and then getting the ball kicked at him. Not taking anything away from the Scot though who was a threat from his full-back berth and help change the match when brought down for Tottenham's penalty.
Jose Mourinho's heir apparent at Real Madrid, Sam Allardyce, saw Christopher Samba score a goal at Ewood Park that contained all the grace and style of a scotch egg. He won't mind though, and his centre-back's header summed up the Congolese's all-action style. There was more than a hint of controversy around his strike, but Samba can always be relied upon to pop up with a goal when his team need one, and is never shy to put his body on the line for the team's cause.
Do not adjust your monitors; Titus Bramble really is included in our Team of the Week. Sunderland put in a sturdy performance against Arsenal at the Stadium of Light, and barring Cesc Fabregas' freak opener, their defence coped with the Gunners' attacking talent admirably. Bramble looked uncharacteristically assured at the back, and when he was sent forward in the latter stages, he helped create the chaos in the Arsenal defence which lead to Darren Bent's last-gasp equaliser. So there you have it, Titus is in our TOTW, he'll have to make sure he gets a printout to stick on his mother's fridge.
On an afternoon when Chelsea were once again at their free-scoring best, it may seem a little harsh that Ashley Cole is their only representative in this eleven. Honourable mentions go to Florent Malouda and Didier Drogba, but Chelsea players need to put in special performances to receive praise nowadays. Cole did just that and, while being vigilant in his defensive duties, he provides a dangerous attacking outlet for the champions and was heavily involved in most of their irrepressible forward play.
A lot of people may have questioned the validity of Rafael Van der Vaart's last-minute transfer to Tottenham, but few were questioning the wisdom behind it. The Dutchman has made a solid start to his Spurs career against West Brom and Werder Bremen, and on Saturday he opened his goalscoring account to drag his new team back into their match against Wolves. Displaying a cool head to convert his penalty, he possesses the ability to unlock defences, and could form a lethal attacking-midfield partnership with Luka Modric.
Steven Gerrard displayed the characteristics necessary to be a club captain in Liverpool's defeat to Manchester United, but it will come as no consolation to him. With Liverpool 2-0 down and seemingly out of the contest at Old Trafford, Gerrard showed nerves of steel to score a high-pressure penalty, and then proceeded to curl a clever free kick low into Edwin Van der Sar's net to bring Liverpool level. It was not enough for Roy Hodgson's men though and "Stevie G" will have to make do with a slot in our XI rather than Premier League points.
Newcastle's Hatem Ben Arfa is something of an enigma, vastly talented, but with an extremely questionable temperament. Everything seemed to click into place for him at Goodison Park, scoring on his full Premier League debut, and it was a goal of unquestionable brilliance. Drifting inside from his left-wing position, the Frenchman displayed some fancy footwork before hammering an unstoppable shot past a helpless Tim Howard. Judging by this display, the Toon Army's new enfant terrible might provide them with a certain je nais se quoi they need to maintain their Premier League status.
If you receive a standing ovation when you leave the pitch, you can be pretty sure you've had a successful afternoon. This is precisely what happened to Carlos Tevez when he was substituted in Manchester City's 2-0 victory over Wigan at the DW Stadium. There may have been an element of fortune in the approach to Tevez's opening goal, but there was nothing lucky about the finish as he lofted a delightful effort over Ali Al-Habsi. The Argentinean capped off a fine individual display by laying on the second goal for Yaya Toure, and with Manchester City having a host of injured strikers, at least one of them is fit and firing on all cylinders.
If West Brom are to avoid an immediate return to the Championship, they are going to need to find a goalscorer, and they might have found one in Peter Odemwingie. The Nigerian followed his debut goal against Sunderland with an impressive performance against Tottenham last weekend, and he got himself on the scoresheet again against Birmingham. After they'd fallen behind, Odemwingie first pressured Scott Dann into scoring an own goal, before showing striking instincts to pounce on a Lee Bowyer mistake and give the Baggies the lead.
It would have been impossible, and on some level probably illegal, to keep Dimitar Berbatov out of this week's team. To put it simply, Berbatov had his best afternoon in a Manchester United shirt. After shrugging off a disinterested Fernando Torres to give United the lead, he then scored a goal of the highest quality, bringing the ball under his spell before nonchalantly flicking it over his shoulder and beyond a statuesque Pepe Reina. He displayed hunger and desire to beat Jamie Carragher to a cross when he headed home the winner, and if Wayne Rooney's indifferent form continues, at least Sir Alex has one striker bang in form.
With his team one-nil down and struggling to trouble a comfortable-looking Birmingham City team, West Brom manager Roberto Di Matteo substituted the ineffectual Marc-Antoine Fortune for Graham Dorrans. It worked a charm, 45 minutes and three goals later, Di Matteo's men had bagged a vital win in a tightly contested Midlands derby, and all thanks to the tactical nous of their Italian manager. Imagine what could have happened if the talented Scot had started the game.