Team of the Week
The task of keeping clean sheets behind a defence as leaky as Wigan Athletic's is an unenviable one, but Ali Al Hasbi set about it in admirable fashion against Everton on Saturday.
The Omani stopper was eventually beaten by a Leighton Baines penalty in the second half, but that was after he had pulled out a magnificent one-handed stop to deny Mikel Arteta from the spot. The Latics defending was kamikaze at times, so Wigan boss Roberto Martinez must glad to have an able custodian between the posts.
Glen Johnson has had a forgettable second campaign with Liverpool and had become somewhat of a forgotten man since Kenny Dalglish began his Anfield revival. The Reds' 3-0 cruise past a hapless Newcastle United offered the former Portsmouth and Chelsea full-back a chance to show glimpses of the form that made him first choice for Fabio Capello's England side. Liverpool enjoyed large spells of possession against the Magpies and Johnson was able to launch some of his trademark forays into opposition territory. The 26-year-old was largely untroubled defensively, but did his job well and provided Dalglish with a timely reminder of his abilities.
Blackburn's game against Bolton Wanderers was always going to be a test of nerve, and it's a good job Rovers have players like Chris Samba for such occasions. Steve Kean's team had not led a match in 12 weeks and the assured presence of Samba in their rearguard helped provide the platform for a much-needed three points. Blackburn got lucky as Bolton wasted early chances, but once Martin Olsson had given the Ewood Park team the lead, Samba helped to make sure they edged towards Premier League survival.
Pablo Zabaleta is one of the unsung heroes in Manchester City's expensively-assembled Champions League-chasing squad, and he provided a useful outlet for Roberto Mancini's Citizens against West Ham United. In addition to his characteristically tidy defensive work, the Argentine popped up in the attacking third to unleash a cross-come-shot which left Lars Jacobsen with no alternative but to divert the ball into the roof of his own net. After the arrival of multi-million pound defenders at the City of Manchester Stadium last summer, it's a credit to that Zabaleta's skills that he has been able to stay in the first XI.
Manchester United elected against including Ryan Giggs in the centre of their midfield against Arsenal, and it was a decision which allowed the Gunners to take control in the middle of the pitch. Aaron Ramsey is still finding his feet in the Premier League after recovering from a broken leg, but he looked calm and assured in the heart of the Arsenal team. The Wales captain was in the right place, at the right time, to roll the ball home from Robin van Persie's cutback in second half and formed an energetic triumvirate with Jack Wilshere and Alex Song. The performances of Ramsey and co were such that the absence of skipper Cesc Fabregas was barely felt.
Jack Wilshere's importance at club and international level seems to be growing by the week, and he continued to enhance his growing reputation with an accomplished display in Arsenal's defeat of Manchester United. Wilshere was able to find space behind United's midfield pairing of Anderson and Michael Carrick and drive at the heart of the Red Devils' defence. The 19-year-old showed his eye for a pass as he repeatedly fed the dangerous Theo Walcott in the opening exchanges and was a critical part of an Arsenal engine room which dominated proceedings.
Blackburn boss Steven Kean has spoken of his desire to keep hold of on-loan midfielder Jermaine Jones for next season and, after his performance on Saturday, it's not hard to see why. Alongside Steve Nzonzi, the American formed a huge shield across the midfield which helped Blackburn limit Bolton's threat. Tough in the tackle and not afraid to put in a shift, Rovers will look to Jones to drag them over the line to Premier League safety.
Sandro cracked in a goal-of-the-season contender to give Tottenham Hotspur a 1-0 lead against Chelsea, as Spurs fell short in their attempt to get a first victory at Stamford Bridge since 1990. It turned out to be a gut-wrenching afternoon for Harry Redknapp's team, but Sandro's 30-yard half-volley will at least live long in the memory. After an anonymous start to his White Hart Lane career, the Brazilian has shown his talents since the turn of the year and is providing a viable alternative to fellow bruiser Tom Huddlestone in the heart of the Spurs midfield.
Sunderland's end of season collapse continued as their toothless outfit, deprived of a recognised striker by injuries, succumbed to a 3-0 defeat at home to Fulham. It was only the Cottagers second away success of the season, and it owed a great deal to the form of Simon Davies. The Welsh winger added to Gael Kakuta's opening goal with a fiercely struck low shot which virtually sealed three points for Mark Hughes' team in the second period. His tenacity paid off when he harried the Black Cats backline into a series of mistakes and converted a tap in to bag a brace and set the seal on a fine personal performance.
Peter Odemwingie's form has been so impressive since his move to The Hawthorns that he has been linked with a transfer to Italian giants Juventus. Odemwingie grabbed his 14th goal of an impressive debut campaign to drag West Brom level against Aston Villa, before Youssouf Mulumbu secured a first triumph for the Baggies over their local rivals for 26 years. The Nigerian showed true striking instincts to fire home from inside the six-yard box and is one of the main reasons why Albion can look forward to another season in the top division next time around.
Luis Suarez's arrival at Anfield has coincided with an upturn in form which could result in an unexpected Europa League berth for the Merseysiders. The Uruguayan bagged a deserved goal in their 3-0 stroll against Newcastle after a lively display. Suarez was a constant menace to the Newcastle defence with his purposeful running and mazy dribbles, and the prospect of a partnership with fellow January arrival Andy Carroll is a mouth-watering one.
Arsene Wenger has been driven to distraction by Arsenal's form since their Carling Cup capitulation against Birmingham City, but his side showed some long-overdue backbone as they derailed Manchester United's title charge. In the absence of Fabregas, Wenger opted for the youthful trio of Ramsey, Wilshere and Song in midfield. The three worked together splendidly and snuffed out any threat from the in-form Wayne Rooney. The trophy drought may continue, but at least the Frenchman saw one final flourish from his team prior to the season's end.