Premier League Team of the Week

February 1, 2009
By Joe Duggan
(Archive)

America has elected a new leader, Santa Claus has been and gone (socks and jam making equipment in case you were wondering), the world has gone bust and STILL nobody has scored against Edwin Van der Sar (the previous record being held by the wonderfully named Steve Death).

To be fair, were United to play an Everton team minus any recognised strikers every week then the Dutchman's new defensive record is one a comatose you or a hugely-relaxed me sleeping it off between the Old Trafford posts would comfortably surpass in time.

So big respect for this quite remarkable defensive feat but in light of the fact Van der Sar was essentially a handsomly-rewarded spectator during Saturday's match we had better give this week's goalie's jersey to….

Scott Carson. A shaky start for young Scott when the keeper's mis-kicked clearance allowed Dean Marney the chance to display to us the shooting equivalent. Bernard Mendy then went one better by scooting round the England man to open the scoring.

But Carson, and West Brom, rallied and Marney's much improved second-half shot drew an equally polished save from Carson. He then kept out Kevin Kilbane, Michael Turner and Richard Garcia with the determination of a house proud man repelling desperate burglars.

Maynor Figueroa is one of a raft of exotically-monikered players who are lighting up the Wigan area of Lancashire to such dazzling effect that Antonio Valencia supposedly feels compelled to turn down the advances of Real Madrid (plus - who has ever heard of Madrid pies?)

Figueora (fact! One of the few players whose surname contains every vowel) has been a constant for Steve Bruce's side this season and the flat-faced one will be grateful indeed for the two goal-line clearances his young Honduran produced (and to the moulder of Figueoras' studs for their decisive length in the first of these blocks) to deny Aston Villa.

Poor old Alex. You can't really blame him. He's been the best player on the park. Block after block, tackle after tackle, header after header to keep out Liverpool. There's no way through for them and with 87 minutes showing on the clock, the Chelsea man's mind has already turned to that chilled post-match magnum of champagne that will be handed to him in recognition of his status as the game's stand out performer.

Where will he drink it? On the bus home with the lads? Perhaps stick it away until the end of the season to toast the possible title triumph that this hard fought point has done so much to.....…."oh damn I thought you had him John???"

It's a shame Ryan Shawcross is not called Ryan Welltackle or Ryan Firmcoveringheader - a name more redolent of the defensive responsibilities he so manfully performed against Manchester City and not so suggestive of some wimpy winger's fleeting contribution.

Never mind though eh? The man himself gave one hell of a performance as part of the Stoke defence which lined up against - triple gulp! - Robinho, Craig Bellamy and Shaun Wright-Phillips but sent them back up whichever road links Manchester and Stoke empty-handed and sore of bottom after ten-man Stoke administered this humiliating punishment.

Nemanja Vidic is our neatly directed nod to United's new defensive record and anybody who dares utter the word 'token' can kindly be directed in the direction of the giant Serb and take up the matter with him.

Vidic has been awesome at the back for United this season and alongside Rio Ferdinand made sure the aerial threat of Tim 'I like a header' Cahill was well and truly marshalled.

We wave adieu to our gallant defenders but now move almost seamlessly in to the middle of the park where we find the busy figure of Scott Parker.

Arsenal fans may wish to observe this sort of rare beast, the steely central midfielder, in its natural environment and at close quarters more often but Arsene Wenger appears concerned with more luxurious recruitments.

The cut of Parker's jib - eager, effective and hard in the tackle - is of the sort that would be coveted by most teams and the ex-Chelsea man bossed his hosts with all the good grace of a deeply demanding party guest as West Ham snuck back to east London with a well won point.

Alongside him we have the elegant figure of slick Geordie mover Michael Carrick. The man carrying the heavy price tag makes his range of passing look almost effortless. Perhaps it is blindingly straightforward for him the lucky (red) devil. Whichever - it is most pleasing to the eye.

Carrick gave an all-round example of midfield class against Everton and it was from one of his breaks that the decisive penalty was won, while he could have easily won another.

Bernard Mendy's attacking instincts were as untethered as a galloping wild horse chasing an endless supply of sugar lumps up the KC Stadium grass, and the right-sided Hull man showed he knows well his route to goal with the opener against the Baggies.

Mendy swivelled suggestively around Scott Carson before supplying a pleasing finishing touch for the first and he menaced down the right once more before his pinpoint cross set Craig Fagan up to steal Hull's second.

Up in to attack we now journey and here we find a trio of sharp-shooters boasting about the size of their pair.

Bolton skipper Kevin Davies totally fluffed a header in the first half but he controlled and finished smartly to drive his first goal past Carlo Cudicini. His late headed second was in total contrast to his earlier effort and was dispatched with the smartest of nods past a wonderfully alert David Bentley on the Spurs goal-line.

Three straight draws might please a dyslexic furniture maker but down Anfield way they are building a title challenge not bespoke household items.

Liverpool got back to winning ways with an emphatic 2-0 win over Chelsea and Fernando Torres re-ignited the Anfield side's faltering title challenge. Two late, late goals for the King of the Kop which should put the smile back on Rafa's face.

Can a cottage be a fortress? Down Fulham way with their backs to the Thames, giant defender Brede Hangeland repelling the advances of intruders and his Nordic counterpart Erik Nevland answering the call to deliver a couple of well-slung blows, Portsmouth found themselves overwhelmed by the West Londoners.

Substitute Nevland's brace were his first goals of the season but Fulham have lost just once this season on home soil to make any trip to this picturesque area of London one to be feared by all.

Tony Pulis will surely be getting out his finest shellsuit and doffing his smartest baseball cap as we cordially invite him to attend this evening's manager of the week ceremony.

His ten-man Stoke side showed battling qualities of the sort you can't simply click your fingers and snap up with the freshly minted wealth of some obscenely rich benefactor.

Their team spirit (happy slapper Ricardo Fuller aside perhaps) will be soaring after their fabulous result against Manchester City and as anyone scrapping at the wrong end of the Premier League table will tell you, squad unity is vital. Just ask Joe Canoe in the hot-seat at Newcastle.