Team of the Week

Team of the Week

August 30, 2009
By Joe Duggan
(Archive)

One glance at the imposing physique of cult Burnley hero Brian Jensen is sufficient for anyone to understand why he has been lovingly given the moniker 'Beast' by Clarets fans. Chelsea certainly felt his roar on Saturday with Jensen prowling his lair with menace, stopping Nicolas Anelka in his tracks, parrying John Terry's effort away, sticking up those big paws to deny Frank Lampard, saving twice from Michael Essien and keeping out a Michael Ballack header. Shame he conceded three really, but at least he kept things respectable.

GettyImagesJohnson: Battling to overcome a groin injury

The gaping hole left in the Aston Villa defence by Martin Laursen's retirement was one of the main reasons for Villa's weak performance in the second half of last season, but 19 year old centre-half Ciaran Clark announced his candidacy as a possible replacement for the Danish colossus with an assured debut showing against Fulham. It probably won't be enough to tempt Martin O'Neill to hold onto the Richard Dunne-sized transfer fee he is keen to offload before tomorrow's deadline, but Clark's performance is certainly encouraging for Villa fans.

O'Neill has also been strongly linked with West Ham's James Collins in his bid to firm up Villa's defence and took a trip to Ewood Park on Saturday to spy on his target. Collins certainly did his chances of a move away no harm at all with another assured performance at the back during a goalless draw, although with Matthew Upson linked with a move to Fiorentina over the weekend, the loss of two defenders would surely not be considered by Gianfranco Zola.

A cool £40m worth of marauding English talent flanks our defensive line-up this week. Chelsea's Ashley Cole was keen to join in the fun up the park, as the Blues put Burnley under the cosh at Stamford Bridge, and his third goal for Carlo Ancelotti's men, a volley after Frank Lampard's neat dink to set him up, capped a comprehensive Chelsea win.

Glen Johnson's strike was a far more important one, though. With Liverpool chasing the game against Bolton, the ex-Portsmouth man cut inside and belted home a long-range equaliser with his left peg - he doesn't do tap-ins does he? – before supplying the cross which led to Gerrard's late winner.

Speaking of whom… There are some irrefutable certainties in life. You are born, you breathe, you die and Steven Gerrard will ride to the rescue for Liverpool late on in a game to score the sort of goal every schoolboy with a ball at his feet dreams of netting.

Gerrard responded to his manager's midweek challenge in predictably majestic fashion in Liverpool's hard-fought win at Bolton. He nearly snapped the crossbar with a volley, started the move that led to the second Liverpool equaliser with a wonderful pass to find Dirk Kuyt before, as so often, having the final word with a late clinical strike.

The expressions of sadness that lamented Darren Fletcher's suspension for the Champions League Final as a purely personal misfortune for the Scotsman ignored the fact that, without him, the quality of Manchester United's midfield was greatly diminished in Rome. Fletcher's presence may not have been enough to disrupt the metronomic passing of Xavi and Andres Iniesta in that game but he was hugely influential in rubbing out Arsenal's pretty patterns at Old Trafford with an energetic display and earned a special mention from Fergie after the game - although a mention of a different sort, no doubt, from Andrei Arshavin.

Having bagged himself a midweek slice of the action against Celtic with a swivelled goal, the little Russian hit another beauty against Manchester United seconds after being denied a stonewall penalty when he was brought down by Fletcher. Following the endless furore around Wednesday's penalty incident some may say that the footballing scales of justice were balanced by that decision, but Arshavin's abundant talent rises above the crassness of such debate and the world of football was united in admiration for his fiercely-struck goal that Ben Foster could only snatch at.

Another Englishman turning on the style ahead of next week's vital World Cup qualifier was Aaron Lennon. Spurs' wing wizard had goals on his mind from the start and tested the reflexes of on-loan Birmingham keeper Joe Hart with one effort before ex-Spurs man Stephen Carr cleared another Lennon shot from the goal-line. Lennon was not to be denied though and provided the winning goal in the last minute to maintain Spurs' perfect start to the season.

Emmanuel Adebayor has slotted in perfectly to the moneyed ranks of overpaid, overpriced talent that Manchester City have assembled for their assault on the Premier League's elite and the Beyonce fan who just wants to be loved bagged his third goal of the season so far at Fratton Park. A youthful Adebayor would attach a ball to a piece of string in his mother's Lome abode and practice leaping to perfect his heading technique and this early diligence certainly paid off for City on Sunday when the striker rose highest to nod home his side's winner at Portsmouth.

GettyImagesKitson is back in the goals.

Football loves someone who tries and Dave Kitson certainly has tried the patience of the Stoke City fans during the sort of extended barren patch that usually attracts wandering Bedouin tribes. This week though Kitson has seemingly wandered into an oasis of goal-scoring fecundity and he grabbed his first goal for Stoke (after thirteen months of trying) with a cracker against Orient in midweek before banging in the winner against Sunderland on Saturday.

'Just the two of us, building castles in the sky'…The longest running feud in the Premier League has mellowed considerably of late and whilst Sir Alex Ferguson's wife may have something to say about her hubby and Arsene Wenger heading off into the sunset together, Ferguson's recent remarks were the latest in a series of conciliatory exchanges that strongly suggest a rapprochement between the two old foes.

It was Ferguson who came off best this time round of course and, although luck rode with his side, Man Utd's second half display showed they are able to compensate for the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo whilst putting the skids on Arsenal's flying start to the season. The psychological fallout of the defeat for Arsenal in a game they seemed to be in control of will be measured in the weeks to come as they chase a much-needed title. The image of Wenger following his late dismissal to the stands, arms aloft beseechingly with the massed ranks of United fans behind him, seemed to symbolise his frustration as his one time nemesis got the better of him this time. Ferguson, at the first attempt, has already equalled United's win tally against the big four from last season.