Sunday, April 22, 2012
Team of the Week
He made less saves than his opposite number Ben Foster, but given the cosy mid-table slot West Brom currently occupy, Shay Given's efforts to keep a clean sheet resonated with far more importance. In a miserable season at Villa, Given has been one of the positives, and he made several key stops at the Hawthorns, none more important than a brilliant last-ditch goalline save from Peter Odemwingie in the game's dying embers.
Before the game Alex McLeish whispered in Richard Dunne's ear "Your presence would be wonderful," and he was rewarded with a fine performance. Dunne may be mocked for being a prolific own-goal getter, but he steadied a wobbling ship at the Hawthorns, providing countless blocks and clearances as the ball lived a charmed life in Villa's penalty area. Quite apart from his defensive solidity, Dunne nearly turned provider too, bringing down a looping ball with a sublime touch before crossing for Chris Herd, who forced a smart stop from Foster.
Wigan's calypso performance against Newcastle was underpinned by some sound defensive steel. Emmerson Boyce typified their new-found confidence, keeping the ebullient Hatem Ben Arfa as quiet as he's been in recent weeks. The defender also provided the cross that led to the vital opener too, floating a ball into the box as Victor Moses nodded beyond Tim Krul.
All in all, it hasn't been a bad week for Kyle Walker. Having been crowned the PFA's Young Player of the Year, he then displayed exactly why so many of his peers had voted for him after a typically tireless display against an insipid Blackburn side. His usual boundless energy was on show, as he harried up and down the right wing. Walker topped it off with a wonderful free kick, one that he couldn't believe Rafael Van der Vaart let him take.
Goals were flying in from all angles this weekend and our cup runneth over in an attacking sense. Kicking off a potent front six is Steven Pienaar, who has been brilliant since returning to Everton. He set up three goals in the rout of Fulham, providing the corner that Marouane Fellaini nodded home before laying on a through ball for Nikica Jelavic to convert. But his best assist was his last, a delightful, scooped pass for Tim Cahill to make it 4-0.
Victor Moses has played a pivotal role in Wigan's resurgence and he was a man on a mission as Newcastle were sent packing at the DW Stadium. His two goals were separated by two minutes, as he nodded home an Emmerson Boyce cross before slotting home from close range as the ball ran loose in the penalty area. A smart save from Krul denied Moses a hat-trick in the second half, and with the youngster in this form, Wigan are surely odds on to defy the critics and beat the drop again.
Wolves may be Championship bound but several top flight clubs will still be spying on some of the players that might be on offer in the summer, and any gaffer who saw Matt Jarvis' display at Swansea might be convinced to take a punt on the winger. In the goal bonanza at the Liberty Stadium Jarvis grabbed two. For the first he stepped inside Steven Caulker before dispatching a crisp finish past Michel Vorm, then he slid in to score from close range as Wolves completed an improbable fightback.
Chelsea's first victory in a London derby this season owed much to Fernando Torres, but also a great deal to Juan Mata. The Spaniard might have been largely anonymous in Barcelona but he was at the forefront of Chelsea's masterclass of attacking prowess, supplying the bullets for half of Chelsea's half dozen. It was his cross John Terry nodded home for number two, his delicious pass that caused the panic in QPR's defence that allowed Torres to score the fourth and his inch perfect through ball that permitted his compatriot to notch his first Premier League treble since 2009.
Luis Suarez has been criticised for a lack of goals this season but he was in clinical mood on what I'm sure was his first visit to East Anglia. The Uruguayan's first two efforts demonstrated both power and precision while his third had a touch of star power about it, as he stuck a precise lob over John Ruddy from fully 50 yards out.
Fellow hat-trick hero Fernando Torres is back in the starting line-up after a long absence, his three goals against QPR adding to that confidence booster in Barcelona midweek. A similar rounding of the goalkeeper and finish yielded the first, before the second showed off his Jonny-on-the-spot credentials, pinching the ball from Paddy Kenny and firing home. His third was another goal to demonstrate he is back on song, as his perfectly timed run allowed him time to find the far corner with a precise shot.
Bolton have gone back to basics in recent weeks, which has meant playing to the strengths of Kevin Davies. Given that Wanderers play with two out and out wingers, in Martin Petrov and Chris Eagles, it has manifested itself in a whole lot of balls going into the box. At Sunderland - the club who flirted with signing him in January - he met two such crosses, and volleyed the first before heading the second into the back of the net as Bolton procured another vital point in their crawl towards safety.
Plenty of candidates around for our gaffer this weekend, but one clear winner. Roberto Martinez added Newcastle to the list of teams Wigan have toppled recently, one that includes Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United. The Latics are not only pulling clear of the drop zone, they are doing it in a free flowing, uninhibited style - a massive compliment to Martinez's progressive approach and his insistence on sound footballing principles. They hammered Newcastle, racking up four goals in the opening half, two of which were right out of the top tiki taka drawer.