Sunday, November 25, 2012
Team of the Week
After 13 Premier League games, having conceded a total of 30 goals, Southampton finally kept their first clean sheet of the season against Newcastle. Step forward Paulo Gazzaniga. The young Argentinian has had to see off Kelvin Davis and Artur Boruc to hold down the Saints No. 1 shirt but it looks as though Nigel Adkins has finally found the man he can trust to save him from the sack. Gazzaniga was made to work hard for the clean sheet, pulling off saves to deny Demba Ba and Vurnon Anita, but in doing so he helped his club finally climb out of the relegation zone.
Often having to play second fiddle to Micah Richards during his time at Manchester City and at times becoming a bit of utility man, Pablo Zabaleta has established himself as a the club's first-choice right back this season (providing Roberto Mancini is playing with a back four). And, against Chelsea, the Argentina international showed just what an assured player he has become. Going forward he was a real menace for Ashley Cole to deal with and could have easily scored the game's only goal. Defensively he was solid and kept Eden Hazard in his pocket in the first half, with the winger forced to change positions in the second and eventually substituted for his lack of impact.
Vincent Kompany would probably be the first to admit that both he and Manchester City have not been at their best this season, with the club letting a number of soft goals in from set pieces in recent times. However, the City captain was back to the level of performance that helped inspire the club to the title last year. From start to finish Kompany won every challenge and made Fernando Torres look anonymous. He is not the first defender to have done that since the striker became Chelsea's record signing, but this was the match where new interim boss Rafa Benitez was supposed to turn him into the Torres of old. The fact that Kompany had to overcome a late fitness test and was on crutches just 48 hours prior to the game makes his performance all the more impressive.
One of the stories of the Premier League in recent weeks is the rise of Norwich City, who at one point couldn't buy a win. A big part of their recent change in fortunes is down to the defensive partnership of Sebastien Bassong and Michael Turner. The former Tottenham man had another commanding display against Everton, doing his best to be a thorn in the side of Nikica Jelavic, who continues to have a far from fruitful season. Bassong's towering last-minute header was all that his side deserved after a spirited fightback and it extends their unbeaten run to seven games in all competitions.
Another fine performance from the Premier League's 'Mr Consistent', Leighton Baines. He is starting to nail down the left-back spot permanently in TOTW. Against Norwich he was his usual self: defensively sound down one end; a marauding attacker down the other. His mazy run and shot, that saw him beat what seemed to be half the Canaries team, typified his performance and it deserved a goal at the end of it.
Michael Laudrup's £5.55 million signing of Pablo Hernandez from Valencia over the summer is proving to be a fine piece of business. After needing a few games to adjust to the pace of the English game, Hernandez has now become one of the club's most important players and is a more-than able replacement for the departed Scott Sinclair. The winger built on his excellent performance against Newcastle last week with another top display against Liverpool. Brendan Rodgers' decision to field Stewart Downing at left-back ultimately failed to pay off as Hernandez ran riot against him. He came close to scoring with a couple of excellent curling efforts and was Swansea's main outlet for creativity, even as the level of his team-mates dropped significantly as the game went on.
What a man Darren Fletcher has proved himself to be. After being forced out of action for a lengthy period with the rare bowel condition of ulcerative colitis that will never completely leave him, the midfielder has fought back to a position where he is finally able to play at the top level once again. Making his first Premier League appearance in over a year, Fletcher showed his spirit just when United needed him to, heading home Wayne Rooney's corner while the scores were still level at 1-1 against a rather confident looking Queens Park Rangers side.
Jordi Gomez was the first name on the team sheet this week after he guided his Wigan side to a 3-2 win against Reading with a perfect hat-trick. Firstly, as it was actually what they call a 'perfect hat-trick' - in that he scored with his left foot, his right foot and his head - and secondly, his third goal was a last-minute winner. It doesn't really get much better for a footballer than that. Ali Al-Habsi is certainly eternally grateful to his team-mate after his howler nearly cost his side the three points. Those silly Wigan fans who booed his first few poor touches of the game should be too.
If Gomez was the obvious man of the match for Wigan then Jean Beausejour was a close second. The Chile international claimed an assist after sending in a peach of a cross for the hat-trick hero's second goal of the game. But if Gomez deserved a trio of goals then Beausejour deserved the same number of assists. He was a real livewire down the left throughout the game and time and time again his delivery into the box was perfect. If it was not for some of the poor finishing from his team-mates he would have had that hat-trick himself.
Southampton's record signing of Gaston Ramirez over the summer raised a few eyebrows, with many surprised by the Saints' ambition. Sadly for the club, Ramirez has yet to justify his price tag - with injury previously limiting him to just a handful of games and one goal for the club - until now. The Uruguay international put in man of the match display for Southampton as they saw off Newcastle, scoring one and creating the other to help lift his side out of the relegation zone. Perhaps, with this man now on song, they might be able to stay there.
The rivalry that exists between Tottenham and West Ham has never been the most healthy. The Hammers fans' anti-Semitic chanting at Spurs fans on Sunday confirmed that point. So, when a player moves between the two clubs he is never going to be forgiven, such as the treatment Jermain Defoe constantly receives whenever he comes up against his old side. Sunday was again no different, but what better way to silence the critics than by being a threat to their defence all game and netting a brace? That is ten goals in all competitions for Tottenham this season now and it should keep those Hammers fans quiet until the next time.
There can only be one man who can be in charge of this team this week and that is the man who had a statue of himself unveiled in front of the stand that already bears his name. How many other managers in the Premier League would ever be able to justify having such fuss made over them? And with all this fuss then, it was fitting that Sir Alex Ferguson's United side claimed all three points against QPR. With his side down 1-0 and struggling massively he brought on Anderson and Javier Hernandez. The pair helped tilt the game in their club's favour, sharing an assist and a goal between them as Man Utd came from behind to win again.