Sunday, September 18, 2011
Team of the Week
No surprise that the first time Shay Given faced Newcastle - the club at which he made 354 appearances - he demonstrated the quality that has made him one of the finest goalkeepers in the Premier League era. He made a fine first half stop from Steven Taylor, very nearly prevented Leon Best's equaliser and made two first-class saves late on from Yohan Cabaye piledrivers.
Tony Hibbert is much maligned by opposition fans, and every now and again by the Goodison Park faithful (go on, admit it), but he is a true 110% merchant. Yes, he was unfortunate to deflect Franco Di Santo's shot into the net, but he provided a cross for Apostolos Vellios to register Everton's crucial second late in the game and still had time to make a vital block on the floor to deflect Victor Moses' shot over the bar.
Who would have guessed that Titus Bramble would be the man to lead Sunderland out of their early season funk? The defender sent his side on their way to a first Premier League win of the season at the Stadium of Light, bundling home from close range within five minutes to settle the nerves. After that he relished his aerial battle with Peter Crouch, playing a key part in a well-earned clean sheet.
What a difference a transfer makes. Only a few weeks ago, Armand Traore was being lambasted for a poor performance in Arsenal's thumping at Old Trafford, but he seems a different player after his move to the west of the capital. At Wolves he was all-action, marauding up the left wing time and time again. He had a hand in Alejandro Faurlin's second and laid the third on for DJ Campbell.
In front of Traore, Joey Barton again showed why Neil Warnock made him his number one transfer target with a typically tenacious display at Molineux. He bagged the all-important opening goal after scuffing home Shaun Wright-Phillips' volleyed centre and was involved in Faurlin's second. His nous in the middle of the park alongside Shaun Derry provides a solid platform from which Rangers can go forward, and four points in his first two games at the club demonstrates what an impact he's had.
Swansea also got off the mark in the top-flight, both in terms of goals and wins. Scott Sinclair was the first man to score a Premier League goal for the Swans and the first to score one outside England when he rolled home a penalty. He then teed up Leroy Lita for number two and was a constant source of menace to opposite number Steven Reid.
Perhaps Tottenham's thumping win over Liverpool will banish all thoughts of Chelsea from Luka Modric's mind - until Spurs play Chelsea of course. The Croatian was back to his old self against the Reds, firing a superb opener into the top corner to begin the rout and generally playing with all the assuredness and class we have come to expect from him.
Nani can look forward to another week of comparisons with his Portuguese predecessor at Old Trafford after another barnstorming goal in Manchester United's win over Chelsea. His second goal was one of the weekend's best as he beat two players and lashed a shot into the top corner. Lively as ever, Nani also inadvertently set up a goal for Wayne Rooney before hitting the bar with another screamer in the second half and winning his side a penalty.
Three goals in two games is a pretty good way to melt the hearts of any fans suspicious at your past and Emmanuel Adebayor can now breathe easily in a Tottenham shirt. After a debut strike at Wolves, the striker grabbed two on his first home outing, and both were technically proficient in their own way. His first involved a cool dink over Jose Reina and a measured finish before an exquisite slice of control and fierce volley notched up number two.
Another week, another impressive performance from Sergio Aguero. The striker chalked up another two goals at Fulham to take his tally to eight for the season and demonstrate how at ease he feels in the Premier League. Once again David Silva was the architect for his first as Aguero collected his pass before finding the corner. For the second he rifled home from 20 yards after Edin Dzeko's knock down.
Plenty of people wondered what impact, if any, Yakubu would have at Blackburn when he signed on deadline day, but a brace on his home debut against Arsenal might silence a few critics. The 28-year-old took his opener expertly - an instant flick wrong-footing Wojciech Szczesny. And he proved he still has the instinct of a predator to grab his second, even if he did look a smidgen offside.
Yes, Arsenal were poor at the back, but Blackburn needed plenty of guts and character to come back from behind twice, so our manager of the week is the much maligned Steve Kean. Shrugging off a pre-match protest calling for his head, Kean managed to fashion a gritty display from his Rovers side, who might be lacking in quality but certainly aren't lacking in fight.