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Sunday, October 16, 2011
Team of the Week

Chris Murphy

He's come in for a fair amount of stick since he swapped Madrid for Manchester but David De Gea certainly proved his worth at Anfield on Saturday. The Spanish goalkeeper denied Luis Suarez in the first half with a point blank stop, saved well from Dirk Kuyt in the second and palmed away a late lob from Jordan Henderson. Had Ryan Giggs not strayed from De Gea's carefully constructed wall, he might have got the clean sheet he deserved. Life is tough at the foot of the Premier League but with characters like Christopher Samba about, Blackburn have a fair chance of keeping their head above water. Once again the big defender was the leader of Rovers' pack at QPR, nodding home an equaliser to grab his side a precious point and turning in the sort of tireless display that has become his trademark. Another defender to find the net this weekend was Norwich's Russell Martin, the former Wycombe man who played in every single one of the Canaries' Championship games last season. The 25-year-old has worked his way from the lower leagues into the top flight and can now forever say he is a Premier League goalscorer, after his header handed the yellows a 2-0 lead. One defensive mix-up apart, he also marshalled the back line well, as Paul Lambert's side notched back-to-back home wins. Billy Jones left the field at the Hawthorns to a rapturous ovation after a solid debut for West Brom. The 24-year-old, who signed from Preston in the summer, delighted his gaffer Roy Hodgson by playing his part in a shutout against Midlands rivals Wolves as West Brom recorded only their second win of the season. If Jones had any nerves ahead of his Premier League bow he didn't show it as he pitched in with some vital tackles. In the battle of the Premier League's new boys, it was a man who made the leap from League One into the top flight, Anthony Pilkington, who made the vital contribution. He wasted little time in putting the Canaries in front, showing solid technique to volley a bouncing ball into the net after 50 seconds, then turning and firing home from close range on the hour to settle the nerves around Carrow Road. Rarely does Rory Delap grab the headlines, his being a business that is all about grit and determination not flair and finesse, but against Fulham the midfielder catapulted his name into the spotlight with a well-taken goal. Not only did he glance a header past Mark Schwarzer, he also rattled the post and played his usual part in breaking up play to ensure Stoke were one of only two clubs to keep a clean sheet this weekend. In a largely disappointing clash between Liverpool and Manchester United it is no surprise Steven Gerrard made his mark. The Reds' skipper loves nothing better than sticking one on the club's bitterest rivals, and for a decent spell it looked like his free-kick would prove the difference. Sadly for him and Liverpool Javier Hernandez ensured the spoils were shared but Gerrard proved he can still cut it in the Premier League with an impressive display on his first league start since the corresponding fixture last season. How Arsenal must curse the fact they couldn't close a deal to sign Juan Mata. The Spaniard has been exemplary since moving to Chelsea and was at the heart of nearly everything the Blues did in vanquishing bogey-side Everton at Stamford Bridge. Mata sparked the move that brought the opener for Daniel Sturridge and laid on the third for Ramires as Chelsea beat Everton for the first time since the 2009 FA Cup final. With a wealth of Manchester City's talent warming the bench it was time for Adam Johnson to remind Roberto Mancini he still has a prominent part to play this season. The winger was back to his tricky best and was involved in all four of City's goals. He provided two goals with well delivered corners, finished coolly after he was put clean through on goal by Yaya Toure and also had a hand in James Milner's emphatic fourth. Usually it is Mario Balotelli doing the falling out at Manchester City but thanks to Carlos Tevez's ongoing spat with the club, the Italian is edging himself back into the first team on a regular basis. Starting his second Premier League game in a row, Balotelli followed his strike at Blackburn with a wonderfully crafted overhead kick to break the deadlock against Villa and was industrious and diligent throughout. Where would Arsenal be without their captain fantastic? Robin Van Persie was the sole reason the Gunners emerged from a tense encounter with Sunderland clutching all three points. On the day he rubbished rumours he was keen to seek pastures new, Van Persie took just 26 seconds to fire his side in front and then curled a delicious free-kick into the top corner late in the game to make sure Arsenal burst into the top half of the Premier League. It is a mark of how far Manchester City have come that Roberto Mancini can leave three of his most expensive purchases on the bench and still win at a canter. Yes, it was a game City were expected to win but Villa did come into the game unbeaten and keen to capitalise on any lingering disharmony that may have spilled over from the Tevez row. But Big 'Eck's men were brushed aside by the most expensive 'second-string' ever assembled.


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