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Sunday, October 30, 2011
Team of the Week

Chris Murphy

Kieren Westwood got his first taste of Premier League action on Saturday, after Simon Mignolet's broken nose meant he trudged off the field looking ever so slightly more like his manager. On what was a big day for Sunderland, given Darren Bent's return to the Stadium of Light, Westwood endeared himself to the locals with a fine save from the Black Cats' former hitman, sticking out a leg to repel what looked like a certain goal and saving Steve Bruce's men a point. Nemanja Vidic didn't even make the bench for the derby demolition last weekend but he was back in his element at Goodison Park. The Serbian defender's previous performance, against Otelui Galati, was not one to remember - this one was. Vidic was back to his best, marshalling his defence tightly in the face of a second half onslaught, and combining with Jonny Evans to repel everything the Toffees could launch at them. In an extraordinary game at Stamford Bridge, Laurent Koscielny seemed about the only defender on the pitch able to defend competently. The rest of his defensive colleagues were so abject in the opening minutes that Arsenal relied on Koscielny's astute positioning and outstretched leg to avert two clear goalscoring opportunities. By the time his three chums were on the same page, Chelsea had lost their defensive heads and were there for the taking. Quite apart from having one of the best names in Premier League history, Angel Rangel is proving a reliable force as Swansea take well to life in the top flight. The defender drew a foul from former Swan Jason Pratley in the area to offer Scott Sinclair the chance to keep up his 100% record from the spot, then kept his head in the closing stages to send Danny Graham through on goal to seal the three points. In a humdinger at Carrow Road, Junior Hoilett was again one of Blackburn's best players. With pace to trouble any full-back, Hoilett creates space for his team-mates nearly every time he gets the ball, such is the opposition's desire to close him down quickly. It was Kyle Naughton's appetite to get tight to the winger that allowed him to nudge inside and evade two half challenges before he arrowed a shot into the top corner. So this is why there was such a fuss about Theo Walcott all those years ago. In an all-action display at Stamford Bridge the 22-year-old even created a new move - the 'Walcott' - where you trip yourself up to confuse your opponent, before springing to your feet, dribbling round two static defenders and firing into the net. His delivery, often suspect, was excellent and should have resulted in two first half goals for Gervinho, then Robin van Persie. He also dug in at the back as Johan Djourou struggled at right-back early on. Stephane Sessegnon retains his place in our Team of the Week after replicating last week's performance at Bolton with a goal and an assist in the 2-2 draw with Aston Villa. Sessegnon's clever pass allowed teenager Connor Wickham to register his first Premier League goal and level the scores in the first half, while the midfielder did exactly the same late on, when nodding home Sebastian Larsson's free kick. Gareth Bale was back in the goals on Sunday, as his brace helped Tottenham to victory over London rivals Queens Park Rangers. Working neatly in tandem with Aaron Lennon, Bale took both his goals with aplomb, firing low past Paddy Kenny for his first before curling a beauty into the top corner to make the game safe after a lovely exchange of passes with his fellow winger. Swansea maintained their impressive home form with a 3-1 victory over Bolton, courtesy of some fine wing play from Nathan Dyer. He and Scott Sinclair terrorised Wanderers down the flanks, Dyer proving too fast for Ricardo Gardner, who earned a second yellow after tugging back his opponent. He provided consistent quality from the right and was unfortunate not get the goal his performance deserved after Jussi Jaaskelainen blocked his low shot. Robin van Persie's hat-trick at Stamford Bridge took his Premier League tally to 28 goals in 27 games in the calendar year - a phenomenal record. The Dutchman switched into clinical mood the second he fired over from a devilish Theo Walcott cross, slotting into an empty net from Gervinho's pass, then rounding Petr Cech after John Terry's slip and completing his treble with a fierce drive through the 'keeper's grasp. A sign of the fine form of Steve Morison comes with the realisation that he is keeping cult hero Grant Holt out of Norwich's first team. It wasn't hard to see why in the six-goal thriller with Blackburn as Morison caused problems for Rovers all day long. His goal was one of the weekend's finest too, as he controlled a knock down on his chest before rifling a volley in off the crossbar. At one stage, Arsene Wenger probably thought he'd never get the chance to boss our TOTW again, given Arsenal's stuttering start to the Premier League season, but a five-star performance at the Bridge means he is back in the coach's chair. In an attacking sense at least, this was vintage Arsenal and, while deficiencies at the back still remain, Wenger managed to tighten his rearguard sufficiently during half time to ensure all the post-match talk was about their resurgence, and Chelsea's leaky defence.


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