Sunday, November 6, 2011
Team of the Week
Poor old Ali Al Habsi. Chosen as man of the match for Wigan despite conceding three goals at Wolves, and a stick on for Team of the Week after a string of world class saves, he was then usurped by Brad Friedel, who had one of the games of his life for Spurs at Fulham. The home side had 23 attempts on goal and the veteran repelled all that were on target and was only beaten by an own goal. Among a huge catalogue of stops, he saved the best for last, blocking Clint Dempsey's effort with a strong hand in injury time.
Newcastle briefly rose to second after victory in the early kick off, earned for them by Ryan Taylor with another spectacular goal to add to his collection. Playing alongside a collection of new signings, Taylor has been a revelation at left back, filling the void left by Jose Enrique, and possessing a goal threat from range. Tidy again in his defensive duties, he slammed home the winner, scoring from the corner of the box with a fierce, dipping volley.
Arsenal's defensive frailties have oft been highlighted this season but they look a far more solid unit when Thomas Vermaelen is in the side. And just like Taylor, the defender has a canny knack of popping up with goals at the other end of the pitch. They have recorded two clean sheets in four days with the Belgian back in the side, and he got his first goal since February 2010 in the 3-0 demolition of West Brom, finishing smartly from Robin van Persie's cut-back.
Completing our back three is another defender who is in the side for his endeavours at both ends of the field. Branislav Ivanovic reverted to right back for the trip to Blackburn, and though some of Chelsea's defending in the game can be described as sketchy, he did more than most to preserve their clean sheet. He supplied the winning goal for Frank Lampard too, with a pinpoint cross, a touch of class that earned the luck he got late in the game when nodding against his own bar.
Jamie O'Hara was instrumental as Wolves recorded a much needed win against fellow strugglers Wigan. The midfielder showed the hapless Hugo Rodallega how to finish by grabbing the opening goal of the afternoon - his third in four games - by tucking home Kevin Doyle's cross. His delivery from set pieces troubled the Latics all afternoon and he played a part in Wolves' other two goals, his blocked shots falling for David Edwards and then Stephen Ward to fire home.
Spurs were fortunate to escape Craven Cottage with all three points, but that they did was largely down to Aaron Lennon. Despite the fact that he and Gareth Bale operate on opposite sides of the pitch, they seem fully aware of each other's positioning at all times. Lennon created the first for his Welsh wing colleague with a devilish cross, then collected Bale's pass before breezing past Chris Baird to seal a fine individual second.
How fitting that Bolton threw off their recent, suffocating form with victory against Stoke, the team who dismantled them by the same scoreline in last season's FA Cup semi-final. Owen Coyle's charges took full advantage of Stoke's weary Europa League legs to equal that spanking, Chris Eagles and Ivan Klasnic particularly effective in the Trotters' five star performance.
Klasnic teed up the first goal for Kevin Davies with a quick free-kick inside two minutes and had a hand in the second, forcing Asmir Begovic into a mistake that allowed Eagles to finish from a tight angle. The Croatian then swept home the third with an arrowing drive before his cute touch put Eagles in for his second. Klasnic then completed the rout with a header to make it 5-0.
If the Klasnic and Eagles double act did for Bolton then the duo of Darren Bent and Gabriel Agbonlahor were the key to Aston Villa's win over Norwich. Agbonlahor set up both of Bent's goals, firing irresistible balls into the gap between the last man and goalkeeper where the England forward lurked with perfect predatory intent. Agbonlahor got the goal his display deserved after chasing down an under-hit back pass, stealing the ball past John Ruddy and finishing into an unguarded net.
Robin van Persie has now been in our Team of the Week for a straight month. The striker is in the form of his life, and it shows no signing of slowing. Again he was the main reason Arsenal continued their impressive recent run, breaking the deadlock against West Brom after Theo Walcott's saved shot fell to him in the area. He then played the role of creator as his cushioned volley fell to Vermaelen to rifle home. And to round off another fine afternoon, Van Persie then made the third for Mikel Arteta with a deft lay-off.
It's been a while since Owen Coyle could park his rear in our Manager of the Week chair but, after a thumping of Stoke to avenge Bolton's own thrashing in last year's FA Cup semi-final, he's back. Coyle finally secured Bolton's first home points of the season and in some style, his side displaying total commitment to the cause and banging in some quality goals to boot. It could provide the spark their season has desperately been searching.