Well this weekend started with a whimper courtesy of Fulham’s battling win over Stoke but certainly ended with a bang at the Boleyn Ground last night. That victory for Tottenham over London rivals West Ham sent the North London club up to fourth whilst Arsenal also picked up three points with a late winner at Villa to pile the pressure on Rafa Benitez’s Chelsea, who in turn fell to defeat at the hands of Manchester City.
Meanwhile Manchester United continued their procession towards the Premier League title with another easy victory, featuring a strong defensive performance from Fergie’s men. Elsewhere the relegation battle took another turn as Wigan cruised to victory against fellow battlers Reading to move out of the relegation zone and offer their fans hope of yet another late escape.
Anyway enough of me telling you what you already know. Based on the performances across all of the Premier League matches on offer this weekend, here is my team of the week. Enjoy!
GK: Jussi Jaaskelainen - Very rarely will you see a goalkeeper in a team of the week having conceded not once, not twice, but three times. However Jaaskelainen's heroic efforts against Tottenham earn him a deserved place. The Finnish veteran pulled out save after save from Caulker (X3), Sigurdsson and Bale to keep West Ham in with a chance of taking something from the game but could do little to stop Bale's stunning winner.
Unlucky to miss out: Mark Schwarzer
RB: Rafael - The Brazilian just keeps getting better every time I see him and against QPR there was no exception. In the absence of his brother from the QPR side throug ineligibility, Rafael was able to join attacks penetratively, providing an extra outlet for attacks. Barely troubled in his right back slot, his impressive performance was capped off by a wonderful strike on the half-volley to make the breakthrough.
Unlucky to miss out: Sascha Riether
CB: Rio Ferdinand - Like Rafael he just seems to be getting better, despite his age slowly ticking up. He ensured that the scraps that the QPR attack did receive were dealt with and played the ball out from the defence excellently as we now come to expect from Rio. If Hodgson honestly believes that Terry is the better English central defender at this point in time then he is very wrong.
Unlucky to miss out: Kolo Toure
CB: Brede Hangeland - It's been a strange season for Fulham and the usually reliable Hangeland hasn't carried quite the same impact pas he has done in previous seasons. However against Stoke he was back to his best, bossing Peter Crouch aerially and staying strong in the tackle on the ground when Stoke began to attack. Played a huge part in his side keeping a clean sheet along with his keeper.
Unlucky to miss out: Gary Caldwell
LB: Nacho Monreal - As followers of La Liga will have already known, Monreal is a very good left back. Against Villa he showed strong defensive capabilities making a large number of clearances and successful tackles whilst his general passing play was excellent too. Got forward effectively and his hard work was rewarded in the assist for Cazorla's winner. Kieran Gibbs is going to have to work very hard to get his place back.
Unlucky to miss out: Liam Ridgewell
WG: Santi Cazorla - Two goals for the Spaniard and another fine performance in orchestrating the Arsenal attacking threat. Looks a nightmare to mark as the Villa defence found on Saturday afternoon, creating chances at will and linking up with his teammates to devastating effect. His two strikes showed great composure and awareness to get into the right area. He will have a strong influence on whether Arsenal achieve another top four place or not.
Unlucky to miss out: Nani
CM: Yaya Toure - It's been a while since Toure featured in the team of the weekend, having been fairly disappointing in recent weeks, but he came back with a bang to slay Benitez's Chelsea. Showed his typical drive going forward and commitment aplenty. Because of his presence alongside Rodwell, the likes of Mata and Hazard were unable to get a foothold in the game, ensuring a comfortable victory for City.
Unlucky to miss out: Giorgos Karagounis
CM: Cheik Tiote - Another back to his dominating best in the centre of the park alongside Cabaye, and how welcome that will be for the Newcastle fans. Tasked with holding against the dangerous Southampton midfield, Tiote ensured that the Saints never really got on top of the midfield battle and produced a few trademark powerful carries forward.
Unlucky to miss out: Jack Rodwell
WG: Gareth Bale - Another phenomenally lethal performance from the Welshman ensured that yet again Bale could not be ignored for a place on this weeks side. Against West Ham he carried on his frightening form with a well placed finish to put Spurs ahead and then finished the job with a cracker from distance. Could have had more were it not for the defiance of Jaaskelainen to keep the score down.
Unlucky to miss out: Chris Brunt
ST: Dimitar Berbatov - Easily the most classy player to have worn the Fulham shirt in recent time, Berbatov displayed panache, creativity and ability alongside teammate Bryan Ruiz to cause Stoke's famously tough defensive unit all sorts of problems. His performance was capped off with a stunning strike that would eventually prove to be the clincher in securing Fulham a vital three points.
Unlucky to miss out: Arouna Kone
ST: Romelu Lukaku - Not for the first time the on-loan Chelsea hit man has worked his way into the team of the week, whilst neither Torres nor Ba in his spell at Chelsea has yet to feature. Benitez must look at Lukaku's progression and wonder why the boy was allowed to leave on loan. Another powerful display from the teenager, full of running and a deserved brace. He really could be a world beater.
Unlucky to miss out: Kei Kamara
image: © Ronnie Macdonald