Happy Monday then everyone and as the final week of work before Christmas ticks over, I hope that we all have suitable distractions and excuses to goof off lined up. Saturday saw buckets of goals scored throughout the country, and a couple of unexpected early-Christmas crackers (sorry) up at the JJB and the City of Manchester stadium. I cannot remember seeing another game where a player on each team bagged a hat-trick, so that should tell you how exciting Wigan Blackburn was, while up on the blue side of Manchester, the Elano-less City still proved their worth in a riveting contest with the struggling Bolton. Elsewhere, Everton, Spurs and Newcastle continued their excellent recent form, with hard-fought victories that suggest that finally the latter two clubs might be turning a corner.
In case you didn’t realise, this weekend also saw GRAND SLAM SUNDAY, with the big 4 all facing off against each other, drowning the male population in a vat of beer, crisps, sweat and women-ignoring.
Firstly to Anfield, and an open game that lived up to expectation, with neither side thankfully content to just take the draw. Liverpool were ambitious and enterprising, but with Torres marked out of the game, they seemed to lack the necessary invention in the final third to breach Man United’s superb defence. The real stars were central midfield pairing of Hargreaves and Anderson, both of whom have been outstanding recently, but Tevez was also on top pugnacious form for the Reds.
Over at the Emarites then, and a somewhat underwhelming game that Arsenal dominated. Compared to the earlier match, this was cagey and tight, with few chances for either side until the final 15 minutes or so. Chelsea were severely lacking going forward, despite Shevchenko looking pretty bright, and the Arsenal back four never really looked in danger. At the other end though, Arsenal had the ball in the net a further two times, while a heroic double save from Cech at the death saved further Blues’ blushes.
Also, please realize that it is not deliberate spite or anything that no Chelsea players made the Grand Slam Sunday Dream XI, they were all just generally uninspiring. Disagree? Then justify by e-mail at the usual address…
Premier League Team of the Week (based on OPTA stats, Fantasypremierleague.com ratings and my own expert eye):
Keeper – Marcus Hahnemann
Defence – Sylvain Distin, Willfred Bouma, Luke Young
Midfield – Dietmar Hamann, Scott Parker, Kevin Kilbane, Ross Wallace, Gary O’Neil
Up Top – Marcus Bent, Roque Santa Cruz
BONUS!!! Grand Slam Sunday Team of the Week (based on OPTA stats, Fantasypremierleague.com ratings and my own expert eye):
Keeper – Manuel Almunia
Defence – Rio Ferninand, Gael Clichy, John Arne Riise, Patrice Evra
Midfield – Matthieu Flamini, Owen Hargreaves, Anderson, Javier Mascherano, Steven Gerrard
Up Top – Carlos Tevez
Goal of the Week –Santa Cruz’s first strike at the JJB was sublime, but this goes to Turkish hero Tuncay Sanli, for netting a sweet volley on the run for Middlesbrough.
Meg of the Week – Riise nails Ronaldo early on at Anfield to signal his intent. As ever, extra kudos for megging a megger.
Save of the Week – Petr Cech, back in the Chelsea side after injury, produced an amazing double save to deny first van Persie and then Fabregas late on at the Emarites.
Gaffe of the Week – Such is the double-edged sword of goalkeeping, that it is Cech’s flap for the Arsenal winner that he will most likely be remembered for in this game…
Skill of the Week – Some slick backheel interplay between the Bolton front two in the build up to Diouff’s lovely opening strike at the City of Manchester stadium.
Miss of the Week – Poor little Shaun Wright-Phillips. He had one kick on Sunday and that was to lash a shot wide from about 2 yards. He was immediately substituted.
Effort of the Week – Gary McSheffrey rattling a long range freekick onto the crossbar near the death against Reading.
Nearest Lampard came to Contributing…er, of the Week – Stood over a couple of freekicks quite convincingly before letting someone else take them.
Flirt of the Week – Clearly inspired by the previous day’s antics, Stevie G and the young Brazilian Anderson saw something they both liked and weren’t afraid to show it.
Tease of the Week – Emile Heskey seemed to have met a real kindred spirit in Chris Samba at the JJB, but unfortunately injured himself so the two will never know what might have been.
Improvised weapon of the Week – Liverpool face charges from the FA after Wayne Rooney apparently had golf balls showered down on him at Anfield.
ASBO of the Week – Emmanuel Eboue does his best to break John Terry’s legs in the first half on Sunday.
Kung-fu of the Week – Villa’s Craig Gardner primed a waist-high kick literally through elder statesman Dwight Yorke.
Debut to forget of the Week – Young Elliot Omozusi played so well for 93 minutes ar Craven Cottage, but then tripped Alan Smith up and Barton slotted away the penalty to give Newcastle all 3 points.
Red-Top Unanimity of the Week - All the favourite Tabloids ran exactly the same picture of young Ashley Cole making a Churchillian gesture to his former club's supporters.
Quote of the Week – Roy Keane was not impressed at all by Steve Bennett’s refereeing display: “It’s the fans I feel sorry for, they deserve more than that…(the ridiculous disallowed goal) summed up his day.”
Hero(s) of the Week – Arsene Wenger and Alex Ferguson, for proving that their teams are the only two with a realistic chance of taking the title this year.
Zero(s) of the Week – Avram Grant and Rafa Benitez will have to realize the work they both need to do to match Man United and Arsenal, expect big signings from both in January if they have serious title aspirations.
Personal Highlight of the Week – The surprise unveiling of Fabio Capello as the new national manager. If he can drop the likes of Ronaldo, Alessandro del Piero, Francesco Totti, Edgar Davids and Paolo di Canio, let’s hope some feathers are finally ruffled within the England squad.