The Premier League's top performers

Team of the Week

January 2, 2011
By Michael Da Silva
(Archive)

Every title-winning side needs a commanding and reliable goalkeeper and, while City were not always at their best against a dogged Blackpool side, Joe Hart responded like an old pro when he was called into action. A world-class fingertip save from Neal Eardley's rasping 25-yard drive - a shot Hart would have seen late given the cluster of bodies in front of him - was the pick of a string of great saves.

Ciaran Clark
GettyImagesCiaran Clark's dramatic late equaliser capped a fine performance against Chelsea.

Sunderland, it would be fair to say, have had a topsy-turvy season. A 5-1 spanking by rivals Newcastle was followed up three games later with a 3-0 win at Chelsea. Although inconsistent, they moved up to sixth in the table with a 3-0 win over Blackburn this weekend and right-back Ahmed Al Muhammadi, who has been a revelation on Wearside, was outstanding in the victory. Not only was the Egyptian disciplined in defence, helping Sunderland to their 10th clean sheet of the season, but his energetic runs forward proved difficult to track, as he showed when he galloped into a great position before whipping in a tantalising ball for Darren Bent to head home his first goal in five games.

It comes as no coincidence that since Michael Dawson has returned from serious injury, Spurs have kept two clean sheets in three games. Spurs had not been able to prevent the opposition scoring since their opening day blank with Manchester City, but Dawson has restored some order to a backline that have got away with leaking goals given the abundance of attacking options at Harry Redknapp's disposal. Dawson's partnership with William Gallas, which reduced Fulham to feeding off scraps, will flourish if the pair can avoid injury.

West Ham will not go four Premier League games unbeaten very often this season, and veteran centre-back Tal Ben-Haim was crucial in the Hammers' keeping Wolves at bay. The Israeli not only drew on all of his experience to ensure the Hammers' defence remained water-tight, but he popped up on the right wing ten minutes from end to pick out Freddie Sears with a clever cross, from which West Ham doubled their lead, to move out of the relegation zone for the first time this season.

Aside from scoring a dramatic late equaliser at Stamford Bridge, Aston Villa's Ciaran Clark had a fantastic game at left-back against Chelsea. While many inexperienced defenders may have been overawed by the task, Clark repaid Gerard Houllier's trust with countless vital interceptions and succeeded in making Ramires' afternoon as frustrating as possible. Clark, whose performance defied his 21 years, will get the plaudits for rescuing a point for Villa but his all round performance sets him apart as a match winner.

While Arsenal continue to make great strides in the Premier League, it cannot be said that Cesc Fabregas has contributed all that much to their ascent this season. With Samir Nasri fulfilling his abundant potential Fabregas, who has been hampered by injury, has been allowed to be somewhat anonymous by his own exceptional standards as Jack Wilshere emerges as the new Emirates idol. But Fabregas' integral role during Arsenal's 3-0 win at Birmingham, a team many sides are unable to unlock at St Andrew's, proved that when he is on his game there is no else in the Premier League capable to controlling a game to the same degree. Quite simply, Fabregas was outstanding.

If there is one player who embodies Arsene Wenger's side it's the supremely talented Samir Nasri - whose classy goal put Arsenal on track for a deserved win at Birmingham. Nasri's growing understanding with Fabregas, which has the potential to tear the best teams apart (whisper it, but maybe even Barcelona in the Champions League) showed itself again as the two linked up well before Roger Johnson turned the ball into his own net. But Nasri is capable of turning defences in knots and, while Fabregas is at the club, Arsenal possess a world-class midfield duo.

Sir Alex Ferguson described West Brom as a "very good footballing side" after they pushed league leader Manchester United to the wire at the Hawthorns. Rather than accepting defeat after going behind to Wayne Rooney's 3rd minute goal, West Brom came out fighting - and that fight was led by James Morrison. Morrison was the pick of the impressive trinity of Baggies midfielders, having a hand in every good move West Brom created. He tormented United's defence and capped off a towering performance with a stunning volleyed goal.

Cesc Fabregas
GettyImagesCesc Fabregas was back to his inspirational best against Birmingham.

Manchester City's problem last season was although an impressive collection individuals, they were just that - individuals. But the signing of David Silva could prove to be the most significant addition Roberto Mancini makes to his squad in their inevitable quest to become Premier League champions. Unlike his whinging teammate Mario Balotelli, Silva has overcome a quiet start to his Eastlands career to become just as fundamental to the team dynamic as Carlos Tevez. His intelligent runs, creativity from midfield and growing understanding with Yaya Toure allowed him to craft chances for Tevez that, on another day, would have seen him walk away with two assists. At no stage in the game did Blackpool get close to nullifying the sophisticated threat Silva posed.

With Steven Gerrard on the bench, Liverpool were clueless against a well-organised, hard working Bolton team, who deserved to take at least a point away from Anfield. With his chips down, Roy Hodgson threw on Gerrard, who went on to change the game. Just as he did against Napoli in the Europa League Gerrard came off the bench and changed the game, providing a beautiful defence-splitting pass from which Fernando Torres couldn't miss. The rampaging Gerrard had a hand in Joe Cole's last-gasp winner too, to get Liverpool and Roy Hodgson out of jail. Again.

Everton travelled to the Britannia Stadium knowing they had a scrap on their hands and, although David Moyes' side fought for their hearts out, there was one significant difference between the sides - Kenwyne Jones. The Trinidadian's partnership with Ricardo Fuller caused the visiting defence all manner of problems as he combined his physical presence with intelligent runs and impressive hold up play. Jones craftily made space in the box to head home Matthew Etherington's pinpoint cross and proved that he could be back to his best.