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Sep 23, 2012

Team of the Week

Sunderland goalkeeper Simon Mignolet will feel disappointed that his efforts didn't earn his side at least a point at West Ham, but he might be comforted by a potential save of the season award. Mignolet somehow turned away Kevin Nolan's volley with the Wearsiders in the lead, and the big Belgian was unlucky when he failed to keep out the former Bolton man's effort in the final minute - flinging himself to his right but only succeeding in pushing it just inside his own post.

Southampton earned their first win of the season against Aston Villa thanks to a fantastic second-half comeback and a lot of credit goes to Nigel Adkins for swapping Nathaniel Clyne from right-back to left-back at half-time. The young Englishman's marauding runs led to a plethora of chances, and even got him a goal when he found himself one-on-one with Brad Guzan and calmly slotted it past the American with all the composure of a striker.

Per Mertesacker came up against £120 million worth of strikers on Sunday, but dealt with them all commendably. A show of experience, and how reading the game is just as good being able to sprint around the pitch, Mertesacker continually held off the lively figures of Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero on the ground, and the imposing Edin Dzeko in the air; the Germany international showing his ability to adapt to any situation in the rigorous Premier League.

A late replacement for the ill Thomas Vermaelen, Laurent Koscielny was at the top of his game at Eastlands, winning key tackle after key tackle and capping a fine display off with a superb goal to win a point for his Arsenal team. His strike wasn't even his highlight of the game; soon after the goal he won the ball from Mario Balotelli on the edge of his own area before gliding past two City midfielders thanks to a majestic Cruyff turn.

He may have been one of the world's best left-backs for many years, but Ashley Cole's goalscoring has always been the one facet of his game that leaves a little to be desired. Cole goals are a bit of a collector's item and a week after the Chelsea man was in the spotlight for his non-handshake with Anton Ferdinand, he made the headlines for all the right reasons this time around. The England defender put in a solid display, before ghosting into the box with five minutes to go and chipping the ball past Asmir Begovic, who had enjoyed a great game in the Stoke goal, to win the game for the Blues.

Everton pulled the Swansea defence all over the place at the Liberty Stadium and it was their South African playmaker Steven Pienaar who was pulling the strings again with his skill and movement. Pienaar only set up one of the Toffees' three goals - his pinpoint pass finding Kevin Mirallas in the box - but his partnership down the left-hand side with Leighton Baines caused havoc, and not for the first time this season.

An Arsenal pair in defence is joined by an Everton pair in our midfield. Marouane Fellaini may have assisted a goal with a handball, but his overall play was excellent as Swansea failed where many other teams, including Manchester United, have failed in coping with his power in the final third of the pitch. The Belgian might have to wait for few weeks before finding out if he was awarded a goal in the 82nd minute, after his header was deflected into the net by Ashley Williams, but the big-haired midfielder will be hoping to add a third to his tally of strikes this season, equalling the number he scored in the whole of the last campaign.

In an emotionally charged day, Steven Gerrard directed his energy into putting in a man-of-the-match display at Anfield, as Liverpool dominated the central midfield tussle against Manchester United. His team lost after spending the majority of the game with just ten men, but Gerrard's passing was impressive throughout, and if Luis Suarez and co. had more composure up front, his long balls could have resulted in goals for Liverpool. In a scrappy phase of play, the skipper took the ball down in a frenetic penalty area and volleyed home to give Liverpool the lead, but it just wasn't enough in the end.

If Jason Puncheon has a point to prove in the Premier League, and to Southampton fans, his pace and power on Sunday will have gone a long way towards showing his doubters what he can do at the highest level. The winger caused fear in Aston Villa's defence all afternoon, and deserved his standing ovation when he was subbed with quarter of an hour remaining. The only thing missing from his performance was a goal, which almost came when he cut in from the right, and curled the ball inches wide of the post.

Completing a trio of Southampton inclusions (they did record their first Premier league win of the season in some style after all) is Rickie Lambert. Nigel Adkins didn't start the former Rochdale man in the season's opener, but since then he has been richly rewarded by his striker. Lambert now has four goals to his name in the league, proving he can cut it at the highest level. Despite the signings of Jay Rodriguez, Emmanuel Mayuka and Gaston Ramirez, the Saints' No. 7 is still the key player for a side hoping to survive in the top-flight. Two goals against Villa confirmed that an instinctive striker can score on any stage.

Demba Ba seemed unhappy at being on the bench on Monday night for Newcastle's game with Everton and Alan Pardew will struggle to leave him out again after the Senegal star followed up a brace at Goodison Park with a winner against Norwich. The goal against the Canaries was an example of Ba at his clinical best as he latched onto a Hatem Ben Arfa's through-ball and put it past John Ruddy. Ba may quickly regain his tag as Newcastle's main striker after his partner Papiss Cisse sent a first-half penalty into orbit.

This week's Manager of the Week is, a touch unsurprising, Southampton's Nigel Adkins. After a pointless start to the season, his Saints came up with the goods against Villa, with a little help from his tactical tinkering at half-time, to relieve some of the undeserved pressure on his shoulders.

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