Team of the Week
It was a tale of two goalkeepers as Queens Park Rangers and Norwich City fought out a goalless draw at Loftus Road, with the key intervention coming from the Canaries' Mark Bunn. An injury to Norwich's England international goalkeeper John Ruddy has left Bunn with big boots to fill - but he showed he has risen to the occasion here, making a fine one-handed save from Adel Taarabt's penalty after being adjudged to have brought down Jamie Mackie. Further good stops followed as he kept out a Taarabt piledriver and, with time running out, denied Loftus Road debutant Andros Townsend a winner by tipping his long-range swerver around the post.
Against Manchester United at Craven Cottage, Fulham produced a performance unrecognisable from the feeble effort they put in against the same opponents at Old Trafford in the FA Cup a week earlier. Their hard work came within a little over ten minutes of earning a point, and right-back Sascha Riether was one of the main reasons for that. His industry wasn't only defensive - he also came forward to good effect, drawing a save from De Gea and always available as Fulham grew as an attacking force after the break.
Big Sam Allardyce was delighted by his team's 1-0 win over Swansea at Upton Park, and - being a big fan of defensive solidity - was especially delighted by the clean sheet. Swansea can be a slick counter-attacking outfit away from home, but they were nullified here and that was in large part due to the performance of James Tomkins, who kept the much-praised Michu quiet and snuffed out the runs of attacking midfielders such as Jonathan De Guzman. It isn't often you see the Swans struggling to create, but they did down in East London.
Even Ian Harte sounded surprised when Reading signed him from Carlisle United to bring experience to their Championship squad. But the veteran promptly helped them back to the Premier League and is finally thriving on what many would have seen as an unexpected return to the top division. He caused havoc with his free-kick deliveries against Sunderland, one of which set up Jimmy Kebe for the late winner, and again demonstrated his all-round defensive composure - an unsung figure in an underrated, whole-hearted team.
Gareth Bale is in the form of his life, and his ability to turn a game is key to Spurs' hopes of finishing in the top four. In midweek, his individual brilliance turned defeat into a draw at Norwich, and on Sunday it turned the frustration of what could well have been a draw into three points at West Brom. Bale was a cut above the rest long before the Baggies went down to ten, with a couple of wonderful runs leaving bemused defenders in his wake. Afterwards, his superbly hit shot arrowed past Ben Foster for the winner, while his touch and vision were outstanding throughout.
Only two games into his Newcastle career, Moussa Sissoko already appears to be a phenomenal signing, and a snip at a reported £1.8 million from Toulouse. He could hardly have made a better home debut, starring in a thriller against Chelsea and weighing in with two goals including a 90th-minute winner. Strong, fast and skilful, he produced an outstanding all-round performance including the wonderful through-ball that Papiss Cisse should have converted into the opening goal. It all made him an instant St James' Park hero, following up a fine display at Villa in midweek with one that was even better.
If ever there was an illustration of how important midfielder Marouane Fellaini is to Everton, it was the game against Villa as he single-handedly converted what would have been an unexpected defeat into a valuable point. Fellaini and his colleagues almost seemed shocked by the verve the visitors showed in going 3-1 up at Goodison - but the Belgian, not for the first time, started Everton running again. He wove away from a challenge to shoot low past Brad Guzan and make it 3-2 before, as the clock ticked into six minutes of added time, powering in a trademark header from a corner. An integral part of Everton's hard-working, determined ensemble.
Jimmy Kebe may be an erratic player, but when he's on song he's really on song. The loping, meandering Reading man was the difference against the Black Cats and scored both goals as they were dispatched at the Madejski. The first showed his confidence and skill as he left John O'Shea trailing, opening up the space from which he lashed the ball high beyond 'keeper Simon Mignolet, while the second, five minutes from time, demonstrated his threat in the air as he converted Harte's ball into the box with a firm header.
Liverpool were excellent against Manchester City at the Etihad - bright, attacking and confident. Brendan Rodgers' side have been lifted by the arrival of striker Daniel Sturridge, who was tremendous throughout. The mobility that his link-up with Suarez has brought to the attack again impressed, he scored a superb goal and he seemed to be right in the middle of everything good that Liverpool did (which was plenty). He appeared here, there and everywhere - central midfield one moment, on the wing the next, as well as up front. City really didn't seem to know how to deal with him, and the only blot on his copybook was a booking for simulation.
Like Kebe, when Christian Benteke plays well, he really plays well. He must like something about the Merseyside air: he was devastating in the win at Anfield, and devastating in what could have been a win at Goodison. He brushed aside John Heitinga to roll a cool finish beyond Tim Howard for an early opener and then thundered in a header from Matt Lowton's cross to make it 3-1. That apart, he was a constant menace as Villa - as they had at Anfield - countered with real verve. If Benteke could do this sort of thing more consistently, and his team-mates could defend better, Villa wouldn't have too much to worry about.
Sometimes, you get the feeling that the best of Wayne Rooney comes when Manchester United need something and aren't having the easiest of times. Rooney hit the post as United threatened to take an early stranglehold on proceedings at Fulham, but after the break (delayed by a floodlight failure), the leaders failed to muster the same threat and looked as though they would be held to a draw. Enter Rooney with a composed low finish with a little over ten minutes left and then, two minutes from time, a brilliant defensive block as Brian Ruiz threatened on the edge of the area. A determined performance, capped by a decisive intervention.
In the dugout is the man who might just have done better than anyone else in the transfer window - Newcastle's Alan Pardew. Rather than spending an enormous amount on just one or two players, he has spread the money around to bring in a clutch of new faces. It looks to have had the desired effect, too: Newcastle excelled against Chelsea, with the intensity and focus well and truly back in their game. If they can keep performing like this, they'll be looking up, not down.