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Aug 31, 2008

Premier League Team of the Week

David James denied ex-Pompey hitman Yakubu from the spot but it was not his most impressive stop of a busy afternoon. He made one of the saves of this or any other season when he flung his mature frame to the left to push a Mikel Arteta shot on to the post before having the wherewithal to dive on the dangerously bobbling ball.

Gianni Zuiveloon, a.k.a 'The Loon', has been a welcome addition to the West Brom backline and had another strong game in the goalless draw at Bolton following his debut last week. The Dutch full-back showed his versatility by filling in at centre-half for the Baggies and has carried on his good form from the Olympics.

Villa's expensively assembled defence would have been worked hard in training after last week's porous performance at Stoke but it was one of the old guard, skipper Martin Laursen, who picked up the man of the match award against Liverpool. He was his usual trustworthy self at the back and threatened to break the deadlock on a couple of occasions at the other end.

He may have broken his neck at the start of the year but Calum Davenport towered above Blackburn Rovers captain colossus Ryan Nelsen to power home Julien Faubert's twelfth minute corner. Davenport's opening goal went some way to easing the early season tensions currently being felt by the West Ham fans and he almost had a second with a shot that fizzed just wide.

Liam Lawrence was a constant menace down the right hand side for ten-man Stoke City at the Riverside and willingly pushed forward despite his side's numerical disadvantage. The Irishman's delivery from set-pieces was impressive and it was his curling cross that panicked Boro new boy Justin Hoyte in to conceding an own goal.

Luka Modric, the slight Croatian bearing the heavy transfer fee, had his best game so far for a Spurs team seeking a result at Stamford Bridge more in hope than expectation. The point they won had as much to do with the playmaker's command of an abundantly talented midfield as any other aspect of a much improved team performance.

Tuncay has looked sharp so far for Middlesbrough and his pirouetting turn against Liverpool last week was one of the highlights of this fledgling season. He didn't get the reward of a goal his virtuoso turn deserved there but was in luck against Stoke when he poked home a late goal (a handy trait to bring back from Turkey's Euro adventures) to win the points for Boro.

Little Shaun Wright-Phillips trudged back to rainy Manchester this week having sought his fame and fortune on west London's gold-paved streets. The prodigal son's return was a joyous occasion and the fatted calves put to the slaughter arrived in the shape of Roy Keane's Sunderland, with the winger helping himself to a tap-in and a dinked shot which beat Craig Gordon.

Jermain Defoe picked a good time to find his form for Portsmouth with the England squad announced later on Sunday. He scored two of Portsmouth's three goals (despite Peter Crouch's covetous claims), his second an exquisite chip after a smart Sean Davis back heel which found its way in off the underside of the crossbar. He also showed awareness and vision to set up Glen Johnson for his goal.

They have been slow out of the traps but Robin Van Persie finally got Arsenal up and running against Newcastle. A well taken penalty, a free-kick that was arcing beautifully goalwards until Shay Given launched himself at it, a gem of a goal hewn from a fine Arsenal move - and an early departure from the field of play due to injury. Normal business is resumed for Van Persie.

The hype surrounding Amr Zaki and his signing is starting to look justified. The Egyptian Gladiator strode majestically in to the Premiership arena to face Hull's Tigers and struck two goals for Wigan. For his first he received the ball with his left foot, steadied himself, then almost passed it in to the net from fifteen yards out. His second was more purposefully struck, a powerful drive with the outside of his right boot from just inside the Hull penalty area that crashed in off the crossbar.

With all the current clamour surrounding Spurs following a poor start, rumours of dressing room disquiet and a surly former hero trying to work his ticket away from the club, Juande Ramos is under a degree of pressure already. A trip to Chelsea was far from ideal in such circumstances but his team responded admirably to the challenge to take their first point of the season.

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