Premier League Team of the Week
Scott Carson is sure to loosen himself from the immediate associations in people's minds with 'that' England game if he keeps producing saves like the ones he pulled out of the top draw against West Ham on Saturday. The West Brom keeper made a great stop low to his right from David Di Michele then denied Scott Parker at the death to make sure the Baggies earned their first three Premier League points of the season.
Paul McShane may have expected a rough reception as a Sunderland player (he is only on loan to Hull) walking on to the St. James Park turf but the mutinous Toon Army had bigger targets this weekend. McShane had a solid game at the back and, perhaps sensing black and white blood, was eager to join the attack, putting in a couple of decent crosses to trouble the Newcastle defence.
Ricardo Carvalho will be in charge of marshalling his troops in the absence of suspended skipper John Terry (barring a successful appeal by Chelsea of that sending off ) when Manchester United visit next week and the Blues are fortunate to have two such commanding centre-halves. Another slick defensive performance from the Portuguese against those upstarts Manchester City was capped with the equalising goal.
Alongside him, international team-mate Jose Bosingwa was a bundle of energy down the right flank and caused Manchester City plenty of problems with his frequent forays in to City territory. An expensive acquisition he may be, but he looks as if he could be the answer to Chelsea's problematic right-back position.
Zoltan Gera almost scored in the second minute of Fulham's game against Bolton and his promising start got even better when he volleyed home under Jussi Jaaskelainen right on the edge of the 18 yard line before somersaulting along the Craven Cottage pitch in glee. The Hungarian was a real menace down the left and could have had another when he hit the bar.
The indefatigable Frank Lampard was the engine that propelled the Chelsea machine past Manchester City and his hard work paid off with a handsome goal. Following a wonderful flowing Chelsea move, Lampard's first bamboozled Richard Dunne then hit a left-footed shot past Joe Hart. Robinho who?
Javier Mascherano may well have been kicking himself for not picking up compatriot Carlos Tevez as he put Manchester United into an early lead at Anfield, but this oversight merely seemed to spur on the combative midfielder. His determination and drive were epitomised by his run in the 78th minute when a refusal to accept Ryan Giggs was in command of the situation ultimately earned Ryan Babel the chance to win the points for Liverpool.
This has truly been Theo Walcott's week and the young Arsenal sensation was given the chance to shine from the start for the Gunners at Blackburn. It is an opportunity he seized with both hands and his speed and skill ran Rovers ragged. He danced through their defence with contemptuous ease to set up Robin van Persie's opener and, amongst a myriad of mazy runs, one second half gallop and shot that Paul Robinson saved stands out in particular as well worthy of a goal.
Up front, his team-mate Emmanuel Adebayor helped himself to a hat-trick with his first goal the stand-out. A header from close range it may have been, but we need to take a step back to admire its full beauty. It was the sweet culmination of a patient, 30-odd sequence of uninterrupted Arsenal passes that flowed the length, breadth and width of Ewood Park. Magnificent.
Jermaine Defoe's natural predatory instincts are roaming with deadly effect on the south coast and he netted his 11th and 12th goals so far in Pompey colours (his 100th and 101st league goals in total) against Middlesbrough. Peter Crouch set him up with a neat pass for his first and for his second he carefully monitored the ball as it dropped over his shoulder before smartly lashing it home.
Bobby Zamora and Andy Johnson would, on Saturday's evidence, look to be capable of growing into a tidy strike partnership (perhaps the importance of this is what Mohammed al Fayed was stressing in their pre-match stroll). Zamora scored one of the goals of the weekend when he completely fooled both Danny Shittu and Gavin McCann with a turn before curling in his shot for Fulham's second.
Good things come to those who wait. Alex Ferguson has had Rafa Benitez in something of a psychological headlock since the Spaniard took the helm at Anfield but Saturday's win, his first over their fiercest rivals in the Premier League, has led to talk of Liverpool perhaps sustaining a serious title challenge this season. That it was a victory achieved largely without the services of main men Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres (completely in the case of Saturday's spectator Torres) gives credence to the belief that Benitez's Liverpool side are not simply a two-man team.