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Sep 28, 2008

Premier League Team of the Week

Oh how we like to mock Scott Carson in TOTW towers. It's just a bit too easy innit? Anyone who throws one in his own net with just a few minutes of the biggest game of his career underway deserves an avalanche of mockery in our flawed opinion. But, to be fair to the lad (to adopt manager speak) he went away, cried a lot, then started rebuilding his career. And yesterday he gave the sort of performance that presented him with an England chance at Middlesbro' where he repelled shot after shot, header after header and err, more shots after shots.

Avram Grant is a much maligned chap, despite only failing to deliver Chelsea their first ever Champions League triumph by the width of a gnat's tash, but his last piece of Blues business cannot be questioned. Yes dear readers, it was he who signed full-back Jose Bosingwa just seconds before he was booted out of the Bridge, and what an astute acquisition it looks. Hugely impressive already this season, the former Porto star netted his first Premier League goal at Stoke on Saturday, then sent in a devilish cross which allowed Nicolas Anelka to make the game safe. Superb.

Christopher Samba managed to take time out from laughing his head off at Newcastle's current plight to plunge them into even murkier waters. He didn't have much to do at the back, despite a slight whiff of Newcastle resurgence after Michael Owen had converted a penalty, but it was he who wrestled clear of Steven Taylor to open the scoring for Rovers - which was tantamount to winning the game given the way Newcastle's players are reeling. A solid centre-back who pops up with the odd vital goal? You've got to love them.

I remember Patrice Evra having an absolute mare in his first game for Manchester United, as his side were thumped 3-1 by local rivals City in January 2006. He looked nervous, uncomfortable with the pace of the game, tactically naive and slow. Funny, because in his very next game, and ever since, he has been confident, quick, strong, positionally astute and dangerous going forward. And with United slow to fire up front this year, it's vital their defence has held firm like they did against Bolton on Saturday. Evra always provided an outlet down the left and his delicate delivery from the flanks caused many problems for his Wanderers counterparts.

Yes Geovanni attracted all the headlines but Hull City's famous win at the Emirates was mostly down to the steel of their back four and defensive midfielders. One can only hope that the match sponsors saw fit to fork out 11 bottles of bubbly such was the unity on display. Here at Soccernet we tend to shy away from the headline-seeking charlatans and delve deeper into the mix, and that's why Michael Turner and Ian Ashbee both make their debuts in our illustrious TOTW. Turner was a rock at the back, winning everything in the air and maintaining discipline among a young and inexperienced rearguard; Ashbee was fantastic in his role in front of the back four, industrious and willing his side on to victory as events became increasingly tense towards the death. Quite simply, a brilliant day for the Tigers.

Despite John Carew's delightful winner and Ashley Young's star turn it was Stiliyan Petrov who drew the most praise from the excitable Martin O'Neill after Villa had beaten Sunderland. Yes Petrov provided the cross that allowed Carew to seal the win but his general play was again excellent. Revelling in his terrier-like midfield role the Bulgarian piled into tackle after tackle, never wasted possession and sparked wave after wave of attacks. Here's MON himself: ''His confidence is so high, he is going in, winning the balls, he is setting things in motion and he can play himself. I really could not be more pleased with him. I thought he was outstanding against Sunderland.''

Matthew Etherington. There's a name you don't hear all that often, and when you do it's usually followed by the question: "Is he still at West Ham?" Well, ladies and gents, yes he is and he's doing quite nicely ta very much. After being clattered into by Paul Konchesky at Craven Cottage, Etherington picked himself up and set about winning the game for West Ham in the space of two first-half minutes. His was the low cross that allowed Carlton Cole to open the scoring, then it was he who gleefully galloped onto a Mark Noble through ball and poked the ball past Mark Schwarzer to wrap the game up.

Let's be honest, Jermain Defoe was always going to score against Spurs wasn't he? He may be reasonably profligate as a striker but with the amount of holes in Tottenham's shaky rearguard he was destined to pot at least one. He did, from the penalty spot, but was also involved in pretty much everything positive that Pompey did going forward. He spread the ball wide for Armand Traore in the build up to Crouch's clincher and could have netted at least two more times. But, the first was key, and the pint-sized penalty pincher potted it.

Amr Zaki is Alan Shearer, or so Wigan's chairman Dave Whelan would have you believe. Pah we said in response. However, having watched his performance against Manchester City on Sunday it doesn't appear such a ludicrous shout after all. He didn't let the Richards' (Micah and Dunne) have a minute to themselves at the JJB, winning headers galore, helping out at the back when needed, and generally looking tidy, accomplished and confident in possession. He slotted his pen calmly, and nearly made it two after a barnstorming run near the end of the game, but always showed for the ball and won a string of important free-kicks as the Latics held on to their slender advantage. Forget Big Al, all hail Big Amr.

You can't keep a good man down for long; a thought that must have been swirling around the minds of Everton's players before Saturday's Merseyside Derby. Sure enough, Fernando Torres not only came to the party, but he brought stacks of free booze, danced like a youthful Michael Jackson, and left with the fittest girl in the room on his arm. His two instinctive finishes put the game to bed, and meant it was the red half of Liverpool who can flick the V's at their rivals for the next six months until the sides meet again.

Our manager? Easy. Step forward Phil Brown. Not since West Ham 36 games ago have a side won at the Emirates, and nobody truly thought Hull had a decent shout at becoming the second. I doubt Arsene Wenger lost any sleep in the days leading up to the game but he may just be waking up in cold sweat this week after the Tigers tanked the Gunners 2-1. Geovanni's blockbuster got City on level terms before William Gallas thought to himself, "It's ok, I'll give Daniel Cousin a yard on me at this corner, he's rubbish," and paid the full price for it. A wonderful upset in an increasingly predictable Premier League. It just goes to show the old adage is true: it's never dull in Hull.

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