Premier League Team of the Week
Joe Hart celebrated his bumper new five-year contract at Manchester City was a busy half against Stoke City, laying the foundations for a Robinho-shaped explosion in the second period. A fingertip save from a fizzing Ricardo Fuller shot and a fumbled, but vital, clearance from Ryan Shawcross' header ensured a clean sheet for a promising young keeper, on a very big day for him and his side.
Ledley King was never going to miss this one was he? He may only be reduced to one game in three, so we are told, but after turning out in the defeats at Stoke and Udinese he had 14 injections in his gammy knee and managed to join Harry Redknapp's coronation party. If Harry is to restore Spurs to somewhere near where their wildly optimistic fans believe they should be then King will be key. Whether his body can stand up to those demands is another matter.
He may have a squeaky voice, but you wouldn't mess with Jamie Carragher . He was typically gutsy against Chelsea, dwarfing the, admittedly minimal, threat of Nicolas Anelka and generally barking and shrieking at his team-mates until they had won. With Carra nearing the twilight of his career this means more to him than most, and you can tell. Central to any lofty ambitions that Liverpool harbour towards the title.
For many months in the summer Liverpool wailed like only they can, about Rafa Benitez's apparent surmisaing that Gareth Barry was a better player than Xabi Alonso . Thankfully for them the most drawn out flirting session in history (matched only by the Tevez to Man Utd debacle) ended with Xavi staying put, apparently because Juventus thought him too slow. Well, bully for them. At Stamford Bridge on Sunday Alonso ran the show, providing the terrier-like Mascherano and the ever-ready Gerrard with ample support. Not only did he score the winner, he very nearly made the game safe with a free-kick that baffled Cech but cannoned back off the post.
Whatever Kieran Richardson and Djibril Cisse do from this day forth, their status as Sunderland legends is secured. Cisse turned in a performance few believed he was still capable of winning headers, shooting vaguely on target and actually managing to convert an open goal for once. Richardson didn't have the greatest of games against Newcastle but it matters little. In the 75th minute he struck a venomous free-kick into the top corner and thus handed the Black Cats their first home win over their bitter rivals for nigh on 30 years, allowing 40,000 Sunderland fans to go just a little bit too crazy. Job done.
It wouldn't be a team of the week without our customary inclusion of Hull City players after yet another death-defying Premier League win, so who are we to disappoint? Yes, their 3-0 win at the Hawthorns may not have hit the heights of those famous triumphs over Arsenal and Spurs but nevertheless, any away win of such magnitude deserves a salute, and that's exactly what they are getting.
Kamil Zayette trained with Newcastle but opted to sign for Phil Brown so we knew his judgement was half decent before the season began, but his rock-solid performance in the first half at The Hawthorns was vital in keeping the scores at 0-0 - one last-ditch saving tackle on Ishmael Miller catching the eye in particular. Then he slotted skilfully at t'other end to give the Tigers' a lead. Also included is Marlon King . He was largely redundant in the first half but came good in the second, scoring one himself and setting one up for the irrepressible Giovanni to put the game beyond doubt.
Looks like it took Harry Redknapp approximately five minutes to do what Joined Ramos couldn't in two-and-a-half months; namely, extract the best out of Luka Modric . Operating in a free role behind the strikers Redknapp described his nimble Croatian midfielder as 'magical'. Apparently the key is to get the ball into the kid as swiftly as possible, even if he's surrounded by ten players, because his deftness of touch and slight frame enables him to make space and create, even at the bottom of a 23 man pile-on. And his shot contributed to the penalty, a vital clinching goal in Spurs' first Premier League win.
I can quite confidently predict that Robinho had never even heard of Stoke City before he arrived in England at the beginning of September. But in fairness, it matters little when you're worth £32.5million. You're just there to wipe goal-pie all over the Stoke's faces. The Brazilian certainly did that registering his first hat-trick in the Premier League after a trio of precise finishes. But the question does still linger, will he fancy it in the reverse fixture on a sub-zero night in February at the Potteries? Think on...
How is Gabriel Agbonlahor not in the England squad? Are we that good? Well, we must be doing alright if Super Fabio can happily omit Aston Villa's prolific striker and still fashion a team to beat those European heavyweights Belarus and Kazakhstan. Against Wigan Agbonlahor was rampant (I'm talking strictly on the field for a change people) bagging a goal himself and setting up two more for his colleagues as the Villans made Wigan's form look like their manager's face, i.e., battered.
As for our manager, we had a word with Portsmouth and Spurs a minute ago, and we can now announce our whirlwind appointment of Harry Redknapp . It couldn't really be anybody else could it. The only inkling we got that he may be off to Pompey was less than 20 hours ago (at the time of writing) but already he's picked a team, delivering a rousing team talk and delivered Spurs' first win of the season, doubling their points tally in the process. He may talk nonsense and he may swap clubs like he's changing his tracksuit but its hard not to like him eh? Portsmouth and Southampton fans excluded of course...