Premier League Team of the Week
Unless you have just emerged blinking into the hellish paparazzi-lit glare of modern life after a prolonged spell in some especially austere form of solitary confinement (and if you are then welcome back) you will be aware that this has been something of an historical week on our spinning orb.
Yup. Who would have thought it after all this time. Back to back wins for Bolton for the first time in seven months. These are changed times, my friends.
So in the spirit of this optimistic present we have elected twelve good men for a week long term at the Soccernet house of representatives.
Barack Obama may or may not be a West Ham fan but he has certainly never played in goal for Bolton. If he did he would probably be brilliant, although perhaps not quite as brilliant as Jussi Jaaskelainen was on Saturday against Hull.
An adoring crowd of team-mates encircled the big keeper at the end of an astonishing performance which would have had Phil Brown cursing the day the Finn joined his old club Bolton. Pick of a blooming bunch of beauties was a double save, first from a Marlon King shot which deflected viciously, before quick reactions allowed Jaaskelainen to parry the ball away from Geovanni. The best goalkeeping performance of the season in the Premier League? Quite probably.
Who needs the hoopla of some trifling midweek popularity contest to quicken the pulse when there are events like nil-nils between Wigan and Stoke in this world eh? Andy Griffin's tasty defending was a rare slice of finest beef resting atop the tripe stew of a game that was served up by Wigan and Stoke. The stocky Stoke skipper blocked shots, made important tackles and did all that was asked of him as Wigan applied pressure in the final quarter of the match.
Portsmouth's Nadir Belhadj, playing in an advanced role down the left at the Stadium of Light, struck a thunderbolt for the visitors in the 51st minute after a first half when Sunderland had looked far and away the more comfortable. The on-loan Algerian international's equalising goal from 25 yards was as well taken as Portsmouth's first win under Tony Adams was welcome.
William Gallas has had a few questions asked of his leadership skills since taking the Arsenal captaincy but cometh the hour cometh the man and Gallas played through a thigh injury to inspire his youthful charges through their most important challenge so far this season with a mature defensive display of leadership against Manchester United.
Ahead of him, Samir Nasri fired the bullets which killed off the challenge of the champions at the Emirates. He had a little help from the visitors for his first in the form of a handy cushioned header from Dimitar Berbatov before a stray Gary Neville limb aided the resultant shot on its way. The second was pure Arsenal – a majestic move involving all the outfield players which quickened towards its conclusion as Fabregas provided some magic to set Nasri up before the Frenchman belted his shot past Edwin Van der Sar.
And the Catalan kid rightfully takes his place in the centre of a formidable-looking TOTW midfield after another string-pulling performance for the Gunners. His swivel and turn to lay the ball on to Nasri gave his team-mate the time needed to pick his spot which he did superbly. This was the game of the season so far and Fabregas' silky skills graced this grand stage fittingly.
'Ask not what your team can do for you, ask what you can do for your team', would seem to be Frank Lampard's motto and he was exceptional once more for a Chelsea team who set about Blackburn Rovers from the off as the heavens opened upon Ewood Park. Lampard went close to scoring with a couple of efforts but had to settle with setting up Anelka for the decisive second after a determined challenge allowed the Frenchman to claim the glory. That and covering every inch of the sodden turf in pursuit of the Chelsea cause.
Tuncay Sanli was the prickliest thorn in Martin O'Neill's Aston Villa side as his goals gave Boro boss Gareth Southgate his second away win of the season. Tuncay's brace (two seemed to be the magic number for our goalscorers this weekend). His first was fired home from eight yards but it is safe to say Steve Sidwell (himself on the scoresheet for Villa) will not be rushing to watch a replay of the Turk's late winner, as Tuncay gleefully took advantage of the ex-Reading man's slack backpass to score with two minutes left.
Joleon Lescott's headed equalizer was the brick through West Ham's window which allowed Louis Saha to steal off into the night with the points for Everton after this east end heist. Saha crossed for Lescott's headed goal and then two minutes later got his second in as many games when his shot from a Victor Anichebe cross took a slight deflection and went in low off the far post. His second came after a Julien Faubert pass was delivered with all the accuracy of a Sarah Palin remark on foreign policy, allowing the Frenchman to capitalise on the error and blast home from 35 yards.
Robbie Keane's painful Premier League bout of goal constipation was dealt a double dose of sweet relief when he bagged a brace against the Baggies. Robbie Keane was prompted to show what he was made of by Stevie G's simple but deadly pass and duly lifted the ball over Scott Carson for his first Premier League goal for his 'new' side. A diagonal run then allowed Keane to beat the offside trap and latch on to Fabio Aurelio's arrowed pass to bury his second.
Nicolas Anelka was another of the clutch of strikers to grab two goals this weekend (apologies to Darren Bent for missing out this week) and although he was the beneficiary of a large slice of luck for his opener as Jose Bosingwa's shot deflected off him in to the Blackburn goal, his second was a pure predators finish after an afternoon when Anelka led a rain-lashed line superbly.
Hail to the chief of North London ('Arry excluded). Arsene Wenger's Gunners answered a few loudly voiced recent questions with a vital win in the weekend's big game as Man United visited north London. 'Can we really beat the English and European champions with a heavily depleted squad (and with Nicklas Bendtner looking every inch a special undercover agent dispatched direct from Old Trafford), thereby forcing our way back in the tussle for the title?' asked a worried Arsenal support. 'Yes we can!' And yes they did. Their victory was the perfect riposte to the doubters (some sporting Arsenal colours) and an important boost to the team's reserves of confidence. Let's see how they push on from this.