Team of the Week
Saturday could not have started much worse for Robert Green. Not only was he forced to reacquaint himself with his tormentor-in-chief Clint Dempsey, he once again had to watch the American celebrate putting the ball into the back of his net. It would have been easy for the Hammers' custodian to fall apart after his set-back, but Green proved he is made of sterner stuff. His saves from Simon Davies and Dickson Etuhu were his best, and it looks like he has begun to exorcise his World Cup ghost.
Regardless of what you may think about his extracurricular activities, you would have to admit Ashley Cole is one of the most consistent players in the Premier League. Carlo Ancelotti has introduced a system which gives the attack-minded left back freedom to burst forward, and he has been doing it to devastating effect. He laid on the opening goal against Arsenal for Didier Drogba, and then had one of his own chalked off, firing home a wonderful half volley from an offside position. While certain England stars are struggling for form, Cole continues to prove why he is one of the best full-backs in the world.
Just inside him at the heart of defence is Alex, the Brazilian who has ensured Ricardo Carvalho's move to Real Madrid has barely been noticed at Stamford Bridge. Confronted with the lively Marouane Chamakh in Sunday's clash with Arsenal, Alex helped make sure it was a frustrating afternoon for the Moroccan striker. After providing stability in the Chelsea rearguard all afternoon, with six minutes to go he decided to finish off the Gunners, thumping home an unstoppable free kick to set the seal on an impressive display.
Everton's poor start to the season has surprised many, especially when they have players like Phil Jagielka at their disposal. The Toffees' 2-0 triumph over Birmingham at fortress St Andrew's was impressive, and owed much to their rock-solid England man. City hadn't lost a home league game in over a year, and winless Everton looked ripe for a beating. It wasn't to be though, as Everton grafted their way to three points, led by their highly-rated centre back.
When Jonathan Walters scored Stoke City's winner against Blackburn on Saturday, there were no prizes for guessing who had provided the assist. Put simply, if Tony Pulis' team are going to score a goal, Matthew Etherington will be involved. The former Spurs and West Ham flyer has been in the form of his life since moving to Staffordshire, and he was at his electrifying best against Rovers. After twice seeing shots whistle wide of the post and ripple the side netting, Etherington eventually made the telling contribution. His pass through the legs of Chris Samba was perfectly weighted and allowed Walters to beat Paul Robinson and secure a victory for Stoke.
With a former Tottenham man out wide, we have a new arrival at White Hart Lane in the centre of midfield. Rafael van der Vaart has been on fire since arriving in the Premier League, adding to his two goals in midweek with another brace to see of Aston Villa. He showed great attacking instincts to arrive in the six-yard box and nod home Spurs' equaliser, before showcasing his explosive talent by rifling the winner past Brad Friedel with 15 minutes to go. He may have been an unexpected arrival at the Lane, but he already looks central to their hopes of repeating last season's success.
Chelsea's big-money summer signing showed signs he is beginning to adapt to life in England on Sunday. Ramires was one of the dominant forces in the Blues' team against Arsenal, showing fire and fitness as he took the fight to Arsene Wenger's men. He won possession for his team with a strong tackle, before showing awareness and poise to feed Cole in the build up to the game's opening goal. With Ramires slotting in alongside Mikel and Essien, Chelsea's midfield has a very imposing look to it.
Completing our three-man centre midfield is Blackpool's captain fantastic Charlie Adam, who led his side to an unbelievable victory over Liverpool. At the start of the season It was hard to see Blackpool picking up a Premier League away win, let alone a third away win, and let alone at Anfield. The Tangerines have stunned everyone since their promotion, with Adam being their metronome, dictating play from midfield. He has been a talisman for the Seasiders since arriving from Rangers, and displayed calm under pressure to convert a first-half penalty.
With an hour gone in the match between Man City and Newcastle, Adam Johnson wasn't even eligible for a place in our team of the week. From his position on the City bench, Johnson was watching his teammates bang their heads against a black and white brick wall. With just over a quarter of an hour remaining he was introduced, and within five minutes he had won the game for Mancini's boys with a sumptuous solo-strike. He may have played less than 20 minutes of football, but no one in the top flight made a bigger impact than the England winger this weekend.
From a no-hoper on the bench at Derby in August, to scoring the winner at Anfield in October, Luke Varney must be pinching himself at the moment. He scored as a substitute on his debut against Fulham and many people would have thought that would be the highlight of Varney's season. It got infinitely better on Sunday, with the former Crewe striker won a penalty and then evaded the Liverpool defence and fired a low shot past Pepe Reina in front of a stunned Kop. If Varney can continue on this unbelievable upward curve, Blackpool may cause a few more shocks yet.
Completing a front two of strikers who have made the step up from the Championship is Stoke City's Jonathan Walters. With Kenwyne Jones grabbing all the headlines for the Potters this season, Walters' respectable form since coming into the league has gone largely unnoticed. Against Blackburn, he showed a cool head to delicately loft the ball over Paul Robinson to score the game's only goal, and was a thorn in Rovers' side all afternoon. With his all-action physical style, he should be a perfect fit at the Britannia Stadium.
There was only one choice for this week's manager, Blackpool's Ian Holloway, who must still be in a state of disbelief. His team have acquitted themselves admirably since their promotion, combining work ethic with a desire to play attractive football. They have certainly surprised everyone, maybe even themselves, this season, but they took things to a whole new level on Sunday. Regardless of Liverpool's current struggles, a win at Anfield is always impressive, and Blackpool fans can be proud of their charismatic manager.