Team of the Week
Dedryck Boyata's early sending off may have made ensured an easier afternoon for Arsenal at Eastlands than many predicted, but Lukasz Fabianski was in fine form when called upon for the Gunners. In the opening moments he was forced to make a superb save from David Silva's fancy flick and the Polish goalkeeper's acrobatic dive to deny Vincent Kompany in injury time was also noteworthy. He would have been disappointed to see the flag raised when he repelled Emmanuel Adebayor's close-range header and Manuel Almunia could have trouble dislodging Fabianski on his return from injury.
On the subject of returning from injury, Jose Bosingwa impressed for on his first appearance in the Chelsea starting line-up for more than a year in the champions' 2-0 victory over Wolves. He has suffered a nightmare 12 months, but it's ominous for Chelsea's Premier League rivals to think he and Ashley Cole will be hurtling down the wings for the rest of the campaign. He came close to a dream return when he forced Hahnemann into a smart save in the 11th minute, also being reliable at the other end when denying a surprisingly attacking Wolves side.
Birmingham City put an end to their recent home goal draught, with defender Liam Ridgewell finally finding the back of the St Andrew's net for the Blues. Alex McLeish's team have become a tough proposition for any top-flight outfit, due in no small part to Ridgewell and his defensive cohorts. Playing his part in a rock-solid rearguard at one end, then nodding home the opening goal at the other, the former Villa man certainly made his presence felt on Saturday. He'll be hoping his form carries into next weekend, when he makes the short trip back across Birmingham to his old club.
Fresh from his goalscoring exploits last weekend, Fabricio Coloccini stuck to what he does best against West Ham, helping the Magpies to a much-needed three points. The Hammers may have taken the lead through Carlton Cole, but that was as good as it got for them. Coloccini and co made sure they barely had a sniff, slowly but surely chipping away at the fragile confidence of Avram Grant's side. If the Argentina stopper can maintain his recent form, Chris Hughton's team could shake off their Jekyll and Hyde tag.
Many in the football world were looking on with great interest as Manchester United took to the field at Stoke City, waiting to see how the week's events had affected the Red Devils. A contest against a physical, in-your-face Stoke team looked like a potential banana skin, but Nemanja Vidic made sure that was not the case. He had the in-form Kenwyne Jones in his pocket all afternoon, proving far too strong for the Potters' record signing. He dominated the aerial duel with the striker, also popping up in the opposing box to square for Javier Hernandez to open the scoring. His reunion with Rio Ferdinand in United's backline could signal the end of their costly defensive errors.
West Brom secured a vital three points in their quest for Champions League football, coming from behind to beat Fulham on Saturday. Although it's highly likely they will ultimately finish some way below their current sixth-placed position, if the likes of Youssuf Mulumbu can keep up their stellar performances, the Baggies may continue to be this season's surprise package. Mulumbu, alongside Chris Brunt, has been a stand-out performer for Albion this term, and the two combined brilliantly to score the equaliser against the Cottagers. One sign of the form the Congolese midfielder is enjoying is the fact that last year's player of the season, Graham Dorrans, has to make do with a place on the West Brom bench this time around.
Next, we have a pair of goalscoring French wingers, the first being Chelsea's Florent Malouda. Carlo Ancelotti's side made heavy work of their victory over Wolves, but Malouda's 23rd minute strike settled any anxiety which may have set in around Stamford Bridge. He has been in sensational scoring form this season, and Saturday's strike took his tally to seven. The France winger has well and truly blossomed in the last 18 months and is now one of the Premier League's most feared attackers.
The relief emanating from Anfield after Liverpool's 2-1 win over Blackburn was tangible, with Raul Meireles putting in the most accomplished performance of his fledgling Premier League career. The Portuguese midfielder was guilty of missing a golden chance early doors, but made amends with an assured showing in centre of the park. Liverpool have struggled to for balance in midfield since losing both Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano; perhaps Meireles can be a calming influence in a nervy Liverpool team.
Another player who appears to be successfully coming to terms with the demands of English football is Samir Nasri, who has also hit the goal trail of late. His opener at the City of Manchester Stadium showed his growing confidence as he drove at the heart of Man City's depleted defence before firing over a helpless Joe Hart. Nasri was instrumental in Arsenal's attacking play, putting a seal on the result when he set Nicklas Bendtner away to curl home the Gunners' third in injury time.
Andy Carroll and Kevin Nolan have clearly benefited from spending some extra time together off the pitch, with the pair combining to bring Newcastle level in their win at Upton Park. In fact, if Carroll continues to perform like this, he may want to consider taking full-time residence on the Nolan family sofa. On top form he is a potent attacking force who is deadly in the air, as he proved when diverting Joey Barton's pin-point cross past Robert Green. The Magpies will need him to keep producing the goods if they're to maintain their Premier League status.
With a certain Manchester United striker dominating the headlines all week, it was refreshing to see one of their other forwards grab the limelight for all the right reasons; Javier Hernandez's performance would surely have had Michael Owen thinking "I used to be able to do that". His first goal had a touch of genius to it, as he somehow twisted his spine to head beyond a bemused Thomas Sorensen. He then displayed predatory instincts to poke the winner into the Stoke net and his combination with Berbatov was excellent all afternoon. Chicharito may prove to be the perfect tonic to Rooney's recent shenanigans.
Arsene Wenger had the last laugh on Sunday as his team went some way towards proving they have the stomach for a Premier League title fight. They may not have been at their free-flowing best for large parts of their triumph over Man City, but the Gunners showed an ability to grind out a result on Sunday. They were aided by the early dismissal of Boyata, going about their business in a professional manner to secure a huge three points.