Premier League Team of the Week
Seldom can we here at Soccernet have fielded such a potent team of the week, given that our XI boast no fewer than 15 goals between them. In fact, the only man in our line-up whose sole purpose is to prevent the net bulging is Paul Robinson and even he has a Premier League goal to his name. Against West Brom, the former England number one made three excellent interventions, the pick being a fingertip save from a fizzing Jerome Thomas drive that looked destined for the bottom corner.
In front of Robinson, Martin Olsson typified the difference between Steve Kean's Rovers and Sam Allardyce's. The Swede bombed up and down the left flank in a manner that suggested his terms of engagement have been altered under his new gaffer, and he gave Gonzalo Jara a torrid time, regularly getting to the byline and delivering balls of quality into the danger zone.
Perhaps a little training ground dust-up with Aston Villa assistant boss Gary McAllister was exactly what Richard Dunne needed to reinvigorate his season, as he helped record the Villans' first clean sheet since October. The 31-year-old was immense against his former club, repelling attack after attack, and sticking to Edin Dzeko like an industrial strength adhesive.
His afternoon may have been tarnished by another injury-time equaliser, but prior to Tottenham's last-gasp leveller, Fabricio Coloccini was game's "stand-out player," according to his manager. The Argentine, who was robust in defence and tidy in possession, so nearly proved the match-winner as he chested Danny Guthrie's ball inside Alan Hutton and fired a fierce volley into the net.
The man who ruined Coloccini's game was Aaron Lennon, and the Spurs winger kicks off our goal-hungry front seven. The winger had been dangerous all afternoon on the right flank but was even more effective on the left, as he demonstrated by dancing inside Danny Simpson and firing a low shot into the corner to snatch a point at St James' Park.
There is at least one thing Liverpool fans can thank Roy Hodgson for and his name is Raul Meireles. The Portuguese has been in fine form since the arrival of Kenny Dalglish, ingratiating himself to the Anfield faithful with a goal in the derby last week and propelling the team to victory against Wolves. After teeing up Fernando Torres' opening goal with a precise cut back, Meireles then registered a sublime second, as he pinged a dropping ball into the top corner on the volley.
As Sunderland began life without Darren Bent at Blackpool, they could hardly have imagined Kieran Richardson would be the man to fill the goalscoring void, given that the player who provides the very definition of a top-flight utility man had gone 41 games without one. Yet within 36 minutes at Bloomfield Road he'd grabbed two, his intelligent running and accomplished finishes proving he can play anywhere. Except in goal perhaps.
Mark Hughes can claim victory in his undignified spat with fellow firebrand Welshman Tony Pulis largely thanks to the goalscoring exploits of Fulham's Clint Dempsey. The USA international offered a textbook example of how to loiter with intent in an opponent's penalty area, turning home Andy Johnson's cross in the first half, before drawing Ryan Shawcross into a professional foul with a sublime piece of control in the second. Having seen a penalty awarded, and Shawcross dismissed, Dempsey then despatched the spot kick with aplomb.
Our three-pronged forward line weighed in with eight goals this weekend and, though Fernando Torres is the odd one out in the sense that he didn't grab a hat-trick, his predatory brace will do much to restore his and Liverpool's confidence. Both were close-range efforts, but demonstrated the instinct and positioning that made the Spaniard a world-beater.
The first of our hat-trick heroes is Robin Van Persie, whose fairytale afternoon should have been even better. But for a woeful penalty (Chris Waddle style) and the inspired form of Ali Al Habsi, the Dutch striker surely would have scored more than three. Like Torres, his goals came from close range, but were expertly taken.
Rounding off our list is Dimitar Berbatov, who had actually gone four games without a goal before the generous unit that is Birmingham's defence came to town. The Bulgarian was off and running inside 90 seconds with a close-range header before doubling his tally after Wayne Rooney's precise pass. His second hat-trick of the campaign - not to mention his five against Blackburn - duly arrived in the second half, as he poked Ryan Giggs' cross in off the bar to take him to 17 for the season.
As for the gaffer, it can only be one man: Kenny Dalglish. The Scot procured his first win at Liverpool in 20 years with an impressive 3-0 demolition of Wolves. Throwing off the defensive shackles imposed by his predecessor Roy Hodgson, Dalglish's side attacked with verve and purpose, and showed a unity that has been sorely lacking this season. With Torres revitalised up front and Meireles excelling in a more advanced role, could it be the great man still has the Midas touch?