Team of the Week
There was much debate at Soccernet Towers about the inclusion/exclusion of Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney in Team of the Week. For 88 minutes of the derby against City the England international continued to be well below par, but during the two minutes he shone Rooney won the game. First he challenged for the header that led to Nani's opening goal and then THAT overhead kick lifted the roof off Old Trafford.
Joining Rooney in our attack is West Ham United striker Demba Ba, and not just because his name fits perfectly into the theme tune for Jim'll Fix It (Jim'll Fit It for you, and you and you and Demba Ba). The Senegal international marked his first start for the Hammers since his loan move from Hoffenheim with a two-goal salvo - including a volleyed equaliser in the 83rd minute - as his relegation-threatened side clawed back a 3-0 half-time deficit against West Brom.
Completing the three-pronged attack is Arsenal striker Robin Van Persie, who scored both goals as the Gunners beat Wolves 2-0 and pushed last week's capitulation against Newcastle, when they threw away a four goal lead, to the back of their minds. His first was an athletic volleyed effort from a Cesc Fàbregas cross, the second a neat finish from a Theo Walcott pass.
Tottenham's forgotten midfielder Niko Kranjcar produced another accomplished display and struck a sweet volley into the bottom left corner of Sunderland's net to fire Spurs into the top four and himself into Team of the Week. The Croatian, who nearly left White Hart Lane in the January transfer window, is only in the team due to injuries to Luka Modric and Gareth Bale but whilst his colleagues resorted to lumping high balls into the box, Kranjcar remained classy.
Raul Meireles has become so important to Kenny Dalglish's Liverpool that despite suffering from a virus he was still shoved onto the Anfield pitch to face Wigan and only after "spewing" at half-time was he withdrawn. During his 54 minutes on the pitch the Portugal international extended his remarkable goalscoring spree to five in his last six matches and constantly picked holes in the Wigan defence. Once he went off, the Latics gained the ascendancy and scored their equaliser.
Nani earned his place in our midfield with a quality performance against Manchester City that left tortured full-back Pablo Zabaleta with twisted blood. The Portugal winger has the ability to cut inside and shoot with his left foot or go on the outside and cross with his right, as he did to supply Rooney for his wonder-strike. Nani also opened the scoring after taking down Ryan Giggs' lofted pass with an exquisite first touch and then slotting the ball past City 'keeper Joe Hart.
It may have been a drab goalless draw at Blackburn's Ewood Park but Newcastle full-back Jose Enrique did his utmost to break the deadlock with a steady stream of crosses and marauding forward runs to provide ammunition for his strikers. Manager Alan Pardew singled out the Spaniard for praise, saying: "Enrique today, wow, if anyone deserved to win a game it was him, he was magnificent." We agree, and he makes our squad.
After Champions League chasing Tottenham went a goal down against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light skipper Michael Dawson was determined to drag his team back into the match and did just that with a header on the stroke of half-time. But it is his leadership and determination that enabled a back four that looked decidedly dodgy early on to hold firm as Spurs secured a priceless comeback victory that earns him a place in Team of the Week.
Highly-rated Bolton defender Gary Cahill followed up his run out for England in midweek with an accomplished performance, a goal and a clean sheet in a 2-0 win over Everton that was all the more impressive given that he was shorn of his regular defensive partner Zat Knight after just 28 minutes and had to nurse new-signing David Wheater through his Trotters' debut. And all this against a side that scored five goals last week.
Manchester City defender Vincent Kompany is the reason that Rooney did nothing for the majority of the derby and if the United striker is in our best XI then it seems only fitting that the man who was only thwarted by an unstoppable strike gets deserved recognition too. The Belgian's perfectly timed tackle in the penalty box as Rooney was about to pull the trigger was so good it would have been the iconic moment from the match, but for the winning goal.
It may seem odd to include a goalkeeper from a team that lost 2-0, but without Wayne Hennessey Wolves would have been on the wrong end of spanking. Manager Mick McCarthy admitted the Welshman kept the score line respectable in a one-sided contest as he made save after save to deny Arsenal.
Our manager of the week is West Ham's Scott Parker. Okay, so technically he is not a manger but after hearing West Ham striker Carlton Cole reveal how he was moved to tears by his captain's half-time speech before the Hammers blasted back from three goals down ("Scott was in the zone - I've never seen him like that. If you were there you would have had a tear in your eye.") it couldn't really be anybody else. It does make you wonder what Avram Grant does though.