Team of the Week
Hands up if you thought that the Premier League's best home defensive record before Christmas would be with promoted Swansea? Well, if you have your hand up, congratulations, as you will probably also have known that goalkeeper Michel Vorm would be the signing of the season. Against Fulham, the Dutchman blocked Bryan Ruiz when he was through on goal to preserve the Swans' 1-0 lead and then pulled off a stunning penalty save from Clint Dempsey with four minutes left. Brendan Rodgers' side have conceded just two goals in their eight home games to date and Vorm is one of the main reasons why.
Another is Ashley Williams. The Swansea defender was not deemed good enough to play for West Brom at the age of 16, but has gone on to make a real name for himself in the Premier League this season. He is the only outfield player to have started every one of his side's 15 games and yet another sterling defensive performance was punctuated by blocks, clearances and command of his team-mates.
Such leadership is something that Blackburn have been missing of late but, with Chris Samba back, they might find some more stability. The giant skipper was commanding against Sunderland for 84 minutes as he threw himself in front of everything for the Rovers' cause. His team were defending deep and, more often than not, it was Samba who was responsible for saving his side alongside the excellent last line of defence, goalkeeper Paul Robinson. Samba could do little about the two goals and therefore keeps his place in our team, despite a disappointing final scoreline.
When the teamsheet was announced at Stoke, Spurs fans could have been forgiven for chuckling when they saw Jonathan Woodgate at right-back. Up against the interchangeable speedsters of Gareth Bale, Aaron Lennon and later Jermain Defoe, Woody put in a real shift and used every ounce of his experience to nullify their threat. The fact he was caught out once, only to be yellow carded, makes his performance even more impressive given how little he has played in recent years, although he could put Ryan Shotton on his Christmas card list to thank him for the work he did in pinning Spurs back.
No doubt some of Woodgate's motivation would have come from playing against his old side, and that could also be said for team-mate Matthew Etherington, who pipped Sunderland's Sebastian Larsson to a place in midfield with a brace. Showing some predatory instinct to get in ahead of the Spurs defence for the first, Etherington latched on to a Jonathan Walters header to double the score. The winger has had personal battles to overcome in recent years, but deserves all the plaudits that will come his way after this performance.
Without Robin van Persie it is fair to say that Arsenal would still be struggling. However, without Alex Song, the Gunners would have nobody to feed the prolific Dutchman either. Song's assist helped his side beat Dortmund in the Champions League and the defensive enforcer was back at his creative best against Everton. A cute chip over the top found RVP, who volleyed the winner in spectacular style. In fact, the Dutchman would have likely made the team himself if it wasn't for the fact he seems to be in it every week; Song's defensive grit also made sure the Gunners celebrated their 125th anniversary without conceding a goal.
It is a credit to Charlie Adam that Liverpool have not really missed the influential Steven Gerrard in the middle of the park and the Scot had another good game in the win over QPR. Some excellent close control got him away down the left and a perfect right-footed cross found the head of Luis Suarez for the only goal of the game. Always a danger from set-pieces, he also did his defensive job admirably to ensure that the Reds did not miss much of Lucas either and kept a clean sheet.
Manchester United had only managed to score five goals in their last five Premier League games before the visit of Wolves to Old Trafford. But with Nani and Wayne Rooney running the show (with some help from Antonio Valencia), it may be some time before they are struggling in front of goal again. Nani began the scoring with a great individual effort into the bottom corner for his first since September and Rooney smashed it into the same corner from a similar position a few minutes later. Nani then swept home an Antonio Valencia cross to make the game safe for United and Rooney rounded off the scoring just after the hour. If only he'd managed to do it against Basel in midweek.
Norwich relied on Grant Holt's goals to gain back-to-back promotions, although the striker has been relegated to something of a 'super-sub' this season. Handed a start against Newcastle, Holt's aerial ability was a threat all game long and he leapt highest to head home his 50th goal in 98 league games (at the second attempt) and give the Canaries a 2-1 lead. But he wasn't done and a stooping header saw him net his fifth in seven games.
Victor Moses celebrated his 21st birthday two days early, with a goal and a part in the penalty which sent Wigan out of the drop zone. After an early sighter, the striker bagged his first goal for 13 months when he found the top corner and then won the winning penalty when he tricked Steven Reid in the box. The spot-kick was converted by Jordi Gomez and Roberto Martinez was quick to laud Moses' ''huge potential'' at the end of what could be a hugely important win.
The Wigan boss, in fact, finds himself leading our prestigious TOTW again as a massive win over West Brom lifted his side out of the drop zone. Martinez has endured a tough spell at the DW but has kept to his principles and is now beginning to pick up some very important points. The Spaniard spoke about the season 'starting now' after the win over Sunderland and, if it had then Wigan would have six points from three games. A run of fixtures that sees Chelsea, Liverpool and Man Utd follow, however, could mean that it is a short-lived turnaround.