Arsenal exacted revenge for last season’s drumming by Liverpool to move into second, a new hero emerged in South Wales and the bottom two recorded shock wins to breath new life in the relegation battle. However the pick of the bunch comes from Charlie Adam’s left boot, much to the displeasure of Thibaut Courtois.
The Football Express team of the week lines-up in 4-5-1 formation:
Goalkeeper: Tim Howard (Everton)
The USA international would be the first to admit he has not performed to the standards of past seasons or those set at the World Cup in Brazil. However, the bearded shot stopper was instrumental in Everton’s 1-0 win over Southampton, who had inflicted a 3-0 defeat on the Toffees in the reverse fixture at St. Mary’s. As expected, Southampton enjoyed large spells of possession and pressure in Everton’s half and Howard responded with two fantastic stops in the first-half, including a last-ditch clearance to thwart Graziano Pellè.
Right-back: Phil Jagielka (Everton)
Following an impressive performance in Turin as England recorded a 1-1 draw with Gli Azzurri, Jagielka built on his recent good form with another solid showing at Goodison Park. The former Sheffield United man made a number of blocks to deny the dangerous partnership forged between Pellè and Long, capping off his Saturday with a composed finish on his weaker left-foot to steer Everton to a 1-0 win as they seek to rebuild their much dented pride and confidence. Will have to carry out his defensive duties at right-back but Phil does not seem like the kind of guy who would moan.
Centre-back: Steven Caulker (Queens Park Rangers)
A first away win of the season for QPR must mean one thing, a substantial improvement in defence. At the heart of such resurgence was Caulker who was relentless in the air to head away from Brunt’s pinpoint delivery from out wide in the second-half. The former Tottenham and Cardiff City defender ended the match with an astonishing total of three interceptions and TWENTY clearances.
Centre-back: Scott Dann (Crystal Palace)
Linked with some of the Premier League’s top clubs during his Blackburn days, it was surprising to see the Liverpudlian remain in the Championship for a season and a half. Since joining the Eagles in their remarkable fight back at the end of last season, Dann has typified what Palace are all about with their organisation and defensive qualities, which he displayed in abundance in their gritty 2-1 over Manchester City. Stated he is in the best form of his life under new boss Alan Pardew, and who would argue?
Left-back: Patrick van Aanholt (Sunderland)
Once on the books of Chelsea, and with two senior caps for the Oranje, the young Dutchman displayed the somewhat often-unseen quality that earned such recognition in his early days. Too athletic for Ryan Taylor, van Aanholt seemed to grow with the occasion of the Tyne-Wear derby and was a constant threat down the left-hand side. Perhaps benefiting with a fellow Dutchman at the helm at Sunderland in the shape of Dick Advocaat.
Centre-midfield: Joey Barton (Queens Park Rangers)
Mr. Barton cuts a calmer figure these days in the heart of QPR’s midfield, which is reflected with what must be a career-low of nine yellow cards for the season thus far (yes nine). Self-proclaimed as too smart to be a footballer, Barton was industrious in QPR’s midfield as they recorded a precious win away from Loftus Road for the first time this season, whilst displaying a typically good range of passing. Rounded off QPR’s dogged performance at the Hawthorns with a low drive on his weaker left boot to make it 4-1, much to the delight of caretaker-boss Chris Ramsey.
Centre-midfield: Ander Herrera (Manchester United)
The baby-faced Spaniard is starting to find his feet in United’s midfield and rarely seems panicked when offered a sight at goal. Still has a long way to live up to the billing of a transfer amounting to upwards of £28 million but a classy brace from the Basque-born player will certainly not go unwelcomed at Old Trafford. Surprisingly, Herrera’s brace was his first in league football for either Manchester United or Athletic Bilbao.
Right-midfield: Alexis Sánchez (Arsenal)
The Chilean has had a rather small dip in form since the winter break but is always a threat against any opposition, just ask Simon Mignolet. It is no surprise Sanchez has established himself as a fan favourite at Arsenal already, having a hand in 31 goals in all competitions for Arsenal this season (20 goals, 11 assists). Produced another dazzling display for ninety minutes, including a thunderous strike that saw Arsenal blow Liverpool away.
Centre-Attacking midfield: Mesut Özil (Arsenal)
Certainly has not been without his doubters since joining the Gunners from Real Madrid for £42 million, the World Cup winner has been heavily criticized for a lack of work rate. Although, it is clear that his unquestionable class still remains and is beginning to come to the fore for Arsenal at a vital stage of the season. His almost unrivalled vision was on show for all to see at the Emirates with a number of passes catching the eye and the German also wrong-footed Simon Mignolet with a curling free-kick as Arsenal defeated Liverpool 4-1 to end their rivals’ hopes of a top-four finish.
Left-midfield: Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
Hot favourite alongside Harry Kane for the PFA Player of the Year Award, Hazard’s priority will be a Premier League’s winners medal over individual accolades. Once again the diminutive Belgian was the standout performer at the Bridge with an ice-cool finish from the spot as well as an assist that found Loïc Rémy bearing down on an open goal. At a time where Chelsea appear to be limping over the finish line, the delightful winger seems to be going from strength to strength. Completed eight dribbles against Stoke, a best for a player this weekend.
Striker: Bafétimbi Gomis (Swansea City)
Known as the ‘baby Drogba’ in his native France, Gomis has thrived since the departure of a certain Wilfried Bony. The French international has instantly managed to translate increased match-time to goals, and scored a brace to see off Hull. The first of which was a terrific acrobatic volley to double Swansea’s lead and the second illustrated a more cultured approach with a wonderful dink over Allan McGregor, as Swansea ran out 3-1 winners at the Liberty Stadium.