Team of the Week and Weekend Wonders: Week 16
Arsenal lost at home to the leaders Man City but Spurs, Liverpool, Manchester United, West Brom and Stoke City all won at the weekend to keep the Premier League interesting. There were a number of top performances this weekend, but who has forced their way into our Team of the Week? Mitch Waddon reveals all.
It's Christmas! My favourite time of the football season. The time of year when footballers look at the calender and take a deep breath, with fixtures coming thick and fast over the festive period. This weekend's matches signalled the beginning of this tough time in the season, with the next set of fixtures only days away, so teams were determined to start the Christmas holidays with a win. December and the start of January is when a team's fate is decided, whether they will be soaring high, fighting for Europe and titles, or lingering low in the dark and cold of the Premier League relegation battle.
With all 20 teams engaging in competitive action this weekend, we once again have a free choice of top flight players for our team of the week. On with the show!
Hart was particularly impressive against Arsenal this past weekend, making exceptional saves against Walcott and Vermaelen late in the game to deny the Gunners a goal and a draw. Hart kept City in the match and ensured the blue side of Manchester got back to winning ways.
Right Back: Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City)
The versatile Croatian defender had a strong game against Arsenal, capping the peformance with a powerful strike that rattled the post. A decent performance from Zabaleta, who is knocking on the door for a starting position week in and week out.
Centre Back: Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United)
I was very impressed by Rio, who looked like the Ferdinand of old against QPR. The England international showed great awareness and strength throughout the match and read the play incredibly well to stop all potential Ranger's attacks.
Centre Back: Martin Skrtel (Liverpool)
A first appearance for Skrtel, who scored against Aston Villa to aid Liverpool to a 2-0 victory. The Slovakian defender looked very settled in the 'Pool back-line and is keeping Jamie Carragher out of the team, so he can't be doing too bad.
Left Back: Thomas Vermaelen (Arsenal)
A second week in a row for Vermaelen at left back, and a second week in our Team of the Week. Although his Arsenal side lost to City, his contribution down the left flank and strong defensive and offensive display, including his two blistering shots in added on time, was a bonus for ther Gunners in defeat.
Centre Midfield: Sandro (Tottenham)
A strong game for the Brazilian in the Spurs' midfield. His stength and composure on the ball kept the Sunderland attack at bay and the young midfielder broke up play well. Sandro made a good case for being a regular starter.
Centre Midfield: Scott Parker (Tottenham)
And we couldn't have one without the other. Scott Parker was Sandro's partner in crime against Sunderland and both equally impressed. Parker did what Parker does best, drive with the ball, strong tackling and show pure determination. You never expect anything less.
Attacking Midfield: Clint Dempsey (Fulham)
The highest scoring American in Premier League history was once again impressive as Fulham beat Bolton 2-0 this weekend. Clint got the first goal to put the Cottagers in the lead before playing a crucial part in all good things Fulham for the rest of the afternoon.
Right Wing: James Morrison (West Brom)
A very good performance by the man who shares his name with a popular pop singer. Morrison's absolutely stunning goal gave the Baggies the lead over Blackburn this weekend. Very impressive from Morisson to help West Brom on the way 'up'! (Yes, that is a James Morisson pun!)
Left Wing: Craig Bellamy (Liverpool)
The pacey Welshman scored his second goal of the season against Villa and generally caused problems for the opposition's defence. Bellamy looked dangerous from both wings and continues to show that hs can still do a job at the top level.
Striker: Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
Another fine performance by the English talisman. Rooney scored in the opening minute to give United the win over QPR, but his goal was overshadowed by the number 10's general play. His passing is incredible, and is matched only by his eye for goal and his sheer determination to win games.
Manager of the Weekend: Roberto Martinez (Wigan Athletic)
Plaudits to Martinez, who once again wins our prestigious Manager of the Week award. The Spaniard took the brave decision to send his Wigan side on the attack against Chelsea after going one goal down and was able to gain a point for Athletic. A great young manager.
Goal of the Weekend: James Morrison (West Brom)
Some simply stunning contenders this week. First off, we had Daniel Sturridge, who brought down a long range pass and slotted home against Wigan in fine fashion. Then we had Peter Odemwingie scoring a beautiful curler against Blackburn and Fulham's Ruiz and his cheeky lob against Bolton. But the pick is Morrison's gorgeous volley from 20 yards to give West Brom the lead over Blackburn.
Howler of the week: Luka Modric (Tottenham)
How, How, HOW, was this not a goal?! Adebayor had his shot blocked, fair, but then can someone explain to me how Modric has put the ball in row Z when he had an open goal in front of him. Surely easier to score, you'd think. Special mention must also go to QPR's DJ Campbell, who volleyed over from four yards.
Controversy of the week: Johnathan Woodgate and his yellow cards (Stoke)
A very interesting one this. With his first tackle of the game, Woodgate recieved a yellow card. It was a fair decision and not one many people would argue with. However, only minutes later Wolves were awarded a penalty when Woodgate committed a foul in the box. The letter of the law dictates that Woodgate should have recieved a yellow card, therefore should've been send off. However, the England defender was allowed to stay on the pitch. Tony Pulis, in his infinite wisdom, substituted Woodgate pretty quickly after that to save him from the referee's book once again.
Mitch's moment: The Premier League sack-race
Personally, I am amazed that only one manager has been relieved of his duties in the Premier League so far this season. My close friends will confirm that I predicted Steve Bruce to be the first to go, but on the whole chairmen up and down the country seem to have more confidence in their coaching staff. That being said, I'm going to be bold here and say that one more Premier League manager will be sacked or quit from their position before the turn of the year. You've heard it hear first!
Oh, and have a very Merry Christmas!
Do you agree with the team of the week? How about the weekend wonders? Whatever your opinion, we'd love to hear from you!
With the busy festive schedule, Mitch's next Team of the Week article will be up on the 28th December.
Follow Mitch on Twitter for up to date information and breaking football stories. @MitchWaddon