• Team of the Week

No place for Van Persie in Team of the Week

Chris Murphy, ESPNsoccernet
April 23, 2012
Yohan Cabaye was a standout performer for Newcastle © Getty Images
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Following a weekend that saw Manchester City step right back into the Premier League title race, Newcastle ambush the top four, and Wolves suffer the drop to the Championship, we pick out the best XI players...

Goalkeeper
Paddy Kenny's penalty area was peppered by Tottenham on Saturday evening but one of the Premier League's more rotund characters did not buckle or wilt in the face of a relentless wave of pressure. He made solid, if unspectacular, saves from Jermain Defoe, Rafael van der Vaart and Giovani Dos Santos, but his command of the area was formidable, catching, punching and parrying as if his life depended on it in QPR's 1-0 victory.

Defender
In front of Kenny, Anton Ferdinand was immaculate in defence. In what became a massive rearguard action in the second half, he and Clint Hill were robust and resolute when faced with wave after wave of Tottenham attacks. The Loftus Road pitch is small, but Ferdinand's positioning was faultless as he got his head, knee, foot and chest on practically any ball that landed in his penalty area.

Defender
His centre-half partner in TOTW, Jonas Olsson, is also well versed in onslaughts after Liverpool unloaded 30 shots on the Baggies' goal during West Brom's 1-0 victory. He dealt admirably with the twin threat of Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll, showing the grit and gristle we have come to expect of the Swede. Quite apart from his vital late block on a goal-bound Carroll shot, Olsson typified the fight West Brom displayed all afternoon in recording an historic win.

Defender
With all the glittering attacking talents on display, perhaps it came as a surprise the architect of Manchester City's opener against Wolves at Molineux was Gael Clichy. The full-back nutmegged Michael Kightly before laying on a pinpoint ball for Sergio Aguero, who duly made it 1-0. His assist capped a fine performance; probing down the left and minimising the threat posed by the lively Kightly.

Nikica Jelavic has been a super signing for Everton © Getty Images
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Defender
Clichy and Ryan Bertrand will have to fight it out for the left-back slot, after the Chelsea youngster had a fine game against Arsenal at the Emirates. Up against a quick and in-form Theo Walcott, Bertrand stood tall in the face of one of the top flight's fastest wingers. Slotting in alongside Barcelona nullifiers, John Terry and Gary Cahill, Bertrand looked assured at both ends of the field, demonstrating the club have a natural successor to Ashley Cole.

Midfielder
Key to West Brom's first win at Anfield in 45 years was Northern Ireland's Chris Brunt. His cultured left boot caused Liverpool problems at set pieces, and he almost broke the deadlock with a fierce volley from range. He proved useful at the other end too as he blocked a Jay Spearing shot on the line, to secure a slice of redemption for Roy Hodgson back at the club who sacked him.

Midfielder
Some of Newcastle's more attacking players may have stolen most of the headlines this season, but underpinning their success has been Yohan Cabaye, who looks an absolute snip at £4.5 million. The former Lille midfielder was handed licence to get forward in the 3-0 win against Stoke and made the most if it, nodding home after Papiss Cisse's header came back off the bar, then setting the striker up for the second with a sublime through ball. And to top it off, he grabbed another late on with a precise curling shot.

Midfielder
A team with Junior Hoilett in their ranks is always likely to score goals and Blackburn's step towards survival on Saturday was largely thanks to another enterprising display from the Canadian in the 2-0 win over Norwich. He had already threatened the Canaries' net several times before he fired in a contender for goal of the season. Fully 30 yards out he lashed a shot into the top corner to seal a crucial three points for Rovers.

Danny Welbeck was outstanding for Manchester United © Getty Images
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Striker
All of our front three excelled in the thrilling 4-4 draw between Everton and Manchester United. Wayne Rooney scored twice but Danny Welbeck outshone his strike partner with a fantastic display. He scored a spectacular individual goal, curling a shot into the top corner, and set up two further efforts with inch perfect passes: a coming of age display from a young forward with a very bright future ahead of him.

Striker
Sadly for Welbeck and Rooney, Everton's front two were equally devastating. Playing in an advanced role, Marouane Fellaini was unplayable at times. Imperious in the air, he scored a superb goal, volleying home a Tony Hibbert cross, disrupted Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans as Nikica Jelavic scored the Toffees' third, before a cute turn and pass laid on the equaliser for Steven Pienaar.

Striker
Nikica Jelavic is proving to be one of the best buys in the history of the January transfer window. He opened the scoring with a glorious header from a tight angle that flew over David De Gea before nestling in the far corner, and his instinctive finish on the half volley to bring the score back to 4-3 showed all predatory instincts required to become a success at Premier League level.

Manager
There is only man to lead our pack, and that is Roy Hodgson. Afforded a warm reception on his return to Anfield, the veteran coach then aggrieved Liverpool's fans further by marching away with three points. It was a classic smash-and-grab raid, with the Baggies clinging on at times, long before Peter Odemwingie grabbed their winner 15 minutes from time. After all the travails he suffered at Anfield, this victory will mean the world to Hodgson, who has as many wins at Liverpool's famous old ground to his name in 2012 as Kenny Dalglish.

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