- Team of the Week
Cazorla & Mata conduct the weekend's finest
After a Premier League weekend that saw Chelsea tighten their grip on top spot, as well as wins for Manchester City and Manchester United, we round up the best performers...
It seems Alex McCarthy has plenty to thank Adam Federici's girlfriend for. After the Australian was dropped by Reading boss Brian McDermott - handing McCarthy his first-team chance - Micaela Gardner lambasted the decision on Twitter, which cemented the 22-year-old's place in the side. He showed why Federici won't be winning his place back anytime soon with a superb display at Swansea. The pick of his eight saves was an instinctive stop after Ki Sung-Yeung's low shot was deflected.
Aleksandar Kolarov is often overshadowed by the wealth of attacking talent Manchester City have on their books, but the left-sided player shone brightly against Sunderland on Saturday. It is a good job he scored from the free kick he took ahead of Mario Balotelli, to avoid the ire of his team mate, and his perfect ball into the box for Sergio Aguero's goal epitomised the quality and threat he provided all afternoon.
Kolarov's crowning as left-back of the weekend isn't as straightforward as you might think though - Leighton Baines staked an impressive claim with a barnstorming match for Everton back at his old stomping ground in Wigan. Baines dovetailed beautifully with Steven Pienaar again, creating countless chances from the left and hitting the post to boot. And when his moment came, on 87 minutes, he dispatched an unstoppable penalty into the top corner to rescue a point.
Our potent back four continues to deliver with the inclusion of Jose Fonte. The Portuguese must have despaired of his centre-back partner Jos Hooiveld, who matched Fonte's two goals but at the wrong end. He glanced the Saints in front after four minutes, and after watching Hooiveld stick two in his own net, promptly grabbed a point for Nigel Adkins side with another fine header, in injury time.
Completing our quartet of goalscoring defenders is Branislav Ivanovic, who excelled in Chelsea's demolition of Norwich at Stamford Bridge. The Serbian delivered an inviting cross to allow Fernando Torres to grab an equaliser minutes after the Canaries had gone in front, and to add a nice element of symmetry to the match, he scored the fourth, firing a volley past John Ruddy after Juan Mata's flick.
Players coming to the Premier League from abroad usually need an acclimatisation period - not Santi Cazorla. The Spaniard has been outstanding for Arsenal so far and orchestrated their victory at West Ham with a wondrous range of tricks, flicks and subtle passes. He launched the move that led to Arsenal's second, scored by Theo Walcott, and fired home a brilliant third with an unstoppable shot from range. Cesc who?
If Cazorla was Arsenal's conductor, then Juan Mata was Chelsea during their thrashing of Norwich. After being handed a two-week break by Roberto Di Matteo, Mata has come back revitalised and it is showing in his form. He set up two goals for Chelsea, one with a cute through ball for Eden Hazard and another with a flick into Ivanovic's path but his all round play was scintillating. How Vicente Del Bosque can ignore both Mata and Cazorla for Spain's upcoming World Cup qualifiers seems utterly baffling.
QPR's miserable run goes on after they were beaten by a James Morrison inspired West Brom at The Hawthorns. The Scotland midfielder nodded home a glorious first after a pinpoint Shane Long cross found him in the area, and it was his cross into the box that led to Zoltan Gera's second, even if it did owe much to Anton Ferdinand's woeful attempt at a clearance. As ever, he was keen to get forward and flashed several stinging shots narrowly wide of the target from range.
His diving antics may be highly questionable but his talent is not, and Gareth Bale tormented Aston Villa at White Hart Lane on Sunday. Time and time again he whipped in quality crosses and stretched Villa with his searing pace. He put in the cross that saw Jermain Defoe's shot flick into the net off Steven Caulker, and was unlucky not to add his name to the score sheet later on. As for his dive and attempt to get an innocent Brad Guzan sent off, the less said the better.
In a humdinger at the DW, Everton's usually sturdy defence was given a torrid time by Franco Di Santo and Arouna Kone, who could prove to be a very astute acquisition by Roberto Martinez. Kone ran Jonny Heitinga so ragged during a first half in which he finished smartly from Shaun Maloney's cross, and set up Wigan's second for Di Santo, that the Dutch defender was removed at half time. Sylvain Distin fared marginally better in the second half but Kone remained Everton's chief threat, and almost grabbed a winner, save for a last ditch tackle from Phil Jagielka.
It was a landmark weekend for Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud. The Frenchman finally got off the mark in the Premier League with a predatory finish from Lukas Podolski's near post delivery and provided a physical threat to West Ham all afternoon. He also provided a perfectly weighted - and timed - through ball that allowed Theo Walcott to streak clear and notch a critical second for Arsene Wenger's side. No doubt about it, he's arrived.
As for the manager of this rabble, step forward Arsene Wenger. Once again, the Frenchman seems to have sold his finest bottle of wine but has still maintained the overall quality of his cellar (if that makes any kind of sense). Arsenal look a fluid unit, with new signings Giroud and Podolski showing early promise, alongside surely the player of the Premier League so far, Santi Cazorla. Coming from behind to win at West Ham is no mean feat, and his defenders coped well with the aerial bombardment Big Sam threw at them. How does he keep doing it?