It was time for some of the lesser known names to shine this week and this is reflected in a selection which has some fresh faces.
Team of the Weekend: Aston Villa This was close between Villa and Wigan and but I’m giving it to Villa because they beat a team who had only lost 3 games at home (Liverpool, Chelsea, Man City) and which is right in the relegation battle along with them. They played with pace and purpose in attack and defended with organisation and frenzied pressing in midfield.
Michel Vorm – Swansea City
Vorm was at his agile, spectacular best against Man City as he made three crucial saves and marshalled his defence to a much needed clean sheet. It seems bizarre to think, but if Swansea had lost this game and Sunderland and Wigan win their games in hand this week, the Swans would have only been 4 points off the drop zone. The extra point to make it 5 will quell any concerns.
Pablo Zabaleta – Man City
The rampaging runs of Zabaleta have been missing from the City attack lately but he found himself in the Swansea penalty box with much greater regularity and also provided a constant out ball for the midfield. He and Clichy provided the only width as City remained obviously narrow but unlike last week, the full backs got forward much more.
Phil Jagielka – Everton
Jagielka narrowly wins this spot ahead of team mate Sylvain Distin, but both were excellent. They managed to stultify a Liverpool attack that, even without Luis Suarez, had just scored 6 at Newcastle. One block tackle he made on Coutinho stopped a goal which might have opened the floodgates.
Laurent Koscielny – Arsenal
The Frenchman keeps his place in the team and it seems that being paired with Mertesacker rather than Vermaelen has been the making of him. They have now kept 4 clean sheets and only conceded 3 goals in the last seven games that they have been the first choice pairing, a run that has helped the Gunners back in to the top four race despite a faltering attack. Against QPR, he was solid and composed during the Hoops’ mini revival.
Gael Clichy – Man City
Clichy gets in the team opposite his City team mate for similar reasons. He offered width and, unlike last week, he brought directness in possession. He gave some space to the play and was also solid in his defensive work as he went unbeaten in direct duels all game, including 3 interceptions.
Jem Karacan – Reading
Certainly the first time a Reading player has made it in to this team but Karacan was the fulcrum for them in their win at Fulham. He completed an excellent 51 of 54 passes and even found time for a couple of interceptions, an assist and a nice goal from the edge of the box. They’ll need more of this in the Championship next year.
Ashley Westwood – Aston Villa
Westwood is the Player of the Week and deservedly so. He had a dominant game against Norwich in all phases. As the deep anchor of the midfield, he is expected to contribute in attack and defence and he did so excellently. He set up both Agbonlahor goals, with his pass for the second measured perfectly in to a space where only the Villa striker could get it and finish. One of the criticisms of his play is that he is too happy to go backwards and sideways with his passes, but against Norwich 33 of the 62 passes he attempted were forwards. On top of this, he also found time to remain unbeaten in defensive battles. With 3 tackles, an interception and a clearance all completed.
Fabien Delph – Aston Villa
Delph is in the Villa team for his tyro like work rate and this showed against Norwich. He was under pressure for a lot of the game as Norwich kept coming down the right to attack the Villa left back Bennett, but Delph did excellently in protection. He made 2 tackles, blocked a cross, won 2 aerial duels and a completed staggering 6 interceptions. In other words, he stopped 11 Norwich attacks on his own.
Gabby Agbonlahor – Aston Villa
The final member of the Villa contingent, Agbonlahor scored the two crucial goals that his sides’ approach play deserved. His spin and cleanly struck effort from 20 yards for the first and high speed, and arced run for the second showed him at his best and this time his finishing matched his always stellar movement.
Theo Walcott – Arsenal
Walcott’s goal after 20 seconds could prove invaluable to Arsenal and it was a good finish. In other weeks, his overall contribution might have seen him miss the team but a boggy Arsenal showing was highlighted by his goal which could have significant implications down the line.
Shaun Maloney – Wigan Athletic
Possibly unlucky to miss out on Player of the Week, Maloney inspired his team to victory over West Brom. His dancing feet and trickery to set up the third, and crucial, Wigan goal was exemplary and he picked a perfect pass to McManaman. His dancing run and inch perfect cross for the second put McArthur in a spot where he couldn’t miss.Published 06 May 2013, 17:00 IST