English Premier League Team of the Week
English Premier League week 26 is in the books, and we saw home advantage play a huge part in the proceedings.
Only two of the home sides failed to win their games, Manchester United made it a 12-point lead and Aston Villa won for the first time since mid December.
Who makes our team this week? There were plenty of amazing performers.
GK—Wojciech Szczęsny, Arsenal
Wojciech Szczęsny put in an unbelievable performance to rescue three points for Arsenal at the Stadium of Light.
Save after save was made as he kept his side in with a shout after Carl Jenkinson's foolish sending off allowed Sunderland a route back into the game.
Sometimes we wonder if the Polish 'keeper is the long-term answer for the Gunners in goal, but then he puts in performances like this.
Alternative—Brad Guzan, Aston Villa
RB—Rafael, Manchester United
Rafael grabbed the Barclay's Man of the Match Award for his performance against Everton on Sunday and rightly so.
The Brazilian speedster put in yet another dynamic showing, tracking Kevin Mirallas and Leighton Baines expertly while still supporting Antonio Valencia in attack.
He continues to rise in many people's estimations.
Alternative—Angel Rangel, Swansea City
CB—Ciaran Clark, Aston Villa
Although Ashley Westwood's unfortunate own goal prevented Aston Villa from taking a rare clean sheet home, a win is a win considering their current predicament.
Ciaran Clark has looked jaded, tired and disheartened over the past two months after conceding so many goals, but today a rejuvenated and determined Irishman shut West Ham out.
Legitimate concerns were raised about the Hammers' aerial prowess and how Paul Lambert's side would cope. Clark, viewed pregame as the weak link for Andy Carroll to bully, stood head and shoulders above the rest.
Alternative—Robert Huth, Stoke City
CB—Bacary Sagna, Arsenal
Let's put this one as simply as possible.
Bacary Sagna rarely plays as a central defender nor is he built to play as a central defender, but when Laurent Koscielny pulled up in the warmup Arsene Wenger had little choice.
To make matters worse for an uncertain individual, Carl Jenkinson's red card heaped pressure on the back line. The Frenchman, by relative standards, had an unbelievable game.
Alternative—Jos Hooiveld, Southampton
LB—Nathan Baker, Aston Villa
Of all players who took to the field this weekend, Nathan Baker was certainly the bravest.
Aston Villa were desperate not to concede, and Baker's determination was outlined early on as he sustained a nasty head wound in an aerial challenge with Andy Carroll.
He continued, despite his head leaking blood rapidly, and firm challenges all over the pitch allowed him to become a feared presence.
Alternative—Nacho Monreal, Arsenal
MC—Phil Jones/Michael Carrick, Manchester United
The last time Manchester United met Everton, Marouane Fellaini bullied them in a 1-0 loss.
This time, Sir Alex Ferguson game-planned accordingly to shut the Belgian down by using Phil Jones to man-mark him. Jones did an incredible job and completely snuffed him out of the game, then Michael Carrick took over in the second half when the former withdrew due to injury.
Tough to include Jones as he only played 56 minutes, but a combination of both works just fine.
Alternative—David Luiz, Chelsea
MC—Jack Cork, Southampton
Southampton took Manchester City apart on Saturday evening and a number of their players impressed.
You can't beat the Citizens without winning the midfield battle though, and Jack Cork was integral to that process and impressed greatly in breaking up play and calming things down to seize control.
He's the only Saints player in this week's Team of the Week, but many were very close.
Alternative—Morgan Schneiderlin, Southampton
RW—Pablo Hernandez, Swansea
Michael Laudrup made several clever signings this summer, and club-record £5.5 million Pablo Hernandez is looking more and more like a bargain every week.
He put in yet another penetrative performance against Queens Park Rangers and slotted an immense pass through for Michu's second goal.
Alternative—Jason Puncheon, Southampton
AMC—Charles N'Zogbia, Aston Villa
Charles N'Zogbia is a quality player, but form hasn't been easy to come by for the Frenchman.
Over the last month, however, he's sparked into life and his one-goal, one-assist performance aided Aston Villa's cause against West Ham on Sunday.
His free kick was spectacular, while he also earned a penalty for his positive movement and speed.
Alternative—Santi Cazorla, Arsenal
LW—Gareth Bale, Tottenham Hotspur
Gareth Bale continues the form streak of his life as Newcastle become the latest club to be single-handedly downed by him.
His two-goal haul—which should have been three and could have been four—was the difference between two sides who played some excellent football.
There is still no defender who can stop this guy in full flow.
Alternative—Ryan Giggs, Manchester United
ST—Michu, Swansea City
Michu's reign of terror over Queens Park Rangers continues.
He scored a brace this weekend after two instinctive finishes, and it's nice to see the Spaniard back among the goals.
There aren't many who can give Christopher Samba a tough time like that.
Alternative—Olivier Giroud, Arsenal
Spare a Thought For...
Our condolences, Gareth.
Very consistent throughout his career at the highest level, but his performance at St. Mary's Stadium was abject to say the least.
The comical own goal scored was a source of horror for Manchester City fans everywhere and epitomised the team's poor performance.