Premier League Team of the Week: Parker, Bale, Van Persie and More
Another weekend of Premier League action has come to an end, and this week was no less exciting than the last, with its extraordinary Manchester Derby.
Arsenal continued to turn their season around with a brilliant attacking display which saw them come from behind twice before winning at Stamford Bridge, 5-3.
Manchester United put last week's woes behind them with a 1-0 victory away at Everton, while City continued to dominate with a 3-1 win against Wolves.
Tottenham also triumphed 3-1, as did Swansea, while Norwich came from two goals down to secure a 3-3 draw against struggling Blackburn. Aston Villa and Sunderland played out a 2-2 draw, while Fulham and Liverpool both secured 2-0 victories away from home.
Newcastle play Stoke tonight, but that fixture will be included in next week's selection.
So, here is this week's Premier League Team of the Week.
GK Mark Schwarzer
Julian Finney/Getty Images
Fulham's veteran shot stopper continues to perform at an incredibly high level.
He made two vital saves for the London club, somehow getting Watson's effort over the bar. He made another save from a long-range effort before somehow managing to keep a deflected ball out.
Schwarzer was helped out by the woodwork on a few occasions but maintained a clean sheet and helped to condemn fellow relegation candidates Wigan to yet another defeat.
With Schwarzer in goal, Fulham should be able to pull away from the lower reaches of the table.
Schwarzer may be 39, but he doesn't seem to have any problems handling the physical stresses of being a Premier League goalkeeper.
LB Leighton Baines
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Everton may have succumbed 1-0 to Manchester United, but Leighton Baines still put in a good shift at left-back.
His free kick was painfully close to giving Everton a goal they could really have used, and he continued to probe down the left wing and provide crosses throughout the match.
He did his job in defence, and he helped ensure that Manchester United had to fight for their points.
Still only 26, Leighton Baines is a great option for England to have, and with Ashley Cole having had a poor weekend, the onus is on Baines to prove that he can be a viable alternative to England's most capped left-back.
CB Nemanja Vidic
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Manchester United really missed Nemanja Vidic last week.
This week, he made a real difference, getting his head on absolutely everything that came his way, even when under huge pressure.
Vidic is a fantastic defensive leader, and United looked to be far more of a unit this week, even when Everton were on the offensive late in the second half.
As Alan Hansen has made very clear, clean sheets really matter.
After taking a hiding last week, it was important that United plugged the holes. Vidic was vital to that effort and will continue to be so.
CB Ledley King
Michael Regan/Getty Images
Ledley King is an incredible footballer. How he manages to be so consistently brilliant despite spending so much time on the treatment table is a testament to his ability and determination.
Both of those qualities were on display against QPR.
The one-club man was as solid as he has ever been at the back, clearing everything that came in his direction with confidence, and he led his fellow defenders well.
King's increasing fitness was also apparent; he was not afraid to go up for corners, a sign that he has the confidence to sprint back. He even got an assist after his skewed shot found its way to van der Vaart, who slotted home.
If Spurs can have Ledley King fit for the big games, they will have themselves one of the best defenders in the world lining up for them.
He could be a huge asset in the "six-pointers" later in the season.
RB Angel Rangel
Michael Steele/Getty Images
Spanish right-back Angel Rangel has been with Swansea since they were in League One and has managed to step up his game whenever Swansea have gone up a division.
He showed that he can cope with life in the Premier League after a confident display against Bolton. Rangel won Swansea their penalty and provided the ball for Danny Graham to run on to for Swansea's third.
Defensively, Rangel kept his side of the field quiet, dealing with Bolton's attacking threats comfortably and getting forward as often as possible.
Swansea are unbeaten at home and have started scoring goals. Rangel can help with both sides of Swansea's game, making him vital to their Premier League survival.
LM Gareth Bale
Clive Rose/Getty Images
This time last year, Gareth Bale was in the form of his life; he was tearing Champions League defences apart with fantastic pace and movement on a regular basis.
Things have quieted slightly since then, but this weekend saw a return to that same form.
Bale netted two goals: an absolute stunner after a great interchange with Lennon, and a powerful drive into the bottom corner.
It was not just two goals, however, that made Bale's display so impressive. He was a constant menace on the left flank, regularly beating his opposite man and getting balls into the box.
He didn't ignore his defence duties; he made a goal line clearance in the dying seconds of the game and was perfectly happy to work back.
There is a reason that most of Europe's biggest teams showed interest in Bale last season. He could be hugely important to Spurs' push to claim a top-four spot.
CM Scott Parker
Clive Rose/Getty Images
Harry Redknapp is renowned for making astute signings (he's not a wheeler dealer), and Scott Parker is shaping up to be a magnificent signing.
The England midfielder was voted Player of the Year last season despite being relegated, an achievement that shows that some players don't need to rely on others to perform.
Now that he is surrounded by quality players, he's doing even better.
As Harry Redknapp told the BBC, "He won every tackle, he broke things up, his all round play was top class. He's made a big difference."
That pretty much sums up Parker's display.
He didn't provide any assists or score any goals, but he won the ball back countless times, provided a solid base and initiated attacks as he controlled the midfield with devastating efficiency.
Scott Parker is exactly what Tottenham need. It is no coincidence that their season has turned around since his arrival.
CM Stiliyan Petrov
Ian Walton/Getty Images
Stiliyan Petrov scored a fantastic long-range goal for Aston Villa, beating his man before curling a shot from 20 yards out into the top corner.
Petrov has a habit of scoring goals from range, but there's more to his game than the odd spectacular goal. He also provided an assist, a perfectly placed free kick that allowed Richard Dunne to get between the two centre-backs and head home.
The Bulgarian was influential throughout, starting several attacks with well directed passes, winning the ball back at every opportunity and using the ball well, making decisions early rather than letting chances slip away.
Villa are currently ninth and have got off to a decent start under Alex McLeish. Petrov can lead them to continued success.
RM Theo Walcott
Ian Walton/Getty Images
Theo Walcott has had a patchy career with Arsenal, but this weekend, he was close to his best.
The winger was simply too fast for Ashley Cole at times, kicking the ball past him and chasing it down before whipping in a dangerous ball on one occasion.
His goal, an excellent run and finish that showed both skill and tenacity to get through a crowd of Chelsea players, is exactly the type of attitude Arsenal need if they are to prosper this season.
Walcott has struggled in the past to put the ball into the box, but that didn't seem to be a problem for the Englishman this week.
He played an inch perfect cross for Robin van Persie, who should have done better at the far post and regularly looked dangerous on the ball.
ST Rafael Van Der Vaart
Michael Regan/Getty Images
Rafael van der Vaart was typically brilliant for Tottenham against QPR. The Dutch striker continued his prodigious goal-scoring form and has now scored six in the last five.
He took his goal well, coolly slotting the ball into the bottom corner, and was unlucky not to add to his tally after seeing his 20-yard effort well saved.
Tottenham are lethal going forward.
With Bale, Adebayor and van der Vaart, they have an attacking unit that few can rival. The Dutchman is the centrepiece of the trio, capable of scoring and providing on a weekly basis.
He almost grabbed an assist, but saw Adebayor squander a chance from his free kick. He was also involved in Bale's first goal, playing the type of quick pass that helps make Spurs so deadly.
ST Robin Van Persie
Ian Walton/Getty Images
Arsenal's Dutch striker is turning his side's season around. The calls for Wenger to be fired seem to have died down, and van Persie's goalscoring record just keeps on getting better.
He has now racked up 28 goals in 27 Premier League games in 2011, a stunning record most recently added to with a hat trick against Chelsea.
As ever, RVP's movement was fantastic.
Gervinho was able to square so selflessly for Arsenal's first goal only because van Persie went with him, and the striker was constantly finding space and giving his teammates an option.
His second goal, after a slip from John Terry, showed a great deal of skill as he walked the ball around Cech, while his third was a driven shot that was just too powerful for the goalkeeper.
Arsenal insist that they are not a one-man team, and they are right, but there is no doubting the importance of the Dutchman to Arsenal's fortunes this season.