Premier League: Robin Van Persie, Micah Richards and the Team of the Week
The Premier League is never short of competitive and exciting matches, and this weekend's fixtures did not disappoint.
There was an incredible 3-3 draw as Paul Robinson found himself in the wrong box in Blackburn's game against Wigan, three goal-line clearances at Norwich against Arsenal, including an awe-inspiring flying block, and a fantastic run and finish from a player playing against his old club as Chelsea and Liverpool met.
With all that, and much more, here's a look at the team of the week. A side constructed of the best performers during this weekend's games. There are players from Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Blackburn Rovers, QPR, West Brom and Everton, so there is no shortage of variety this week.
Tottenham play Aston Villa tonight, but their players will be considered for next week's Premier League team of the week.
The side lines up in a 4-3-3 formation. Let me know what you think in the comment section below.
GK Joe Hart
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Manchester City's Joe Hart put in another assured and mature display against Newcastle.
He made an excellent diving save to keep out Demba Ba's shot and got down well to prevent a cross reaching Steven Taylor at the far post, who would have had the whole net to aim at.
Hart could have done nothing to prevent Newcastle's goal; his defence let him down in the build up to the goal.
Joe Hart has firmly established himself as England's first choice shot-stopper and is proving to be one of Manchester City's most valuable signings.
There were a number of impressive goalkeeping displays this weekend. Paul Robinson's bravery in the opposition box was commendable, as was Mark Schwarzer's vital block with his leg. Pepe Reina's fantastic reaction save was another highlight of a strong goalkeeping weekend.
For me, however, Joe Hart impressed the most.
LB Leighton Baines
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Leighton Baines is really pushing to be considered a true alternative to Ashley Cole in England's left-back slot.
Baines put in another good display for Everton, providing the perfectly placed free kick to get the assist for his side's first goal, and scoring the penalty for their second.
The 26-year-old continued to pile the pressure on with more accurate crosses that caused the Wolves defence some real problems.
In defence, Baines was solid. He closed down well and played the ball out of defence with confidence.
While he is yet to do enough for Fabio Capello to really consider giving Ashley Cole the boot, he is beginning to ask questions, which can only be good for his prospects and England's.
CB Nemanja Vidic
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It is no coincidence that since Nemanja Vidic's return to the heart of Manchester United's defence, the club have experienced a remarkable upsurge in defensive form.
Vidic is not only a fearsome defender, he is also an accomplished leader and ensured that he and his defensive colleagues played as a unit against a potent Swansea side.
He made a series of blocks and interceptions, breaking up plays whenever possible in a familiarly robust display and put his body on the line to get a vital header in, even as a boot flew dangerously close to his face.
Vidic is the rock around which Sir Alex Ferguson must choose the rest of his defence, and Saturday's game against Swansea merely served to highlight that fact. Vidic must be in top form if United are to overcome Manchester City by next May.
CB Phil Jagielka
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Everton's Phil Jagielka showed yet again why England's centre-back pairing is far from decided with another impressive performance.
In addition to scoring with a header, Jagielka was uncompromising at the back. He cut out several attacks and didn't give Wolves' strikers much of a look in.
His ball-winning skills allowed Everton to begin several attacks and he managed to balance defensive security and attacking intent perfectly.
He was doing all of this despite playing with a broken toe, a testament to his toughness and his commitment.
Russell Martin just misses out after three fantastic goal-line clearances went to waste as the centre-back gave the ball away in the build up to Arsenal's winner against Norwich.
RB Micah Richards
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Micah Richards is getting back to his best and put in an accomplished display against previously unbeaten Newcastle.
Richards was a constant menace, getting in behind Ryan Taylor in the opening exchanges with good pace, and continued to do much the same throughout the match.
He was constantly looking to get forward, giving his side an extra man on the right wing and making it hard for Newcastle to defend.
The England defender forced a mistake from Ryan Taylor, dispossessed him and finished well for City's first goal.
His dangerous forwards movement won Manchester City a penalty; he got beyond the returning Hatem Ben-Arfa which forced the Frenchman to commit a foul.
He did his job defensively, although he was not overly busy, and is looking increasingly deserving of a recall to the England squad.
Glen Johnson put in a great display at right-back for Liverpool against Chelsea, scoring a fantastic goal to win his team the game, but, for me, Micah Richards was more deserving of the slot.
LM Jerome Thomas
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West Bromich Albion's Jerome Thomas scored a goal and looked dangerous throughout West Brom's victory with Bolton, but also gave away a penalty that, on another day, could have really cost West Brom.
That poor challenge aside, Jerome Thomas was excellent. He caused havoc on the left wing, showing good skill and speed as he helped create several chances for his side. He was even involved in West Brom's second goal, laying the ball off to Nicky Shorey to cross to Shane Long.
He took his goal well, getting round the goalkeeper and firing his shot off before Gary Cahill could get back far enough to block his shot or the angle became too tight.
Thomas' runs coming off the left wing and finding space caused difficulties for a Bolton defence that did not seem overly secure. The former Arsenal player exploited that weakness well and, the penalty aside, enjoyed a productive afternoon.
CM Charlie Adam
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Charlie Adam is looking increasingly at home in the heart of Liverpool's midfield. The Scottish international combines the grit learned from time spent with Blackpool with real quality.
Both of those aspects of Adam's game were on display against Chelsea.
He provided solidity in midfield, tackling and hassling whenever possible, ensuring that nobody was given time on the ball. He dispossessed John Obi Mikel on the edge of Chelsea's box, a challenge that led directly to Liverpool's first goal.
His long pass to Glen Johnson in the 87th minute set the left-back up for his run and goal. It was a brilliant ball that fell right at Johnson's feet without the defender having to change speed.
Adam is helping Liverpool get back on track, and the Merseyside club will be pushing for a top four finish. They will need Charlie Adam to keep playing well if that is to happen.
RM Theo Walcott
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Theo Walcott is beginning to repay Arsene Wenger for the time, effort and faith the Frenchman has put into his development.
Arsenal's winger is looking increasingly dangerous on the right wing and is starting to find the consistency that Arsenal and England fans have been craving.
His usual combination of pace and skill was on display against Norwich as he darted up and down the wing and made intelligent runs.
He used that pace and skill to get into a good crossing position for Arsenal's first goal, and where once his final ball might have been useless, at the weekend it was perfect. He put the ball across the six-yard box, inviting a tap in that was eagerly taken.
Walcott was very unlucky not to score.
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Yakubu got Blackburn off to an ideal start, scoring just one minute into their match.
His pressure forced a mistake from the two defenders. He was competing against and he was able to slip through and get the ball past the advancing goalkeeper. Yakubu did well to get enough power on the ball for it to beat the chasing defenders into the goal.
Yakubu continued to threaten, looking lively as he dropped short to receive the ball, and helped out in defence as Blackburn put in a determined team performance.
"The Yak," as he is known, was involved in Blackburn's controversial second goal. He placed the ball for Morten Gamst-Pederson to take a corner, which the midfielder decided constituted taking the corner, and set off on a run before crossing for Junior Hoilett to score.
Yakubu then scored a penalty to rescue a point for Blackburn, in the 99th minute, showing great composure to break Wigan hearts and go past 100 league goals in England.
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34-year-old Heidar Helguson is on a great run of form, and continued it against Stoke with an energetic and productive performance.
The Icelandic striker scored twice: the first a header into the top corner and the second a tap in at the far post after he out-competed Ryan Shawcross to get to Joey Barton's cross first.
His clever movement made him unmarked for his first goal, while it took strength to get the better of Ryan Shawcross, a tough customer.
He almost had a third, but was just offside.
Helguson was a constant source of worry for Stoke and took full advantage of their defensive issues by refusing to allow them to get settled.
ST Robin Van Persie
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Robin van Persie is in the form of his life. The Dutch striker has now amassed 31 goals in 29 Premier League games in 2011 and is showing no signs of slowing up.
RVP netted two against Norwich. The first was a simple matter of getting into the right position and applying a simple finish from two yards out.
His second was a delightful chip over the onrushing goalkeeper. What is more, he finished with his right foot, not his natural left.
Arsenal's talisman did not just score, he created. He started the move that led to his first goal with a cross-field ball played with the outside of his foot and played in Gervinho with a perfectly placed and weighted through-ball.
Arsene Wenger is getting the best out of his captain, and Arsenal fans must be loving it. Their early season woes seem to be behind them, and in van Persie they have one of the best players in the world right now.