Premier League Team of the Week: Robin Van Persie, Silva, Suarez, Bale and More
September is drawing to a close, and the early contenders for the Premier League title are now well and truly apparent.
Manchester United lost their perfect record this weekend, drawing 1-1 with Stoke, but are still top of the table. Behind them on goal difference, Manchester City picked up a hard-fought 2-0 win over Everton, while Chelsea, three points behind the leaders, picked up a 4-1 win against Swansea, despite having Fernando Torres sent off before halftime.
Liverpool battled past Wolves 2-1, Tottenham saw off Wigan by the same margin and Arsenal ignored the critics to triumph 3-0 against Bolton.
Newcastle retained their unbeaten status, and their fourth-place position, with a 3-1 win over lowly Blackburn.
Roy Hodgson was paid a visit by old club Fulham and saw his West Brom side play out a 0-0 draw. QPR got a late equaliser against Aston Villa in a 1-1 draw, despite going down to 10 men.
Norwich and Sunderland play on Monday night, but the players from that fixture will be considered for next week's best XI.
The team lines up, as usual, in a 4-3-3 formation.
GK David De Gea
Sir Alex Ferguson's replacement for Edwin van der Saar has come under a great deal of pressure courtesy of a couple of dodgy displays and the intense media scrutiny that followed.
De Gea put all of that aside against Stoke as he put on a more than promising display.
Stoke, as expected, recognised him as a potential weak link and put him under as much pressure as they could.
He dealt with the pressure of Stoke's set pieces and long balls well and even made some great saves, notably deflecting wide a powerful drive from Andy Wilkinson and getting a glove on a ball that looked destined for the bottom corner of his net.
He could not have done anything about Stoke's goal: Peter Crouch's header was simply too powerful and well directed for the Spaniard to react.
This was de Gea's best performance in a Manchester United jersey, and Sir Alex will hope for more of the same as the Red Devils look to continue their excellent start to the season.
LB Ashley Cole
Ashley Cole, whether you like him as a person or not, is undoubtedly one of the best left-backs around. It was his surging run and intelligent ball that set up Ramires for his first goal, and his probing down the left wing, even after Chelsea went down to 10 men, was impressive.
Although not his busiest week defensively, he hassled and shadowed admirably when required and used the freedom Swansea allowed him to offer a dangerous extra option on the left wing.
He did not enjoy playing against Manchester United last weekend, but the match against Swansea gave him a chance to return to form, a chance he was not about to pass up.
CB Brede Hangeland
Fulham have got off to a disastrous start to the season. They are yet to win, but this weekend saw them pick up their first clean sheet. The man who inspired that clean sheet was Brede Hangeland.
He led Fulham's defence with intelligence and skill, dominating in the air and showing remarkable coolness on the ground. He dealt with all of West Brom's attacks with relative ease and even had the confidence to walk the ball out of defence late in the day.
The 30-year-old is a real asset for Fulham, and they will need him to keep performing if they are to get their season off the ground.
CB Ledley King
Ledley King put in a fine performance against Wigan, as he continued his good form from the previous week against Liverpool.
He dealt with Wigan's strike force with accomplished ease, and whilst he was not particularly busy, he did everything required of him with no problems to speak of.
Tottenham have not lost a game in which King has played since last August, according to goal.com, a fact that shows just how valuable the injury-prone centre-back is.
Tottenham really need him to stay fit if they are to mount a sustainable attack on fourth place.
King undoubtedly has the temperament and quality to take his side back into the Champions League. The only question is, does he have the fitness?
RB Micah Richards
Once touted as the next great English defender, Micah Richards' career has stuttered in the last few seasons.
Against Everton, however, he showed some of the talent that caused many to have such a high opinion of him.
He used his ample strength and pace to great effect as he did his best to find weak spots in a resolute Everton defence by attacking down the right wing with gusto.
Richards is yet to fully establish himself in City's starting lineup, but performances like his against Everton will go some way to ensuring that he secures himself a permanent slot in the starting XI.
LM Gareth Bale
This time last year, Gareth Bale was being praised as one of the greatest footballers in the world. Unfortunately for him, while his performance level remained high, he was unable to sustain quite the same form.
Bale reminded the footballing world just what he is capable of against Wigan and showed that he is more than ready for a push to get back into the Champions League, with a display that saw him torment Wigan's defence and get his first goal of the season, a well-directed header.
Bale's pace and trickery were simply too much for his opposite number, Steve Gohouri, who was sent off for two poor tackles on the Welshman.
That is exactly what Harry Redknapp will be looking for throughout the season—he will want Bale to force his opposite number into mistakes and exploit the resulting weaknesses mercilessly.
Ramires worked hard throughout Chelsea's encounter with Swansea, ensuring that his side retained possession, but he also attacked confidently and took his two goals well.
In the absence of Frank Lampard, Ramires ran the game admirably for Chelsea. He barely missed a beat after Torres was sent off and was responsible for keeping Chelsea in the ascendancy once they were down to 10 men.
He took his two goals well, surging down the centre of the pitch, and showed that when he is allowed to get forward, as the solid midfield base allowed him to, he is a significant threat.
Ramires did not settle immediately in the Premier League, but he is fast developing into a very valuable asset for Chelsea and could remain one for a long time to come.
RM David Silva
David Silva has been in sensational form so far this season, and that continued unabated this weekend with another accomplished display.
His perfectly directed and weighted through ball to James Milner in the closing stages of the game secured the win for Manchester City and somewhat reduced the pressure of the last few minutes.
Jack Rodwell spent much of the afternoon shadowing Silva, and the Spaniard handled the close attention well, opening up gaps by drawing Rodwell out of position and playing a simpler game.
Once Rodwell was instructed to abandon the man-marking approach, Silva flourished. He had a goal disallowed and provided a difficult assist to keep his side well in the hunt for first place.
ST Robin Van Persie
Robin van Persie has scored 25 times in 31 games in 2011, according to The Daily Mail, a record that few could better.
After a worrying first half for the Gunners, RVP stepped up inside a minute of the start of the second half, running the Bolton defence into the ground and powering home a driven shot.
Arsenal were much improved for the rest of the second half. Van Persie got himself a second goal, his 100th for the club as Arsenal, largely as a result of their new captain's efforts, put on the type of display they need to summon regularly if they are to stand any chance of rescuing a top-four place come May next year.
With rumours abound that contract talks between Arsenal and van Persie have stalled, Arsenal will be more desperate than ever to secure the services of their star striker.
ST Luis Suarez
Luis Suarez is settling in quite nicely at Anfield. The Uruguayan striker scored a sublime goal against Wolves, getting in behind the defence with a perfectly timed run, bamboozling a defender and firing in a precise shot.
Suarez adds a touch of real quality to a Liverpool side that has had a mixed start to the season. Suarez's lively display, full of clever movement, will only put more pressure on Andy Carroll, who put in a much better display than we have previously seen, but was still far from perfect.
Suarez is fast becoming a fan favourite, and it is easy to see why. He was clearly frustrated to be taken off late in the game, a sure sign that he is enjoying his football and is hungry for goals.
ST Demba Ba
Demba Ba's season did not get off to a flying start—he had not scored before last weekend. This was partially due to his observance of Ramadan, which would have made matches far tougher for him.
He made up for that slow start to the season, however, with a lively display capped with a hat trick.
He did well to find room to get off his shot for his first goal, but still managed a great finish, and added two more for his side through headers.
Strong and quick, Ba was a constant threat to the Blackburn defence and made life very tough for the centre-backs he was up against.
Ba managed seven goals in just 12 appearances for West Ham last season. That is an impressive record before you consider that he was playing for a side that spent most of its time chasing the game.
If Ba can keep up the form he showed against Blackburn, Alan Pardew may well have got himself something of a bargain