Authors note: As this is the first of many in an ongoing series I’ll attempt to keep some form of continuity throughout the end of the season but am sure to change aspects of the column to fit mine and readers needs. It’ll be difficult deciding what defines a week as various Premier League teams are spread thin through other obligations including European competitions and domestic Cups. That said, there will be times where a team will play a random Tuesday or Wednesday night fixture or their game in hand. In those circumstances, I’ll group that match into the following weekend’s fixtures. This may result in one team and subsequently those players getting two chances at winning Premier League Footballer of the Week – I’m sure once they get wind of this fascinating development they’ll sit down chuffed and thank their lucky stars.
Also, for this first entry I chose not to include the Carling Cup 2nd leg semi that featured both Manchester clubs because it was in fact a league cup tie or Manchester United’s (and more specifically, Wayne Rooney’s) demolition of Hull City this past Saturday. Rooney’s four goal haul v Hull City was an incredible performance but was covered this week on EPL Talk and can be seen here.
So, on to Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s fixtures. There were some good games and some bad, some average and some boring. Here at the mother-ship we were able to view five of the eight matches plus one thrilling Carling Cup tie. Quite exhausted from the football and realizing how much more difficult this column is going to be, I want to first recognize some solid performances before I name my first ever Premier League Footballer of the Week.
Joe Cole, Chelsea– Joe Cole was at his pirouetting best for Chelsea as they dominated a very good Birmingham City team who had finally lost after going 12 unbeaten. Cole skinned Lee Bowyer in the 5th minute, impressively bombing down Chelsea’s right flank to place a floated ball square on the head of Flourent Malouda for Chelsea’s first goal. Cole forced Joe Hart into a few routine saves in the first half, but his pace, ball control and footwork were paramount in a dominate Chelsea attack.
Ashley Young, Aston Villa– This 0-0 draw could have been the match of the round as both sides attacked and played their respected brands of positive football as we knew they would. They “went for it”, and the match reflected both sides willingness to do just that. By the second half, the game had opened up to numerous Arsenal counter attacks with Villa continually using the pace in their squad (Downing, Agbonlahor, and Young himself) to bolster their forward movement. Ashley Young came close for Villa with a free kick that missed by the smallest of margins. Young’s dribbling skills were on display as time after time he challenged Arsenal’s Gael Clichey (who was just back from injury) down the right flank. The battle resulted in Villa coming closest to the breakthrough after a fine ball from Young to the back post after beating Clichey that the cautious Stewart Downing failed to commit to. A point each, but Young impressive.
Premier League Footballer of the Week –
Luka Modric, Tottenham Hotspur– The Croatian midfielder who started on the left side of midfield was clever, creative and quite possibly the best on the field for either side. David Bentley was also a surprise for Spurs as he looks to regain the promise he showed in what seems so long ago at Blackburn Rovers. The 2-0 scoreline will suit Harry Redknapp just fine, but the goals could have been more. In the opening 10 minutes, Spurs moved down the left side to create 2 decent attempts on the Fulham goal. The game had a good pace about it as the first half progressed with meaningful balls constantly served into Fulham’s penalty area.
The breakthrough came when Modric single handily and skillfully served the ball on a platter to Peter Crouch by nipping in on Bjorn Helge Riise as the ball looked set to roll out of bounds for a goal kick. Modric didn’t give up and flicked the ball over Riise, then volleyed it to Crouch for a tap in. A nifty piece of skill for the Croatian who was bright and back at his best after breaking his leg earlier in the season.
Modric also impressed late in the first half when he dribbled past Aaron Hughes and curled a shot that beat Mark Schwarzer in Fulham’s goal, but couldn’t beat the post. Modric completed the game with a solid performance rarely giving away possession. He was the best midfielder in a Spurs side whose midfield controlled the game.
When Modric is on good form, which is almost always, he could walk into any team in the Premiership. He’s a manager’s dream and one of the best examples of a creative midfielder in today’s game. He’s got a broad passing range and the vision, skill and technique to go along with it. If Modric can stay fit, he’s Spurs best chance of staying in that fourth spot and we should all look forward to seeing him compete in the Champions League next season.