Jesse Chula is busy packing suitcases for his upcoming journey to England to watch some of the best soccer in person, so he asked me to step in today to write the Premier League Footballer Of The Week post. And he sure left me with a tough feat to pick out one footballer especially on a weekend where there were so many fantastic individual performances.
Arsenal supporters may hate the final result but there was no doubt that their team’s match against Chelsea on Sunday was one of those exciting matches where if you looked away for a minute, you’d miss a lot. From the opening minute when Marouane Chamakh’s header sailed just past the far post all of the way to near the end of the match where Chelsea looked like they would add a third goal to the scoreboard, this match was one of the most enjoyable of the season thus far. Maybe it’s because both teams played very attacking and attractive football.
Elsewhere, for the second week in a row, Tottenham Hotspur played in another exciting Premier League match. Last week it was against West Ham United but Saturday it was against Aston Villa in a game that ebbed and flowed. In the first half it looked liked Aston Villa was going to win it after taking the early lead, but Tottenham battled back and deservedly won the game in 90 minutes.
The match between Manchester City and Newcastle United was quite exciting especially given the number of chances and some debatable decisions made by the referee. But Manchester City soldiered on and secured a vital three points. As for their cross-town rival Manchester United, the Red Devils had a very difficult time against Sunderland. But by the time the match was still 0-0 for the start of the second half, it seemed inevitable that the final score would remain nil-nil especially given Steve Bruce’s reluctance to bring Asamoah Gyan on early in this game.
There were plenty of other highlights worth mentioning from the weekend, too. West Bromwich Albion won more respect with their comeback against Bolton in a match where you could see how both teams are playing an enjoyable brand of football to watch. The London derby between West Ham and Fulham was fired up. We’ll get into that in more detail shortly. Stoke City kept knocking at Blackburn’s door and finally found a way to get inside when Jon Walters ran on to the ball and kicked it past goalkeeper Paul Robinson. Both Wigan and Everton picked up vital points against Wolves and Birmingham respectively.
Last but not least, Blackpool’s earth shattering win over Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday was a massive achievement for Ian Holloway’s side and, on the other hand, this was another dark day in Liverpool’s season which just seems to be getting worse as each day passes.
Honorable Mentions –
Clint Dempsey, Fulham – Dempsey was the one of the central figures at Upton Park on Saturday. He showed his precision in front of goal by scoring past an outstretched Robert Green. But he also created numerous chances for his teammates throughout the game and came close to scoring his second and third goals in a match which was one of his best performances in quite some time. Not only that, but he also showed how brave he was by taking an elbow in the face (which resulted in a large contusion that looked like a rock on the side of his face) but even more importantly he kept on playing after recovering instead of moaning and complaining. In that regard, Dempsey reminds me so much of Brian McBride and how he would often take one for the game but continue playing for the pride of his club.
Didier Drogba, Chelsea – The Ivory Coast striker was in the thick of the action at Stamford Bridge and could have increased his goal tally to more than one. But his solitary goal was one of pure class. The way he twisted and turned his body to meet the ball and to knock it inside the post and into the goal was spectacular. So too was the goal celebration in the corner of the ground. For Drogba, this was one highlight of many on Sunday. He linked up very well with Ramires on several occasions and the two seem to be building a good chemistry together on the football pitch.
Adam Johnson, Manchester City – The best two words to describe Adam Johnson is game changer. He’s the type of player, as we saw on Sunday, who can enter a game and create a dazzling run that will often lead to a goal or near-chance. Just as Craig Bellamy last season had his explosive runs, Johnson has his own unique skill which is to take players on and beat them, exposing plenty of gaps and opportunities to score. His goal on Sunday against Newcastle United was pure class.
Premier League Footballer Of The Week –
Rafael van der Vaart, Tottenham Hotspur – For a player who grew up as a gypsy on a caravan park, Rafael van der Vaart certainly has come a long way. The first time I remember seeing him play was November 2006 when I traveled to London to watch Arsenal play Hamburg in the Champions League. In that match, van der Vaart scored a spectacular goal and showed so much ingenuity for the German side. This past Saturday, van der Vaart showed more two more things. One his incredible positioning. Throughout the game he always seemed to be in the right place at the right time and purposefully got himself into dangerous positions and then remained patient for the ball to come his way. Second, his finishing is precise. He’s the type of player that you can tell is thinking when he gets the ball. Instead of letting his body take over, he takes a split second to control the ball and then to shoot with precision rather than power. It’s the type of skill that separates good strikers from the best. And based on his season thus far, he’ll have plenty more chances to score for Spurs during the remainder of the season.