Game, Team and Player of Matchday 3

Arsenal continued their great defensive start to the season with yet another clean sheet at Anfield which has left Liverpool in the bottom three along with pointless Southampton and QPR. There are still eight teams without a victory though so none of the teams should be worried at this stage. Somewhat surprisingly Tottenham Hotspur are one of these teams and after two draws in a row is the pressure already building on Andre Villas Boas? Aston Villa picked up their first points with a draw against Newcastle United which will make Paul Lambert feel a lot better and Stoke City picked up their third draw out of three so it is looking like it could be another midtable finish for them already.

But, now onto team of the weekend, Arsenal deserve great credit for the way they conducted themselves at Liverpool and were the better team throughout, creating the better chances and finishing them off superbly, while also being very tight at the back and not allowing their oppositions flair players to have a major impact on the game which has not always been the case in the past. Norwich City picking up a point at White Hart Lane is a fantastic achievement (they did win there last year I know) but they are expected to struggle a lot this year and hadn’t shown enough to suggest that they were going to be as good as last season. But, they battled and probably should have won the game in all honesty so they deserve a lot of praise and if they can perform like this for the rest of the season they will stay up. Newly promoted West Ham are not expected to struggle this year but not many will have expected them to have disposed of a confident Fulham side so easily. Debutant Andy Carroll looked very happy and within a minute he had a positive impact and the team never looked like losing from there. However, my team of the week has to be West Brom, they have started their season fantastically and their performance against an inform Everton was very good. I personally didn’t expect the Baggies to start this well and they know it is only three games in but they already have seven points on the board so this could be an interesting season for them.

There were some standout performers this weekend with Robin Van Persie scoring a hatrick but unfortunately for him, even though he did win the match for Manchester United against Southampton, I am not giving him the player of the weekend simply because of his awful penalty. His movement was great and all three of his goals were different and showed how good of a striker he is (if that was ever in doubt). Another new signing impressed this weekend and that was Steven Fletcher who scored twice for Sunderland against Swansea City and although his first was gifted to him he still had to finish it and that wasn’t easy at all. The price Sunderland paid for him may have been slightly over the top but if he can get them between 15 and 20 goals then it could turn out to be one of the best signings of the season. My player of the weekend goes to Brad Friedel who must have been feeling the pressure after Hugo Lloris was signed on transfer deadline day but the 41 year old produced the goods and kept Tottenham in the game, pulling off save after save including two spectacular ones. He couldn’t do anything about the goal and it would be a real shame if he was dropped after this performance.

Finally, game of the weekend is a difficult one to choose as always because the game at the Liberty Stadium between Swansea and Sunderland had everything, including goals, red cards, mistakes and injuries. Sunderland took the lead twice through two Steven Fletcher goals but were pegged back each time with Wayne Routledge and Michu grabbing the goals for the Swans. Chico was sent off for a ridiculous challenge on Louis Saha and was rightly sent off. It was a fiery game and a draw was probably the right result in the end. Wigan against Stoke may not have been a game that caught many people’s attentions but in my opinion it was really entertaining and had a lot of drama in it, with two converted penalties and a lot of chances for either side with Franco Di Santo and Peter Crouch also scoring to make it 2-2. Plus, the save of the season from Ali Al Habsi made it a very fascinating game to watch. But, the match of the weekend has to go to Southampton and Manchester United because they produced an epic game which could have went either way. The away side pinched in injury time but it could have been very different. Rickie Lambert opened the scoring but when Van Persie scored his first everyone expected it to be a rout and Fergie’s men to walk it but a slip from Patrice Evra allowed Morgan Schneiderlin to get free and put the Saints back in front. But the runners up from last season never lie down and came back to win like they have done on so many occasions over the years.

Who do you think should have got the player, game and team of the weekend?

Who will Craig Gordon sign for?

Goalkeeper Craig Gordon has been released by Sunderland after losing his place as their number one this season.

Craig Gordon has played 40 times for Scotland

The Scotland international was signed for £9 million in 2007 which at the time was the highest fee a British club had paid for a goalkeeper and to begin with it looked as though he was worth every penny. But soon things started going wrong as he was dropped to the bench after conceding seven goals against Everton. His first season at the club he played the most games in his Sunderland career and eventually Simon Mignolet took his place permanently and towards the end of last season it was obvious that he wasn’t going to get a new contract. However, one of the finest moments of his career must have been his save against Bolton Wanderers in 2010 which was voted the best save at the Premier League 20 seasons awards.

He does still have his admirers and I’m sure a lot of clubs will be hoping to convince him to sign for them. Surprisingly though, Tottenham Hotspur are linked with him and I was really shocked by this as they have a very good number one in Brad Friedel who is very consistent and plays in every league game, even though he is getting towards the end of his career, it doesn’t look like he is planning to retire anytime soon with some very impressive saves last season. However, if Gordon is willing to wait for at least a season he could become Spurs’ number one in a few years time and in the meantime he will still be playing Europa League and cup football which is something that he didn’t even get at Sunderland. So if the interest is genuine then I could see this transfer happening.

A more realistic transfer could be to Celtic as he has already proven that he is one of the best ever in the Scottish Premier League when he played for Hearts as he was inducted into their hall of fame at the age of only 24, which makes him the youngest player to receive this honour. Celtic may need a goalkeeper too as Fraser Forster was only on loan from Newcastle United last season and even though his contract has expired there, compensation will still need to paid which could be up to £2 million. With Gordon being a free, I think he would be a much better option anyway as I have never been convinced by Forster.

Finally, another team I have seen linked with goalkeeper is Wigan Athletic and this does not seem likely to me either unless they are losing Ali Al Habsi in the summer because Al-Habsi proved time and time again last season that he is too good for Wigan and should be playing for a team that is challenging for Europe. So if Al Habsi leaves then yes I think Gordon would be an adequate replacement but I cannot see him becoming their number one if the Oman international stays at the DW.

Are Wigan good enough for the Premier League?

After beating Manchester United 1-0, Wigan have given themselves a great chance to stay up this season but are they really good enough to stay up again this year?

Roberto Martinez has a 24.59% win record at Wigan

I am one of the few people that actually had faith that the club would stay up basically because they have been there and done it for a number of years now and they understand the pressure that they are under. It is the same reason why a lot of people believe that Manchester United have already won the title and that is because of their experience in their current situation. But even Alex Ferguson said Wigan are in a false position and are playing some of the best football in the league and yes some decisions went there way in this game but in recent weeks they have had some horrific decisions against them, in particular the Chelsea game where both goals could have been given as offside.

But anyway, Wigan have a lot of quality that may have been missed by a lot of fans and pundits because of the position they are in now. Starting with the manager, Roberto Martinez, he likes to play football in one way and sometimes it works against his team but on the whole they play some good football and are one of the best and most fluent attacking teams in the league when they are on form. If he could sort out the defence then I believe they would be a solid mid table side and wouldn’t have to worry about relegation.

However, saying that Wigan have one of the most underrated goalkeepers in the league in Ali Al-Habsi who has saved his team on many occasions and produced some stunning saves, surprisingly against United he was rarely stretched and you have to give credit to the whole team for that not just the defence. I think when Brad Friedel retires, Tottenham may look to sign Al-Habsi because he wouldn’t look out of place in a top four side.

In defence, they have a bit of experience but maybe not a lot of quality, Gary Caldwell has been there and done it, he has played for Celtic so he knows what it’s like to be under pressure to win games and in the last few weeks he has been in really good form. Scoring the winning goal against Liverpool must have given him and the whole club a boost and they have gone from strength to strength since then.

The midfield is full of quality with James McArthur, James McCarthy and Shaun Maloney who have all looked good in Scotland but now this season are proving they have enough talent to succeed in the Premier League but the stand out player is winger Victor Moses. He may not get as many goals as he should because his shooting and decision making can be a bit poor but his skills and his ability to create a chance out of nothing have been crucial in the last few weeks, even if they do stay up it might be difficult to keep hold of him this summer.

They do not have a lot of firepower up top but they do have a bit of talent in Franco Di Santo and Hugo Rodallega who maybe should get more goals than they do because they do have a goal in them and if they could have produced more consistently then they wouldn’t be in the position they are in now.

Like I said earlier, I always thought Wigan would stay up this year and it will still be difficult but they have given themselves a great chance of being a Premier League club next year and with a few more additions they may not be in this position again next year, although that is probably what the fans thought last summer.

Close to the end for Shay Given?

Shay Given has been one of the best goalkeepers in Premier League history but now it seems that he is acknowledging the fact that he is about to be overtaken by younger players. In recent interviews he has been showering Tim Krul and Joe Hart with praise which could suggest that he knows his time may be coming to an end or is he just pleased that his former clubs are succeeding especially in the position he played.

He is still a fans favourite at Newcastle and was given a warm reception by the fans when his current club Aston Villa played there recently. But maybe now with Tim Krul emerging as one of the best performers this season the Toon fans will have a new goalkeeping idol. Krul has played a big part in Newcastle’s season pulling off some fantastic saves at vital times, keeping his side in the lead or at least in the game. Rightly so he is getting praised by Given but I think Villa fans should be getting worried as he has started talking to the media more and working with the media and could therefore be looking to end his career soon which I believe would be premature as he is still an outstanding goalkeeper and has a lot to offer the Premier League. Yes, Krul may have had a better season than him so far but that’s not to say he is having a bad season and is still as consistent as ever.

With the European Championships coming up soon, Given will be hopeful for a successful tournament as this may well be his last opportunity to play at a major international tournament. He was number 1 for Ireland at the 2002 World Cup where they performed admirably and were unlucky to get knocked out. He has also captained the side on many occasions and this is a reason why he has been talking about Joe Hart being the England captain for the tournament. The Manchester City goalkeeper would obviously love to play as many games for England as Given has for Ireland and if he does, he should definitely be considered for the role but in my opinion it is too early in his career.

I really like Shay Given and I hope he is going to continue his career for another few years at least and follow the example of Brad Friedel and hopefully play until he is 40. He comes across very well and one day should be a very good goalkeeping coach if he chooses to take that route after he retires but he may be more interested in a career in the media as his recent interviews have suggested. If you ever need a goalkeeper analysed surely there is nobody better than the most consistent player in the Premier League, he never makes a mistake and was at the time harshly frozen by Roberto Mancini at Manchester City but as this season has proven maybe Shay Given is starting to slip down the league table of goalkeepers. However, Aston Villa can count themselves very lucky that he is their player.