After another few days that demonstrated some of the quality on show in the English leagues there are several contenders for Player of the Weekend. Starting at the bottom, it would be cruel not to single out Shaun Harrad of Burton Albion for helping retrieve a point at Rotherham United. Three down at half-time, Harrad netted all the goals as Burton came back to claim a point. League One was set alight this weekend by an outstanding performance from Rhoys Wiggins as he crafted a 3-0 win for his Bournemouth side that keeps them one point off top spot. After floating about the midfield to create the first two, Wiggins popped up to score Bournemouth’s final goal. The Championship produced several contenders, with perennial star performer Adel Taarabt once again demonstrating that the £1m spent on him by Queens Park Rangers could be one of the best signings of the season. Chris Iwelumo knocked in a hat-trick at Burnley in amazing circumstances. Having opened the scoring after nine minutes, he watched his side throw the lead away. 3-1 with a few minutes on the clock Iwelumo struck twice to level the teams before Jay Rodriguez netted a sensational winner.
The top division once again showed a huge array of talent this weekend. Jose Reina, Paul Robinson and league debutant Adam Bogdan of Bolton Wanderers all made good goalkeeping cases for the title, while Steven Pienaar and Moussa Dembele demonstrated the effectiveness of attacking midfielders in a poor weekend for strikers. However, the player of the weekend has to be Michael Essien. All the great sides have had a titan of a midfielder and Essien showed in the most subdued of Chelsea performances why his side need him so much. The obvious point to make is that he scored two goals away at West Ham. Whilst it is fair to say that it was not as if Chelsea had to unlock the most resolute of defences for either of the goals, it was still important. On a day when Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka were misfiring, Essien pushed forward and seized his opportunities. The players around him in claret and blue highlighted the next asset of Essien’s, his genuine passion. While some of the opposition (and a couple of teammates) on Saturday seemed disinterested from kick-off, Essien powers around the pitch with a wonderful mix of purpose and excitement. Missing most of last season (and the World Cup) seem to have only fired the man nicknamed ‘The Bison’ up more. One man in agreement with A Different League is Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti, who said after the game: “having him [Essien] back is better than having a new signing, we missed him last season because he’s one of the top midfielders in the world.”
Michael Essien demonstrated a sublime mix of skills this weekend. None of them were crowd-pleasing flicks and tricks, but a more aesthetically satisfying demonstration of control over a football match. From front to back the champions moved everything through Essien. Chelsea have installed themselves back at the top of the league already, and with players of Michael Essien’s quality turning out for them every week you can see why many think they will stay there.