- Premier League
ESPN Team of the Weekend
After each round of Premier League fixtures, ESPN brings you its Team of the Weekend. Selected by our panel of experts, 11 of Saturday's and Sunday's star performers, including a manager, are carefully chosen. Do you agree or disagree? You can have your say on those picked or overlooked in the comments section at the foot of the article, or on Twitter using the hashtag #TOTW.
GoalkeeperRafts of novelties are associated with our opening pick of the weekend. For the first time in eons, a goalkeeper is selected for his goalscoring potency. Secondly, and equally as oddly, Asmir Begovic's berth was secured at precisely 12 seconds past three. All three of our pundits can look nowhere else than the Bosnian, due to the wind-assisted thump that bounced over Artur Boruc and earned Stoke a point against Southampton. He's only the fifth goalkeeper in Premier League history to find the net and, as Gab Marcotti rightly points out, he's a class act on and off the pitch.
Right backMaybe Mathieu Debuchy's derby goal - albeit in a losing cause - has ignited his Newcastle career. Without question, the France right back had his best game in a black and white shirt against Jose Mourinho's Chelsea, marauding up and down the flank and combining fruitfully with Moussa Sissoko. Paul Mariner described his display as "excellent", while Steve Nicol also noted his defensive diligence, a vital goal-saving block from Samuel Eto'o one of many highlights.
Left backRestored at left back after being deposed by Leighton Baines last week is Jan Vertonghen, Tottenham's Mr Reliable. The Belgian is one of a select crop of Premier League players who could probably do a competent job if asked to fill any role on a football field. Nicol called him "Tottenham's most dangerous attacker" against Everton, while Mariner focused on his defensive capabilities, pointing at his prowess in keeping the home side's wide men quiet.
Centre backLocal affairs are often decided by a solitary goal, and to add to Swansea's misery it was a former charge who helped Cardiff to victory in the first-ever South Wales derby in the Premier League. Steven Caulker spent a year with the Swans but came back to haunt them in one of their biggest matches of the season. As well as climbing above Chico Flores to nod home Craig Bellamy's corner, he was solid at the back, a fact not lost on Nicol.
Centre backThere's a split in terms of our final centre back berth, but at least both options play for the same team. Nicol thinks Per Mertesacker should get the nod, largely because "his brains make up for his lack of pace", while Marcotti wants Laurent Koscielny to get the shirt for being the bedrock of Arsenal's backline. Mariner, diplomatically, has a foot in either camp by selecting both, but says Mertesacker passed a difficult test against the SAS with flying colours. In my role as foreman of the jury, it falls to me to decide - and I've plumped for the big German.
Defensive midfielderThere is no such mudslinging when it comes to the base of our midfield, with Manchester City's imperious Yaya Toure a unanimous choice. The Ivorian ran riot against Norwich, as did most of his teammates, Nicol noting his incredible level of consistency. Marcotti goes one step further, declaring him "untouchable in bossing the middle of the park". Mariner, quite simply, says there has to be a place in the team for Yaya, who is without question, a top flight Toure de Force.
Defensive midfielderIt was bound to happen sooner rather than later, and Aaron Ramsey has duly muscled his way back into TOTW. Marcotti is spot on when he says we are fast running out of superlatives to describe the season he is having. A superb all round performance, coupled with a stunning clinching goal, capped another memorable day for the Welshman, Mariner and Nicol both commenting that he seemed to be omnipresent at the Emirates, such was the distance he covered.
Attacking midfieldCustomarily, it is at this point that we come to a crossroads, and this week is no different. Let's start with a man Nicol calls "Mr Manchester United at the moment" - a certain Wayne Rooney. The England striker played a full part in the devastating opening 22 minutes at Craven Cottage that effectively settled the encounter. Bursting beyond Fulham's back four, Rooney had the presence of mind to bide his time before picking out Antonio Valencia for the opener, then showed great movement to register United's third from Robin van Persie's centre. As Mariner says, he is "head and shoulders" above the rest of his teammates at present.
Left midfieldRooney is in a rich vein of form, but it may surprise you to know that Newcastle's Loic Remy has scored one more than him in this season's top flight. Remy was in inspired mood against Chelsea, linking delightfully with several of his teammates, with Marcotti pointing out that his movement and pace proved too much to handle for John Terry and David Luiz. Nicol says the on-loan QPR striker is "carrying the club with his goals", and his fine finish sealed another winless trip to Tyneside for Jose Mourinho.
Right midfield"One of the most exciting 20-year-olds in Europe already," is how Marcotti describes West Bromwich Albion's unlikely talisman Saido Berahino. Coming on as a first half substitute, Berahino slotted home a vital opening goal for the Baggies just before the break, finishing coolly from Stephane Sessegnon's pass. With six goals in nine games in all competitions, no wonder Mariner heaps praise on Steve Clarke for uncovering another gem.
StrikerAs for our lone striking berth, I'm nailing my colours to Marcotti's mast with his selection of Manchester City's Sergio Aguero. According to him, Saturday's clash with Norwich was a game tailor-made for Aguero -- and the City man gave that theory weight with a sparkling performance, grabbing a goal with a clinical volley after a frankly pathetic attempt at a clearance from Sebastien Bassong, and also playing a part in a further three of City's goals.
ManagerIt seems a derby victory pretty much guarantees you the chance to marshal our TOTW troops, so where Gus Poyet prowled the touchline for us last week, this time it is Cardiff boss Malky Mackay. Mariner was impressed at how well drilled his players were in the pressure cooker atmosphere of a derby, while Marcotti rather cheekily ponders whether Cardiff's controversial owner Vincent Tan will claim all the credit despite Mackay keeping his composure, and counsel, amid the backdrop of turbulence at the club. For Vincent, from Malaysia, with love.
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