- Team of the Weekend
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 - Gab Marcotti, Paul Mariner and Shaka Hislop - 11 of Saturday's and Sunday's star performers, plus 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.
The stats speak for themselves. Tim Krul made an incredible 14 saves for Newcastle against Tottenham, which works out at one every six-and-a-half minutes. It was the busiest a keeper has been in a Premier League match since the 2006-7 season and all our pundits were positively drooling over the Dutchman. "Amazing," was Mariner's verdict. In a bursting highlights reel Krul's save from Roberto Soldado's header was majestic, but his double stop from Gylfi Sigurdsson's free kick was so ridiculous it almost defied the laws of physics.
When Nemanja Vidic staggered off dazed and confused just before half time at Old Trafford it was Patrice Evra who stepped into the role of Manchester United's on-field commander. Both Marcotti and Mariner noted how he took on the position of leader and captain with aplomb, combining neatly down the left with Shinji Kagawa. It was Evra's 250th Premier League appearance for United and one brimming with the quality and assurance we've come to expect.
Krul may have been showered with plaudits - and rightly so - after his Superman impression at the Lane but in front of him Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa had a quietly efficient match, punctuated with an exceptional goal-line clearance. The Frenchman has been maligned in many quarters for some generous defending in the past but neither his spirit nor his ability was in question during 90 hard-fought minutes in London. Hislop was impressed, while Marcotti thinks he is "now emerging as the quality centre back he is."
Completing an all-North East centre back pairing is Sunderland's Wes Brown, who turned in a highly impressive performance given it was his first Premier League start for Sunderland in 22 injury-ravaged months. While Manchester City were far from their fluent best, Brown - ably assisted by another Old Trafford old boy, John O'Shea - was tenacious in everything he did and fully deserved his all-important clean sheet. No wonder manager Gus Poyet said of the 34-year-old: "He reads the game better than anyone."
Three candidates abound for our final back four berth, Nathaniel Clyne championed by Mariner, Glen Johnson by Hislop, but I've thrown my lot in with Marcotti and his choice: Aston Villa's Leandro Bacuna. It might be a tad disingenuous given that the vital opening goal he scored came when he'd been pushed further forward but he is worthy of a place with that gorgeous free kick alone - one which he himself won with a mazy run. A perfect marriage of "experience and savvy," according to Gab.
Anchoring the midfield is Southampton's Morgan Schneiderlin who was at his imperious best against hapless Hull, grabbing his first goal of the season to boot. Hislop is a big fan, as is Mariner who pointed to the excellent protection he offers his back four as well as his immaculate distribution. Often overlooked in favour of the Saints' array of attacking talent, Schneiderlin is an important pivot in the middle of the park that his more ebullient team mates can operate around.
Let's be honest, Fulham were atrocious at Anfield on Saturday, but that shouldn't detract from another Steven Gerrard masterclass. As Mariner declares, Gerrard is playing as well as he has done for a long time and Marcotti thinks his range of passing is still getting better. The 33-year-old laid on three of Liverpool's four goals and played a large part in the other. His passing portfolio was a joy to watch and several levels above anything the Cottagers could muster. All his damage was done within 67 minutes, too, as he departed for a well-earned rest.
"Maturity and talent in a single, 25-year-old package. You're just glad England finally took notice." Marcotti is, of course, eulogising about Southampton's Adam Lallana, who celebrated his call up to Roy Hodgson's squad with a virtuoso display against Hull. His goal had echoes of Lionel Messi about it, weaving his way into the box before finishing precisely in the far corner, and it was he who won a penalty for Southampton's second. Lallana had one of those days where everything came off.
After another terrier-like 90 minutes for Manchester United, we had to sneak Wayne Rooney in our side. He looks fitter and sharper than at any time in the past few seasons and was United's heartbeat yet again as they invigorated their season with a defeat of table-topping Arsenal. Mariner thinks his energy and work rate were "phenomenal" and carried David Moyes' men to an important victory. His delivery allowed Robin van Persie to score the winner but that was only a small part of his huge contribution.
A familiar split in the ranks for one half of our striking duo, but while Marcotti thinks Robin van Persie should get in for the decisive blow in a game that he thinks could signal a change of fortunes for both Arsenal and Manchester United, I've plumped for his other suggestion - Shane Long. The Irishman was a constant thorn in Chelsea's side, and had already hit the post with a header before he went one better, climbing high above a crowd scene in the penalty area to nod home.
Just like our first slot, there is no debate as to our final one, as Luis Suarez takes his place. Just like he did against West Brom, the Uruguayan didn't so much tie Fulham's defence in knots as fit them with strait jackets and lock them in an Anfield cupboard. Two clinical finishes when played in on goal were par for the course as he fired past Maarten Stekelenburg on both occasions. He was unlucky not to register another hat-trick as it was his header that flicked off Fernando Amorebieta for Liverpool's first.
As for the gaffer, there are three candidates: Mariner thinks Alan Pardew deserves the gong for Newcastle's win at Tottenham, Marcotti wants Steve Clarke selected for a committed West Brom showing at Stamford Bridge that would have yielded three points if it hadn't been for a dodgy penalty call, but I'm standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Shaka and his choice of Gus Poyet. That is three home games for the new Sunderland boss and three wins. The Black Cats were as well drilled as you will ever see a Premier League side as they restricted Manchester City to only a few clear cut openings and snatched another invaluable three points.
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