- Team of the Weekend
ESPN Team of the Weekend
After each round of Premier League fixtures, ESPN FC brings you its Team of the Weekend. Selected by our panel of ESPN FC 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.
It seems almost perverse that a goalkeeper who had to pick the ball out of his net three times should be a unanimous choice for our Team of the Weekend, but Simon Mignolet's performance in the Merseyside derby made him impossible to leave out. A total of nine saves and at least four vital interventions when faced with onrushing Everton players provoked Steve Nicol to call him "the best one-against-one goalkeeper in the Premier League" - and I'm not about to disagree.
Ashley Cole had better get himself fit, and pronto. Seemingly deposed at left-back in the national side by Leighton Baines, he is now in danger of relinquishing his club spot to the impressive Cesar Azpilicueta, who caught the eye of both Nicol and Mariner. The right-sided Spaniard was chosen ahead of Cole at West Ham and, after a fine display, said he'd be "delighted" to spend the entire season on the left side of defence. If he carries on like this, he just might get his wish.
"One of the best left-footed defenders in Europe" is Mariner's verdict on Arsenal's Laurent Koscielny, who excelled against high-flying Southampton. Marcotti was impressed with the way the France defender bounced back from his evening of pain in Ukraine to shackle a free-flowing side enjoying a fine season in the top flight. Koscielny and Per Mertesacker have formed an important partnership and earned their fourth clean sheet of the campaign at the Emirates on Saturday.
Phil Jagielka, John Terry and Gary Cahill were all offered up for the final centre-back berth, but I've gone for the hipster choice, put forward by Nicol, and nominated Crystal Palace's Daniel Gabbidon. The former West Ham defender was a rock for caretaker boss Keith Millen at Hull on Saturday, using every minute of the experience gained over his 34 years to steer Palace to a second successive clean sheet and their first away win of the season.
Geoff Cameron has started all but one of Stoke's 12 Premier League games this season, and he turned in perhaps his best performance to date against Sunderland. As Gabriele Marcotti points out, the American hasn't been fazed by the transition from Tony Pulis to Mark Hughes and was a constant threat down the right flank. A cute chip helped create the first goal for Charlie Adam and backed up Paul Mariner's theory that Cameron is becoming more comfortable with every match.
Jesus Navas wasted little time in sending a message to his manager in his first start for six Premier League matches against Spurs. Barely 13 seconds were on the clock when the Spaniard made a decisive intervention with his first touch of the match, looping a delightful shot over Hugo Lloris.
He neatly bookended the 6-0 rout with a well-taken goal in injury time and was excellent in everything he did. Nicol wonders if this will prove to be his "breakout performance," while Marcotti thinks his showing will have given Manuel Pellegrini plenty to ponder.
He's the Premier League's puppetmaster, its chief string puller, and Yaya Toure played a full part in Tottenham's humiliation at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday. The Ivorian consummately ensured that those in Spurs' midfield found limited space in which to operate and also managed to work plenty for himself to thrive in, superbly setting up a goal for Sergio Aguero. "A colossus" is how Marcotti describes Toure, while Nicol goes for a simpler tribute: "Just the best."
Steven N'Zonzi had a crucial influence on Stoke's victory over Sunderland, Nicol labelling him a "destroyer, creator and goal scorer all in one game." N'Zonzi was his reliable, committed self in the middle of the park but had licence to get further forward than usual. He laid on the first goal for Charlie Adam, collecting Cameron's chip and teeing up his midfield colleague with a fine pass and then, with Sunderland's 10 men battling gamely, galloped onto Peter Crouch's defence-splitting through-ball to sweep nonchalantly into the far corner and settle the contest.
Our forward line has a bit of everything this week, beginning with the sheer brute force of Romelu Lukaku. A barnstorming display in the Merseyside derby did occasionally offer glimpses of naivete, but he registered two fine goals for Everton, prompting Nicol to ruminate that there is a place for raw power in the modern game. As Marcotti summarises: "He's huge, he's gifted, he's 20. The world is at his feet."
"It's the first time I've picked him for TOTW - he is making me believe he is the real deal." Who is Mariner talking about? Why, it's Olivier Giroud, of course. The Frenchman took his Premier League tally for the season to seven with a brace against the Saints, capping a performance that showcased both feistiness and finesse.
His persistence helped make a mug of Artur Boruc for the opener, while he slotted home calmly from the penalty spot to secure a four-point lead at the summit for the Gunners.
If Giroud and Lukaku weren't going to be difficult enough to deal with, why don't we throw Sergio Aguero into the mix? His poacher's brace against hapless Tottenham took him out on his own as the Premier League top scorer, but he offers so much more than just goals. The Argentine had Mariner purring about his threat level, his runs short and in behind, as well as the defensive work he gets through. Nicol is just glad he doesn't have to play against City's hot shot.
Marcotti put Malky Mackay forward, but Nicol and Mariner are adamant our manager of the week should be someone who ceased to be a Premier League gaffer as soon as his match ended on Saturday. With new Crystal Palace boss Tony Pulis watching in the stands, it fell to Keith Millen to guide his troops one last time at Hull - and he masterminded them to only their second win of the season. If Pulis can maintain the spirit and willing that Millen seems to have fostered, Palace might have a sniff of avoiding an instant return to the Championship.
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