The Premier League's top performers

Team of the Weekend

December 15, 2013
By Chris Murphy

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. Plus, tune in to Monday's "ESPN FC" show (5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2) for further reaction.

Team of the Weekend: December 15.Other / ESPN FCTeam of the Weekend: December 15.
Goalkeeper: Ours is a Paul Mariner-less panel this weekend so it is left to Steve Nicol and Gabriele Marcotti to wrestle our XI into shape, starting with the No. 1 jersey. West Ham's Jussi Jaaskelainen gets the nod from Marcotti for his shut-out in the face of sustained Sunderland pressure at Upton Park. At times it seemed as though he and Jozy Altidore were locked in a private duel, but the veteran Finn preserved his best save until late on when he repelled a goalbound effort from Ki Sung-yueng.
West Ham's Jussi Jaaskelainen stood out during their goalless draw with Sunderland.
GettyImagesWest Ham's Jussi Jaaskelainen stood out during their goalless draw with Sunderland.
Right-back: In a weekend of fine full-back performances, Pablo Zabaleta again showed what a colossus he is for Manchester City in their goal-heavy lunchtime clash with Arsenal. The Argentine spent a trifling amount of time in his own half, marauding down the right and constantly plunging Jack Wilshire and Nacho Monreal into a panic. His run, control and cutback for Alvaro Negredo's goal was sheer class. As Marcotti says, he's a "blue collar hero". Left-back: There's not a scrap of Liverpool bias in Nicol's choice of Jon Flanagan at left-back having witnessed his performance at White Hart Lane. Not only did the 20-year-old shackle one of the sharpest wingers in the league in Aaron Lennon, but he also again demonstrated that he carries considerable menace when he bombs forward. That was encapsulated perfectly by his stunning half-volley for Liverpool's third goal -- a finish that had even Luis Suarez purring. Centre-back: A first clean sheet away from home in the Premier League for Manchester United was just reward for Phil Jones' display at Villa Park. As Marcotti points out, he helped to neutralise Christian Benteke and adopted the role of chief organiser with aplomb. "If he were a few inches bigger, he'd play at centre back every week and be one of the best in the Premier League," he says. Centre-back: Steve Nicol trumpeted the claims of Vincent Kompany or John Terry but, for his part in Stoke's composed performance at Hull, I've sided with Marc Wilson, Marcotti's selection. The Irishman operated mostly at full-back during the Tony Pulis era but, under Mark Hughes, has switched to the middle and, according to Marcotti, has gone old school as a ball-playing centre-back. "Assured and unflappable," Marcotti says of his performance at the KC. Central midfield: A selection from each of our pundits in the centre of the park. Marcotti opts for Fernandinho, who offered a 90-minute explanation of why Manchester City were willing to splash out 30 million pounds for him in the close season. Not only did the Brazilian grab his first pair of Premier League goals, both taken with supreme confidence, but he snapped at Arsenal's array of midfield talent constantly and formed a formidable partnership with Yaya Toure.
Ramires scored for Chelsea against Palace.
GettyImagesChelsea's Ramires was selected for his goal and work-rate.
Central midfield: "Goals and work-rate is what Ramires is all about," Nicol declared after watching the Brazilian's all-action display against a hard-working Crystal Palace side at Stamford Bridge. Incredibly, given his penchant for getting forward, his tracer bullet into the top corner that turned out to be the matchwinner was his first of the season. Surely there will be many more to follow before the Premier League bandwagon rolls into May? Attacking midfield: "Whatever faults Jordan Henderson may have, personality is not one of them and he showed it against Tottenham," says Marcotti. Perhaps this outing in Liverpool's romp showed that the former Sunderland midfielder has drawn a line under "gait-gate". Henderson was everywhere at the Lane, bursting forward to devastating effect throughout the game. He'd already had a hand in Suarez's opener before he scored a fine second, his run causing panic in Tottenham's back line even before he finished smartly on the volley. Attacking midfield: Danny Welbeck grabbed two Premier League goals for Manchester United in their comfortable 3-0 win at Villa -- his first since the opening day of the season, when he also scored a brace. The England striker effectively put the game to bed inside three first-half minutes with two predatory finishes from close range, making the "right runs at the right time" in Marcotti's opinion. Nicol was also purring about a player he describes as an "all-rounder." Attacking midfield: The final slot in our attacking three is a toss-up between David Silva and Samir Nasri, who both starred in yet another rampant home performance by Manchester City. Marcotti thinks it is because of the competition around him that Nasri has cranked his form up a few notches from last season, while Nicol views Silva as "the man who knits it all together." In the absence of any better indicator by which to split them, Silva gets the nod purely for getting on the scoresheet.
Luis Suarez bagged a brace for Liverpool in their win against Tottenham.
GettyImagesLuis Suarez bagged a brace for Liverpool in their win against Tottenham.
Striker: Perhaps it is time for the journalistic fraternity to knock a few heads together and come up with a batch of new superlatives to describe Luis Suarez, for the well is running dry. Steven Gerrard, the man the Uruguayan has temporarily replaced as Liverpool captain, described him as "the best player in the world" after he refused to spare Spurs from the beatings he's been dishing out of late. "The difference-maker" is Marcotti's take on it, while Nicol is in no doubt that the 17-goal man is the best in the Premier League. Suarez is, quite simply, unstoppable in this mood. Manager: Manuel Pellegrini gets an honourable mention from Marcotti in our manager of the weekend race after the misfiring mathematician bounced back from his blunder at Bayern with a skilled dismembering of Arsenal -- but after a five-star Liverpool performance in the capital, I'm siding with Nicol. He salutes the positivity shown by Brendan Rodgers at Tottenham as his Merseysiders took control of the game from the first whistle. Five goals, a host of stellar performances and a clean sheet to boot see Rodgers installed in the dugout.


Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.