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Sunday, September 1, 2013
ESPNsoccernet: January 19, 10:05 PM UK
Team of the Weekend

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 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 at the foot of the article, or on Twitter using the hashtag #TOTW. Plus, tune in to Monday's ESPN FC show (1730 ET, ESPN2) for further reaction.

Goalkeeper: They say variety is the spice of life and that certainly applies to the deliberations surrounding our TOTW custodian. No fewer than four are in the mix; Hugo Lloris praised by Paul Mariner for his display in a losing cause at Arsenal, Norwich's John Ruddy anointed by Steve Nicol for his Southampton shutout and Ben Marshall isolated by Gabriele Marcotti for his display against Everton. Then, just to be different, I went and threw Fulham's David Stockdale into the mix and all hell broke loose. It's a close call, but Ruddy grabs the jersey for winning his duel with Pablo Osvaldo.

Right-back: A split decision over the first man in our back line, Everton's Seamus Coleman touted by Marcotti, and Arsenal's Kieran Gibbs by Mariner, but Nicol wins out for his nomination of Joel Ward, who enjoyed a fine afternoon as Crystal Palace secured their first Premier League win of the season with a powerful performance over insipid Sunderland. A supremely composed performance from the 23-year-old.

Centre-back: If 35-year-old Sylvain Distin carries on playing like this, Steve Nicol thinks he can go on forever. The Frenchman was diligent as ever on his day trip to Wales with Everton and picked up his second successive clean sheet. His years might be advancing but he reads the game intelligently, sniffing out danger like an expertly trained canine. Like a fine wine, Distin is getting better with age, says Paul Mariner.

Centre-back: Back in from the cold, Martin Skrtel was dropped into the furnace that is a meeting between two of English football's titans -- Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield. The Slovakian looked to be on his way out of the club when former gaffer Rafa Benitez came calling, but Brendan Rodgers might think twice about offloading him to Napoli after this fine display, in which he stalked Robin van Persie all afternoon and earned a well-deserved clean sheet.

Left-back: Ben Davies gets the nod from Nicol and Marcotti for his all-action display at The Hawthorns as Swansea got their campaign off and running with a victory. The 20-year-old showed great maturity, according to Marcotti, bustling up and down the flank and taking his goal with aplomb as Michael Laudrup's side recovered from their opening defeats to Manchester United and Spurs.

Central midfield: Into midfield we go, kicking off with another Eagle -- Mile Jedinak. The Australian was a rock in Ian Holloway's midfield against Sunderland's band of new recruits, providing precisely the sort of steady hand newly promoted sides require in the fledgling stages of their top-flight campaign. Jedinak was astute at both ends of the park, creating chances and going close with efforts from range, and caught the eye of Nicol and Mariner.

Central midfield: Another warrior alongside Jedinak is Stoke's Steven N'Zonzi, who enjoyed his battle with West Ham at Upton Park. Power, strength and precision were the words Steve Nicol used to describe his performance, with Marcotti noting the relish with which he went about his task. After a stuttering campaign last time around, N'Zonzi now seems to be cementing himself as a regular starter under Mark Hughes. He edges out Cardiff's Kim Bo-Kyung, Liverpool's Steven Gerrard and Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey for the final central slot, all of whom were put forward for selection by our eagle-eyed panel.

Right midfield: Often infuriating but never dull, we've a tricky customer on the opposite side of the park in the shape of Newcastle's Hatem Ben Arfa. As he so often is, the Frenchman was the Toon's standout star against Fulham, earning him the nod from all three of our panelists. He looked most likely to break the deadlock and so it proved as he cut in from the right for the umpteenth time before slotting a powerful shot into the far corner to get Alan Pardew's men off and running.

Left midfield: What pace we have on the flanks this week, Norwich's Nathan Redmond nailing down the right-side berth with a man-of-the-match display against Southampton. The 19-year-old arrived from Chris Hughton's old side Birmingham without much fanfare, eclipsed by Ricky Van Wolfswinkel, but now has as many league goals as his Dutch colleague after a superb solo effort settled the encounter. An early contender for signing of the season, says Gabriele Marcotti.

Centre-forward: Three 1-0 wins in a row for Liverpool, three goals for Daniel Sturridge. The striker again proved the difference in a tight and at times feisty encounter between two North West powerhouses on Merseyside. His delicate flick got Liverpool off to the perfect start and yet again he was a thorn in the side of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic all afternoon. A match-winning goal over your arch-rivals to send your side top -- not a bad way to celebrate your 24th birthday.

Centre-forward: Joining Sturridge up front is Alvaro Negredo, one of Manchester City's summer signings. The Spaniard may have played only 45 minutes but he changed the game immediately, according to Paul Mariner, putting the home side in front on 65 minutes with a powerful header from Pablo Zabaleta's inviting centre. He offered City a different kind of threat and gave hope that he'll settle quickly in English football.

Manager: Gabriele Marcotti nominated Arsene Wenger to sit on the bench and marshal our TOTW troops for proving to derby rivals Tottenham that money can't buy you everything but Nicol and Mariner are adamant the accolade should go to the Premier League's touchline Jack-in-the-box, Ian Holloway. 'Olly' led Palace to their first victory of the season, and more than held his own in his private duel with Paolo Di Canio, as they both desperately tried to look more animated than each other.




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