Sunday, December 1, 2013
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. Plus, tune in to Monday's "ESPN FC" show (5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2) for further reaction.
Goalkeeper: Never let it be said our TOTW panel are afraid of a subtle choice when it comes to the No. 1 for this week's incumbent is Wojciech Szczesny. The Pole may not have been the most overworked of shot-stoppers this weekend but as Cardiff built up a head of steam against Arsenal a gilt-edge chance presented itself to Fraizer Campbell. Rising high above Kieran Gibbs, his header looked destined for the bottom corner until Szczesny propelled himself across to parry clear. It is this decisive intervention that earned him the nod from Paul Mariner and Gab Marcotti, who notes the 23-year-old has transformed himself from being seen in many quarters as a liability into a consistent performer in a short space of time.
Right-back: These are the games Seamus Coleman was built for, according to Gab Marcotti. With Stoke strolling into town Coleman could all but abandon his defensive duties and operate as the wing-back his manager wants him to be to devastating effect. With Everton pouring forward at every opportunity, Coleman was in the thick of the action, claiming a slightly fortuitous goal with a left-footed slice that was just reward for a display Steve Nicol described as "flawless".
Left-back: There's a three-way split at left-back: Steve Nicol suggested Maynor Figueroa and Gab Marcotti put forward Gael Clichy, but for the sake of uniformity I've sided with Paul Mariner and gone for a chap Coleman should know well -- teammate Bryan Oviedo. He was equally impressive as Stoke came unstuck down both flanks during a torrid afternoon on Merseyside. Filling Leighton Baines' weighty shoes is a tall order but the Costa Rican did it with ease; sound in his defensive duties, rifling in a sweet strike from outside the area (sound familiar?) and laying on the fourth goal for Romelu Lukaku.
Centre-back: Mr Chelsea is back. John Terry, one of Jose Mourinho's most trusted lieutenants, is repaying the faith shown in him by his manager with performances that have some people clamouring for him to return to the England set up. As Gab Marcotti pointed out after his excellent defensive display and vital goal against Southampton, Terry would run through brick walls for his manager. Steve Nicol prefers fewer words, one in fact, to sum up Terry's afternoon: "leader."
Centre-back: Another smorgasbord of selections to choose from for our final centre-back slot. West Ham's James Tomkins, Newcastle's Mike Williamson and Arsenal's Laurent Koscielny have all been hurled into contention but Sunderland's Wes Brown gets the call-up. After last week's calamitous sending off at Stoke, Brown's display -- described by Paul Mariner as "colossal" -- showcased exactly why he'd have been such a miss for Gus Poyet. The 34-year-old is playing some of the best football of his career in its twilight hours.
Centre midfield: Let's start our attacking sextet with an easy one. The superlatives pour forth like a particularly spicy stream of referee-directed Sam Allardyce invective about Aaron Ramsey's display back at his old club Cardiff. Two beautifully taken goals, not celebrated out of respect, had our panel purring. Paul Mariner rightly says the Welshman is in the form of his life; Gab Marcotti saluted his header as a "thing of beauty" and his refusal to toast it as "classy" while Steve Nicol -- a particular fan of brevity this week -- opts for one simple word to describe the 22-year-old: "Superman."
Centre midfield: Rarely will you see a football struck so perfectly as when Sandro put his laces through a shot that positively tore into the top corner during Tottenham's valiant draw with Manchester United. The Brazilian was neat and tidy, as has been his custom this season, in pretty much all he did against the defending champions but it was that blockbuster that brainwashed our panel, Gab Marcotti describing it as "vicious."
Attacking midfield: Samir Nasri emphatically ended a seven-game Premier League goal drought with a brace against Swansea, no doubt boosted by his well-taken effort against Viktoria Plzen during midweek Champions League action. For a player of his quality goals should not be hard to come by, and Steve Nicol was pleased to see some "magic from him at last." His double was expertly taken, one with either foot, and only the width of a post prevented him from registering a well-deserved hat trick.
Right midfield: West Ham snapped a run of one goal in four Premier League games with a comprehensive win over Fulham, the final straw that cost Martin Jol his most recent burst of gainful employment. Stewart Downing was chief architect in their downfall, probing constantly from the flank, consistently providing quality from wide areas and laying on a goal for the recently restored Carlton Cole. He caught the eye of Paul Mariner and his showing was especially promising given the news that Andy Carroll's long spell on the sidelines could soon be over.
Left midfield: "The scary thing is that this kid is 19-years-old and can already make Premier League defenders dance like puppets on a string." In case you are wondering, Gab Marcotti is lauding the talent of Gerard Deulofeu, who gave a virtuoso performance against Stoke. The Barca loanee was apparently frustrated after his showing in the Merseyside derby last week but made up for it with a display Paul Mariner described as "sparkling." His goal was a gem, his vision was a joy to behold and it is positively frightening that he is likely to get significantly better.
Striker: In the lone striking role is Wayne Rooney -- a man Paul Mariner describes as playing the best football of his career. Gab Marcotti thinks Rooney is "thriving" in the absence of Robin van Persie and carrying Manchester United through some games single-handedly. A double at Tottenham -- one a stabbed finish into the top corner, the other a cool penalty -- helped David Moyes' men to a seventh Premier League match without defeat and gave further credence to the theory that Rooney is flourishing now that Sir Alex Ferguson has been reduced to agitated spectator.
Manager: Steve Nicol thinks Jose Mourinho deserves a go in the TOTW hot-seat after his changes inspired Chelsea to a comeback win over Southampton while Gab Marcotti thinks Arsene Wenger should get to sit in the dugout after waltzing away from Cardiff with three points but I'm rubber-stamping Paul Mariner's choice of Steve Bruce to lead our star-studded XI. The Hull boss knows how to put a few Premier League noses out of joint (his own is testament to that) and he procured a committed, highly competent display out of his Tigers team as they taught Liverpool a thing or two about this topsy-turvy league we all adore.