After each round of Premier League fixtures, ESPN FC brings you its Team of the Weekend. Our panel of experts carefully selects 11 star performers along with a manager.
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 #ESPNFCTOTW.
Goalkeeper: The two goalkeepers on show in the goalless draw between Arsenal and Middlesbrough got peppered this weekend and our pundits are split as to who should wear the No. 1 jersey. “Three magnificent Petr Cech saves earned a point for Arsenal,” says Paul Mariner. “He turned back the clock to help Boro gain a huge point,” says Gab Marcotti of Victor Valdes. The casting vote goes to Steve Nicol… and he’s gone for the Czech. “Exhibition stuff,” he declares.
Right-Back: Mariner and Nicol have teamed up again to ensure that Cesar Azpilicueta gets the nod. The former saluted his performance and the way he supported Victor Moses in attack. “He did his defensive duties brilliantly and distribution of the ball was excellent,” he adds. Nicol simply says: “Pure defending.”
Centre-Back: Into the centre and a unanimous choice in the shape of Winston Reid, West Ham’s injury time hero as they beat Sunderland 1-0. “The skipper comes up big in delivering a key three points and marshals the new-look back three. Intelligence and athleticism in one Kiwi Dane.” Mariner adds: “What a leader. He organised the back four and scored a beautiful winner.” Nicol makes it a hat-trick.
Centre-Back: There are three to choose from alongside Reid. Marcotti has gone for Virgil van Dijk, whom he says was a colossus in the 1-1 draw at Manchester City. “He shows he can defend the little quick guys as well as the big fellas,” Gab explains. Mariner goes for Michael Keane at Burnley, who he says “kept a lively Romelu Lukaku quiet and helped secure three valuable points for his side.” Nicol goes for Ben Gibson of Middlesbrough in that Emirates stalemate. Let’s go with the Claret.
Left-Back: No such dilemma at left-back, where Christian Fuchs slots in. The Leicester man patrolled the left flank with his usual enthusiasm in the 3-1 win over Palace and let rip with a howitzer after a corner fell his way. What a strike! Marcotti calls it a goal of the season contender, Mariner says he was excellent in defence and Nicol concurs with all of the above.
Right Midfield: Xherdan Shaqiri has a wand of a left foot. Fact. Further proof of this arrived at Hull, where the Swiss international leathered in two beauties with that peg to secure a 2-0 win for Stoke. “When he’s on form like this, it’s not hard to see why so many fell in love with him. He’s a rare package of strength, vision and a thundering shot. He fully deserved his two goals,” says Marcotti. Mariner hailed his match-winning performance while Nicol calls his display “devastating”.
Central Midfield: N’Golo Kante. Obviously. He was his usual, brilliant self against Man United, scoring his first PL goal for Chelsea and getting mobbed by teammates who clearly love him as much as Gary Lineker does. Marcotti says he put in an amazing shift, offering a clinic on how to close down the ball. Nicol thinks his pairing with Nemanja Matic is formidable. Lastly, Marcotti adds: “He made a meal of United’s midfield and also grabbed a goal with an elegant slalom through Mourinho’s training cones.”
Central Midfield: We’ve got another free-for-all in terms of Kante’s partner. Will it be Southampton’s Oriol Romeu? Marcotti thinks so: “Games like these show just how valuable he is. A one-man disruptor in front of the defence and always ready for the restart.” Should it be Boro’s Adam Clayton? “He mopped up everything in front of the Boro back four,” according to Nicol. Or is it Danny Drinkwater? “Leicester’s engine room, a tireless worker,” says Mariner. Romeu, you’re in.
Left Midfield: There’s also a lot of love for Middlesbrough’s Adama Traore, who nudges Marcotti’s suggestion of Southampton’s Nathan Redmond out of the equation. Mariner thinks the 20-year-old was “a constant threat on the break with his pace against Arsenal. On another day he could have had a couple of goals.” Nicol thinks he was “wonderful on the counter-attack.”
No. 10: For spells against West Brom, Liverpool were electric. As usual. Chief firestarter among these bursts of excessive voltage was Philippe Coutinho. He scored a delightful second in a pulsating first half display. Marcotti’s take: “West Brom aren’t particularly good but he nevertheless tore them to shreds and scored a neat goal as well.” Nicol calls him “the little wizard.”
Striker: Eden Hazard is back, alright, and confirmation came in front of the boss for whom he looked so disinterested last season. A superb goal was just reward for a vintage offering. “He showed his ex-boss what he is all about and was back to his best today,” Mariner explains. “He is playing in a good spot to be successful.” Marcotti adds: “He started slowly but then made his quality show – United had no answers.”
Manager: This will have been super sweet for Antonio Conte, giving Jose Mourinho a lashing back on his old stomping ground. Chelsea were superior in every department and even at 4-0 he was still doing his touchline thing, shouting, screaming and cajoling his players. And those celebs. Ohhh. Mariner calls it a dismantling and thinks the system he has employed suits his players. Marcotti adds: “The early goal helped, but he nevertheless stopped Jose Mourinho from erecting the kind of barricades we saw at Anfield last Monday. An emotional win and a deserved one.”