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 #TOTW. Plus, tune in to Monday’s ESPN FC show (5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2) for further reaction.
Goalkeeper: Gabriele Marcotti opted for Tottenham Hotspur’s Hugo Lloris, but Paul Mariner went for Artur Boruc, leaving it down to former Premier League goalkeeper Shaka Hislop to sway the decision in the Bournemouth man’s favour. Boruc’s clean sheet helped the Cherries beat West Bromwich Albion 1-0 and claim their first win of the Premier League season, and Hislop was impressed, remarking: “His second half performance alone warrants his inclusion.” Mariner concurs, pointing to “a couple of key saves to keep his team in it.”
Right-back: The Team of the Weekend panel was again split on who makes the cut on the right side of defence, with Adam Smith of Bournemouth, Manchester United’s Antonio Valencia and Tottenham’s Kyle Walker all in the mix. The “consistency” of Walker in Spurs’ 4-0 win against Stoke caught Mariner’s eye, and the England international grabbed an assist too in a “super display.”
Centre-back: Nicolas Otamendi was a unanimous pick after his starring role in Manchester City’s derby win at Old Trafford. The Argentinian gave “a warrior-like performance,” according to Mariner, and Marcotti picked out the City man’s “sterling work against Zlatan Ibrahimovic,” adding: “He provides the bite and muscle his teammates lack.”
Centre-back: Laurent Koscielny‘s presence and leadership is crucial to Arsenal’s defence but his contribution in attack was important too, with his acrobatic strike helping the Gunners beat Southampton 2-1. This point wasn’t lost on Marcotti, who said: “There’s not much he can’t do when he’s playing this well,” and Hislop agrees, adding: “Koscielny continues to prove himself as one the best centre-backs in the Premier League, if not the world, and on Saturday he showed he’s prepared to put his head in where it hurts, all for the Arsenal cause.”
Left-back: Liverpool’s problems in defence eased on their return to Anfield as they ran out 4-1 winners against Leicester, and although they didn’t keep a first clean sheet of the season, they looked more organised. Part of the reason for that was the deployment of James Milner at left-back. While Marcotti admits they still need to find a natural fit for this position, in the meantime Milner’s “tireless running and fine delivery suggest maybe the solution is in-house.”
Midfield: Crystal Palace got their first three points of the season at the fourth attempt, and the 2-1 victory at Middlesbrough was largely down to the performance of Wilfried Zaha, who set one up for Christian Benteke and scored the other himself. “If he did this with any regularity, he’d be a regular in the England team. And would be at a different club,” Marcotti notes, and Mariner is with him: “He drove his team to a much-needed win away at Boro.”
Midfield: Another easy pick is Manchester City’s Fernandinho with all three members of the panel blown away by his impact in midfield as Manchester United’s unbeaten start to the campaign was ended. Marcotti describes the Brazilian as “terrifyingly dominant; he’s the glue that holds it all together,” while Mariner singles out the midfielder’s “incredible energy,” and “fantastic protection in front of the two central defenders.”
Midfield: There is some debate about the final spot in midfield, but Mariner makes a convincing argument for Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla, who held his nerve to tuck away a penalty late into added time to seal an important home win against Southampton. Mariner said: “He was the only Arsenal player to play at a top level — they have him to thank for the victory.”
Forward: Linked with a move away from Tottenham this summer, Son Heung-Min showed Mauricio Pochettino he still has something to offer by scoring two goals and providing an assist in Spurs’ 4-0 win at Stoke. Mariner describes him as “too hot to handle,” and praises his “great movement,” but Marcotti sums it up best, saying: “Forgotten and underappreciated by some, but give him a shot and he delivers.”
Forward: Diego Costa looks back to his very best this season and took his tally to four goals in four games with a brace against Swansea. The Chelsea striker splits opinion but Hislop is firmly Team Costa, saying: “Love him or hate him, Chelsea would not be the same this season without him. Thank goodness he didn’t leave this summer. Ruffled feathers, fouled and was fouled, a lot. And scored two goals! That’s a full day’s work.” Marcotti agrees, labelling the striker “a force of nature.”
Forward: Manchester City barely missed Sergio Aguero’s goal threat thanks to Kevin De Bruyne‘s performance at Old Trafford, the Belgium international scoring the opener and playing a crucial role in the second goal before hitting the post in the second half. He’s another unanimous selection from our panel. Mariner summarises: “He was too much for the United defence to handle,” and Marcotti adds: “He gets Pep’s message.”
Manager: Mariner’s vote for Walter Mazzarri is a valid one, and on another weekend the Watford manager, who oversaw an incredible 4-2 comeback win against West Ham, would be a certainty. But on this occasion Pep Guardiola gets the nod. “Guardiola showed his brand of football — despite Claudio Bravo’s performance — can yield results, and he’s top of the table,” is Marcotti’s view, and Hislop concurs: “In a week when sometimes it seemed no other game mattered, surely this win was more than three points.”