Premier League Team of the Weekend, Oct. 25-26
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" (5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2) for further reaction.
Goalkeeper: It's easy, this free-flowing attacking football game, isn't it? I wonder if Sam Allardyce wishes he'd cast aside those weighty long-ball tactics years ago, such is the verve with which fourth-placed West Ham have started the season. But while Diafra Sakho, Enner Valencia and Stewart Downing are happy to run riot up top, a stout backline is still needed if champions Manchester City are to be beaten. Step forward Adrian, who was magnificent in an enthralling Saturday lunchtime encounter at Upton Park that ended 2-1 to the Hammers. While Gab Marcotti thought the display of Hull's third-choice Eldin Jakupovic in a 0-0 draw at Liverpool saw him become a "hero to journeymen everywhere," he is outvoted by our other two pundits. Paul Mariner and Steven Nicol agree than Adrian was the difference between one and three points for the Big Sam's men.
Right-back: No fewer than nine players have been put forward for four positions in our TOTW rearguard. The contenders at right-back are Arsenal's Calum Chambers (put forward by Marcotti) and Swansea's Angel Rangel (chosen by Steve Nicol). Both played a full part as their sides won 2-0 against struggling opposition, Sunderland and Leicester respectively, and both displayed admirable qualities at both ends of the pitch. While Chambers acquitted himself well in the face of Will Buckley, Rangel gets the nod for a slightly more menacing attacking edge throughout.
Best of Premier League Week 9
- Brewin: Manchester United bring back the late show
- Photo Gallery: Best images from Prem Week 9
- Three Points: United steal late point vs. Chelsea
- The Toe Poke: Half-and-half Man United-Chelsea shirt
- Van Gaal: We could have won vs. Chelsea
- O'Farrell: Eto'o offers master class vs. Burnley
- Ryder: Newcastle riding high after beating Spurs
- Manchester City: Player ratings after West Ham loss
- Cross: Out with Wenger? Think again, Arsenal fans
Left-back: There's another fiendish selection quandary facing us at left-back. Do we go with Marcotti's suggestion of Everton's Leighton Baines, who grabbed a 43rd Premier League assist against Burnley to move within one of Graeme Le Saux's record for a top-flight defender? Or do we instead plump for Nicol's choice of Hull's Robbie Brady, who he says put in a "confident display against world-class players" in the left wing-back berth as the Tigers shut out an increasingly desperate Liverpool side at Anfield? Despite an early wobble when faced with the rampaging Raheem Sterling, Brady is our man this week, largely because Baines had inferior opposition to deal with.
Centre-back: The only unanimous choice in our back four is West Ham colossus James Collins. The veteran needed every last ounce of experience in his 31-year-old body when faced with a potent Manchester City side and came through a testing 90 minutes with aplomb. Spirit and determination are a given when it comes to the Welshman, but he took on the form of a one-man wall at times during a City siege late in the game and was as pivotal as any man in claret and blue. Mariner calls his display "amazing," while Marcotti and Nicol lost count of how many vital blocks he made.
Centre-back: The man to complete our defensive line up is another colossus: Brede Hangeland. As Marcotti points out, the Crystal Palace defender "might not be wanted by the sages at Fulham, but showed he still has plenty to give." It was the Norwegian that grabbed one of the two first half goals Palace chalked up and his was a towering presence all afternoon long in a 2-2 draw with West Brom. Though spirits may have been dented by the Baggies' late equaliser, Nicol reckons this performance underlined that there is "still plenty of life and goals in the old dog." Honourable mentions also go to Chelsea's John Terry and Southampton's Toby Alderweireld, but Hangeland was head and shoulders above the rest.
Centre midfield: "Big Sam has him, Arsene needs him." Nicol doesn't mess about at the best of times and that assessment is blunt, to the point and spot on. West Ham have bagged themselves a superb deal to secure Alex Song for a season on loan from Barcelona, and he proved why in the 2-1 win over Manchester City. The Cameroon midfielder had a hand in the opening goal and was a measure of calmness almost throughout. As Mariner ruminated, "It was a statement performance."
Centre midfield: Into the midfield we go with a holding duo of power and poise. First up is Nemanja Matic, who again displayed big-match characteristics as Chelsea came agonisingly close to all three points at Old Trafford. Marcotti is clearly a big fan, saying: "Beast-mode for the human wall in front of Jose Mourinho's back four. Also mixes it up well on set pieces." Mariner was equally effusive, stating: "Matic protected the back four, and was instrumental in giving the Blues the platform for a solid game." And according to Sky TV pundit Graeme Souness, who knows a thing or two about anchoring a midfield, the Serbian is well on the way to turning the "Makelele role" into the "Matic role."
Left midfield: Let's be honest, David Silva should be added to the team for his goal alone, such was the beauty of his strike. Waltzing away from two challenges and exhibiting dribbling that Nicol labeled "sensational," the Spaniard curled a wonderful effort into the far corner seconds after West Ham looked to have sealed the match. When Silva is on song he can look like an experimental artist, pivoting and pirouetting across the pitch to unearth space that others wouldn't even recognise. While no one could begrudge West Ham a fine win, it was unjust that Silva had to end on the losing side.
Right midfield: Oh, Sunderland. This was not the way to throw off the cloak of doom you wrapped tightly around yourselves in losing 8-0 to Southampton on the south coast last weekend. Two wretched mistakes gifted Arsenal two goals on Saturday as they made it four consecutive wins on Wearside in the Premier League. His two goals might have been handed to Alexis Sanchez on a platter, but as Marcotti says: "The way Sanchez ran down and believed on that mistake from Wes Brown tells you everything. An artist and a warrior, rewarded with two goals." Mariner wonders where the Gunners would be without him; Nicol makes it a full house.
Striker: "Samuel Eto'o is ageless on days like this," Marcotti rightly states. Everton's veteran striker rolled back the years against poor old Burnley, who remain the only side in English football's top four divisions yet to register a league win this season. It was supposed to be the Toffees that started slowly after that midweek trip to Lille but the Cameroonian wasn't having a bit of it, powering home a trademark header after just four minutes. A gorgeous long-range strike in the second half made it two and only the width of a post denied him a richly deserved hat-trick. Nicol reckons Eto'o's performance showed that "brains can be more important than legs."
Striker: Alongside Eto'o there is another fearsome African marksman -- Wilfried Bony. The Swansea striker was in peerless mood on Saturday, poking nature in the eye by showing that sometimes Swans refuse to be intimidated by Foxes in a 2-0 win. His first goal against Leicester was as good as any we saw this weekend, his flick releasing Gylfi Sigurdsson, who returned the favour as the Ivorian smashed home from inside the area. His second was a far simpler affair as he pulled into space before polishing off Jefferson Montero's cut back. Mariner's assessment is as follows: "Created havoc in the Leicester defence; too strong, too much movement, two goals." Bony's brilliance means Didier Drogba (a Nicol selection) and Robin van Persie (Marcotti's choice) must make do with a place on the bench.
Manager: Alan Pardew ("I was born battle-hard") gets a nod from Mariner after overseeing a surprise 2-1 win for Newcastle at Tottenham, but our other two pundits are agreed that our manager of the week should be Sam Allardyce. He has listened to demands for a brighter, more positive style and is reaping the rewards. West Ham now sit fourth after taking down the Premier League holders. Here's one of his champions, Marcotti, with the final word: "He did it one way, he's now doing it another way. Pace and technique, and a monstrous Alex Song in midfield. West Ham are flying and Sam Allardyce has every right to enjoy every minute."