Premier League Team of the Weekend, Nov. 8-9
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 more reaction.
Goalkeeper: "Are we sure Brad Guzan only has two hands," asks Steve Nicol in response to a towering performance from Aston Villa's stopper at Upton Park on Saturday. The American had a few nervy moments in the opening half but came into his own as the Hammers laid siege to his goal in the closing stages, keeping out a late barrage from fit-again battering ram Andy Carroll. It was from a Carroll header that Guzan made the finest in a sparkling collection of saves, as he tipped a firm header over the bar in the dying moments. Paul Mariner was dazzled with the American's positioning, while Gab Marcotti reflects West Ham's growing status by saying Guzan's heroics earned his side a creditable away point.
Right-back: We have deadlock when it comes to our right-back berth, and it lines up like this: Mariner and Nicol vs. Marcotti and Murphy. The first pair is adamant that Nathaniel Clyne deserves the (hypothetical) No. 2 shirt for another excellent afternoon in Southampton's unlikely title tilt. Nicol wants Clyne starting for England, while Mariner thinks the 23-year-old is "doing it all." But Marcotti and I are united in praise for Daryl Janmaat. The Dutchman has had a baptism of fire in the Premier League but is fully up to speed now. He set up both goals in Newcastle's 2-0 win at West Brom. Marcotti says while Janmaat is "not always the most refined full-back, he can run all day and pick his spots." Sorry, lads, but the "M's" have it.
Best of Premier League Week 11 Ratings and Reaction
- Brewin: Swans fly as Gunners are sunk
- Arsenal ratings: Title now out of touch
- Arsene Wenger: Title bid 'not realistic'
- Cox: Aguero stars as Man City struggle
- Man City ratings: Aguero leads way again
- Delaney: Man United struggle past Palace
- Brewin: Chelsea calm, Liverpool lament
Centre-back: Newcastle's captain fantastic Fabricio Coloccini is a "North East institution" after seven years at St James', says Marcotti, but even after a rare goal for the Magpies in the win at West Brom, he is outvoted in favour of West Ham's James Collins. Just like the Argentine, Collins is enjoying a bump in form, putting every ounce of his experience to good use. Nicol thinks the 31-year-old deserves more credit for West Ham's lofty league position, while Mariner says the Welshman has been their "star man" in defence this season. Marcotti makes it a full house.
Centre-back: For a time at Anfield on Saturday, it seemed as if the entire footballing universe was orbiting around Gary Cahill. The Chelsea man was involved in absolutely everything of note in the first half against Liverpool, Nicol notes -- even the Reds' opener, as Emre Can's shot flicked off him and past Thibaut Courtois. But it took the England centre-back just five minutes to make amends, stabbing home an equaliser after a scramble in the box. As Mariner remarks, Cahill is a "rock" at the back for Jose Mourinho and provides a clear and present danger to opposition back lines whenever he saunters forward for set pieces.
Left-back: There is a slightly easier choice at left-back, where Cesar Azpilicueta downs Luke Shaw by three votes to one. Much like Janmaat, Shaw is finding his feet and form after a tentative start to life at Old Trafford, but his Spanish counterpart has been consistently excellent for an extended spell. Nicol ponders whether there is a more consistent left-back in the top flight while Mariner hailed the 25-year-old's "tremendous" display at Anfield and lauded his contribution for the winning goal as he got the better of Philippe Coutinho down the left and crossed for Diego Costa to pocket the clincher.
Midfield: There is unanimity in our midfield choices this week, the first being Southampton's Victor Wanyama, who has fully established himself as the "engine of the team," according to Marcotti. Mariner's praise is equally fulsome, saying the Kenyan's ability to dominate the centre of the park allows Saints full-backs Clyne and Ryan Bertrand to bomb on. Wanyama can also do the silkier things well, as last week's winner at Hull and this weekend's through-ball for Shane Long's second proved. Nicol is also entranced.
Midfield: Nemanja Matic is the one player to get our panel purring on a consistent basis this season. It almost seems inconceivable to imagine a Chelsea midfield without him these days, such has been his impact since returning to the club. So much so, it makes you wonder why on earth they ever got rid of him. "Matic is priceless," says Marcotti, while Mariner says he is the "blueprint player for the holding position in the Premier League. The protection he provides is top notch." To make it a full house, Nicol says Matic's prowess makes it virtually impossible to break Chelsea down. A genuine topflight colossus.
Midfield: It is days like this and performances like the one Jefferson Montero turned in for Swansea that will convince Arsenal fans that Calum Chambers still has a way to go. The Ecuadorian was electric against the Gunners, consistently driving to the byline and delivering quality into the box. It was one of these bursts that presented the winning goal for Bafetimbi Gomis as the Swans lit up the Liberty Stadium in the midst of a monsoon. As Marcotti points out, Montero's "quickness and intelligence gave Arsenal fits," while Mariner trumpets his involvement in the winner and says he "tortured Chambers all day long." Nicol makes it a clean sweep.
Striker: He might have to sit just behind our power-packed front pairing, but it would be criminal not to shoehorn Shane Long into our TOTW. Southampton weren't exactly stuttering against Leicester on Saturday, but they were operating without the usual attacking brio we've come to expect. That all changed with the introduction of the Irishman, who added a zip and sparkle to the Saints. His two goals were expertly taken and helped him "prove a point," according to Mariner. Nicol wonders if this action-packed cameo will earn him a new reputation as a super sub.
Striker: "When it matters, he's there. And he scores." Marcotti is lauding the merits of Chelsea's deadly Diego Costa. The beefy striker relished his running battle with Martin Skrtel and made it quite clear early in the piece that he wouldn't be cowed in any fashion by Liverpool's most menacing defender. When his big moment came in the second half, after fine work from Azpilicueta, Costa smashed home his 10th goal of the campaign. As Mariner details, "Big game, big player. No one wants to play against this guy. He's physical, a handful, and his hold-up play is fantastic. Match winner."
Striker: Our panel is running out of superlatives for Sergio Aguero, and I'm struggling as well. It's a good job the striker isn't moping in a form trough like the rest of his teammates, who used to gobble up sides like QPR for fun. It's a measure of how far the champions have sunk that his two brilliant strikes, Bergkamp-esque in their execution, were good enough only to rescue a point. Nicol says Aguero proved to be a "man on a mission" on Saturday, and Mariner salutes his "world-class" pedigree. Marcotti hailed Aguero's "gorgeous goals" and, quite rightly, thinks we should all sit down for a moment and consider just where City would be without him this season.
Manager: Swansea's dramatic turnaround against Arsenal earned a late nomination for Garry Monk, who, Marcotti points out, has the gods smiling on him kindly again after a trying few weeks. But it couldn't be anyone other than Sean Dyche, could it? Yes, he may look like a cross between a bouncer and a stockbroker and constantly refers to the Premier League as "this market," but no one could begrudge him and Burnley their first win of the season in the 11th attempt. "Onwards and upwards," says Mariner, who salutes the huge weight lifted from the club's shoulders, while Nicol is in full agreement. Who knows, the Clarets may even stay in "this market" if they carry on in a similar vein.