Premier League Team of the Weekend, Nov. 22-23
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: Not many players have emerged with much credit from Manchester United's season so far, and not many emerged with plaudits on Saturday evening despite the win over an increasingly hapless Arsenal, the consensus being that the Gunners lost the game rather than United won it. However, one of their more consistent performers has been David De Gea, the man between the sticks who caught the eye of our panel. Gabriele Marcotti heaps praise on the Spaniard for making "some huge saves in the first half, when Arsenal could easily have gone 3-0 up," while Steve Nicol sums things up nicely by saying: "Without him, United get zero points."
Right-back: The law of the ex states that a former player will come back to bite you, causing regret, recrimination and cries of: "Why was he ever sold?" This weekend, there were plenty of chances for such an occurrence, with the most obvious coming at the Emirates, where the spectres of Danny Welbeck and Robin van Persie loomed large. However, while neither of those two caused huge regret to his former employer, a slightly more low-key old boy performed well this weekend. Martin Kelly looked destined for big things at Liverpool, but injuries disrupted his career at Anfield and he was eventually sold to Crystal Palace in the summer. While others grabbed the headlines in the 3-1 win over the Merseysiders at Selhurst Park, Kelly was "unfazed," according to Marcotti, and provided "plenty of effort and leadership too."
Best of Premier League Week 12 Ratings and Reaction
- Premier League Team of the Weekend
- Brewin: Excuses aplenty for Wenger, Van Gaal
- Arsenal ratings: Defeat was 'typical Wilshere'
- Man United ratings: De Gea the hero again
- Brewin: Pool crash at Palace again
- Liverpool ratings: Abject all round from Reds
- Delaney: Chelsea on song vs. West Brom
Centre-back: Burnley are on a roll. After going the first 11 games of the season without a victory, they now have two in a row after a terrific and dogged away performance in the 2-1 success at Stoke. They are off the foot of the Premier League, where it had looked as though they would stay for much of the campaign during those early days, and plenty of that is down to the performance of Jason Shackell at the heart of their defence. Paul Mariner praises his "amazing defending," while Marcotti is impressed with the way Shackell "knows his limits, knows his strengths," saying he "bolted the back line and halted the Stoke comeback."
Centre-back: If Burnley are on a roll, then what are Newcastle? After weeks when it looked as though Alan Pardew was moments from the sack, they now have five wins on the spin in the league and have clambered to the frankly implausible heights of fifth. Some have attributed this revival to Pardew giving youngsters a chance, with Sammy Ameobi and Ayoze Perez among their better performers, but this week one of their less-heralded players gets the nod. Paul Dummett is a full-back by trade, but he has been filling in as a centre-back and was excellent as the Magpies beat QPR on Saturday. The sight of a local boy coming good will warm Geordie hearts, and Marcotti says: "He's not a central defender, but he again deputises and shows that brains and understanding of the game matter more in that role."
Left-back: Hull can count themselves desperately unlucky to have conceded a late, late goal to Tottenham, who seem to be making a habit of these things recently. Gaston Ramirez can probably take most of the blame for the nature of Hull's backs-to-the-wall performance after stupidly getting himself sent off, but the rest of the Tigers deserve plenty of credit -- particularly young left-back Andrew Robertson, who is carving out a reputation as one of the most promising defenders in the Premier League. The Scot was excellent as Hull desperately tried to hold on, and you could hardly blame him for their eventual defeat to goals from Christian Eriksen and Harry Kane. "What a find from Steve Bruce," says Nicol, and it's tough to disagree.
Midfield: Perhaps the main driving force behind Newcastle's revival has been the form of Moussa Sissoko. The French midfielder has been frustratingly inconsistent in his time on Tyneside, but this term has shown why he was one of the most coveted midfielders in Europe, driving Newcastle on and, as he did on Saturday, scoring crucial goals. "He does it all," says Nicol, while Marcotti notes that Sissoko is a "live wire who evidently didn't get the memo about Newcastle being rubbish and Pardew being the source of all evil." Long may that continue, will be the feeling on the Gallowgate end.
Midfield: Another midfield powerhouse is the first unanimous nomination, and it's good news for both Manchester City and the Premier League as a whole that Yaya Toure looks close to his best once again. City are Chelsea's only realistic challenger for the title, and if they are to recover their form and reel in Jose Mourinho's side, then the form of Sergio Aguero and Toure will be vital. "The going gets tough, and he steps up," says Marcotti of the Ivory Coast midfielder, while Mariner opines that he "pulled City out of the mire again" and Nicol asks: "Who says he is not interested?" After a performance like this, not many, Steve.
Midfield: Crystal Palace's grip on a place in the Premier League has looked reasonably precarious at times this season, but one thing that rarely wavers is the form of their captain, Mile Jedinak. The Australian midfielder returned from suspension to play in Palace's win over Liverpool, and it was good for the Eagles to have their leader back as he put in a commanding performance, dominating Joe Allen and Steven Gerrard in the middle of the park and capping things off with a superb blast of a goal. "What a free kick from a perceived destroyer!" exclaims Nicol. Marcotti gives a nod to the other bearded Palace midfielder, Joe Ledley, but also sides with Jedinak, saying: "The Aussie colossus had his way with Liverpool."
Attacking midfield: The word is that Mourinho wasn't especially impressed with Eden Hazard when he arrived for his second spell as Chelsea manager. The Belgian was clearly enormously talented but lacked the consistency Mourinho demands in his players -- and it's fairly safe to say the Portuguese hammered that point home. Chelsea's No. 10 put in another terrific display as the leaders strolled to a 2-0 victory over West Brom and impressed our panel. "Showing what he can do very consistently now," says Mariner, while Nicol says he is "still dizzy after watching his display." It's tough to see anyone but Chelsea winning the league, and the form of Hazard will be a big reason for that when the time comes.
Forward: Things haven't gone entirely smoothly for Wayne Rooney this season, with calls for him to be dropped, United's general form (it probably says more about the rest of the Premier League that they sit in fourth place) and a careless suspension all adding up. However, he has proved his worth for both club and country in recent weeks and notched another key goal in United's key victory at the Emirates. "When things get ugly, he keeps running and working and scores the goal that closes out the game," says Marcotti. In the end, that's all you can ask for from your captain, striker and highest-profile player.
Forward: Burnley were promoted last season largely on the back of the goals of Danny Ings and Sam Vokes. With the latter injured and the former initially struggling to adapt to the pace and quality of the top flight, it's not a huge surprise that their start to the season has been a little slow. "Ings can only get better" was the go-to pun to sum up the Clarets' season -- and it very much looks like he has, bagging a pair of quick goals to seal their second win in a row at Stoke. "OK, so he was a bit lucky," says Marcotti. "He may never score twice in the space of 60 seconds ever again. But so what? Right place, right time, and Burnley double their win total for the season." Mariner calls him the "Johnny on the spot Englishman," while Nicol simply says: "Now you know who he is."
Manager: Ings and Toure were two of the three unanimous nominations in this edition of Team of the Weekend, and the third is on the bench. For the second week in a row, Sean Dyche is asked to take control of our selections -- rightly so after guiding Burnley to the dizzy heights of 19th. Nicol and Mariner simply say "two in a row" to justify their choice, while Marcotti expands on the theme a little: "A bit of good fortune. But this is Burnley we're talking about. And they're not bottom. Miracle man deserved the rub of the green." Dyche is one of English football's good guys, so we can all probably enjoy his success -- however long that lasts.