De Gea, Rose, Mason, Ibe and Kane all make Team of the Weekend
After each round of Premier League fixtures, ESPN FC brings you its Team of the Weekend. Our panel of experts carefully select 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: As is often the case, there's a few contenders for this one, and as usual, Hugo Lloris warrants a mention for his part in Tottenham's 2-1 win over Arsenal. His outstanding stop denied Danny Welbeck with Arsenal 1-0 ahead at White Hart Lane, and had that gone in, we may not have seen the Harry Kane show. But Hugo's a veteran of the TOTW so it's time to look at other contenders. Steve Nicol backs David De Gea for his string of saves in Manchester United's draw at West Ham while Paul Mariner has gone for Julian Speroni. De Gea edges it, though -- but will he be around in the Premier League next season to fight for a place in our fantasy XI? Iker Casillas had a shocker for Real Madrid on Saturday. Ahem ...
Right back: An easy one, this: Branislav Ivanovic. The swashbuckling Serb no longer falls under the often-used category "underrated." The world is aware how strong the Chelsea man is -- he's a force of nature with a goal threat; a powerhouse who storms up and down the flanks either stifling attacks or instigating them. He was at it again this weekend with a strong, scoring display as the champions-elect moved seven clear of Manchester City. Mariner said: "He was back to his best at Villa, defending brilliantly and scoring a crucial winner," while Nicol agreed and added: "It was such a sweet volley from a strong and influential defender." Venture this way for more Big Ivan love.
Centre back: Praise be, a goal! An Aston Villa goal! There's a lot of things you can do in 11 hours, but sadly for Villa, they couldn't do anything except conspire to miss the target over and over again. So Jores Okore deserves some appreciation for finally ending that torrid run with a well-taken header in the 2-1 defeat to Chelsea. Both Mariner and Nicol opted for Okore, with the latter saying: "It wasn't just his goal. He equipped himself very well against a lively Chelsea attack and was unlucky that his strike that ended the run without a goal counted for little in the end." He's our TOTW centre-back this week, though, so it's not all bad.
Centre back: West Ham midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate found himself in two unfamiliar positions on Sunday. Firstly, he was used at centre-back as Sam Allardyce had to deal with a string of casualties ahead of the visit of United. Then, he caused havoc in the opposition penalty area with two neat touches followed by a thunderbolt that should have been enough for Allardyce's men. As Nicol says, "Kouyate's two touches were lovely and the third was a hammer from the Hammer. But he was strong all-round." Mariner overlooked him for Hull City's Alex Bruce but as this week's arbiter, the choice goes to Kouyate for his scoring display and all-round authority.
Left back: Mariner and Nicol may have been at odds for Okore's centre-back partner and the goalkeeper, but at least they stopped arguing when it came to selecting a left-back. Danny Rose has taken a while to build on that incredible volley he scored past Arsenal for Tottenham back in 2010, but a couple of loan spells has helped boost his development. He was excellent for Mauricio Pochettino's men against the old enemy and Mariner said: "It was an amazing shift. He had so much energy and was up and down all day." Nicol agrees, adding: "Rose was a thorn in Arsenal's side."
Defensive midfield: After 16 years and five loan spells, Ryan Mason is finally an overnight sensation for Tottenham. He has really burst on to the scene this season and his quality was there for all to see this weekend. Our Spurs-centric TOTW will be fortified by his ferocious presence in the middle of the park and his energy and intensity caused Arsenal no end of problems. Nicol reckons Mason is set for a stardom in Spurs' midfield and Mariner agrees, saying: "He's a youngster, only 23, but played like a seasoned veteran against Arsenal." A worthy inclusion, taking our Spurs influence to two so far.
Defensive midfield: Poor old Mark Noble looked shattered physically and emotionally after Daley Blind's late equaliser on Sunday afternoon. Noble spent 90 minutes chasing anything and everything, displaying the sort of enthusiasm, bite and intensity the visitors' midfield lacked. Afterwards, he forlornly looked down the television cameras and said the draw felt like a defeat. Well, he can cheer himself up with his inclusion in our side, as Mariner edges out Nicol's choice of Blind. "Dynamism is the word that personifies his game. He was all over the field for the Hammers and did not deserve to leave the pitch without three points."
Right wing: Are Manchester City really going to let James Milner go on a free this summer? Manuel Pellegrini has spoken of his desire to keep him at the Etihad but there's no news over a new deal. One thing's for certain, though -- Milner kept the champions hanging on to Chelsea's coattails at the top with a fine free kick to salvage a draw in injury time against Hull. It was a typical no-nonsense display from Milner and there's no arguing with his presence in our team. Nicol said: "It's puzzling how underrated Milner is," but with a place in our TOTW, is there really any higher accolade?
No.10: Death, taxes and Eden Hazard in the TOTW. He's a mainstay of our fictional XI, and another unanimous choice this week. Hazard scored his 13th goal of the season in all competitions as he netted the opener against Villa on Saturday and it's a certainty he will end up in the Premier League team of the year. Mariner said: "His opening goal calmed any Chelsea nerves and he was a constant threat. Villa were intimidated by him." Hazard, then, provides the central attacking option this week with a hard worker to his right and a rising star to his left ...
Left wing: Everton vs. Liverpool was rubbish, absolutely rubbish. A dull game low on entertainment and action, it was left to rookie Jordon Ibe to provide the glimpses of skill that mark him out as a potential star for Liverpool. Tricky amid the tedium, he came agonisingly close to alleviating the abject boredom with a fine, rasping drive that thundered off the bar. It has been an indifferent season for Brendan Rodgers' side, but the future may be bright with Ibe and Raheem Sterling menacing defences. He didn't play on the left at Goodison but his performance was so strong, we'd wager he'd be a threat there in our fantasy side. You get the feeling this will be the first of many appearances in our XI. Mariner called him a "breath of fresh air" on the wing.
Striker: For everyone apart from Arsenal fans, it is a joy to see Harry Kane celebrate a goal. Cast your allegiances to one side for a minute and revel in his ecstasy at hitting the back of the net. A young, prolific English striker is a wondrous sight, and with every passing match, it's difficult to cling to the belief that he's a flash in the pan. A superbly gifted finisher possessing strong hold-up play and imperious heading ability, Kane hit back with two smart finishes as Arsenal were downed in the north London derby. The only thing he has got going against him is the tired old "Hurricane/Kane is able" nonsense, but that's hardly his fault, is it? Mariner called it "an incredible performance -- the stuff dreams are made of," and that sums it up well. Nicol summed it up simply: "Kane whipped Arsenal's back four."
Manager: Rounding off the Tottenham flavour this week is Mauricio Pochettino, who started slowly at White Hart Lane but has steadily set about boosting Spurs from their slumber. He has instilled a stronger mentality in this side. This is a rather memorable anecdote from Roy Keane regarding how Tottenham were previously perceived, but it's hard to see that ringing true now. They responded brilliantly to going behind and are very much in this intriguing fight for the top four thanks to their penchant for late winners. The fitness and mentality change stems from the coach, and Mariner said: "They went 1-0 down but Pochettino still had his side playing excellent football," while Nicol agrees: "It was a fine result from a coach who is really growing into his role there."
Alex Shaw is General Editor at ESPN FC. Follow on Twitter: @AlexShawESPN.