Raheem Sterling, Georginio Wijnaldum star in 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 selects 11 star performers, along with a manager.
THE BEST OF ESPN FC
- Bell: Liverpool fans make themselves heard
- Cox: Leicester improving | Why Poch should stay
- Okwonga: Man United's market | City's title hopes
- Laurens: PSG's pre-UCL issues | Hertha's curse
- Highlights (U.S. only): Stuttgart 1-3 BVB
- FC TV: Champions League W2W4 | LVG wrong
- News | Transfer | Toe Poke | Fantasy | FC TV | Podcast | MLS
Do you agree or disagree? You can have your say on those picked or overlooked in the comments section below 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: All the chatter before Jurgen Klopp's first match in charge at Liverpool had been centred on the art of gegenpressing. But one of the first things the German learned from the 0-0 draw at White Hart Lane might well be that he has a decent goalkeeper on his hands in the form of Simon Mignolet. In an excellent display, superb saves from Clinton Njie and Harry Kane were the highlights, attracting warm praise from this week's pundits, Paul Mariner and Steve Nicol. They reckon he was the reason the Reds came away with a point. And they're right.
Right-back: Options, options, options at right-back. Well, two options, to be precise. Manchester City's Pablo Zabaleta is put forward by Mariner, who is a big fan of the hustle and bustle the Argentinian demonstrates up and down the right flank. He hurt Bournemouth time and time again as the league leaders won 5-1, but Nicol is resolute in his belief that Arsenal's Spanish full-back Hector Bellerin should get the nod. He says the 20-year-old offered a "super display of attacking and defending," and his assist for Aaron Ramsey's goal was a perfect vignette of his silky prowess. I agree.
Centre-back: It's fair to say Mariner hasn't been overly impressed with Mamadou Sakho since he made a big-money switch to Liverpool from Paris Saint-Germain. But he might well be warming to the Frenchman. A vital block on Tottenham midfielder Dele Alli was the standout moment in a determined display, leading Mariner to say: "I didn't think I'd ever pick him for Team of the Weekend, but he was magnificent at Spurs." Nicol thinks it was Sakho's best game for the club.
Centre-back: Alongside Sakho stands a man who has been far less patchy in recent times: Manchester United's Chris Smalling. A regular for his club, he's not far off being a regular starter in Roy Hodgson's first-choice England XI. In United's 3-0 win over Everton, Smalling was a man in control of his surroundings at Goodison Park, marshalling United's back line confidently and competently. Mariner says Smalling is "playing as well as ever" for his club, while Nicol adds that the 25-year-old is growing in "stature and consistency."
Left-back: At left-back is Tottenham's Danny Rose. After another strong showing against Liverpool, perhaps he is a step closer to nailing down the left-back slot as his alone. Mariner sums up his afternoon's work by saying he "looks comfortable playing for [Mauricio] Pochettino, strong defensively and always bright in attack."
Centre Midfield: High praise indeed for Morgan Schneiderlin from Nicol, who says: "I wish he wore the other red jersey." (If you haven't worked it out, Steve desperately wishes the Frenchman was a Liverpool player, not a Manchester United one.) Schneiderlin grabbed his first top-flight goal for his new club in the win at Everton, tucking home a loose ball with the aplomb of a striker. But it was his defensive work that drew praise from Mariner, who thinks he offered "total protection" to the back four.
Centre Midfield: "Our season starts now," said Newcastle boss Steve McClaren ahead of the visit of Norwich. Presumably he said the same thing on Aug. 9 before the opening weekend to little effect. Georginio Wijnaldum obviously got the latest memo, smashing in a fantastic four against hapless Norwich. The Dutchman made ghosting into the box unshackled an art form on Sunday, showing prowess with his head and feet to register the Toon's first win of the season. Quite apart from his clinical finishing, our pundits thought the 24-year-old's passing and movement were a joy to watch. Unsurprisingly, he's a unanimous choice.
Left wing: "The hat trick man. What movement and finishing when he comes off the left wing -- defenders just cannot handle him." Raheem Sterling, of course, is the object of Mariner's affection, after his treble helped Manchester City put Bournemouth to the sword at the Etihad. Goals one and three were simple enough, but No. 2 was a peach, as the former Liverpool man latched onto a fine Kevin De Bruyne pass and bamboozled two defenders before slotting home. Nicol adds, rather menacingly: "Sterling makes my blood boil, but he was fantastic."
Right wing: Another week, another selection for Alexis Sanchez. Arsenal's Chilean is en fuego at present ("on fire" in Spanish), and his latest victims were Watford, who have yet to register a single point against the Gunners in five Premier League meetings. His goal was a tap in, but he looked menacing every time he got the ball, earning this praise from Mariner: "Arsenal's talisman, he constantly amazes me with his skill and energy whether it is for Arsenal or Chile -- a superstar!"
Striker: What with Sterling and Wilfried Bony banging them in for Manchester City, who needs Sergio Aguero and David Silva? After a fine two-goal display from the Ivorian, Nicol even goes so far as to say: "Is he Aguero in disguise?" The short answer is no, but he's not bad. Like Sterling, his opener was simplicity itself, but the second was smart, a neat turn and finish to make it 5-1. Mariner was impressed with his goals, but also with his link-up play.
Striker: The Premier League's top scorer is Leicester City's Jamie Vardy, and he takes his place on our team. Another two were pocketed in a comeback draw at Southampton, as he personified the indomitable spirit the Foxes have shown this season under Claudio Ranieri. A neat header and a crisp injury time finish grabbed an unlikely point and gained him entry to an exclusive club; only three other Englishmen have scored in six consecutive top-flight matches this century. Nicol says: "Of course he is in TOTW again. Of course."
Manager: As for the manager, it has to be Slaven Bilic. West Ham's boss added Crystal Palace to an impressive list of away victories this season, which includes Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City. Efficient, ruthless and stylish is a potent combination, and his Hammers have the lot at present. Mariner says: "It has to be Bilic; that's 13 points from a possible 15 away from home now, and winning at Palace is a very difficult thing to do."