Team of the Weekend
After each round of Premier League fixtures, ESPN FC brings you its Team of the Weekend. Selected by our panel of experts, 11 of Saturday's star performers, along with a manager, are carefully chosen. 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 must have been a good weekend for net-minders in the Premier League, as there are no less than three in with a shout of claiming our coveted No. 1 jersey. David Stockdale gets the nod from Gab Marcotti for a crucial save during Fulham’s first win since New Year’s Day, while Simon Mignolet gets the backing of Steve Nicol for his big save from Wayne Rooney with Liverpool 1-0 up at Old Trafford. But Paul Mariner has it spot on for me, nominating David Marshall despite his Cardiff side going down to a late defeat at Everton. Marshall made at least four world-class saves and, ultimately, was beaten by a deflection and a slice. Seamus Coleman’s injury-time goal was incredibly harsh on the Scot, who has kept Cardiff in with a shout of beating the drop.
Right-back: No surprise then, that Marshall’s arch-nemesis Seamus Coleman secures the right-back berth, thanks to his dramatic late strike at Everton. I could try and spin his goal as an expertly cushioned volley but that’d just be a blatant lie. Though his winner owed much to fortune, that he was in the right position to hit it was not. As Marcotti says, the Irishman is “a winger playing full-back, but that's OK in the modern game.” Mariner hailed another “sparkling” display from the 25-year-old, while Nicol imparts that Coleman was back to his goalscoring best.
Left-back: “He's 21 physically, and 30 mentally.” High praise from Marcotti in the direction of Liverpool’s Jon Flanagan. According to Gab, the youngster “gobbled up Juan Mata, Robin van Persie, Adnan Januzaj and whoever had the temerity to cross his path,” and managed to maraud forward with intelligence -- a part of his game Mariner was particularly impressed with; our pundit calling his attacking involvements those akin to a “veteran” full-back. Managing to keep his enthusiasm in check after a series of early challenges, Flanagan’s flank remained watertight all afternoon long.
Centre-back: A world first in TOTW terms, as no fewer than six centre-backs have been put forward by our panel. How to pick the bones out of this one then? Perhaps, by starting with a nailed on certainty in my opinion: Aston Villa’s Ron Vlaar. His was a warrior-like performance in a fine victory; a small cog in what was a Trojan effort from Paul Lambert’s side. Whether dealing with Fernando Torres or Demba Ba, Vlaar exuded authority and as his champion Marcotti points out: “Vlaar kept first Torres and then Ba at bay and settled down a young and excitable Villa.” No doubt they were a little more excited after this huge victory in front of a rocking Villa Park.
Centre-back: Sylvain Distin, Martin Skrtel, Per Mertesacker, Martin Demichelis and Laurent Koscielny. Who to choose? Demichelis came close, for assuming the role of City’s leader once Vincent Kompany had been dismissed, but for battling gamely to preserve Arsenal’s 1-0 lead at Spurs and making a magnificent goal-line block from Nacer Chadli when Wojciech Szczesny was otherwise indisposed, it has to be Koscielny. As Nicol rightly underlines -- “you name it, Koscielny did it at Spurs.” Always in the right place at the right time, the French defender played a starring role in what was Arsenal’s first win at White Hart Lane in six-and-a-half years.
Centre-midfield: Youssouf Mulumbu might only have one vote -- from Gab -- but I’ll wager if you asked Pepe Mel for a TOTW, the Congo-born midfielder would be the first name on the team sheet. A typically all-action display from the 27-year-old was capped with a gorgeous goal -- passed in off the post from the edge of the penalty area -- that secured West Brom’s first win in eight matches and instilled some much-needed confidence. As Gab explains: “Mulumbu worked his rear end off against Swansea's pretty passers and had the steel and coolness to hit the winner, delivering a massive three points.”
Centre-midfield: Premier League matches don’t often come with a crescendo as loud as the one at the climax of Aston Villa’s seismic defeat of Chelsea, and that was largely thanks to Fabian Delph. The Holte End danced in delight as Delph’s delicate backheel found the corner of the net via the sort of sidespin Shane Warne was able to generate in his cricketing heyday. Marcotti said about Delph: “unflustered by his big-name opponents, he led the Villa charge,” while Nicol saluted his “relentless appetite.” Mariner was similarly gushing, calling the 24-year-old a “tireless worker who scored a stunning goal.”
Centre-midfield: The only negative on a wonderful day for Liverpool was a missed penalty from Steven Gerrard. Luckily for the Liverpool captain, he’d already bagged two from the spot. Gerrard was calmness personified -- well, for the first two at least -- as he missed out on becoming the first player in Premier League history to score a hat trick from the spot. Aside from his ability from 12-yards, Gerrard set the tone for a comfortable victory, Mariner calling him “the King of the midfield in a massive pressure game.” Nicol also paid tribute to Gerrard’s big tackling and pinpoint passing, while Marcotti rightly labelled it “a captain’s performance.”
Left-forward: What a time for David Silva to bounce back into the fray. After a season that has been punctuated with injury and lacklustre form, he announced his return to brilliance at the perfect time -- just four minutes after his captain had been sent off at Hull. Ripping a leaf out of Roberto Carlos’ book, Silva started the ball well wide of the target, before drawing it back into the top corner for his goal. Always available to receive possession, Silva then slid Edin Dzeko through for the clinching second. As Marcotti says, the Spaniard “bedevilled Hull in every area of the pitch.”
Centre-forward: After going four matches without a goal, Luis Suarez now has two in two, and it was odds-on he was going to find the net at Old Trafford. The Uruguayan’s performance demonstrated just how little Manchester United are getting out of Van Persie and Wayne Rooney in comparison, as he terrorised whoever stood in his way. Winning a penalty for his side and completing the scoring, Suarez once again proved the scourge of Old Trafford, this time for the right reasons. Marcotti called his display “90 minutes of ordinary brilliance” and Mariner thought he was a “thorn in Manchester United’s side all day.”
Right-forward: A quartet of players are vying for our final berth, with Peter Odemwingie, Ashkan Dejagah, Jay Rodriguez and Daniel Sturridge all in the mix, so let’s go through them one by one. The latter didn’t get on the scoresheet and appeared to dive to win a penalty, so he’s out. Dejagah’s winner for Fulham owed much to a Tim Krul mistake so he is jettisoned, leaving us with two. Odemwingie’s opener flicked in off his arm and while his second was beautifully finished, he loses out in a tight battle to Rodriguez, who scored and hit the bar. I’ll leave Gab to explain as to why: “Plays both up front and out wide with equal savvy. Rodriguez gets it.”
Manager: An honourable mention to Paul Lambert for dragging the display of the season out of his Aston Villa side as they inflicted a first defeat in 14 on league leaders Chelsea, but we only have eyes for one man this weekend: Brendan Rodgers. Yes he sounded like an edam-smothered David Brent when he was asked if it was his best day as Liverpool manager, and responded by saying: “No, every day is,” but we can afford him a little cheesiness after delivering an impressive win at Old Trafford. Mariner praises his decision to “set them up to destroy Manchester United in every department,” while Nicol says the Northern Irishman can now “tick this win off his bucket list as Liverpool manager.”