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.
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: Of all the things he might have expected to encounter at White Hart Lane, it probably hadn’t crossed Hugo Lloris’ mind that fending off a tactile Hugo Rodallega would be one. But the Colombian striker couldn’t help but offer a hug/headlock after the Frenchman made a wondrous stop from his powerful header as Fulham continued to threaten in the second half. Not only did he repel Rodallega’s nod, Lloris also saved Steve Sidwell’s penalty after Christian Eriksen was penalised for a handball. Gab Marcotti thinks he is a calming influence on a Tottenham defence that is still prone to the jitters, while Paul Mariner hailed his “crucial saves at crucial times.”
Right-back: A familiar face at right-back -- that of Seamus Coleman. You might have thought David Moyes would field someone other than tracking-back-shirker Shinji Kagawa on the left of midfield, but he didn’t and Everton ran riot down that side. Time and time again Coleman was allowed the freedom of the flank and it was no surprise that he teed up the second goal for Kevin Mirallas. The Irishman caught the eye of all our panel, chiefly because of those attacking instincts and his “boundless energy.” How ironic that Everton inflicted a first top-flight double over Manchester United since 1969-70 in David Moyes’ first campaign in charge.
Centre-back: It’s another one of those weekends, where our panel have put forward six different centre-halves for selection. So here are the candidates in all their glory: Laurent Koscielny and Wes Brown (Marcotti), Ryan Shawcross and Dejan Lovren (Mariner), and John O’Shea and Scott Dann (Steve Nicol). A Sunderland defender has to be in there after that heroic win at Stamford Bridge, and John O’Shea gets my vote. You only had to watch his postmatch interview to see how pumped he was having spent the afternoon winning header after header and tackle after tackle. His nous went a long way to helping the Black Cats dismantle Jose Mourinho’s fortress brick by brick.
Centre-back: No money has changed hands -- honest -- but I’m going for another Nicol selection by installing Scott Dann as O’Shea’s partner. In the face of a predictable aerial test from West Ham, Dann was lionhearted at the back, showing he can still put a shift in at this level after making the move from Blackburn in January. Nicol concurs, saying he was a “rock during the barrage that West Ham threw at Palace.” It topped off a fine week for the 27-year-old, who scored in the win at Everton and has played a full part in Palace’s stellar run of four clean sheets in five games.
Left-back: Mariner puts Leighton Baines forward, and the Scouser was excellent, but our other two pundits have plumped for Luke Shaw. In an otherwise drab encounter at Villa Park, Shaw was the standout performer, marauding down the left wing time and time again. One particular foray should have brought the opener for Adam Lallana, but for his inexplicable air shot. “Not a star of the future, a star of the present,” is the way Nicol describes the 18-year-old, while Marcotti calls him "his club's main attacking threat on Saturday and one of their best one-on-one defenders. At the same time. Not an easy task."
Right midfield: Never one to shy away from bold statements, Brendan Rodgers happily declared Raheem Sterling the “best young player in Europe” after his two-goal heroics edged Liverpool ever closer to title glory at Norwich. Unsurprisingly, he is a unanimous choice with our panel. Marcotti says he is “coming up big when it matters” while Mariner rightly points out how well he links up with Luis Suarez. Nicol thinks this display, which saw him rifle home the opener, set up the second and register the clinching third, will book him a trip to Brazil in the summer.
Centre-midfield: How Arsenal have missed Aaron Ramsey. The Welshman scored and set up two more goals in his first Premier League start since Boxing Day as Arsenal galvanised their top-four hopes at Hull. One could expect a film of rust given how long he’s been out, but Ramsey has hit the ground running, underlined by his smart finish after Santi Cazorla’s neat layoff. Marcotti thought he “ran the show” and proved his early-season heroics weren't a flash in the pan. Nicol and Mariner ponder whether Arsenal would have still been in the title race had he not been missing for three months.
Centre-midfield: Nicol’s nomination -- James McCarthy -- gets an honorable mention for his impressive shift during Everton’s dismantling of the champions, but Marcotti’s shout of Paulinho gets to sit alongside Ramsey in the centre of the park. The Brazilian grabbed his fifth Premier League goal of the season and gave a commanding performance that probably provoked a sigh from Sandro, Tim Sherwood’s latest nemesis. “A two-way performance from a guy who has the tools to be Spurs' midfield general,” says Marcotti.
Left midfield: It won’t have been lost on David Moyes that two of his biggest signings at Everton were the ones that inflicted the damage at Goodison Park on Sunday. Leighton Baines slotted from the spot and Kevin Mirallas had one of those days where he struck a perfect balance between finesse and industry. You got the feeling this was personal for some of Moyes’ old players, and the Belgian worked harder than anyone else on the field, scoring a fine goal past a brilliant goalkeeper from a seemingly impossible angle. It was his goal that earned him Nicol’s vote, and surely Mirallas’ was one of the outstanding displays all weekend long.
Striker: Luis Suarez scores against Norwich -- shocking. In fact, had Neil Adams gotten to pick one team he absolutely didn’t want to face in his first home match in charge of Norwich, it surely would have been Liverpool. There’s something about the Canaries that brings the best out of the Uruguayan, who ploughed a lone furrow up top in the absence of Daniel Sturridge. His 30th Premier League goal of the season duly arrived, and he was a threat all afternoon long. Mariner says he is hands down going to be the PFA Player of the Year, while Marcotti toasted Suarez’s hunger. His decision to stay put is surely going to result in a championship.
Striker: To continue the theme, if there was one trip Garry Monk wanted to edge Swansea ever closer to safety, it would have been Newcastle. The Swans duly grabbed a vital victory that widened the gap between themselves and danger, thanks to a double from Wilfried Bony. The Ivorian has had a fine first season in England, shouldering the burden of Michu’s absence, and finding the net 13 times. Even though half the Toon’s team are already on the beach, they might have nightmares about Bony’s physicality under the parasol, after he nodded home in the first half, then slotted home coolly from the spot in injury time to lock down a crucial three points.
Manager: Mariner tips a wink in Tony Pulis’ direction for his resurrection of Crystal Palace, but there is only one man for the gaffer’s gig this weekend: Gus Poyet. Let’s face it: Anyone who can provoke such a nonsensical "four point" rant from Jose Mourinho is bound to be a shoo-in. Poyet’s men have taken four points from trips to the Etihad and Stamford Bridge this week, inflicting a first home Premier League defeat on Mourinho as Chelsea manager. A disciplined and committed showing helped them secure a second deserved victory over the Blues this season, reigniting their bid to stay up and dazzling Marcotti and Nicol in the process. It’s just a shame they can’t play Chelsea every week.