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Aug 18, 2013

Team of the Weekend

Each round of Premier League fixtures, ESPN FC brings you its Team of the Weekend. Selected by our panel of ESPN FC experts, 11 of Saturday and Sunday's star performers, including a manager, are carefully chosen. Do you agree or disagree? You can have your say on those picked or overlooked at the foot of 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: Body of work versus one match-saving intervention? That's the first-selection conundrum for our new-look Team of the Weekend. Asmir Begovic gets the honour of donning our No. 1 jersey for making twice the amount of saves as opposite number Simon Mignolet, even though the Belgian's superb double stop from Jonathan Walters' penalty ultimately preserved three points for Liverpool. Brad Guzan also gets mentioned in dispatches by Paul Mariner for his calm influence on the young defence in front of him.

Left-back: Southampton's Luke Shaw appears to embody everything the modern full back should, as much at ease in the attacking third as in his own defensive zone. The 18-year-old clearly has profited from the 22 top-flight games he featured in last season, and as Gabriele Marcotti points out, was a constant threat down Southampton's left during their win at West Brom, marauding into the box and delivering quality time and time again. Steve Nicol agrees.

Centre-back: Dissent was not long in the making, as I've cruelly shunned the suggestions of our experts -- Jan Vertonghen (Marcotti, Nicol) and John Terry (Mariner) -- in favour of Fulham's colossus Brede Hangeland. The skipper was outstanding at the Stadium of Light and led by example, his intelligent reading of the game and acute positional sense allowing him to derail any forward momentum Sunderland could muster.

Centre-back: You'll be relieved to know there's unanimity as far as our other centre-back is concerned, our pundits unequivocal in their backing of a Manchester United rock, but though Rio Ferdinand was tipped by Nicol, Nemanja Vidic is our selection. Commanding was a word utilised by our panel to sum up his performance at Swansea, shackling the considerable threat posed by Michu and, latterly, Wilfried Bony. David Moyes will be praying he stays fit for the entire season.

Right-back: Norwich and Everton shared four goals at Carrow Road, an encounter that showcased the talents of full back Steven Whittaker. Injuries meant last season was a stop-start affair but he could prove a valuable asset to Chris Hughton should he continue in this vein. A jinking run into the box was topped with a fine curling effort that struck the upright, but Whittaker was first to react and slot the rebound. And though his perfect cross for Ricky van Wolfswinkel's equaliser was actually a wild hack at goal, it still goes down in the "assist" column all the same. The Scot certainly caught Marcotti's eye and gets the nod over Seamus Coleman, put forward by Nicol.

Central midfield: Fabian Delph, Michael Carrick and Steven N'Zonzi will all have to make do with a place on the bench because leading off our midfield three is Ross Barkley, who showed all the hype surrounding him is justified. The teenager repaid the faith shown by Roberto Martinez, in the Spaniard's first competitive outing as Everton manager, probing forward at every opportunity, distributing competently and demonstrating both "personality" and "intensity," according to Marcotti. He also scored a fabulous individual goal to boot.

Central midfield: Mariner was certainly impressed with Tottenham's new Brazilian recruit Paulinho. The midfielder offered his back four an assured level of protection on his first Premier League outing at Selhurst Park, breaking up play and also offering enough glimpses in the final third to suggest he'll maintain the impressive scoring record he brought with him from Corinthians.

Central midfield: While Mariner was trumpeting Jack Wilshere's wares for being the standout player in Arsenal's Emirates nightmare, Marcotti prefers another pivotal England midfielder who is stationed at the opposite end of his career curve. Frank Lampard might have missed from the penalty spot, but he'll no doubt prove as influential for returning manager Jose Mourinho as he was the first time, scoring a trademark goal from range and creating chances with his fine portfolio of passing.

Striker: It was tempting to ink Robin Van Persie's name onto our team sheet before a ball had even been kicked, such was my conviction that his star again would shine brightly this term. Some faces in the dugout may have changed, but RVP certainly hasn't, and thanks to his acrobatic opening goal and emphatic second, he's a unanimous and unsurprising choice to lead our attack.

Striker: Another old stager from last season gets to support RVP up top, Christian Benteke also notching two away goals on his first day of term. The Belgian flirted with a move away from Aston Villa but fits so neatly at the head of a dynamic, vibrant Villa side that neutrals should celebrate the fact he stayed put. Benteke proved a menace for Arsenal's withered back line, finding the net twice and linking play expertly. No wonder Marcotti nominated him.

Striker: Fevered debate centred around who should complete our trio of strikers, the names of Gabriel Agbonlahor, Oscar, Eden Hazard and even Wayne Rooney put forward by our panel, but the final slot goes to Danny Welbeck, who matched RVP's brace at the Liberty Stadium. Industry was the word Nicol used to describe him, while Marcotti describes Welbeck's second goal as an "absolute peach" of a chip. Hard to argue with that.

Manager: Martin Jol gets a pat on the back from Nicol for Fulham's narrow win at Sunderland but the rest of the panel is in no doubt as to who should be our glorious leader -- the chap who has the hardest act to follow in Premier League history, David Moyes. Under intense pressure to replicate the feats of Sir Alex Ferguson, Glasgow's second son delivered immediately, negotiating a tough trip to Swansea with a four-star display. All together now: "Come on, feel the Moyes ... "

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