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Hughes: Villa grounded by Gunners

Aston Villa about an hour ago
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Sep 15, 2013

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 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 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 show (5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2) for further reaction.

Goalkeeper: Steve Nicol declared upon the final whistle at St Mary's Stadium that Southampton could have played another 90 minutes and still not beaten West Ham's Jussi Jaaskelainen. The Finn's sparkling performance was a glorious contrast, underlining his 38 years of age with expert positioning and anticipation, yet flinging himself around like a recent academy graduate. The pick of his interventions was a reflex save from Morgan Schneiderlin's volley, and his performance provoked agreement from Gabriele Marcotti, even if Paul Mariner preferred Everton's Tim Howard.

Right-back: It's yet another appearance for Seamus Coleman in our revamped TOTW after the Irishman excelled in Everton's debut victory in this fledgling Premier League season. The right-back has repaid the faith entrusted in him by Goodison Park's new gaffer Roberto Martinez and caught the eye of Mariner, who was impressed with the way he and Steven Naismith locked down their flank in the face of Eden Hazard and Ashley Cole. Coleman retained his usual bustling offensive presence, too.

Left-back: On the opposite flank is a man rapidly shedding the rather unkind tag that he is a Premier League footballer constructed entirely of glass -- Arsenal's Kieran Gibbs. He's started each of the Gunners' topflight games this season and put in a performance at Sunderland on Saturday that proved to Nicol why the slot is now his to lose. Diligent as ever in his defensive duties, Gibbs was the first to demonstrate an understanding with Mesut Ozil, as his lofted the ball into the channel allowed the German maestro to create the opening goal for Olivier Giroud.

Centre-back: According to Marcotti, grabbing a last-gasp equaliser at Craven Cottage was the perfect way for Gareth McAuley to bounce back from the shame of losing to Luxembourg with Northern Ireland. After scoring twice for his country already, McAuley registered West Brom's first goal of the campaign in injury time at Fulham, pocketing their second point in the process. Nicol is of the opinion that it could be the strike that ignites their season.

Centre-back: There's an ugly bun-fight for the final slot in our flat back four, the names of Fabricio Coloccini, Phil Jagielka, Robert Huth and Ryan Shawcross all thrown into the mix by our panel, but for sheer bravery the shirt goes to Huth, the man whose Twitter bio explains he has "a small head for such a strong jawline." He needed that strong jawline when he was knocked out cold in a collision with Alvaro Negredo, saying he could see 18 Man City players on the field after he insisted on seeing out the remaining chapter of the game.

Centre-midfield: Finally, a four-way accord is reached on the makeup of our two central midfielders, starting with Gareth Barry, whose immaculate debut for Everton saw him win over the Gwladys Street End in record time. His goal-saving tackle to deny fellow new boy Samuel Eto'o after Tim Howard's ill-advised tiki-taka routine inside his own box was a pivotal moment in the match. It was a last-ditcher that showed every ounce of his experience, Marcotti ruminated. Our other pair of pundits were similarly purring in their praise of the 32-year-old.

Centre midfield: Unsurprisingly, there was also an outpouring of affection for Aaron Ramsey after the Welshman did his best to upstage Mesut Ozil at the Stadium of Light. Ramsey has arguably been Arsenal's best player this season, and as Mariner remarks, it is impossible to leave him out in this form. Two superbly taken goals to complement another fine all-around shift had Nicol commenting that Ramsey can "do it all at the moment," while Marcotti sums it up succinctly by simply saying the 22-year-old is "on fire."

Attacking midfield: Let's face it, unless he had an absolute stinker, there was no way Mesut Ozil wasn't going to feature in this weekend's XI. Thankfully, he showed exactly why Arsenal felt compelled to smash their transfer record to snare him on his first outing at Sunderland. Mariner's assertion that Ozil could make the TOTW every week looks spot-on after this virtuoso display. If anyone needed reminding of the German's modus operandi, he provided ample evidence with the first of surely many assists, a darting run into space, an impossibly delicate piece of over-the-shoulder control and a pinpoint pass for Olivier Giroud. Perhaps with the exception of Tottenham fans, if you aren't delighted he's here, then you can't really claim to be a fan of English football.

Right midfield: It would churlish to disrupt what must have been the stoutest right-flank combination of the Premier League weekend and leave Steven Naismith out of TOTW. The Scot was the yin to Seamus Coleman's yang as Everton inflicted Jose Mourinho's first league defeat since returning to Chelsea. Naismith's work rate impressed both Mariner and Nicol, as did his ability to sniff out a chance -- a quality he showcased by nodding home Everton's winning goal.

Left midfield: It can often feel like there are more runners and riders for slots in TOTW than there are horses in the Grand National. The left-side berth is a toss-up between Hatem Ben Arfa, who put in what Marcotti describes as a "monster performance" in Newcastle's win at Aston Villa, Mariner's tip of Manchester United debutant Adnan Januzaj, Tottenham's two-goal hero Gylfi Sigurdsson -- who caught Nicol's eye -- or the architect of both of his goals, Christian Eriksen, another Marcotti selection. For the sheer electricity of his display, two fine assists and the fact he's only 21, Eriksen wins the race.

Centre forward: His fourth Premier League goal of the season may have come in a losing cause, but that didn't stop Mariner and Nicol championing Christian Benteke as the perfect man to plough a lone furrow at the tip of our attacking unit. In what was a limp Aston Villa performance, the Belgian was their primary threat, grabbing an equaliser with a prodigious leap and making sure both Fabricio Coloccini and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa had to be on full alert for the entire 90 minutes.

Manager: Alan Pardew gets a mention in dispatches for his brazen approach at Villa that resulted in Newcastle's second win on the trot -- and their first since the transfer window shut without any permanent signings -- but the gong goes to Roberto Martinez, who finally grabbed his first win as Everton boss. The Spaniard's side rode their luck at times, but he has seemingly managed to retain their combative, well-drilled nature while adding a veneer of finesse at the same time. As Marcotti points out, Everton are growing with each passing week.

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