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Jan 12, 2014

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's 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.

Team of the Weekend: Jan. 12, 2014.
Team of the

Goalkeeper: Two things kept Newcastle United at bay on Sunday -- Mike Jones and Joe Hart. The onetime City shot-stopper was beaten, but his belated appeal for offside bore fruit, as Cheick Tiote's screamer was ruled out. But there was no doubt in the minds of Paul Mariner and Steve Nicol as to how crucial his saves from Loic Remy and Yohan Cabaye were in a second half in which they spent plenty of time "in the trenches," according to their captain. Gab Marcotti hands an admirable nod to West Ham's keeper Adrian for his display at Cardiff, but Hart has it.

Right-back: It's take your pick as to our right-sided berth. Seamus Coleman (Mariner), Rafael (Marcotti) and Phil Bardsley (Nicol) are the candidates, so why don't we run the rule over each argument? Mariner hailed Coleman's consistency in his "blossoming" season, while Marcotti thinks Rafael's offering against Swansea was near the high level he attained a few years back. Finally, Nicol underlined what a steadying influence the recently banished Bardsley has been for Gus Poyet. In the absence of a public jury, I'm siding with Nicol given Bardsley's busyness in a fine Sunderland win.

Centre-back: If one were to find one's self in the Premier League trenches, you couldn't wish for a better man alongside you than Vincent Kompany. With City under siege for most of the second half in front of a home crowd baying for blood, the Belgian was the "kingpin" that led them to a clean sheet, according to Marcotti. His leadership qualities were also trumpeted by Nicol, as Kompany helped them ride the storm and grind out an invaluable victory. Other nominations -- Vlad Chiriches and Damien Delaney -- will have to make do with a mention in dispatches.

Centre-back: If you were in the trenches, had Kompany for company and consulted him as to whom he'd like alongside him (it's convoluted, but stay with me), he might well opt for Nemanja Vidic. The Serbian is never found wanting in the bravery department and turned in a composed performance in the win over Swansea that turned the heads of Mariner and Marcotti. The former felt compelled to add: "It's absurd that he's out of contract in June. Even at half-speed, when he's on the pitch, he dominates."

Left-back: Unsurprisingly, given Kompany's "trenches" chat, we aren't finished at the back with City defenders, and Aleksandar Kolarov duly barges himself into TOTW contention. A neat summation of his afternoon is offered by Nicol: "Made the first goal, then defended like a Trojan." One particular block, as Steven Taylor prepared to fire on goal, backs this claim, which is rubber-stamped by Marcotti, who reckons Kolarov "ran the show down the left."

Eden Hazard was in spellbinding form for Chelsea at Hull.
Eden Hazard was in spellbinding form for Chelsea at Hull.

Right midfield: Whoever has the misfortune to play full-back in opposition to our TOTW had better be on his mettle, because on the opposite flank is Eden Hazard. The Belgian continued his superb form of late with a sparkling showing at Hull in a game that was always going to be settled by a superior slice of quality. Nicol says what he sees, calling Hazard a "match winner," while Marcotti thinks Hazard is rooted in his best spell for Chelsea since his big-money move from France.

Centre midfield: Mark Noble notched an impressive hat trick this weekend -- not in goals, but in terms of nominations from our panel. And there is little wonder he was a unanimous choice after an omnipresent performance at Cardiff. As Mariner points out, Noble was inspirational for Hammers boss Sam Allardyce, demonstrating all the qualities demanded by a struggling manager. Nicol says he was terrier-like in the tackle and Marcotti thinks his clinching goal was just reward for a 90-minute tale of "guts and leadership."

Centre midfield: Nicol mentions another good performance from Yohan Cabaye, but the other two-thirds of our panel have plumped for Gareth Barry in the centre. They were gushing in their respective homages to the 32-year-old, Mariner calling Roberto Martinez's decision to loan him from Manchester City a "masterstroke" and reporting he is playing as well as he has done for a long time. Marcotti was dazzled with the power deployed in Barry's goal and thinks the midfielder patrols the middle of the park with "experience, nous and calm."

Left midfield: Four goals for Sunderland at Fulham; three of them bagged by Adam Johnson, who also happened to tee up the other (after a talking-to from John O'Shea). Little wonder, then, that the hat trick hero earns a hat trick of nominations from our panel. Both Mariner and Marcotti agree that Johnson stunned Fulham, scoring a superb free kick and finishing a breakaway move clinically, before registering his treble from the penalty spot. When he's hot, boy, is he hot.

Manchester City's Alvaro Negredo scores his side's second goal past Newcastle United's Tim Krul
Alvaro Negredo has so far enjoyed a fine debut season in England.

Centre-forward: "Whether playing in a front two or as the lone striker it does not matter to him, he works both sides of the ball and is always a massive goal threat. The best true No. 9 in the Premier League." Who is Mariner talking about? Alvaro Negredo, of course. The Spaniard has scored six times in Sergio Aguero's absence and has formed an equally potent partnership with Edin Dzeko. He sealed the game for City at Newcastle and, as Nicol notes, was his usual self throughout, allying quality to an immense work rate.

Centre-forward: Can Luis Suarez do it on a wet January afternoon in Stoke? Of course he can. The Uruguayan is a man made up almost entirely of goals at present, adding another two at the Britannia Stadium -- one opportunistic, the other sublime. A constant menace to an unusually benevolent Stoke backline, Suarez showed great desire to capitalise on a mix-up to grab his first before a delightful finish from Daniel Sturridge's layoff secured a brace. Mariner was enraptured, as was Marcotti, who said the striker is "en fuego," which I'm led to believe translates as "on fire" in Spanish. Claro? Precioso.

Manager: *DISAGREEMENT KLAXON* I've a feeling I might be struck off the Christmas card list of both Nicol and Marcotti after this, but I simply can't find it within myself to agree with their selection of David Moyes in our Manager of the Weekend slot. Even though Nicol thinks Moyes will have slept well since, and Marcotti believes a good second-half showing can help him build some momentum, I'm in agreement with Mariner's selection of Sam Allardyce. As Mariner remarks, with his team at rock bottom having shipped 11 goals in two defeats and facing a Cardiff side enthused by the arrival of a new manager, Big Sam was under intense pressure. But if he needed a performance to show he still commands the respect of West Ham's players, this was it. A huge win and a humongous three points.

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