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May 11, 2014

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.

ESPN FC's Team of the Weekend.
ESPN FC Team of the

Goalkeeper: It was always going to be a bit of a frantic Team of the Weekend given that all 20 topflight teams were in action on the final day, and as such, we have a three-way split in terms of our stopper. Gab Marcotti opts for Thomas Sorensen, paying tribute to the veteran's career in what may be his final game in the Premier League. Paul Mariner goes for Joe Hart, who was calm and assured in what was an electric atmosphere at the Etihad, and Steve Nicol plumps for Cardiff's David Marshall, who was his usual, excellent self as the Bluebirds were overrun again. But I'm a sucker for sentiment, so I'm handing the jersey to the man Marcotti calls a "model professional."

Right-back: The first of a glut of Manchester City players in our final XI, it's Pablo Zabaleta, but only if he promises not to sing any more Status Quo hits on live television. The Argentine has been Mr. Consistency this season, a rock in the heart of Manuel Pellegrini's defence and a constant thorn at the other end of the field. As Mariner summarises neatly, "Down as a right-back, he played right-wing for most of the game -- a superb attacking player." The 29-year-old also caught the eye of Nicol.

Centre-back: We couldn't leave out the man who hoisted the Premier League trophy, could we? Captain fantastic Vincent Kompany is a unanimous choice among our three-man panel, and while the Belgian may not have hit the heights of the 2011-12 season, he is still better than most of the top flight's centre halves even operating at 90 percent. As Marcotti says, "Fitting that he should score. Not as dominant as last year, but held it together when the going got tough." Mariner paid tribute to his "character and leadership" and the calming effect his goal had on City and their fans. Nicol makes it a full house.

Daniel Agger acrobatically brings Liverpool back on terms with Newcastle.
Daniel Agger acrobatically brings Liverpool back on terms with Newcastle.

Centre-back: Another free-for-all in defence in terms of Kompany's partner, with Martin Demichelis put forward by Nicol and Sylvain Distin by Mariner, who says of the Everton man, "Another calm professional game from a very consistent defender." But I agree with Marcotti and his choice of Daniel Agger. We don't deal in ifs or buts, though Liverpool may ponder if those games against Chelsea and Crystal Palace might have turned out differently had a man with a good chunk of Premier League experience behind him been present. As Marcotti explains, he not only scored against Newcastle but also "reminds some that maybe Liverpool's centre-backs deserve a bit more respect."

Left-back: Luke Shaw is one of the stars of this year's TOTW, so it is no surprise that he gets a nod at left-back. But his champion Mariner was outvoted by his compadres. That means Aleksandar Kolarov slots in on the left-hand side. He might job share with Gael Clichy, but at least that keeps both players fresh. Kolarov impressed Nicol with his runs down the flank, and Marcotti just wishes the Serbian had a little more gas in the tank. He may not be as nimble as Clichy, but his left foot certainly is.

Centre-midfield: He may have declared himself "absolutely devastated" to have missed out on his first Premier League title, but hopefully one slip won't overshadow what a glorious season Steven Gerrard has had. Gerrard provided another two assists as Liverpool ended the season on a winning note, and he's a unanimous choice of our panel. All three pundits make mention of his two free-kick deliveries that helped to swing the match in Liverpool's favour, and his season totals -- 13 goals and 13 assists -- are impressive given his deep-lying role.

Carl Jenkinson celebrates with goal scorer Aaron Ramsey after Arsenal took the lead at Norwich.
Carl Jenkinson celebrates with goal scorer Aaron Ramsey after Arsenal took the lead at Norwich.

Centre-midfield: Most of the focus on the final day may have been on Anfield and the Etihad, but attention was momentarily diverted elsewhere thanks to a stroke of genius from Aaron Ramsey. His volley at Norwich was pure artistry. Had the Welshman been fit all season, who knows where the Gunners may have finished, a theme further developed by our panel. Marcotti explains: "Ends his season with a wonder strike to remind everyone of what might have been if he hadn't had to miss a big chunk of the season." Mariner concurs while Nicol thinks Ramsey is now the first name on Arsenal's team sheet.

Centre-midfield: There was a time when Samir Nasri was the first name on Arsene Wenger's team sheet. He probably isn't quite at that stage for Manuel Pellegrini just yet, but there's no doubting his importance to the Manchester City machine. City hadn't quite reached QPR levels of desperation by the time Nasri fired in a low shot from range against West Ham, but they were certainly getting twitchy. Nicol was full of admiration for the Frenchman's performance and said his goal laid the platform for a comfortable afternoon. Marcotti also saluted his goal and how intently Nasri harassed West Ham the rest of the afternoon. Can France really afford to overlook him?

Midfield: Our final midfield berth is a virtual pick 'n' mix, such are the names being bandied about. It would be nice to take a bit from each of Raheem Sterling, James McCarthy, Paulinho, Craig Bellamy and Juan Mata, but in the end we'll have to settle for David Silva. How could we do anything else when Mariner describes him thus: "The maestro, he can open a tin of beans with that left foot." The Spaniard was at his prompting, probing best against West Ham, and he has a unique ability to make a confined space seem like an infinite one. That skill is not to be underestimated.

David Stockdale is powerless to prevent Dwight Gayle from giving Palace the lead at Fulham.
David Stockdale is powerless to prevent Dwight Gayle from giving Palace the lead at Fulham.

Striker: It's not been a bad week all in all for Dwight Gayle. Before Monday night's double against Liverpool, he hadn't found the net since Boxing Day. But four goals in six days has set him up perfectly for next season. His double at Fulham showcased his ability to score the spectacular -- a free-kick from outside the box -- and the scrappy -- a toe poke from inside the area. That seems to be the basis on which Mariner has selected him: "Two goals for Palace, a sign of things to come for the young man."

Striker: Luis Suarez gets a mention in dispatches by Nicol, largely for the goal that wasn't, but the final place up front is locked down by Wilfried Bony. The Ivorian has had a fine end to the season, one that Mariner thinks will pique the interest of other clubs. Five goals in four games is no mean feat, and it was no surprise he got the better of Sunderland, given that their cup final had been and gone a few days previously. He laid on a goal for Marvin Emnes in the first half before finishing powerfully in the second. Marcotti is also a fan: "Scores again to lift his season's tally to 18. If only he and Michu had been fit at the same time and they'd struck up a real partnership."

Manager: They began with an almighty disagreement, but our panel ends the season with an important accord by voting Manuel Pellegrini as our gaffer. The Chilean has been on an even keel all season as plenty around him lost their heads. It is this quality that has impressed both Mariner and Nicol, that and the fact he obviously knows a thing or two about football. As Marcotti sums it up so neatly, I'll let him have the final word in our final TOTW of the season: "Sure, Pellegrini had untold riches at his disposal. But just because someone opens a door for you, you still need to walk through it. And just as important, City played very good football this year. To some of us, that matters too."

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