- Premier League
Mata proves his point as Lloris comes to Spurs' rescue
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
Goalkeeper: Not a vintage weekend for goalkeeping, with only three of the 18 in action keeping clean sheets. One of those who remained unbeaten was Hull's Alan McGregor, earning him a nomination from Steve Nicol, but both Gabriele Marcotti and Paul Mariner plumped for a man who did let a goal in. Few could blame Hugo Lloris for John Terry's equaliser in the 1-1 draw at White Hart Lane, and his excellent performance in the rest of the game earns him a spot, with Mariner commenting that the Frenchman was the reason Chelsea left with only a point.
Right-back: Our panel produced an array of suggestions for the right-back slot. Nicol was impressed with Russell Martin's "cool, calm, collected performance" for Norwich in their 1-0 win at Stoke, Marcotti enjoyed Kyle Walker's "speed and industry down the right flank" for Spurs against the myriad attacking options of Chelsea, while Nicol thought Nathaniel Clyne did well for Southampton. Faced with a three-way tie, I went for the unheralded Martin, a steady presence for Norwich and the sort of unspectacular and reliable type they need.
Left-back: More varied opinions for the other full-back slot, with another three different suggestions from our panel. Three of the most impressive young left-backs in the league were nominated, with the 22-year-old Antonio 'Tony Moon' Luna the choice for Marcotti, 18-year-old Luke Shaw receiving praise from Mariner while 20-year-old Ben Davies got the nod from Nicol. Again, with consensus absent, it falls to your humble correspondent to choose, and I sided with Nicol, the always-impressive Davies being Swansea's stand-out performer in the 2-1 defeat to Arsenal, even bagging a goal.
Centre-back: Again, our panel was divided, with six different suggestions for the heart of the defence. Goal-scoring defenders seem to be the order of the day, with Steven Caulker and John Terry both nominated, and it's the former that takes the first of our centre-back berths. Caulker gave Cardiff the lead in their 2-1 win against Fulham and put in a very assured showing alongside another promising English defender, Ben Turner.
Centre-back: To beat the Premier League champions away requires a pretty special defensive performance, so it's only right that one of West Brom's centre-backs features in our team. While, as Mariner said, Gareth McAuley marshalled the Baggies' back-line well in the 2-1 win over Manchester United, his partner Jonas Olsson was superb, making ten clearances and providing the "rock", in the words of Nicol, on which West Brom based their unlikely victory.
Central midfield: The best central midfields have a good mixture of steel and creativity, and ours is no exception. Providing the latter is Cardiff's Gary Medel, who has started life in the Premier League superbly (which isn't particularly surprising) since his summer move from Sevilla, while at the same time avoiding the wrath of the officials (which is rather surprising). The 'Pitbull' is yet to be booked in six games for Cardiff, but Marcotti nevertheless praised the way he "growled and terrified Fulham".
Central midfield: Providing a little more craft next to Medel will be Mousa Dembele. There's plenty of competition at the heart of the Spurs team this season, but if Dembele plays as well as he did against Chelsea, he'll be in a good position to keep his place in Andre Villas-Boas' side. The Belgian ran the show on Saturday, and Marcotti pointed out that "few players use size and technique as effectively as he does in midfield", while Nicol said he "stood out among all the big names on show". Aaron Ramsey will count himself unlucky to miss out, but we can't pick the Welshman every week.
Attacking midfield: While Olsson provided the base for West Brom in their success at Old Trafford, the man who built on that - and rather spectacularly too - was, of course, Morgan Amalfitano. The Frenchman scored a superb opener, nutmegging and befuddling Rio Ferdinand before expertly waiting for David De Gea to commit himself and flicking the ball over the United goalkeeper. "And to think some believe his brother is better," Marcotti noted.
Attacking midfield: Another man who has shown some promising early signs is Serge Gnabry, the young German wideman benefiting from one of Arsenal's customary spates of injuries to start his second league game on the spin against Swansea. Gnabry was hugely impressive, opening his Arsenal account with an assuredness beyond his 18 years, and Mariner was impressed with how he helped Bacary Sagna out defensively, while Nicol praised the youngster's composure.
Attacking midfield: The final slot goes to a man with a point to prove. Not many people are sure why Jose Mourinho isn't building his Chelsea team around Juan Mata, never mind why he isn't even starting. Mata was on the bench for the trip to White Hart Lane, but despite only playing a half he makes our team for the way he transformed the game, after Mourinho introduced him in place of John Obi Mikel. Mata provided a poise that was missing from their first half showing, creating a couple of chances - including Terry's equaliser - and playing more passes in 45 minutes than Frank Lampard and Ramires did in 90.
Striker: The focal point of our side is a man who many expected, with all due respect to Southampton, to be playing for a rather more illustrious side this season. However, it's a sign of the Saints' ambition that they signed Pablo Daniel Osvaldo in the summer, and after a frustrating first few games, the centre-forward broke his English duck with a fine strike in the 2-0 win against Crystal Palace and was "at his pest-like best", according to Marcotti.
Manager: There could only be one choice, and was the only selection our panel all agreed on. The start of this season has occasionally been a little shaky for Steve Clarke's West Brom, but one imagines that a victory against Manchester United will help set them on the right road. "Three points at Old Trafford. And could have scored four. Need we say more?" was Marcotti's verdict. Quite so, Gab. Quite so.
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