Premier League Team of the Weekend, Oct. 18-19
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" (ESPN2, 5:30 p.m. ET) for further reaction.
Goalkeeper: Our choice is one of two shot-stoppers to feature in a five-goal thriller at the Etihad on Saturday lunchtime. Both were plenty busy, both saved a penalty, but one conceded four goals to the other's one. And, much as we'd love to cheer Hugo Lloris up after conceding 15 goals in three matches with Spurs, Manchester City's Joe Hart gets the nod. As Steve Nicol points out, the England No. 1 made two superb saves from Ryan Mason and Christian Eriksen when the game was goalless, then repelled Roberto Soldado's penalty with the scores tied at 1-1, which Paul Mariner thought was key at that stage in the match.
Right-back: "It is time Nathaniel Clyne played for England," Steve Nicol says of Southampton's hugely talented defender. If he carries on putting in shifts akin to the one against Sunderland, it'll only be a matter of time before he is a regular starter for his country. This 90 minutes was a perfect vignette of Clyne's abilities as right-back. Diligent in his defensive duties, the former Palace man retains an edge of menace going forward and was one of the chief protagonists in an 8-0 whipping of Gus Poyet's beleaguered troops.
Centre-back: As ever, it didn't take long for discord to take root in our back line, but let's start first with the one centre-back that our panel (almost) agrees on -- Michael Dawson. Back in the familiar territory of north London, the Hull defender must have taken a particular pride in this dogged performance against Arsenal, especially given his Tottenham past. He was everywhere as Arsenal laid siege to Hull's net at either end of a compelling clash, catching the eye of Paul Mariner as well as Steve Nicol, who thinks Hull might not have conceded late on had he not been forced off the pitch on 81 minutes with an ankle knock that boss Steve Bruce later described as having swollen up to "the size of a basketball."
Centre-back: We have four men competing for one remaining centre-back berth, so let's go through them in order. It's hard to argue with Shaka Hislop (gamely standing in for Gab Marcotti this week), who has put forward Phil Jagielka. The defender grabbed another goal -- his third of the season for club and country -- as Everton grabbed a first win of the season. He also suggests Curtis Davies, but given Dawson is already in, we're counting his Hull colleague out. Swansea's Ashley Williams is suggested by Steve Nicol, but he was on the losing side, so it comes down to a straight fight between "Jags" and Newcastle skipper Fabricio Coloccini, who Paul Mariner has selected for his marshalling of a previous wonky Toon defence. Sorry "Colo," but I'm going for Jagielka.
Left-back: A shoo-in at left back, Leighton Baines ensures half of our back four is blue. Shaka Hislop led the praise for the defender, while Steve Nicol claimed that this all-action performance was "the Everton version, not the England version." Baines was at his devastating best on the flanks, supplying an inch-perfect cross with his underused right foot for Phil Jagielka to power home. He was back in familiar surroundings on the left to tee up fellow full-back Seamus Coleman in the second half with an equally immaculate centre. A virtuoso display.
Left midfield: Four assists and a goal. Such was the quality of Dusan Tadic's performance that he'd be captain of this mob if we handed out an armband. The Serbian became only the sixth player in the Premier League era to claim four assists in one match behind Dennis Bergkamp, Jose Antonio Reyes, Cesc Fabregas, Emmanuel Adebayor and Santi Cazorla. All four of Tadic's assists showcased his ability to pick the right pass and weight it perfectly -- just ask Jack Cork, Graziano Pelle, Victor Wanyama and Saido Mane -- and his goal was tidy too, firing the ball back past the hapless Vito Mannone after a pathetic clearance from the Italian. As Steve Nicol says: "Tadic could be the signing of the season."
Centre midfield: Speaking of decent signings, I'll wager Steve Bruce is pretty cocky about his decision to prise Mohamed Diame from West Ham. The 27-year-old has hit the ground running at Hull, scoring four goals in five matches since leaving London. He was at it again on Saturday, even if his delicate dink over Wojciech Szczesny was preceded by what looked like a blatant foul on Mathieu Flamini. Aside from that dash of controversy, Diame had a fine game, Steve Nicol calling him a "powerhouse" in the middle, a quality that is often lacking in Arsenal's midfield. Shake Hislop agrees.
Centre midfield: Another game, another pivotal involvement for Cesc Fabregas. Our panel was united in praise for the Spain midfielder, who continues to ooze class back in the Premier League. People have been purring over his ability to create goals thus far, but he'll surely be delighted to get off the mark in the top flight for his new club. What a beauty it was too -- one of the goals of the season so far, according to Paul Mariner -- as he swapped passes with Oscar and Eden Hazard before finishing coolly. Though Mariner thinks Fabregas was lucky to still be on the field after his dust-up with Fraizer Campbell, he thought the midfielder ran the show, and Steve Nicol lauded his ability to break up play and "drive forward."
Right midfield: Speaking of players who have settled well into life in England after a big-money move from Spain, allow me to anoint Alexis Sanchez our right midfielder this week. The Chilean beats Shaka Hislop's choice of Stewart Downing to the post after a goal and an assist in Arsenal's 2-2 draw with Hull. The 25-year-old's opener for the Gunners was a belter, as he danced round Curtis Davies before arrowing a shot into the far corner from an angle. And just when that familiar air of desperation was thick above the Emirates, he found a break and a perfect pass to allow Danny Welbeck to salvage a late point. Paul Mariner and Steve Nicol were distinctly impressed.
Striker: Graziano Pelle must think this Premier League lark is easy. The big Italian made it six goals in eight games to date with a fine brace against Sunderland -- the latest team to come a cropper on the south coast. The 29-year-old bullied his opponents into submission with another dynamic showing, grabbing his first after polishing off a cute Steven Davis cross. He fired a fine shot back across Mannone for his second and perhaps his only regret of the day will be that he didn't score the goal of the game -- that pleasure was reserved for Sunderland defender Santiago Vergini. What a volley.
Striker: First, the bad -- Sergio Aguero missed a penalty. And the rebound. But in just about everything else he did, the Argentine was flawless. Not only did his four-goal haul see him become Manchester City's all-time leading goal-scorer in the Premier League, he also took his goals-per-minute rate in the top flight to 108 -- the best in the competition's history. Two clinical finishes bookmarked two successful spot kicks, as he pulled level with Diego Costa on nine for the campaign. Paul Mariner and Shaka Hislop purred over the striker while Steve Nicol asked: "Movement, touch, pace, vision and goals -- did I miss anything out?" Nope, think you covered all bases there, Steve.
Manager: Not a difficult one this week so step forward Ronald Koeman. As Steve Nicol remarks: "8-0 speaks for itself." What Koeman has managed to achieve already at Southampton is nothing short of incredible. Many thought his new job was a poisoned chalice after a glut of players were sold over the summer but he's bought astutely and managed to foster a spirit that some claim is even better than his predecessor managed. The football is pretty and, as Sunderland found out to their cost, potent to boot. The final word this week goes to Paul Mariner, who sums it up neatly: "It's not every week you beat a team 8-0, but to beat a team 8-0 in the Premier League is almost unheard of. Ronald Koeman's team did it, and he's an easy choice."