Leicester record breaker Jamie Vardy spearheads 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.
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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: Our choice is all about a moment. Gab Marcotti goes for Arsenal's Petr Cech thanks to his reaction save from Martin Olsson's cross that deflected off Gabriel in the 1-1 draw with Norwich, his reasoning being that "big men aren't supposed to move that quickly". But he's outvoted two to one, with Steve Nicol and Paul Mariner opting for Hugo Lloris and that save from Eden Hazard in the goalless draw between Spurs and Chelsea. "It was one of the saves of the season," says Mariner. "He only had one save to make, but what a save," adds Nicol.
Right-Back: Another Mariner/Nicol combination outdoes Marcotti, with Tottenham's Kyle Walker getting the nod over Norwich's Andre Wisdom. Mariner says the England man "did not mind if it was Willian, Pedro or Oscar -- he did an excellent job at the back," while Nicol lauds Walker's ability to get up in support of his attacking players in the blink of an eye.
Centre-Back: Thankfully, there is a full house here: Manchester City's Nicolas Otamendi. The Argentinian stood for no nonsense in Manchester City's 3-1 win over Southampton. "Otamendi kept it together for City," says Gab, while both Nicol and Mariner agree.
Centre-Back: Poor old Gab -- the other two have ganged up on him again. This time his choice of Jan Vertonghen is ousted in favour of a man who was operating at the other end of the pitch at White Hart Lane, Chelsea's Kurt Zouma. The Frenchman had a fine game and looked "commanding in the air while keeping it simple with his passing," according to Mariner. Nicol added that Zouma had Harry Kane is his pocket all afternoon long.
Left-Back: Fear not, Gab, we'll balance it out at left-back, where we have three contenders. Aleksandar Kolarov gets the nod this week. A gorgeously finished goal in a 3-1 win over Southampton was just reward for another fine afternoon's harrying up and down the left flank, working in tandem with Raheem Sterling. Marcotti's choice outguns Leicester's Christian Fuchs, put forward by Mariner, and Nicol's selection of Sunderland man Patrick van Aanholt.
Centre-Midfield: At the base of midfield, a mean pairing -- Scotland's James McArthur and England's Fabian Delph. The former excelled in Palace's 5-1 thumping of Newcastle, scoring twice and "bossing the midfield," according to Marcotti. Mariner says McArthur had a "power game" while Nicol says the Palace man was "sparkling". The latter two pundits have also gone for City star Delph.
Forward: Steve McClaren's woeful Newcastle will have nightmares about their 5-1 hammering at Selhurst. Subdued by Sunderland in Palace's 1-0 defeat on Monday, Yannick Bolasie tormented the Toon on Saturday. Two goals, a portfolio of trickery and an abundance of cutting edge showed exactly what he's capable of when on-song. Mariner thinks Bolasie was "unstoppable" and Nicol says the Palace speedster was "on fire".
Forward: Another full house, this time for Bournemouth's Junior Stanislas. He got Eddie Howe's men a precious point in a thrilling 3-3 draw against Everton, his two goals crucial at the Vitality Stadium. Mariner hailed Stanislas' "incredible impact," and Marcotti thinks the Bournemouth man will never have to buy a drink in town again.
Forward: Everton's Ross Barkley is in fine form. Though he couldn't quite get Everton over the line in the six-goal thriller at Bournemouth, he provided one for Ramiro Funes Mori before bagging what he thought was the winner in the 96th minute. Marcotti's verdict is thus: "He forced his way through Bournemouth's midfield for much of the game, dishing out an assist and scoring a goal. The late comeback was not his fault." Mariner adds: "He had energy, an assist and a goal. He was quality."
Striker: Of course it is Jamie Vardy. Who else? The Leicester striker rewrote the record books in Saturday's 1-1 draw with Manchester United. Scoring in 11 Premier League games in a row and beating Ruud van Nistelrooy's record in the process is a mammoth effort for a player who was barely on the radar 18 months ago. His finish underlined his new clinical edge. Mariner's right when he says the 28-year-old "has to be in TOTW" and Nicol simply says "Vardy's in because he's a record-breaker." Marcotti adds that Vardy is now just one short of equalling the all-time English record of 12 straight games set by Jimmy Dunne in the 1930s.
Manager: Gab is outvoted again. His choice of Sam Allardyce is an extremely valid one, given Sunderland have now lifted themselves out of the relegation zone under his watch, but Big Sam is usurped by Eddie Howe. The Bournemouth boss is selected by Mariner and Nicol, who were both dazzled by the never-say-die attitude of his players against Everton. "The team spirit must be amazing under him," says Mariner. "He's not afraid to make changes -- personnel or tactical -- to get his boys to snatch a point when all looked lost."