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 #ESPNFCTOTW.
Goalkeeper: It’s Jack Butland we turn to as our No. 1 spot this week after his heroics in Stoke’s 1-0 win over Arsenal. It’s a unanimous decision among our panel, who have united behind the keeper after he almost single-handedly ensured Stoke were able to fend off Arsenal’s attempted second-half comeback at the bet365 Stadium on Saturday. Steve Nicol hailed him as “safe and secure,” with Gab Marcotti noting how he “shut the door on Arsenal and helped preserve the 1-0 win.”
Right-back: Lining up on the right of our defence is Watford’s Kiko Femenia after his role in the Hornets’ impressive 2-0 victory at Bournemouth. Making his Watford debut after arriving at Vicarage Road in the summer, Kiko not only managed to help his side to a clean sheet, but going forward, as Marcotti points out, “he also provided width and helped stretch Bournemouth.”
Centre-back: Harry Maguire couldn’t really have had two more contrasting games since arriving at Leicester — from conceding four goals in the defeat at Arsenal to keeping a clean sheet and netting his first goal for the club in the 2-0 win over Brighton. It’s the latter display that has led to his inclusion here — and to Paul Mariner raving: “What a great buy from Hull he was.” Nicol adds: “You know exactly what you’re getting with him.”
Centre-back: Maguire is not the only goal-scoring defender to slot into our XI this week, with Eric Bailly also showing strikers around the country how it’s done. He makes the cut after helping to keep a second consecutive clean sheet for Manchester United in a 4-0 win at Swansea, and Marcotti believes he has developed into Jose Mourinho’s “defensive rock that pops up with a goal at the other end, too.”
Left-back: And to complete our back four we have yet another defender who found the back of the net this week in Marcos Alonso. The Spaniard not only scored a stunning free kick against Tottenham but also went on to net Chelsea’s late winner at Wembley to secure a much-needed three points for his side. Nicol was “surprised at how well he always does,” with Marcotti summing up neatly: “Still, some criticise. And still, he silences them.”
Midfield: After struggling at times to live up to his then world-record £89.3 million price tag last season, Paul Pogba has hit the ground running this term. The midfielder now has two goals to his name after scoring again at Swansea, while he also contributed an assist and was involved in Manchester United’s opener too. There’s no doubters among our panel, with Mariner sure he “looks a better player now with better players around him in a system that seems to suit him,” while Marcotti was left purring over his “highlight-reel moments in the second half.”
Midfield: It was 45 years in waiting to see a top flight goal at home for Huddersfield fans, but Aaron Mooy delivered it in style to secure a win over Newcastle and send his side second in the Premier League table. Nicol, for one, is a fan of his “devilishness in defence and quality in attack,” and Marcotti was left impressed by his ability to “ping the ball around midfield with accuracy and purpose while pressing the life out of opponents off it.”
Forward: Riyad Mahrez was probably hoping he’d be playing his football away from Leicester by this point, but that’s not to say he isn’t giving anything other than 100 percent at the King Power — if his performance in the 2-0 victory over Brighton is anything to go by. As Marcotti notes: “He served up a peach of an assist in Leicester’s win,” while he also had a part to play in their other goal. And most importantly for Foxes fans, “He looks happy playing again,” according to Mariner.
Forward: Another Manchester United player’s inclusion our panel have no qualms about is Henrikh Mkhitaryan. He may have been fairly quiet for the opening 80 minutes at Swansea, but the final 10 was a different story, registering two assists (to take his tally to four in two games) to help put Swansea to the sword. “This form will take United a long way,” Mariner gushes, while as Marcotti said: “This system allows him to chill out, wait for the ball and then invent. And few do it as well as he does.”
Forward: “Sadio Mane always looked capable of doing something for Liverpool against Crystal Palace,” Nicol says, and how thankful the Reds will be for that. Just when you thought Palace might be able to hold out for a draw, up popped Mane with a crucial goal to secure his side’s first league win of the season. Mariner notes how he was “a constant threat for Liverpool,” which in the absence of Philippe Coutinho was very much needed.
John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images
Striker: If anyone needed a reminder of Javier Hernandez’s knack for scoring goals from inside the six-yard box, they won’t be forgetting any time soon after his brace for West Ham at Southampton. His efforts in the Hammers’ 3-2 defeat at St Mary’s may have been in vain, but his performance was not lost on our panel who all plumped for him. “He can truly sniff a goal from out of nowhere,” Nicol says, with Mariner describing him as “the ultimate poacher.”
Manager: Our panel have found plenty to agree on this week, with all three once again settled on who should lead our team. Antonio Conte gets the nod after turning Chelsea’s fortunes around with that victory over London rivals Tottenham at Wembley. “Under pressure after the opening day defeat to Burnley, with enemies [real or imagined] all around him, he nabs a massive away win,” says Marcotti, with Nicol left wondering how “anybody could really have questioned him after last week.”