It was slim pickings this time around, with few outstanding individual performances. In fact, there was literally no left-sided player who made any serious bid for inclusion. So the formation here is a 3-3-3-1 (which I’m sure Marcelo Bielsa has played at some point in his career).
The one player who may have been shortchanged thereby is right-back Danny Simpson, who started slowly and faded late, but in the middle was excellent holding off the left side of Huddersfield’s attack. I didn’t consider Antonio Valencia, because selection here rewards strong overall performances as opposed to isolated moments of brilliance I’m biased against Manchester United.
Goalkeeper: Lukas Fabianski (Swansea City) Both Fraser Forster and David De Gea were there when it counted, and Kaspar Schmeichel had his moments as well. In the end it was between Fabianski and Rob Elliot of Newcastle, both of whom were kept busy. Fabianski’s saves were on average a bit more difficult, while Elliot was more versatile, coming off his line to excellent effect a couple of times. To make your own decision, check out Xherdan Shaqiri’s goal. If you agree with me that Elliot should have got down to it quicker, go with Fabianski; if not, give the nod to Elliot.
Centre-Half: (Federico Fernandez, Swansea City) The first name on the teamsheet that didn’t start with ‘A’ and end with ‘guero’. Like David Luiz, and for much the same reasons, he’s at his best in the middle of a three. Took care of everything that came into his area, and I lost count of the number of times he headed away a potentially dangerous Spurs set-piece. He’s playing his best football in a Swans kits, and Paul Clement gets the credit.
Centre-Half (James Tarkowski, Burnley) One of the reasons Burnley have started strong is that Tarkowski has grown quickly into Michael Keane’s spot. He’s by no means the finished article, but this was just the sort of game he needed: OK in the first half, very good in the second, not once flustered.
Centre-Half (Phil Jones, Manchester United) It wasn’t pretty – it never is with Phil – and there was a five-minute span early in the second half where he seemed to lose the plot. But he finished the game very strongly, and although I’m biased against Manchester United, I couldn’t ignore him. Among others worth a mention: Laurent Koscielny had a quiet, decent game; David Luiz was in contention until the red card; Ashley Williams was in contention until the late giveaway.
Deep Midfielder (Mario Lemina, Southampton) Took a few games to find his feet, but the Saints’ record signing has arrived. He’s solidly built and has good technique. Was useful here in both defence and attack, showed a decent range of passing, and seemed visibly to adjust as the game went on. He played for Bielsa at Marseille and won a Coppa Italia with Juventus. Quality.
Deep Midfielder (Dale Stephens, Brighton & Hove Albion) Perhaps it was easier for him because the side sat back, but he tackled, blocked passing lanes, and most impressively, passed the ball nearly to perfection. Hit the post on a set-piece, too. Tired along with the rest of the team when Bournemouth took control, but definitely earned a place.
Deep Midfielder (Aaron Ramsey, Arsenal) Never really threatened to transform the game, but as Matt Stead noted in 16 Conclusions, was the best all-around performer in a scrappy contest. Elsewhere, Oriol Romeu was more in control than usual, and did the simple things well; Idrissa Gana was solid throughout.
Attacking Midfielde (Kevin De Bruyne, Manchester City) Didn’t do much in the second half, and in fact left in the 66th minute. But was so awe-inspiring in the first half that he can’t be left out. Even played some defence.
Attacking Midfielder (David Silva, Manchester City) Hung around 12 minutes more than De Bruyne. Was pretty good in the first half, pretty wonderful in the second.
Attacking Midfielder (Xherdan Shaqiri, Stoke City) One of my favorite hobby horses is that Xherdan Shaqiri Belongs In The Middle, Not On The Wing. In the second half he tried by sheer force of will to number-10 the team to success. It wasn’t a classic performance by any means, but in a week largely lacking in superlatives, and in a team desperate for midfield creativity, his effort deserves reward. The long-range strike puts him over the top. Just missing out was Juan Mata, who had a quietly excellent first half, boosting the attack with almost every pass. Also hit the post on a free-kick in the second, and if that one goes in, he makes the team, no matter whose shirt he wears.
Striker (Sergio Aguero, Manchester City) It wasn’t much of a hat trick, to be honest. A header off a set-piece, a tap-in when the keeper let the ball go by, a piece of outrageous skill followed by a chip and hope rather than a clinical finish. But his link-up play, the way he continually stretched the defence, and his overall Aguero-ness were irresistible. Let’s add a good word for Wayne Rooney, who nearly joined him as a second striker but couldn’t quite summon the quality.
Peter Goldstein (who watches the entirety of every Premier League game, every week)