Premier League Team of the Week: Ross Barkley, Dimitar Berbatov Star
Arsenal moved five points clear atop the Premier League table after an exciting weekend of action. But there's no room for any Gunners in this edition of the B/R Premier League Team of the Week.
There is a spot, however, for one impressive young Everton midfielder who gave Arsenal more than they could handle for much of Sunday's match at the Emirates Stadium. Elsewhere, a Bulgarian striker put his best foot forward and a German attacker was brilliant in defeat for Chelsea.
Keep reading for the full team.
Note: Midweek games did not factor into these selections.
Goalkeeper: John Ruddy, Norwich City
Defenders: Mathieu Debuchy, Newcastle United; Michael Turner, Norwich City; Sebastien Bassong, Norwich City; Luke Shaw, Southampton
Midfielders: Cheick Tiote, Newcastle United; Jack Cork, Southampton; Ross Barkley, Everton; Stephen Ireland, Stoke City; Andre Schurrle, Chelsea
Striker: Dimitar Berbatov, Fulham
Following a 5-1 midweek loss at Liverpool, Norwich City needed both an effective defensive performance and a positive result at West Brom on Saturday.
The Canaries produced both, winning 2-0 at The Hawthorns as goalkeeper John Ruddy turned in a sterling display.
Ruddy made 12 saves, per ESPN FC, keeping West Bromwich Albion off the scoresheet despite the fact that the hosts dominated play.
Ruddy, of course, had help.
West Brom held 64 percent possession and completed 83 percent of their passes against Norwich. Crucially, though, that percentage dropped to 76 (141 out of 186) in the offensive third.
Even more telling is this graphic from Four Four Two's Stats Zone, which shows how ineffective West Brom were in the all-important space in the middle, in and around the box.
(Graphic via Four Four Two's Stats Zone)
That was in part due to center-backs Michael Turner and Sebastien Bassong, who kept Norwich in the match with a strong display. For their efforts, they make our team in tandem.
Yohan Cabaye scored the goal as Newcastle won 1-0 at Manchester United for their first victory at Old Trafford since 1972, but the Magpies' outstanding performer might have been full-back Mathieu Debuchy.
The Frenchman has been in good form all season, and he turned in another fine showing Saturday, covering acres of space along the touchline for the visitors. He recorded four interceptions and four clearances while contributing to the attack with two shots on target (stats via WhoScored).
On the other side, we've opted for Southampton's Luke Shaw, who completed 84 percent of his passes and played three key passes and eight crosses for the Saints in a 1-1 draw at home to Manchester City (stats via WhoScored).
The Premier League abounded with excellent midfield play this weekend.
In a crowded field, we've chosen Newcastle United's Cheick Tiote and Southampton's Jack Cork for their efforts in slowing down the Manchester giants.
Ahead of Tiote and Cork, we've selected Everton's Ross Barkley, who at times—especially in the first half—made Arsenal's fearsome midfield look silly.
Still just 20, Barkley holds immense promise for both Everton and England, as his manager, Roberto Martinez, knows well.
"I've never seen an English player with that mentality," said Martinez, via The Guardian's Daniel Taylor. "We need to give him time but he has absolutely everything."
Joining Barkley in the attacking midfield are Chelsea's Andre Schurrle—who scored two well-taken goals and came close to a third, hitting the bar—and Stoke City's Stephen Ireland. The latter came on as an early substitute for Stoke against Chelsea following an injury to Charlie Adam, and his positioning, running and finishing were integral to the Potters' surprising 3-2 win.
Ireland's strong play was rewarded with goal in the second half, a brilliant finish off the far post. Later, he played a final pass to Oussama Assaidi for the winner, although in fairness, Assaidi did it all with a special finish.
With apologies to Liverpool's Luis Suarez, who just can't seem to stop scoring, there was only one choice for this spot this week.
As we all know, there's a good Dimitar Berbatov and there's a bad Dimitar Berbatov. On Sunday, when Fulham won 2-0 at home to Aston Villa, we witnessed only the good.
The Bulgarian's talents and insouciant manner were on display in equal portions as Berbatov came close with an early powerful header, then played the critical pass—with an outside-of-the-boot flick—in the move that saw Fulham win a penalty.
On the ensuing penalty, Berbatov dispatched his spot-kick with a nonchalance that bespoke his inexhaustible confidence, as well as his unquestioned—yet inconsistent—quality.