Aguero, Austin, Vlaar and Matic star in team of the week
Chelsea, Southampton, Newcastle and Aston Villa provide the bulk of this week's selections
Chelsea's seemingly relentless march towards the Premier League title continued this weekend as the Blues came from behind to beat Liverpool and then watched as their expected title rivals also slipped up.
Arsenal's defeat to Swansea prompted Arsene Wenger to throw in the towel on his side's Premier League chances, while Man City's draw against QPR left them eight points behind the league leaders.
Man United did conjure an unconvincing win over Crystal Palace, but they are still 13 points shy of the Blues, whose main rivals continue to be Southampton.
Indeed, the presence of the Saints, West Ham and Swansea in the top five after 11 games of the season suggests that the dominance of the so-called big four might be coming to an end. And there are no players from the usual powerhouses of Arsenal, Liverpool and Man United in the team of the week.
So who were the stand-out performers this weekend? Here's our pick of the experts' picks.
Goalkeeper:Brad Guzan (Aston Villa)No doubt about who gets the gloves this week. Villa stopper Guzan is the unanimous choice after what ESPN calls a "towering performance" as he kept a clean sheet against West Ham at Upton Park to earn his side a draw that ended a run of six straight defeats for the Villans.
Defence:Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea), Daryl Janmaat, Fabricio Coloccini (both Newcastle), Ron Vlaar (Aston Villa)Just for a change there is a broad concensus over the make-up of the back four, even after a low-scoring round of games. First up is Chelsea defender Azpilicueta who "was solid defensively against Liverpool and provided a fine assist for Diego Costa’s winning goal" according to website Caughtoffside. Magpies pair Janmaat and Coloccini were the two highest scorers in fantasy Premier League. Janmaat is starting to look "like a real gem for the Magpies" says Winner Sports which notes that Newcastle's goals came from "two brilliant crosses" by the full-back.
The second of Janmaat's crosses was converted by Coloccini and he wins plaudits from Goal.com for keeping "Victor Anichebe’s physical presence under control" as Newcastle won their fifth match in a row. The final berth goes to Villa hero Vlaar. When he plays well so do Villa, says Bleacher Report. "Against West Ham he was brilliant, and what sets him apart is his fearless charging down of shots and loose balls."
Midfield:Nemanja Matic (Chelsea), Victor Wanyama (Southampton), Jefferson Montero (Swansea),Chelsea's enforcer Matic was at his best against Liverpool on Saturday and is fast becoming a team of the week regular. "It almost seems inconceivable to imagine a Chelsea midfield without him these days, such has been his impact since returning to the club," swoons ESPN. He is a "genuine topflight colossus" and makes Chelsea almost impossible to break down.
Alongside Matic is Wanyama whose performance in the Southampton engine-room is summarised by Bleacher Report in one word: "Dominant". It adds: "The Kenyan controlled the midfield with ease and was even spotted jinking past challenges on the wing of all places. His pass to Shane Long to ice the game 2-0 was a beauty." The final berth in a three man midfield goes to Montero of Swansea. "It's been a long time since I've seen a natural winger take a makeshift full-back apart in the Premier League quite like Jefferson Montero did against Calum Chambers," says Garth Crooks of the BBC. "The Ecuadorian was relentless in his ability to expose the defender while Arsene Wenger sat and watched."
Attack:Sergio Aguero (Man City), Charlie Austin (QPR), Shane Long (Southampton)Again the three man forward line picks itself, with Ayoze Perez of Newcastle perhaps unlucky to miss out. Aguero scored twice against QPR to salvage a point for the defending champions. ESPN says it is "running out of superlatives" for the Argentine, before describing his two goals as "Bergkamp-esque". Austin found the net three times against City, but only one of the QPR man's strikes counted. The Guardian makes him its man of the match, and notes that he was "a threat throughout" the game, prompting talk of an England call-up.
The final berth in this week's team goes to Southampton substitute striker Long who scored both goals against Leicester and proved he was the complete "game changer", according to Bleacher Report. "Long came on in the second half and played the part of hero... bagging two goals to seal three points."