My Premier League team of the year
As the Sky Sports website has produced a feature with various pundits reflecting their top tier teams of the year, I thought it was be about time for me to do the same. However, alternatively to the official Premier League team of the year, I am going for an alternative team of the year with the unsung heroes of the top tier receiving some recognition.
Just to give a little context to my alternative team of the year, the PFA nominated and voted for official team of the year was as follows: Van Der Sar // Sagna-Cole-Vidic-Kompany // Nani-Nasri-Wilshere-Bale // Tevez-Berbatov.
I actually have a great number of issues with this team; as usual, the nominated players are thoroughly dominated by the high profile and fashionable clubs, regardless of there being better performers in various areas. Further to this, we should be aware that because of the timing of the vote for this team, only the first half of the season is taken into account, and for that reason those players who have been vital to teams escaping relegation or moving up the table (feats as important as getting into the European places or winning the title) are not rewarded for their efforts. My alternative team of the year seeks to right these wrongs and reward the performances of players who shone past Christmas and who made this Premier League season such an exciting spectacle.
In goal I have chosen Ben Foster as my alternative to Edwin Van Der Sar. Whilst Van Der Sar has had the sort of season that completely belies his age and the fact that this is his final season, Foster has been as impressive and as consistent as anyone even if unable to save his side from relegation. Other honourable mentions should go to Ali Al-Habsi and particularly Paul Robinson, who has left a great hole in the England squad following his international retirement. Foster produced a string of fantastic performances, especially in the second half of the season, but the absence of Scott Dann hurt Birmingham more than Foster could help.
At right back I have selected a man who has this season gone from being a Championship right back with Q.P.R, to forcing his way into the senior England set up and having a major effect on the upturn in fortunes for Aston Villa in the second half of the season. Kyle Walker has shown himself to be living up to some of the potential that was shown when both he and Kyle Naughton were rampaging from full back for Sheffield United. Walker is expected to feature a great deal for Tottenham Hotspur in the coming season, and with the utility of Glen Johnson often doubted, could find himself featuring for the national side in the near future.
In the rather impressive shadows of Vincent Kompany and Nemanja Vidic, there have been a fair few English centre halves showing their potential for when John Terry and Rio Ferdinand bow out of international football. Whilst Michael Dawson and Ryan Shawcross have built on solid reputations with further strong seasons, Gary Cahill has been the most prominent of these players. Rumours linking Cahill with Arsenal are there for a reason; he seems to be that good. A solid defender with a bit of class, Cahill has looked comfortable in the Premier League and in the England set up and looks quite the future England regular.
Partnering Cahill at centre back is one of those players who can take a huge amount of credit for his side’s survival in the Premier League. As displayed in the final game of the season against Wolves where he produced a sting of the sort of blocks and last ditch tackles that epitomised the spirit necessary to stay up, Christopher Samba has been one of Blackburn’s best performers this year. Also being linked with big money moves to the likes of Arsenal, Samba has developed into one of the finest centre halves in the country.
The left back that I have chosen for my alternative team of the year has actually found himself in many pundits’ choices for the position. Whilst Ashley Cole has been given the official award, there is no doubt in my mind that Leighton Baines has been comfortably the best left back in the division this season, building on his stylish attacking play and dangerous forays forward with a more solid defensive game. Baines is a consistent threat from open play and dead ball situations with both perfect technique to provide numerous assists and a fierce shot from distance. An honourable mention should go to the perennially underrated Jose Enrique whose consistency and ability should be rather more recognised than it has been.
The first of my triplet of central midfielders was highlighted by Sir Alex Ferguson as the best performer in the premier league this season, although perhaps for potential transfer purposes as much as anything. Luka Modric has finally fulfilled the potential that he has shown since his transfer to Spurs. Having been moved from the left to a more involved central midfield role, Modric has belied the pundits who thought he might be too lightweight. Modric’s lower body strength and low centre of gravity have added a resilient, creative skill to the Tottenham side. Modric has been the absolute heartbeat of a side challenging for honours in England and abroad this season, and being touted as Paul Scholes’ potential replacement, Manchester United could do a great deal worse.
The choice first of my two central midfield partners for Luka Modric was quite simple with Scott Parker not appearing in the PFA team of the year. As with Foster, Parker produced an unbelievable level of consistency for West Ham and found himself at long last a consistent and appreciated member of the senior England side. Adding a dynamic, goal scoring side to his game, Parker’s usual defensive capabilities and fighting spirit have been consistently on show and his leadership qualities are absolutely doubtless. I’m sure Parker will find himself competing in a top eight quality Premier League team in 2011/12.
The final of my three central midfielders has had an odd season. The subject of failed bids from Liverpool and Tottenham in January, he had his side performing in the top half of the league for much of the season, but was eventually unable to stop the slide which left them relegated from their first season in the big time. Charlie Adam has shocked many; even those of us who saw him devastate Nottingham Forest in the Championship play-offs last year. Possessing the sort of left foot that few can better, Ryan Giggs springs to mind, Adam has been nothing short of a talisman for Blackpool in the past season. Scoring goals, providing drive and leadership and sticking to the task when disappointed not to have secured a transfer, Charlie Adam has worked his way in to Blackpool folklore since his transfer from Rangers for a bargain half a million pounds.
In a season that has seen the England national side evolve from a chundering, ageing and worn out side in South Africa to a more youthful, spirited and vibrant outfit in recent games, Ashley Young has been a key part. The key attacking member of a highly talented Aston Villa side, Young looks set to depart Villa Park for a top six side this summer, but without doubt his recent performances will remain in the thoughts of many fans. Often accused of being a little easy to go down, Young is the most fouled player in the premier league, but the truth is far from as simple as many critics make out. Young is a tricky, talented and quick winger who draws fouls as a legitimate part of his game; he is no diver, and certainly no cheat. Another good season as the attacking impetus in the Aston Villa side sees Young fully deserving of his place in my alternative team of the year.
Operating on the opposite flank to Ashley Young in my team of the year, Charles N’Zogbia takes his place in the line-up. By far and away the best player in a Wigan shirt this season, N’Zogbia has shown on repeated occasions that he is the sort of player who can devastate top quality opposition. Developing from a good quality attacking winger to an explosive and thoroughly threatening footballer, N’Zogbia has had a fine season, and can be credited to a large extent with keeping his Wigan side in the Premier League for another season. Further to his attacking, pacey wing play, N’Zogbia has vitally added goals to his game, and this is the sort of development that may see him interesting the Europa League and Champions League sides this summer.
The most highly scoring player in the second half of a premier league season ever, Robin Van Persie has beaten off competition from the likes of Darren Bent, Peter Odemwingie and Javier Hernandez to feature in my prized team of the year. Van Persie has scored eighteen goals since the second half of the season began, and whilst unable to influence Arsenal’s season in a huge way, he has performed with such quality to once again leave all Arsenal fans dreaming of him having a full season fit. Perhaps, regardless of Arsenal’s need for further strengthening, the goals Van Persie could provide over an entire season would see them mount a strong title challenge until the end of the season.