It’s that time of year when most people like to have their say on who they think the best players in the Premier League have been during the course of a season.
Unlike the PFA, who like to decide on these things ludicrously early, this blog is taking a more measured approach. I’ve been thinking about my selections long and hard. And here, with some attempt to create a balanced side (of sorts), are my choices.
Goalkeeper – David De Gea
This position could have quite easily to a number of stoppers. Brad Guzan, Petr Cech, Asmir Begovic, Hugo Lloris, Julio Cesar; take your pick, it’s been a good year for keepers (in fact, I originally chose Lloris before changing my mind at the last minute).
However, Manchester United’s David De Gea is my choice after excelling this season despite the intense (and more often than not, unfair) scrutiny he received throughout his debut campaign. His shot stopping and reflexes were never in question, but this term De Gea has added some bulk to his frame that’s helped him become a much more commanding and authoritative presence in the United goal.
Honourable mentions: Everyone but Joe Hart.
Right back – Pablo Zabaleta
It’s taken a couple of years, but Zabaleta is finally getting the credit his consistently good performances deserve. Not only a top defender, Zabaleta has become a fine attacking outlet for City.
Honourable mentions: Rafael
Centre-back – Jan Vertonghen
If 2012/13 was a good season for goalkeepers then it was a rotten one for centre backs. Nevertheless, Belgian Jan Vertonghen enjoyed a splendid debut season and is the outstanding candidate for this position. A genuine leader who reads the game impeccably yet can bring the ball out of defence like any modern centre-back should, Vertonghen also chipped in 5 league goals to the Spurs cause – including strikes against Manchester United and Liverpool.
Centre-back – Per Mertesacker
After a difficult (to be kind) first season in England, Per Mertesacker has put pay to the arguments that he was too slow for the Premier League. What’s more, the German has become the Gunners’ number one choice at centre half ahead of team mates Laurent Koscielny and Thomas Vermealen – which would have been unthinkable 12 months ago.
Honourable mentions: David Luiz
Left back – Leighton Baines
Is there a more straight forward team selection than this one? Probably not. Leighton Baines’ five goals and seven assists have supplemented his defensive work superbly while his impressive link-up with Steven Pienaar has been lauded as one of the division’s great partnerships.
Defensive midfield – Gareth Barry
Ok, so I know what you’re thinking; “Why have you picked Gareth Barry? And more to the point; where the fuck is Michael Carrick?” Firstly, I think Barry has had an excellent season for City. Reading, anticipating danger before distributing astutely, Barry has been one of City’s stand-out players alongside Zabaleta and James Milner.
Secondly, I just don’t get the fuss about Carrick. He’s had a good season, I recognise as much (hence the honourable mention). But let’s not forget, this is Carrick’s seventh year at United. Why are people only just starting to appreciate the virtues of his game? Of which, I’ve always believed are fairly limited.
Oh, and a special mention to Southampton’s Morgan Schneiderlin who has been mightily assured in every game I’ve seen him play this season. The Saints will do well to keep him.
Honourable mentions: Michael Carrick, Morgan Schneiderlin, Sandro.
Attacking midfield (left) – Juan Mata
So now I’ve got my defensive-minded midfielder to hold the middle of the park, it’s time to unleash the array of attacking talent that would make this team almost impossible to stop.
First up is Chelsea’s Juan Mata. Amongst all the chaos that has been the Stamford Bridge soap opera this season (although, in fairness; when is it not?), the Blues have relied heavily on the consistently delightful and intelligent performances of Mata. It’s amazing to think that this is the same player who was afforded just four minutes of action for Spain at the Euros. Scary.
Attacking midfield (right) – Santi Cazorla
Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla has quickly become one of my favourite players in the Premier League. Why? Well, when a player has the sheer audacity to take free-kicks and corners with his (supposedly) weaker left-foot, what isn’t there to love?
When it comes to genuine footballing ability, there aren’t too many as gifted as Cazorla. Right foot, left foot, it doesn’t matter. This fella has a magic wand in both feet and can manoeuvre the ball either side of the defender to devastating effect – either to create an opening for a team mate or to let fly himself.
Attacking midfield (centre) – Gareth Bale
Gareth Bale might not be one of the best in the world just yet, but by heck, he’s trying his best, ain’t he? Converted from a full-back to winger, Bale is now even trying his hand at a central role – with some stunning results to boot. Year on year Bale only seems to be getting better. Unbelievable athletic ability coupled with pure brute power, whether Bale stays at Spurs next year will be an intriguing prospect.
Honourable mentions: Eden Hazard, James Milner
Forward – Luis Suarez
Ah Luis Suarez. What is there left to say about Luis Suarez? He may be an arm-biting lunatic who appears to have no self-control over his aggressive and win-at-all-costs nature but he’s an outstanding footballer that’s had an outstanding season (bar the time he took a chunk out of Ivanovic, of course). Nobody can deny that. There’s no player in the Premier League who can hassle and torment opponents quite like Suarez.
Forward – Robin van Persie
If one player has helped to deliver a 20th league title for Manchester United then it’s Robin van Persie. There was some degree of risk about United’s move for a 29-year-old at £24m but Sir Alex Ferguson’s gamble has been more than vindicated. Apart form a mid-season dry spell, Van Persie’s finishing has been extraordinary. His outrageous volley against Aston Villa was a fitting way to clinch the title.
Honourable mentions: Christian Benteke, Dimitar Berbatov, Michu, Romelu Lukaku
Just for a laugh (and because I’ve nothing better to do), I thought I’d create a “This lot were hopeless XI“.
GK: Joe Hart
RB: Jose Bosingwa
CB: Chris Samba
CB: Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa
LB: John Arne Riise
RM: Samir Nasri
CM: Charlie Adam
CM: Joe Allen
LM: Ashley Young
ST: Michael Owen
ST: Emmanuel Adebayor