As the Euros start swinging into full-gear, the Premier League season continues to fade in the rearview mirror. But after such a compelling season, we can’t sign off on it without telling you about our picks for Starting XI. I would have posted these earlier but I was in the UK for the last week, doing (ahem) research…
Here we go!
GK: Joe Hart (MNC)
The England number one had the lowest goals-against average in the league. That’s no surprise, since he faced the fewest shots, and I’m sure the Citeh keeper is happy to have Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott in front of him. Still, his save percentage (a stat that involves him actually touching the ball) was only second to David De Gea. I’m tempted to pick Michel Vorm, simply because the Dutchman had more to do. But even Hart’s fellow keepers are saying that he is close to being the best in the world. England fans everywhere are singing, “we thank God that he’s ours”.
On the bench: Michel Vorm (SWA), Tim Krul (NEW)
LB: Patrice Evra (MNU)
Evra’s involvement in the Suarez racism affair has overshadowed a strong season for the Frenchman. He was the one constant on an unsettled United back line, and took the captain’s armband when Vidic blew his knee. Evra was a tackling machine, and was almost omnipresent on SAF’s team sheet.
On the bench: Gael Clichy (MNC)
CB: Joleon Lescott and Vincent Kompany (MNC)
The pair were instrumental — vital, even — in Citeh’s run to the title. The Citizens’ league-lowest goals-against tally had as much to do with having possession as it did with defending. But these two were monsters in the backfield, with Kompany serving as the club’s “quarterback”, while Lescott cleaned up.
On the bench: John Terry (CHE), Jonny Evans (MNU)
RB: Branislav Ivanovic (CHE)
The Serbian was rough and ready, leading the league’s right backs in balls won, as well as crosses. The fact that he scored a few goals and set up a couple more doesn’t hurt either, all while keeping his bookings down from last year.
On the bench: Danny Simpson (NEW)
DM: Alex Song (ARS)
This may be a little unfair, since the Cameroonian had more of a “playmaker” role this season: 13 assists in all competitions. But Song was also a winner when it come to breaking up opponents’ attacking runs, winning back possession deep in Arsenal’s own end and then turning the counter on a dime. Throw out the Gunners’ horror show results against United and Blackburn early, and you see how Arsenal’s defence actually came around… and Song was a big part of that.
On the bench: Gareth Barry (MNC)
AM: Yaya Touré (MNC)
Of all the millionaires on Manchester City’s squad, Touré may have come closest to earning his £250,000 per week. He was a menancing presence, muscling his way through the middle of the pitch to set up his teammates. But he is not without finesse: witness his two goals against Newcastle in Citeh’s penultimate game this season, followed by a nice little tap to Zabaleta against QPR. Man City were accused of being hired mercenaries without any fire in the belly. But if there is a heart to this team, it lies between the “4” and “2” on Yaya Touré’s jersey.
On the bench: Mikel Arteta (ARS)
LW: David Silva (MNC)
If Touré was Citeh’s heart, then Silva was their brain. As I mentioned last week, Silva was the league’s ultimate playmaker. He led the league in assists, showing incredible control both on the ball, and with his crossing and passing. With David Villa out of the Euros, look for Silva to move up front to lead the Spanish armada in Poland.
On the bench: Gareth Bale (TOT)
RW: Juan Mata (MNC)
Another Spaniard on the wing and another speedy midfielder with the artillery to feed his teammates. One of the players that will become a huge part of the new Chelsea.
On the bench: Antonio Valencia (MNU)
F: Robin Van Persie (ARS), Wayne Rooney (MNU)
Let’s not beat around the bush: a forward’s job is to either score goals… or make sure someone else does. That’s what these two players did this year. Van Persie kept relatively injury-free to take the league’s Golden Boot with 30 markers (36 in all competitions), while Rooney was neck-and-neck for most of the season with 27 (37 in total). The Rooney numbers are impressive, considering he was hurried into midfield for a time before Paul Scholes came out of retirement. But RVP might have single-handedly pulled Arsenal out of its early-season nose dive. Champions League football may keep the lanky Dutchman at the Emirates for some time yet.
On the bench: Emmanuel Adebayor (TOT), Sergio Aguero (MNC)
ATR PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Robin Van Persie
ATR YOUNG PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Sergio Aguero