Premier League Dream Team (so far!) Part 2 – Midfield
So we move onto the midfielders. Again the same criteria applies – consistency, ability, importance to their team and memorable moments. As a traditionalist, the formation for this is going to be 4-4-2 and the team would need to have a natural balance ie. a ball-winning midfielder and more of a creative, roaming player in the centre and 2 players who are comfortable on the flanks. Again feel free to state your own opinions and berate mine (I am quite thick-skinned!)
Centre Midfield (Combative)
Some excellent performances this season have come in this role (I refuse to call it the Makelele role!) and since it’s inception due to the performances of the former Real Madrid and Chelsea ace, the normal box-to-box central midfielder seems to be no more. In the ever-changing game where even the top teams tend to plump for a very European 4-5-1 formation (as much as they claim this to be 4-3-3, it is not) especially in the big games, there is a position created for somebody to just sit in front of the back four, break up the play and when on the ball, pick a short pass to the more gifted players and let them do the damage. Whilst it cannot be denied that this is a crucial role in major clashes, it is not particularly a position where anybody can stand out as exceptional (apart from the aforementioned Claude). In spite of that, Lucas has made drastic improvements for Liverpool and deserves a mention as he is no longer a liability and arguably their player of the season. Ramires has struggled to settle. Song has done a job for Arsenal, breaking up the play, committing fouls, slowing the opposition down (but obviously Wenger doesn’t see that and Arsenal don’t commit any fouls.) Tiote at Newcastle has either looked world class or pub class demonstrating the exact same level of consistency as his team. For me though, there can only be one winner as he has such a major influence on his team, he is the heartbeat, brain and legs of the otherwise lifeless body of West Ham and that is of course Scott Parker.
Without the performances of Parker, the Hammers would probably already be relegated by now. The ultimate testament to the man was the plaudits coming his way following West Ham’s miraculous 3-3 draw at West Brom. Dead and buried at half time, the rock-bottom Hammers looked for inspiration from their awe-inspiring and charismatic (cough!) gaffer Avram Grant. As the Boss Nass lookalike (he was in one of those crap new Star Wars films), stuttered and mumbled his cliches of ‘go and win the second half’ and ‘tighten up at the back’, Parker stood up and delivered what was said to be a Churchill-esque speech. (The former PM not the dog) which inspired his troops to turn around the deficit and claim a vital point, saving his boss’ job in the process. Just how crucial this moment will be come the end of the season remains to be seen but West Ham’s rejuvenation since this result has been clear for all to see. Parker’s goal against Liverpool at the weekend was different class and as a good old-fashioned box-to-box player who will be guaranteed to give 100% effort, blood, sweat and tears every game, no-one has come close to the former Chelsea man this season.
Centre Midfield (Creative)
This is exceptionally difficult to pick. There are so many world class players plying their trade here and there have been so many superb displays. Paul Scholes would be my biased selection as to keep producing the displays he has at the highest level at the age of 36 is simply phenomenal. However, Scholesy is not fit enough to play every single game and even though his range of passing cannot be rivalled, I may need to take my red-tinted glasses off for this one.
Looking around the division it is almost impossible to pick 1 player in this position. Due to the different systems that are deployed by each team, a classification problem also arises. For example, Rafael Van Der Vaart has been one of if not the signing of the season. Snapped up on deadline day in August for a measly £7 million, the Dutch international has been sensational. His best performances have been when he has been playing just off Peter Crouch, forming a potent attacking partnership, therefore he can’t really be classed as a central midfielder.
Another top performer has been Luka Modric. The little Croatian is a genius in possession and a real creative force. Comfortable on either flank, just off the front or in centre midfield, he has been superb and how I would love to see him plying his trade at Old Trafford next season. A mention must also go to Raul Meireles who under Kenny Dalglish has really found his feet and his goal-scoring touch. Following an understandably average start to his Liverpool career in a period of bedding-in at a very difficult time, he has really started to kick on for the second half of the season and so much so that he is now an integral part of the scousers attack. Kevin Nolan and Joey Barton have also been superb for Newcastle and the former has continued his excellent goal-scoring form from the Championship whereas Barton (apart from cracking Morten Gamst Pederson) has generally been talked about for his football again rather than for being the dick we all know he is.
Of the usual contenders, Gerrard and Lampard have both been a shadow of their usual selves, perhaps still licking their wounds following that World Cup performance. Both players have looked very frustrated with their respective club’s plights – the ownership situation and Hodgson era at Liverpool and the significant under-achievement of Chelsea. It was always going to take a few games for Lampard to get his fitness back following injury but he has hardly set the Premiership alight since coming back.
Fabregas has been OK but again compared to previous seasons, has not looked the same player. Moments of brilliance are still well apparent but whether the little maestro has had his head turned by Barcelona’s courtship, the summer will clarify. Just 3 league goals to his name this season says it all. His midfield partner this season has really caught the eye though. Jack Wilshere has come of age this season. His loan spell at Bolton at the end of last season has aided his development enormously and he is now one of the first names on the Arsenal team sheet. His energy, ability, vision and flair all point to an extremely bright future for the lad and make him incredibly difficult to overlook for this position.
However, in spite of this, my choice which is mainly based on how important he is to the team is Charlie Adam. If you take out any of the players that I have mentioned here from their teams, they can be replaced and not missed too much. For example, if Wilshere or Fabregas were out, Nasri could move central or Rosicky could come in and do a job. If Modric or VDV were out or both, Spurs could play Kranjcar, could play 2 up front and bring in Defoe or Pavlyuchenko If Blackpool don’t have Charlie Adam, they do not have anyone with anywhere near the same quality to come in and make a difference. That is no disrespect to Blackpool but is unfortunately the case. Look at the Wolves game at the weekend. Without a calming presence in the centre of the park to get on the ball, knock it around and make things happen, Blackpool posed little or no threat or game. This is the same Blackpool that put 3 past Spurs, 2 past Utd, 2 past City, 4 at Wigan and 2 past the scousers (twice!) To look so good in a so-called lesser team is much more difficult than looking good in a brilliant team. Whilst I am not claiming Blackpool to be a one-man team (as their success this season has come largely due to their fantastic ability to play as a team), the star performer has undoubtedly been Adam. His delivery from set pieces has been exceptional and ‘worth £10 million alone’ according to Sir Alex and his displays have rightfully caught the eye of Utd Liverpool and Spurs with a £12 million price tag firmly slapped on his balding head. I am not saying that in terms of ability he is better than Fabregas or Scholes but in terms of performances this season and precious points won for his team – Adam gets the vote.
Wingers / Wide Midfielders
Again classification here is difficult. For the sake of argument, anybody who plays in the wide positions of the attacking 3 or midfield 5 along with those who play in a midfield 4 can be put into this category. Firstly, on the disappointing side of things – Malouda and Joe Cole take the wooden spoons. Malouda started this season as he finished last, on fire and amongst the goals. However, just like Chelsea’s premiership season, he fizzled out and had everyone (including yours truly) clamouring to drop him from their fantasy league teams as quickly as possible. Joe Cole on the other hand has just defied belief. When Woy snapped him up on a free transfer, it was seen as the deal of the summer, possibly the century and it was assumed that he would become an instant hit up north. He was sent off on his Premier League debut against Arsenal and since then it has gone further and further downhill. Cole always had a tendency to go missing for part of the game but at Liverpool, he goes missing for the full 90 minutes.
Of the top performers mentions must go to Theo Walcott who has improved greatly this season, so much so that Capello has admitted he was wrong not to take him to the World Cup – and that takes a lot to make the Italian backtrack on his decisions. N’Zogbia has stood out in a very poor Wigan side. Also Matty Etherington at Stoke has been brilliant. Mark Albrighton at Villa looks like he has a great future. Petrov at Bolton has impressed and the list goes on. Lennon has again blown hot and cold in the league whereas in Europe he has been electrifying.
Gareth Bale has been absolutely sublime but, like Lennon, his best performances have come in the Champions League so as a result, as difficult a call as it is, he does not quite make the cut for my Premiership team of the season. In my opinion though, he has scored (along with Rooney’s overhead) the goal of the season with his majestic volley against Stoke in August. His ‘old-fashioned’ wide play of knocking it past the man and delivering the cross has proved hugely effective and his ability to deliver quality from the wing at full speed is nothing short of spectacular.
However, he has just been pipped to a position in this team by 2 players who have also had their best ever seasons. Nasri and Nani. Firstly, with Samir Nasri, I know that he has been most effective when playing in the middle, just off the front man but his performances have been of such a high standard that he needed to be put somewhere. The 2 goals he scored at the Emirates against Fulham were different class. His importance to Arsenal this season cannot be under-estimated and he has even out-shone Fabregas.
The fleet-footed Frenchman fits fantastically into Arsenal’s footballing philosophy (try saying that after 8 pints) and although it seems as though he has been rushed back from injury a la Rooney last year, he will need to play a crucial role in the run-in if Arsenal are going to end their trophy drought.
In terms of Nani, the Portuguese winger has finally added an end product to his potent attacking threat. In seasons gone by he has been the most frustrating of players to watch, skinning the full back before checking back, taking him on again then ballooning a cross 10 foot over the bar. He starred in Utd’s 3-1 win at the Emirates last season and since then has never looked back. This season he has finally stepped out of the imposing shadow of Ronaldo and is now a star in his own right. Similarities will always be drawn with his close friend and national compatriot and this, at times, has been a major burden and a heavy weight for Nani to carry. This season, Nani has scored 9 league goals – his best return to date in 23 appearances (prior to the Chelsea game). Add to this 14 assists and the fact that he has been a constant threat in most games this season and, with Berbatov, has been Utd’s best attacking player. He can turn a full-back either way, has 2 very good feet, has pace and trickery and can now shoot and deliver pin-point crosses. Add to this an eye for the spectacular and he has all the makings of a genuine world class talent. If only he could stay on his feet……
So my midfield is:
So what do you think? Who would you have in your team so far and for what reason?
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