Selasa, 19 April 2011

1st eleven outside top five BPL...

Goalkeeper: Ali Al-Habsi (Wigan):
Let's face it, there wasn't a moggy in Hades chance Edwin van der Sar wasn't going to be in the PFA Team of the Year in his final season in football. But it's a great deal easier to look impressive behind Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand than the maverick stylings of Antolin Alcaraz and Steve Gohouri. The Omani goalkeeper has been a revelation since replacing Chris Kirkland after ten goals were shipped in the Latics' opening two games of the season. Should Wigan stay up, it will be due in no small part to Al-Habsi, who fought off the challenge of Ben Foster for a place in this team on the grounds that we can't remember him dropping any massive b***ocks.

Right-Back: Stephen Carr (Birmingham)
We would be happy to hear a case for an alternative at right-back (and no, Liverpool/Villa fans, there's no place for Martin Kelly/Kyle Walker after a handful of decent appearances) but heads were scratched (Winty) and beards were stroked (Miller) and there really is a dearth of decent right-backs in the Premier League. Carr gets the nod purely because at the age of 34 he is still playing week in, week out in a relatively miserly defence - just a couple of years after he actually retired from the game. Not-at-all interesting fact: Carr was actually in the PFA teams of 2001 and 2003.

Centre-Half: Roger Johnson (Birmingham)
When Johnson bowed out at half-time of last week's draw with Wigan after a blow to the head, it was the first time he had left his Premier League post at the centre of Birmingham's defence since he joined the club from Cardiff City in the summer of 2009. You can file Johnson under 'old-fashioned centre-half' because it certainly ain't pretty - most prefer the slightly more stylish moves of Gary Cahill, but Johnson did not wilt on his big Wembley day like the supposedly £15m-rated Bolton centre-half. He might be too agricultural for Fabio Capello, but we quite like a defender with muck under his fingernails.

Centre-Half: Robert Huth (Stoke City)
Big, ugly, uncompromising, direct - Huth and Stoke City are a match made in heaven. Any defender who can contribute nine goals (and counting) in a season while still doing a half-decent job at the back is a massive asset. After pondering cases for Brede Hangeland, Phil Jagielka, Cahill and Christopher Samba, I've opted for a player who makes Nick Miller feel "a little bit poorly". Mostly, if I'm honest, just to make Nick Miller feel "a little bit poorly".

Left-Back: Leighton Baines (Everton)
Absolute no-brainer this one. Baines has spent the whole season whipping in crosses with that left foot - creating 11 goals in the Premier League (most of them, it seems, for Tim Cahill) and scoring four of his own. The only question to be answered now is whether Everton can keep hold of him this summer. If Glen Johnson was worth £17m two years ago, what is Baines (similarly impressive going forward, similarly questionable in defence) worth now?

Right Midfield: Joey Barton (Newcastle United)
Despite his shameless and apparently straight-faced self-promotion, Barton is not the best midfielder in England. He has, however, been rather good for Newcastle this season - mostly on the right-hand side delivering pin-point crosses for the head of Andy Carroll and subsequent sub-standard replacements. He finally looks close to the player he threatened to become at Manchester City before it became clear that he had serious anger management issues. Stewart Downing might argue that he deserves a place in this side in Barton's stead, but we suspect he would back down quite quickly.

Central Midfield: Scott Parker (West Ham United)
The darling of a media heavily weighted with West Ham fans, Scott Parker has become England's Best Midfielder Ever in recent months while toiling away for the Hammers and eventually his country. We will leave the ridiculous and excruciating praise to the London-based red tops who love him, and simply say that without the all-action displays of Parker, West Ham might already be relegated. So he makes it ahead of Cheick Tiote and Charlie Adam.

Central Midfield: Lucas Leiva (Liverpool)
If you're going to do a Team of the Year from outside the top five Premier League clubs, it would be ridiculous not to include the best player from the team placed in sixth. From the weakest to the strongest link while all around him falter, Lucas has had a breakthrough season. The cynical may argue that he has found his level in a largely mid-table side, but I would contend that he has flourished this season into one of the best defensive midfielders in the Premier League. There have been times when both Manchester United and Arsenal would have benefited from one of his energetic, committed displays. Who would you rather have in your team when facing Barcelona? Michael Carrick, Abou Diaby or Lucas Leiva?

Left Midfield: Ashley Young (Aston Villa)
"He is eight-and-a-half stone wringing wet but he has the heart of a lion," said Martin O'Neill of a player he would also burden with the term "world-class". O'Neill may have been a tad premature but Young has the potential to be a better player than Gareth Bale if he joins a Champions League side - he has the delivery, the commitment and the pace to have a similar impact in Europe. Ten assists in a struggling Premier League side is a statistic that tells one story. The fact that Villa have lost three of the four games he has missed this season tells another. Honourable mentions go to Matt Jarvis and Matt Etherington in this position, but there's a reason why Young is the England player of 2011 while that pair are stuck on the fringes.

Striker: Darren Bent (Aston Villa)
"Not spectacular but so clinical," is Gerard Houllier's verdict as he tries to explain why Bent gets far more goals than plaudits. The fact is that the only Bent goal anyone ever remembers is the one that went in via a beach ball, but nobody can argue with the quantity. Sunderland have freefalled while Aston Villa have climbed since Bent made the switch and provided the finish to the creativity of Downing and Young. Oh and he finally looks like a bona fide England player.

Striker: Andy Carroll (Liverpool)
If you're going to applaud Bent for his goalscoring prowess, you have to include a man who has scored a goal every 150 minutes of his first full season in Premier League football. That's a better return than the likes of Didier Drogba and Wayne Rooney (and Bent). Is he worth £35m? The jury is still out and chuntering '£35m? Really?' to itself. But nobody can argue that he has made an impact and much will be expected next season with Liverpool fans expecting an awful lot of bang for their buck.


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