Now that the season had drawn to a close, it’s time to cling on to it for as long as possible before optimistically telling ourselves that the next one isn’t too far away. With that in mind, I figured I’d put together my team of the season, a topic which inevitably always divides opinions. The PFA team of the year was frankly ridiculous in it’s pandering to the superstars, whereas I’ve tried to be more fair, in line with the reasoning I argued for when discussing the PFA awards a few weeks back.
Once again I’ve tried to restrict my Evertonian bias as far as possible, and thus will be leaving out the likes of Tim Cahill, Steven Pienaar, Joleon Lescott and Tim Howard, even though, in my heart, I would like to include them as they’ve all had stunning seasons. So without further ado, click on through to have a read of my choices and leave a comment to let me know what you think; remember, football is all about opinions.
Goalkeeper: Mark Schwarzer
The Aussie shot stopper bemused everyone when he left Middlebrough last season to join Fulham, a team who had survive relegation by the very skin of their teeth. Clearly though Shwarzer knew something we didn’t as Fulham went on to finish seventh this term while ‘Boro sank into the Championship, and you have to say that both clubs fortunes have been affected by the transfer.
Fulham’s success has been built on their solid defence, with Brede Hangeland and Scharzer himself being the key figures. The experience ‘keeper seemed to find a new lease of life this season, bettering the impressive form that had been on show at the Riverside for years, and proving himself to be a really top class ‘keeper with some really spectacular saves at times.
Right-Back: Glen Johnson
Johnson’s career finally looks to be taking off as it has promised to for many years now. Since he emerged as a youngster alongside many other great talents for West Ham, we’ve known that he could go all the way to the top and more than one England manager has thrown him in to their squad in the hope that he was ready to replace Gary Neville.
Now, after wisely leaving Chelsea behind and settling in at Portsmouth Johnson has really grown as a defender. He has filled out to become a top athlete too and matured enough to cope with the pressures of playing in such a responsible position. He has led Portsmouth by example this season and their survival owes much to his solidity and also to his eye for a surging run forward as he’s contributed a few goals and assists too.
Centre-Back: Phil Jagielka
The former Sheffield United man initially failed to establish himself at Everton, in part due to the qualty of Yobo and Lescott and in part due to his reputation as a utility man, an asset that often costs players a settled role in the side. However, towards the end of last term he got a run at centre-back and this season he has simply not looked back, blossoming alongside Lescott to become one of England’s best defenders.
Everton’s season started very poorly and only Jagielka was really pulling his weight, making countless saving tackles and great blocks and gradually inspiring his team mates to perform. As things improved Jags went from strength to strength and was recognised with a couple of England caps before calmly sending Everton to Wembley by scoring the winning penalty in the semi-final shoot out. Harshly ruled out of the Final with a cruciate injury, this has nevertheless been a stunning season for Jagielka.
Centre-Back: Brede Hangeland
Though I included Nemanja Vidic on my list of nominees for the PFA Player of the Year award, i’ve since had a change fof heart. Vidic has been great, but he’s been great in a team that cost hundreds of millions to put together, while Hangeland has been equally impressive in Hodgson’s low-key and hardworking side, which to me is a more impressive achievement.
The Norwegian captain was brought to Fulham by Hodgson who knew him from his time managing Viking and has repaid his manager’s faith completely. A man mountain at the back for Fulham, he naturally dominates players in the air and makes it hard for teams to play to a targetman, but he also possesses a good touch and composure that you don’t usually find in such big players.
Left-Back: Leighton Baines
While lacking in left-midfielders, England has found itself blessed with top draw left-backs in recent years with Ashley Cole considered one of the world’s best and Wayne Bridge a very able deputy. The emergence of Baines continues that tradition though, and this season, after finally winning a starting place in the Everton side, I think he has outshone his more celebrated rivals at Chelsea and Man City.
Bought from Wigan where his talent was obvious, Baines didn’t get much football last season as Moyes used Lescott at left-back to allow Yobo and Jagielka to maintain their excellent central partnership. But this season Baines grabbed his opportunity from the off and has formed a deadly partnership with Steven Pienaar down the left. His bursting runs and deadly crosses make him a potent attacking threat while he is extremely difficult to get past when on the defensive. This combined with his seeming tirelessness make him a complete wing back and surely deserving of a permanent place in the England squad.
Right-Midfield: James Milner
Aston Villa’s success this season has been attributed largely to their speedy younsters Ashley Young and Gabby Agbonlahor, as well as the continually impressive Gareth Barry. However I’ve been most impressed with James Milner who has developed incredibly from his days as an out and out winger with Leeds and Newcastle to become a far more complete midfield playmaker.
He’s still good enough to beat people out wide and deliver telling crosses but he has also hardened up and so can now be employed in a central role too, strong in the tackle and composed enough to start attacks under pressure in the middle of the park. He also remains a potent threat from distance as well as from set pieces, I remember with particular vivacity the one he scored against Everton, which was a truly stunning strike.
Central Midfield (Holding Role): Wilson Palacios
Having joined Tottenham from Wigan in January, Palacios is arguably majorly responsible for the good seasons of both clubs, but particularly should be hailed for his role in transforming Tottenham’s season. Recommended to Wigan by Arsene Wenger himself, the Honduran set about establishing himself as a fine holding midfielder in the ‘Makalele’ role, breaking up attacks and showing a keen eye for a cutting pass.
As seems inevitable for Wigan these days, he was bound to move on sooner rather than later and Harry redknapp snapped him up for Spurs, to add much needed bite to their midfield. His arrival shook things up a bit and in many ways freed up the impressive Luka Modric to be able to get forward and float around wherever he wanted to a bit more. Extra respect goes to Palacios for playing on under immense personal strain, and I offer him my sincerest condolances upon the tragedy of his brother’s kidnap and apparent murder.
Central Midfield (Free Role): Steven Gerrard
There really isn’t a better player for this sort of free role in between the midfield and the strikers than Steven Gerrard. His passing, athleticism and goal threat are second to none and with his immense drive and work rate he certainly continues to be one of the most complete midfielders in world football, and despite his unfortunate allegiances, makes my team of the season at a canter.
Because the simple fact is that Steven Gerrard has been carrying Liverpool for years. His workload has been eased by the arrival of the brilliant Torres, but the two of them are almost solely responsible for injecting Liverpool with the extra touch of quality required for their rise to second position this season. The greatest compliment I can pay Gerrard is to grudgingly admit that had he been fully fit and on the pitch at certain times in the season, they may well be Champions and have progressed past Chelsea in the Champions League.
Left-Midfield: Stephen Ireland
The appropriately named Irish midfielder has been the only really success of Manchester City’s average season and has outshone the circus that is Robinho at the City of Manchester Stadium. His contribution to the City team has been invaluable in terms of both goalscoring and assists and Mark Hughes has wasted no time in trying to avert interest in his star man.
A contaversial figure given his public falling out with the Irish national team, Irelans has come on leaps and bounds over the last two seasons and really developed into a top class player for Manchester City, and one that Trapattoni is understandably eager to return to the Irish fold. That seems unlikely though, which is a shame because Ireland this season has blossomed into a player who certainly deserves the chance to demonstrate his talent on the world stage and with him in their side, Ireland would surely have a better chance of qualifying to compete in South Africa next year.
Centre Forward: Fernando Torres
Since coming to the Premier League Torres has been quite simply sensational, and like Gerrard, that is something that is difficult for me to admit, given that he plays for Liverpool. Everyone knew of his talent when he was at Atletico Madrid and it was only a matter of time before someone stumped up the (admittedly enormous amount of) cash to go and buy him, and now I’m sure the likes of Man Utd and Chelsea will be cursing themselves for not snapping Atletico’s hands off at £27m.
Combining pace, power, finishing ability and heading ability, Torres really is the complete modern striker and has scored consistently for Liverpool since joining last season. This season he has again been a little plagued by injury, but when fit he has stepped alongside Steven Gerrard as the Red’s talisman and has, as I mentioned before, played an absoultely enormous part in guiding them so close to a Premier League title.
Centre Forward: Nicolas Anelka
Nicolas Anelka is a player who, in many ways, I would rather not pick for this team. I’ve never been, and will never be, a huge fan of the man the call ‘Le Sulk’, because he seems often so casual and uninterested on the pitch. His journeyman career hasn’t helped either as you can’t help but feel that he treats football far too much like a job and doesn’t feel too much passion for the club that he represents.
However, as the Premier League’s top goal scorer this season, I find it hard to omit him. Especially when you consider that for much of the season, he hasn’t really been Chelsea’s first choice striker, as they often prefer Drogba to him in a lone attacking role. Yet he continued to score consistently and he scored some really important goals too, and so I have to admit that he has had a very good season for Chelsea, and his contribution may even suggest to Chelsea that the time may be ripe to let Drogba go, especially given his poor behaviour after the Champions League semi-final.
Manager: David Moyes
I wrote an article a little while ago about who I would give my Manager of the Season award to and settled on David Moyes. For full reasoning behind the decision, I suggest you refer to the article in question, but in short, he has once again shown himself to be one of the shrewdest managers in the league and proven to be an excellent man-manager this season, so he is the natural choice to oversee my Team of the Season.
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There we are then, that is my team of the season for the 08/09 Premier League season. I’ve tried to justify my inclusions as best I can but naturally, most of you will disagree with most aspects of my team. If that is the case, do leave a comment and tell me what your team of the season would be. If you think I’ve got it spot on, feel free to leave a comment telling me how great I am!
Thanks for reading everyone.