With the year coming rapidly to a close and the Premier League nearing the half way stage, it’s easy to take on a reflective air and ask who have been the standout performers in this season’s competition so far. To attempt to answer that question and no doubt spark some healthy debate, I’ve decided to put together a Team of the Season-So-Far. It’s obviously a difficult thing to settle on, and I’ve tried to pick a balanced team, but let me know whether or not you agree with my selections!
GK – Ben Foster
Alex McLeish couldn’t have relished trying to replace Joe Hart at the end of last season, but in snapping up Hart’s predcessor as England’s next bright young goalkeeper, he’s done well. Foster has shown that the hype that surrounded him a few years ago was not misplaced and it is quite clear now that had Alex Ferguson not left him rotting so long on Man Utd’s bench that England could have had a confident and commanding ‘keeper to call on at the last World Cup. While Hart too has been excellent and remains England’s number one, Foster’s season so far will ensure that the Man City man will not be taking his caps for granted.
RB – Nedum Onuoha
Another young player who was the subject of much hype, Onuoha had not been given a chance to prove himself at City and with foreign mercenaries piling into Eastlands, he was only too happy to escape to Sunderland on loan. As an Evertonian I would have loved Moyes to snap up Onuoha as I liked what I’d seen of him before this season, but our loss has been Sunderland’s gain with Onuoha’s athleticism and composure helping found a solid foundation for Bruce’s team, and he even pitched in with a beaut of a goal against Chelsea earlier this season, suggesting that he has plenty to offer going forward from full back.
CB – Vincent Kompany
At the time of writing Manchester City sit second in the Premier League table, having conceded only sixteen goals in nineteen matches, and much credit for that statsitic must go to Vincent Kompany. While backed up well by Joe Hart and given good protection thanks to Mancini’s penchant for playing a number of holding midfielders, Kompany has been immense at the heart of City’s defence this season, looking particularly untouchable in the air. While City haven’t fired on as many cylinders as they’d have liked, Kompany’s form has kept them firmly in the title race as we near the halfway stage of the season.
CB – Nemanja Vidic
Like his Manchester United team as a whole, Vidic has not exactly been grabbing many headlines this season – he hasn’t pitched in with as many goals as he often does nor has his disciplinary record been too bad, but he has been a key member of the team that currently sits atop the Premier League. Inconsistencies in Man Utd’s attack, characterised most clearly by the swinging form of Berbatov and Rooney, mean that United have depended more than ever on a strong defence and with Ferdinand struggling with injury and Jonny Evans really not very good, Vidic has quietly been very solid this season.
LB – Leighton Baines
That Leighton Baines didn’t go to the World Cup with England epitomised the failures of Capello’s squad selection. Consistent top draw performances over the past few seasons have gone to a new level so far this term, and the retiring scouser has provided chance after chance for a struggling Everton attack – only Tim Cahill is really making the most of his excellent service. While his frequent forays forwards may suggest irresponsible defending, Baines possesses an incredible engine and is almost never caught out of position. Put simply, Baines has easily outshone Ashley Cole – arguably the best left back in the world – in the Premier League this season.
DM – Stuart Holden
Holden has been something of a revelation this season for Bolton. One of only very few additions to the team that struggled under Gary Megson until Owen Coyle took over last season, Holden has been at the centre of all that’s been good about the Wanderers this term. He will run all day and makes it very difficult for opposition midfielders to settle into a rhythm, but he’s not just a breaker – give him the ball and he can hurt you too, with a good range of passing and the knack for making a clever run or two as well. Credit must also be given to his midfield companions at Bolton, but Holden has been the stand out.
RM – Samir Nasri
Currently the in-form player in the Premier League, Samir Nasri has at times kept Arsenal in the title race almost single handedly this season. With Cesc Fabregas, their usual main man, struggling with injury, Nasri has really stepped up his game lately and seems to be relishing the added responsibility he has been given. Creating goals and scoring them at times for fun – and in some style – Nasri is a wonderful player to watch, he’s all quick feet and agility, and he makes it look so easy that you don’t realise quite how much pace he possesses. To top it off, unlike most players who have such attacking grace, he will run his socks off for his team and is fiercely committed in defence.
CM – Tim Cahill
Including Cahill as a central midfielder could be seen as unorthodox seeing as his nine goals this season make him far and away Everton’s leading goalscorer. He has been deployed in his familiar role in the hole, but that includes a lot of responsibility when Everton don’t have the ball as he drops in and forms a five man midfield barrier for Moyes’ men. Another tireless worker, it is Cahill’s unrivalled ability to get on the end of a cross that earns him his place in this team. For quite a small fella, his strength, barvery and leap are simply unbelievable and he reads the game and times his runs better than anyone else in the Premier League.
CM – Rafael Van Der Vaart
Another central midfielder who is given license to get forward, Van Der Vaart has been one of my favourite players in world football for some years now and someone I always yearned to see in Everton’s royal blue. Realistically we could never have afforded his wages though and it is at least nice to have the opportunity of seeing him in the Premier League, and boy, he hasn’t disappointed has he? Though suffering a couple of injuries he has been one of Tottenham’s leading lights this season and like Cahill has a knack for getting goals. He also is a constant creative force though, and his sheer hard work and commitment to Spurs’ cause have ensured he has been an immediate hit with fans at the Lane.
LM – Gareth Bale
The rebel in me here wanted to buck the trend and omit Bale from this selection (in which case Matt jarvis would have snuck in). His most eye catching performances have come in the Champions rather than the Premier League, but that is for a reason. Premier League managers soon recognised his threat after a blistering start to the season and as such he has been the subject of double marking in almost every fixture since October, but still few teams have managed to keep him quiet. And even when they do, Bale’s potential menace actually enables him to serve the team in a different way – the opposition have oft been so concerned with defending down his side of the pitch that Lennon/Van Der Vaart/Modric etc. have found joy down the right. He is simply a brilliantly dynamic player with fantastically consistent delivery and a constant goal threat.
CF – Johan Elmander
There was some fierce competition for this spot in my team. Andy Carroll, Kevin Davies, Danny Welbeck and Asamoah Gyan were all worthy candidates but in the end I decided that Johan Elmander would be the man who would revel most in this team, playing the lone role. Carroll and Davies are both target men who work best playing others in, while Welbeck and Gyan are the nippy strikers who need a partner. Elmander though, has the strength and aerial ability to get on the end of crosses and the quick feet and great touch to be a predator in and around the box too, while also playing in the midfielders. He’s been a changed man for Bolton this season, with Coyle’s Bolton simply giving him much more service and freedom to shine than Megson’s olton ever did, and he is reaping the rewards.
Substitutes: Joe Hart, Liam Ridgewell, Scott Parker, Matt Jarvis, Florent Malouda, Carlos Tevez, Andy Carroll.
Most of these selections are pretty obvious, they’re all players who pushed the 1st XI very closely. Hart has played his part in City’s solid defensive record while Ridgewell has done the same at Birmingham while also contributing going forward and Scott Parker has – as ever – been one of West Ham’s few bright lights and surely remains absolutely vital to the long suffering Hammers’ hopes of survival.
Matt Jarvis has been a constant menace down the flank for Wolves but his teammates aren’t really doing him any favours as they find themselves bottom of the League while Florent Malouda started the season in exceptional form but fell out of the 1st XI as Chelsea’s form as a team has plummetted alarmingly in recent weeks. Andy Carroll has provided crucial goals and assists for Newcastle while Tevez is really the only member of City’s expensively assembled frontline that has really lived up to their potential.
So there we have it. Do you agree with my selections? Feel free to list your own XI’s in the comments below, and to tear mine to pieces if you so desire!