Thursday, 25 August 2011

My premier league team of the last decade

I am sure that just like me, every football fanatic out there  thinks up ‘best ever’ soccer  teams while going about the daily mundane activities that make up most of our lives. So I thought I’d come up with a Premier League’s best ever. Bear in mind that I started watching the league at the turn of the millennium so don’t expect people like Eric Cantona to make the list. My main considerations, apart from obvious talent, were; a) the players’ influence on his team both on and off the field. b) their longevity and consistency at the highest level. c) the players’ overall influence on the league. Naturally all players came from the so called “Big Four” that we had all come to know until the arrival of the noisy neighbours. So here we go;

FORMATION: Traditional English 4-4-2 with two wingers

Goalkeeper: Edwin van der Saar.

This seems to be the only position where I didn’t have any hesitation whatsoever. Van der Saar seemed to join United a bit late in his career but boy did he shine! His career started at Ajax from where he moved to the Turin giants Juventus. The Old Lady got rid of him to create space for Gianluigi Buffon which wasn’t exactly a bad move at the time because he was only considered a good goalie. I recall one Fulham match against Arsenal during their “Invincibles” season where he just refused to concede and Fulham escaped with a draw in a game they should have lost by a landslide. But it is at United that he really got recognized as world class. By my reckoning, he probably got United at least 10 points a season.

Right back: Jammie Carrager.

Here, I was very hesitant. I had a choice between Gary Neville, Lauren, Sagna and Carra. I know Carrager mostly plays in the middle but over his career, he put in quite a shift on the right. I never really fancied Neville, he just seemed to me like a player who looked good because of the teams he played in. Sagna would make a good case because he’s good on both sides of the pitch but he is hamstrung by playing in trophy-less team. For me, Carrager takes it for his longevity in the game and his leadership at Anfield.

Left back: Ashley Cole.

I don’t think I need to explain this one. Think what you want about the man himself but he has been the best left back in England, and probably the world for a couple of years now and that’s the best argument there is.

Center back: Nemanja Vidic.

He’s commanding in the air. He’s not too shabby with his feet. He’s fearless. And he gets a couple of crucial goals from time to time. Barring the occasional harassment at the hands of Fernando Torres(which doesn’t look likely to happen again), he’s easily been the best defender in the league since the beginning of John Terry’s decline. I’ve always wondered how many more cards he would get if he didn’t play for United though.

Center back: John Terry.

I was tempted to include Ricardo Carvalho who for me was technically a better defender but I finally decided to go with JT. Much as he’s now in decline, there was a time when he was a defensive rock. Besides he’s been Chelsea’s captain during the club’s most successful period so that should be enough to get him a spot on this list.

Defensive midfielder: Claude Makelele

Here I know I’ll come in for a lot of stick from Arsenal and United fans. I thought about it long and hard; Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira deserve a place on any list of Premier League greats. The problem is there are only one defensive midfield place in this formation. In any other formation one or both of them would get a place. The diminutive Frenchman takes this one because of his impeccable positional sense(he just always seemed to be in the right place, to break up opposition attacks, without being blessed with pace and without seeming like a workhorse). In the Mourinho years, Makelele was actually the trigger for  most of Chelsea attacks with his clever short range passing. His only weakness was an absolutely abysmal scoring record, but then again who buys defensive enforcers to score goals? Most importantly, he got that position named after him. I’ve never heard commentators talk of the “Keane position” Case closed!

Attacking midfielder: Paul Scholes

The Kop would beg to differ but this man, for all his mistiming of tackles, is the closest England has ever gotten to having a genuine playmaker. Think of his scooped pass to Rooney for the winning goal against AC Milan in the Champions League everyone seems not to remember United winning because of Kaka’s masterclass that night. Only Paul Scholes, of England midfielders of his generation, could attempt something that audacious! It makes one think he was born in the wrong country.

Right winger: Christiano Ronaldo.

Let me put it like this; He is the only player to ever win the World Football of the Year award as a Premiership player(although he left immediately afterward. Maybe he didn’t think the best player in the world has any business playing in England but I digress)

Left winger: Ryan Giggs

Marc Overmars featured heavily  in my internal debate but sometimes the numbers speak for themselves. Gigg’s has played, and scored in every Premiership season. He’s also managed to transform himself from a flying winger who left an entire Arsenal defence on their backsides, to midfield general who provides  a steadying hand to the Red Devil’s team as he's grown older.

Striker: Dennis Bergkamp

The Newcastle goal: the turn on Nikos Dabizas. That’s Bergkamp in a nutshell. Not a great goal scorer but a scorer of great goals. It hurts not to include Zola but ‘the Dutch master’ was in a league of his own. In that withdrawn striker role, he just couldn’t be touched.

Striker: Thierry Henry

He couldn’t head and hardly used his left foot. But what he could do, he did very well. When Fernando Torres was asked the striker he thought was the best he had ever seen, he said he thought the Brazilian great Ronaldo was probably the best. He also said he admired Henry more simply because all defenders knew exactly what he was going to do, but he did it so fast and so well they couldn’t stop him. We all knew the drill, he got the ball from the left wing, cut inside his marker and curled the ball with, his right foot, round the keeper into the far left corner. He scored lots of other goals but that was his trademark and he broke many a team’s hearts with that goal. And of course, hi goal scoring record in the league speaks for itself.


1. Brad Friedel
2. Rio Ferdinand
3. Patrick Vieira
4. Gianfranco Zola
5. Alan Shearer

Thank you for reading. Feel free to comment, complain about who I left out and tell me who you'd put in your team.

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