For those who watched the Manchester City V West Brom game on Sky last Monday night, you’ll have probably seen Gary Neville’s and Jamie Carragher’s views on who should make it into the Premier League Team Of The Season. The Monday Night Football (MNF) pair agreed with each other on eight of the eleven players and used a Twitter vote to decide the other three positions.
This resulted in a team of: David Marshall (Cardiff) in goal, Chelsea’s centre-back pairing of John Terry and Gary Cahill, Seamus Coleman (Everton)at right-back, Southampton’s wonder kid Luke Shaw at left-back, a midfield of Steven Gerrard (Liverpool) and Yaya Toure (Manchester City), Eden Hazard (Chelsea) and Raheem Sterling (Liverpool) on the wings and Liverpool’s “SAS” strike force of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge up front. Ironically, it’s the three positions which had to be decided by the Twitter vote which I disagreed with.
The first thing that struck me was that the choice of goalkeeper. David Marshall has had an excellent season and has undoubtedly been Cardiff’s best player this season by a long way but that says it all about how poor Cardiff have been. He has indeed made some excellent, world class saves to keep Cardiff in games they’d have otherwise lost and that’s a fair point. However, he has still picked the ball out of his net 69 times (at the time of writing) and only Fulham have conceded more goals. The fact that he hasn’t received a great deal of protection has definitely played a part in this but Marshall’s Cardiff are, nevertheless, odds-on for relegation and it has looked that way for some time. Marshall himself couldn’t have done much more to try to prevent the Welsh club’s fate but, whilst this may sound incredibly harsh, my choice wouldn’t be him as I don’t believe he is the best goalkeeper in the league nor has he had a better season that any of the others.
Gary Neville’s alternative choice was Chelsea’s ever-reliable Petr Cech, who has conceded the fewest goals in the Premier League this season. Petr Cech is still a very good goalkeeper but I wouldn’t have selected him either. This might be a controversial choice for some but I’d go for David De Gea. Having watched him in his debut season and he looked far from being good enough to be a Manchester United ‘keeper. However, this season he has been one of only a few United players to be able to emerge with any credit. He appears to have finally adjusted to the English game and looks far more convincing and commanding between the posts and unlike in previous seasons, a Manchester United ‘keeper has had a fair amount of work to do in games.
Another area of the team which I’d disagree on is at left back. I, much like everyone else, highly rate Southampton’s Luke Shaw. To me, he looks like one of the best young English defenders to have been produced for some time and he will be a world class player one day. However, whilst he has continued to impress in a highly impressive Southampton team this season, again I don’t believe he has been the top left back in the league this season. He’d be in my top three but not number one. That, for me, would have to be Leighton Baines (which means I’m agreeing with Neville on this one). Despite having a couple of injuries, Baines has been excellent when available and he has the added bonus of being a set piece specialist to his advantage (his two free kicks at West Ham earlier in the season were simply stunning and he’s been faultless from the penalty spot).
However, I’d also give a mention to Chelsea’s young Spaniard, Cesar Azpilicueta. He has been played regularly at left back this season, despite the fact that he is a more natural right back, and has played remarkably well and has remained consistent all season. He’s also kept Ashley Cole, who has on many occasions been considered as one of the best left backs in the world (if not the best), on the bench for pretty much the entire season and that’s no small feat. However, Baines still edges it for me. Much like Neville and Carragher, the other defensive positions picked themselves for me. Chelsea’s all-English partnership of John Terry and Gary Cahill have largely helped the London club concede the fewest goals of anyone in the league and Everton’s Seamus Coleman has undoubtedly been the outstanding right back in the division.
The midfield is fairly difficult to disagree with except for the fact that Adam Lallana didn’t feature in it (despite being one of Neville’s choices). For me, Lallana is the most vital cog in Southampton’s machine and one of the main reasons why the South Coast club have been such a joy to watch and have performed above expectations. He’s also done more than play his way into the England squad for this summer but in my opinion, he should have a regular spot in the national team’s starting line-up as well as we have been lacking a player who can link the midfield to the front line and Lallana does this so effectively and with such flair.
However, in order to fit him into the team, one of either Yaya Toure, Steven Gerrard, Raheem Sterling or Eden Hazard would have to make way and all of these four deserve their place in the team. The Twitter vote on the show was between Lallana and Sterling (which the Liverpool starlet won convincingly). If anything (due to the fact I can’t decide between these two), I’d include both but instead replace Eden Hazard with the Southampton captain. Hazard is a wonderful player and has had a good season but one thing I’ve noticed all too often is that he hasn’t made a massive contribution in the “big games” for Chelsea. These games separate great players from the very best players. Whereas Lallana has continually caused problems for opposing teams, no matter who they are.
The strike force, Suarez and Sturridge, are also impossible to disagree with as they have ripped everyone in the league to shreds this season and have contributed massively to Liverpool’s 90+ goal tally this season by being the league’s top two goal scorers (at the time of writing).
Therefore, my personal Team Of The Season is as follows, feel free to disagree with it: David De Gea (Manchester United), Leighton Baines (Everton), John Terry and Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Seamus Coleman (Everton), Yaya Toure (Manchester City), Steven Gerrard and Raheem Sterling(Liverpool), Adam Lallana (Southampton), Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool).