FourFourTom picks his dream Premier League team
Let me start by asking you to imagine your dream car. 99% of people will think about the colour, the entertainment system or another luxury feature before sparing a single thought for the engine, the brakes or other fundamental pieces.
Without the latter, the car is not a car. Putting together a ‘Best XI’ works in the same way as putting together a great car. It isn’t as simple as picking all of the best parts and hoping they fit together. It’s about picking the parts that offer the right balance between reliability and innovation. The overall product is more important than any individual feature. Therefore how each part benefits the whole should always be the deciding factor.
So, without further ado, here’s my Premier League Best XI for the Paddy Power Blog.
Goalkeeper: Asmir Begovic (Stoke)
Joe Hart? No. Petr Cech? No. Asmir Begovic is my goalkeeper of choice. After years of loan deals to lower league clubs, forming buttock-prints on Portsmouth’s bench and fighting it out with Thomas Sorensen for a starting place in the Premier League, Begovic has finally paid his dues – and Stoke are reaping the rewards. The Bosnian international tops the Premier League’s clean sheet charts this season, is second in terms of successful saves and has conceded less goals from open play than any keeper in the top flight. The statistic which really shows Begovic’s strength, though, is his handling of crosses – he’s collected 44 aerial crosses this season and is yet to fumble a single one. Every team needs a reliable goalkeeper between the sticks and, for me, that man is Begovic.
Right-back: Branislav Ivanovic (Chelsea)
His goalscoring prowess, frequent marauding runs down the wing and crossing ability have quickly earned Branislav Ivanovic a reputation as one of the most feared full-backs in football, but he never shies from his defensive duties. It was a closely run contest between him and Pablo Zabaleta for the right-back slot in my team, but he just edges it.
Centre-back: Vincent Kompany (Manchester City)
When Sheikh Mansour completed his takeover of Manchester City in September 2008 and pledged to fill the squad with high profile players, who would have thought their most valuable player had already been signed for £6million one month earlier? A tremendously intelligent and respectful player off the pitch and a titanic defender on it, Vincent Kompany’s presence at the back has operated as the foundation for City’s renaissance. The best defender in the Premier League and the first name on my team-sheet.
Centre-back: John Terry (Chelsea)
With several injury-plagued months behind him and his physical attributes slowly diminishing, John Terry’s name in my XI may come as somewhat of a shock. For me, the Chelsea man still has qualities which make his inclusion a no-brainer. Without meaning to sound cliché, Terry’s a player who’s willing to put his head where others would shy away with their feet. He’d throw himself in front of a life-threatening Ashley Williams clearance if it meant his team would win the ball back. He’s experienced, he’s a leader and he organises a backline as well as anyone English football has ever seen.
It’s also worth noting that no team has ever won the Premier League without a British mainstay in the heart of the defence. In a hypothetical situation in which my Premier League Best XI was actually competing in the Premier League, John Terry would provide the British backbone that would lead them to victory.
Left-back: Leighton Baines (Everton)
England have been incredibly blessed to have Ashley Cole at left-back for so many years, but I can’t help but feel he’s also been a hindrance to the development of our future squad. In my opinion, Leighton Baines has been Cole’s superior for two years now and should have been handed his chance in the national team much earlier. He’s more than capable at the back and has created more goalscoring chances (69) than any other player in Europe’s top five leagues this season. An easy choice.
Defensive midfielder: Yaya Toure (Manchester City)
Everyone has heard the age-old ‘unstoppable force versus the immovable object’ paradox and wondered which would come out on top. If you ask me, the only way to know for sure is to clone Yaya Toure and have him run towards himself at full speed. If one Yaya collided with another, the universe would probably cease to exist. He’s not your classic defensive midfielder by any means – he’s much more of a box-to-box player – but he’s the only man I’d want acting as the engine in my midfield. If I was to put together a world XI, Yaya would probably still make the cut.
Defensive midfielder: Michael Carrick (Manchester United)
I was asked to describe Michael Carrick in five words recently. I replied “Supremely talented and horrifically under-rated.” Carrick has been pulling the strings in the Manchester United midfield for years, but fans of rival clubs still refuse to acknowledge his simple brilliance. Whether he’s making short passes to keep possession or making incisive through-balls to aid the attack, you always know you’re going to get a consistent performance out of Carrick if you get him on the ball. When creating a ‘dream team’ it’s easy to get carried away and include a midfield full of flair players, but every team needs a Carrick to sit in the middle with his sleeves rolled up, doing the subtle stuff.
Attacking midfielder [right]: Juan Mata (Chelsea)
Although goal and assist statistics aren’t everything for a modern attacking midfielder, Juan Mata’s are tremendously impressive and it’s impossible to look past them. He’s currently joint seventh in the Premier League’s top goalscorerschart and it’s safe to assume he’s only second to Steven Gerrard on assists because he’s started six fewer games. In all competitions this season Mata has an unbelievable return of 10 goals and 10 assists in 23 starts. I toyed with the idea of including Gareth Bale in his place and reshuffling my midfield in order to add a different dimension to my team, but excluding Mata would have been criminal.
Attacking midfielder [centre]: Santi Cazorla (Arsenal)
Santi Cazorla is probably my favourite player in the Premier League. You could watch him game after game and still not know his exact position or which is his predominant foot. His intelligence, versatility and ambidexterity make him an absolute nightmare for opposing teams to contain because it’s impossible to keep track of him. The way he can ghost into spaces, manipulate his body and form attacks sometimes leaves me wondering if he’s a T-1000. I’m not saying he actually is a T-1000 – because he probably isn’t – I’m just saying it would make an awful lot of sense if he was…
Attacking midfielder [left]: David Silva (Manchester City)
David Silva is the third and final prong of my Spanish attacking midfield trident. Although he isn’t blessed with the ambidexterity of Cazorla, Silva still manages to create magic no matter where he picks the ball up. The Manchester City playmaker’s unparalleled vision and ability to judge the weight of a pass allowed him to create more goalscoring chances (108) than any other Premier League midfielder in 2012. As well as leading the tally for the calendar year, he leads the tally for the 2012/13 season, creating 53 chances at an average of 2.9 per game. No Premier League Best XI is complete without him. As far as I’m concerned, he’s the best player in England, when he’s on form.
Striker: Robin van Persie (Manchester United)
Every single night I wake up in cold sweats, pleading with myself to forgive Arsenal for letting Robin van Persie leave for a rival club and every single night I can’t do it. It will hurt me too much to go into detail about his ability and efficiency, but he’s the 11th and final player in my Premier League Best XI. As far as out-and-out strikers go, he’s only behind Radamel Falcao and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
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FourFourTom is a football writer (and Arsenal fan). Follow him on Twitter here.
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