by Gautam Viswanathan Jun 3, 2013 18:22 IST
With the Barclays Premier League having ended, most sites out there will have a Team of the Season. I decided to put one out with a slightly different twist — only one player from every team makes the list.
Without further ado, here is my Premier League Team of the Season:
Goalkeeper: Tim Howard, Everton: Having kept ten clean sheets for the Toffees, one of the reasons Everton find themselves on the fringes of Europe is because of Howard’s presence in goal. Having made 90 saves in his 36 games for the Goodison Park outfit, the United States international’s value to his team cannot be underestimated. A player who is not afraid to get stuck in, the brave American’s athleticism saw him become one of the season’s most consistent keepers.
Right-back: Sascha Riether, Fulham: Brought in on loan from relegated Cologne in Germany, that Fulham have offered him a permanent deal at the end of the season shows how good he has been. Ever present at the back for the Cottagers, the right-back’s industry, willingness to work and dedication have seen him win the Player of the Season award at Fulham ahead of more established players such as Dimitar Berbatov and Bryan Ruiz.
Centre-back: Per Mertesacker, Arsenal: It was former Arsenal manager Herbert Chapman who said: “the team that scores the most goals wins. To do that you must make sure the defence is solid.”
Mertesacker has been the embodiment of that throughout Arsenal’s season and that was very noticeable during the business end of the season as they kept six clean sheets during their last eleven games. With his excellent positioning and reading of the game, the giant German has had an excellent season in England.
Centre-back: Vincent Kompany, Manchester City: In a season where Manchester City were characterised by underwhelming performances which ultimately cost them their title, Kompany was the exception to the rule. The Manchester City captain was always willing to go the extra mile that his team mates weren’t and showed that not money but football was what defined him as a player when he disobeyed his club to play for Belgium despite having recently recovered from an injury.
Left-back: Luke Shaw: Southampton have always had a very proud tradition of producing top talent and young Shaw is the next off their production line. In a season which has seen the likes of Adam Lallana, Ricky Lambert and Gaston Ramirez catch the eye of scouts, a few of them will have surely cast discreet looks towards the Englishman whose assured, composed appearances belie his young age.
The 17-year-old made 29 appearances for Southampton this season and is only going to develop further as a footballer as time marches on.
Defensive midfielder: Claudio Yacob, West Bromwich Albion: While Romelu Lukaku has stolen the show at the Hawthorns, the reason West Brom are eighth in the table is because of the defensive foundations laid by the Argentine Yacob.
What makes his performances so impressive is that he has not picked up a single booking in his 29 appearances in his first season in England and things will definitely improve in the 25-year-old, who was named the club player of the month for March.
Midfielder: Kevin Nolan, West Ham United: A veritable workhorse of a player, Nolan was one of the Hammers’ most important players this season. With ten goals, he is his club’s top scorer this season and his indefatigability and leadership skills quite rightly make him the engine in West Ham’s midfield. His powerful shots from distance, willingness to push himself for the club and reliability to deliver the goods when necessary make him a player any manager would covet.
Midfielder: Juan Mata, Chelsea: Despite the arrival of Eden Hazard and Oscar last summer, Juan Mata built on a successful European Championships with another top-of-the-range season which saw his team pick up more silverware. His performances which saw him thrive in the playmaker position as Chelsea won the Europa League and finished third domestically brought him a very impressive 20 goals and 35 assists.
Hailed as the successor to Frank Lampard, Mata is sure to become a legend at the club with performances like the ones he delivered this season.
Midfielder: Gareth Bale, Tottenham Hotspur: Because of the makeup of this team, I have elected to place Bale behind the two strikers in the roaming role afforded to him at White Hart Lane.
There is little doubt that Spurs’ position in the table this season and their performances in the Europa League are down to the sublime performances put in by the Welshman. As his stunning late goals against Southampton and Sunderland showed this season, a Spurs team with Bale in it performs at a much higher level. Small wonder then that the recipient of the Player of the Year and the Young Player of the year is being courted by a host of clubs across the continent.
Striker: Robin van Persie, Manchester United: There was little doubt over van Persie being present in any Premier League team of the season. He is the reason Sir Alex Ferguson can retire having won a 20th Premier League title. Performances that oozed confidence, desire and a will to win ensure that United have good return on their money and what would have sweetened the deal for the Dutchman is moving past Luis Suarez in capturing the Premier League Golden Boot this season.
Striker: Michu Cuesta, Swansea City: The bargain buy of the season. Nobody would have expected this from the Spaniard when he arrived for a paltry £2 million. With some memorable performances for the Welsh outfit which includes 2-0 wins at Arsenal and Chelsea and a Capital One Cup triumph which means Swansea will compete in Europe next season. That means that the free-scoring striker can showcase his skills on a much bigger stage.
Asmir Begovic, Stoke: Stoke were in freefall for much of the second half of the Premier League season but the fault for that did not lie with Begovic, who only conceded 12 goals in his first 15 opening games, leading to him picking up four different awards at the club’s end of season awards. The Britannia outfit will find it difficult to hold on to him next season
Sebastien Bassong, Norwich City: After years of being unable to show the talent that he was so blessed with when he was at Tottenham and Wolverhampton, Bassong has come into his own at Norwich. Having featured 32 times for the Canaries in the league, Bassong is the first non-British player to win the Barry Butler Memorial Trophy – the trophy given to Norwich’s Player of the Season – and has become one of the key players at Carrow Road.
Christian Benteke, Aston Villa: Much was expected of Christian Benteke when Aston Villa owner Randy Lerner had a private jet waiting on the tarmac of Birmingham’s airport while waiting for the young Belgian’s party to agree so that he could pick him up on transfer deadline day.
Nearly a year later, the man from Genk has delivered on his investment, scoring 23 goals in all competitions, many of which have kept Villa in the Premier League this season.
Luis Suarez, Liverpool: The only reason Suarez is not in the starting lineup of this team is because of his self-inflicted punishment for biting Branislav Ivanovic. The Liverpool man has been in electric form throughout the season, shouldering the responsibility of leading the Anfield side up front virtually on his own for the first half of the season. Had he been present for the end of the season, he could have probably ended as the League’s top scorer, an accolade that fell to van Persie in the end.
Adam le Fondre, Reading: Versatile attacker le Fondre has been Reading’s top scorer with 14 goals from as many starts this season. His predatory instincts have seen him rescue the Royals many a time this season with few of the players at the Madejski Stadium showing the resolve and determination he has.
James McCarthy, Wigan Athletic: Hardworking and resourceful, McCarthy has been the heartbeat of a brave but sadly doomed Wigan side that became the first team to suffer relegation after winning the FA Cup the same season. Starting every game in the League for the Latics, the deep lying playmaker is prized for his vision and hardworking nature and could follow Roberto Martinez out this summer.
Yohan Cabaye, Newcastle United: One of the most hardworking players on the pitch for the Magpies, Cabaye’s presence was sorely missed when he was injured for a couple of months from November to January. His indefatigability is best exemplified by the amount of distance he covers for the St. James’ Park outfit, which averages around eight kilometres a game. Regularly chipping in with goals, Cabaye is a valuable asset to Newcastle.
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