2008/09 Team Of The Season
Towards the end of this month, the Premiership team of the year will be announced along with the PFA players’ player of the year. In anticipation of this, I have decided to select my own best eleven of the season and invite you to do likewise. So here goes:
Edwin Van Der Sar
It’s difficult to look beyond someone who didn’t concede a goal for over three months of the season. At the age of 38, he has defied his years, proving that he still has the ability to be considered one of the top keepers in world football and the desire to win medals. Although he does have a remarkable defence in front of him, it is partly his concentration levels that are so commendable. The fact that he spends the majority of games with nothing to do, only to be called into action late on and oblige with both routine and magnificent saves is why he is still a major attribute to Manchester United. His meticulous preparation, years of experience and composure in nervy situations provide the platform for young players like Jonny Evans to come straight into the first team and look like he’s been there for years.
A superb season has seen him rewarded with an England call up. Everton pride themselves on having a solid core and while others have taken the plaudits, Jagielka quietly goes about his business, keeping many a top class striker firmly at bay. His ability on the ball is infallible has been consistently good under pressure. He too has that urgency and desire to not lose a goal and in the mould of John Terry and Jamie Carragher, will throw himself in front of anything to ensure that his side do not concede.
Vidic has been absolutely outstanding for the majority of the season. It will be highlighted that he had a shocker against Liverpool recently but that should not take away from the fact that he has been world class yet again. He is not only vital to United in a defensive sense but his goal threat is sensational. Important ones against Chelsea and Inter Milan have seen him become very much a potent threat from set pieces while his no nonsense attitude at the back makes him a striker’s worst nightmare.
What a find by Roy Hodgson. From leaking goals left, right and centre to being the clean sheet specialists in the Premiership, Hangeland is very much the heart and soul of Fulham’s team. They have built a solid unit around his old school style of defending as he provides a presence that the West London club severely lacked. It is likely that he will move on to a bigger club in the summer and it is clear for all to see as to why he is so coveted.
Another consistent season for the versatile defender who still remains potent in front of goal. He has followed up on his two previous impressive seasons for the Toffees with yet another, this time being more of a feature at centre back than left back. Nonetheless, he still seems to be a key member of Everton’s team and at 26, must only be scraping the surface of his talents and has his best years ahead of him.
This man doesn’t know how to have a mediocre season, even when all around him are. His knack for not just scoring but doing so at crucial times never ceases to amaze. Despite the addition of yet another ‘world class’ midfielder in the form of Deco, Lampard continues to remain Chelsea’s only undroppable, unstoppable midfielder and Ballack and the aforementioned Portuguese playmaker could take a leaf out of his book. Another aspect of Lampard’s game that deserves the utmost respect is the fact that he is always available for selection, regardless of the competition. Whether it’s the league cup third round at home to a lower league side to the champions’ league final, Lampard wants to play. For me Lampard is the main reason why Chelsea are still in the title race.
For a player who was supposedly surplus to requirements last summer, he has more than proved his importance and class. It’s no coincidence that his best form for probably two years now has coincided with Liverpool mounting their most serious title challenge for years. Alonso’s range of passing is undoubtedly breathtaking at times, while this season he has also chipped in with some vital goals, something that has been severely lacking in his game in previous campaigns. Another factor that has been impressive about Alonso is that he appears to have more resilience about him, not going missing in games that aren’t going according to plan.
Considering all Manchester City’s money and their foreign imports, it has been Stephen Ireland who has been their most consistent performer over the season. He has responded to the influx of talent that surrounds him and puts some of them to shame with his tireless performances week in week out. Goals have been the most notable addition to his game but his overall influence on the team has been superb. At home, Man City have looked great more often than not and Ireland slots in nicely with assists and general midfield play that is easy on the eye. But it has been away from home, where City have struggled, that Ireland has come into his own.
Whereas some players have shied away from a scrap and a battle on unfamiliar turf, Ireland has dug in and led by example with a never say die attitude that is starting to look like it might pay dividends for City. His game has matured this season and he has certainly risen to the challenge of the investors that want to make City a massive club. Judging by his performances, if the good times are just around the corner, Ireland definitely wants to be a part of it.
He has been one of, if not the most exciting player to watch this season. He is a breath of fresh air and doesn’t know when to quit. Take the game versus Everton just before Christmas as a perfect example. Just when it looked as though Everton had salvaged a point courtesy of a ninetieth minute equaliser, Young literally goes up the other end of the pitch and scores a crucial winner.
His pace is electric, his skills and technique are sublime and his finishing is getting better by the chance. He is also one of the top providers of goals and delivers a dangerous set piece that no defenders find easy to deal with. Villa have played with no fear this season and he has been the personification of this bold approach that Martin O’Neill has endorsed.
Finally, some consistency and a solid goal return has seen Rooney take a massive stride towards becoming the player we all knew he could be. For years I believe Rooney to have been overrated but this year he has added regular goals to his game, an attribute which was sorely missing. Last year he was over shadowed by Cristiano Ronaldo (although who wasn’t?) but now Rooney is starting to show why he is most effective at the top end of the pitch, providing the kind of goal return of a striker (almost one in two in all competitions). And his desire to get in the box more hasn’t deterred his work rate defensively as he still goes chasing back seventy yards when losing the ball. Also his skill and long range passing is now proving to be more productive rather than for show. By far his best season and at 23 has much more to come.
A somewhat controversial choice but he has had his best season in front of goal and has always in my opinion been underrated. He does the same job for Bolton that Emile Heskey does but includes goals in his game as well. The only reason Davies never receives international recognition is because he has never played for a fashionable club. He has scored four times the amount of goals Heskey has this season and has been Bolton’s catalyst for years now. Davies has been this season’s highest scoring English forward in the Premiership and although he isn’t most people’s cup of tea, he is very effective.