The saying goes that ‘form is temporary but class is permanent’ and on many levels this holds true, however such a huge part of professional sport is the mental aspect of the game, which at the highest level can be just as, if not more important than the physical aspect.
With just 8 or 9 games remaining in the Premier League player form and the momentum it provides can be crucial to clubs fighting for something towards the end of the season. Classic examples include Fulham’s great escape in 2008 and Kevin Keegan’s Love it Rant as the momentum of 1996 title race shifted in Manchester United’s favour.
With this in mind I have been looking at the form players in the Premier League and which players managers would potentially want in their sides for the season’s run-in, should they have their pick of the division.
Adopting a 4-4-2 formation for nostalgic rather than practical reasons, players in this XI have made at least 20 appearances this season and are free from long term injury.
Goalkeeper – Joe Hart
Birmingham are having a fantastic season, chasing a Europa cup dream and this is in no small part due to the safe pair of hands on loan from Manchester City.
A good shot stopper and strong in the air, it will be a travesty if Joe Hart is not on the plane to South Africa with England on current form.
Right Back – Branislav Ivanovic
After signing for Chelsea in January 2008 the Serbian international seemed to disappear off the radar and it appeared as if Chelsea had uncovered a modern day Winston Bogarde.
However when given the chance Ivanovic impressed the Chelsea faithful with strong, powerful displays at both the centre and right hand side of defence. The injury of Jose Boswinga has allowed Ivanovic to show his value on a regular basis this season.
Left Back – Leighton Baines
With the injury to Ashley Cole,an England debut and regular starting berth in a resurgent Everton side gives Baines the nod over Patrice Evra and Stephen Warnock.
Centre Back – Ryan Shawcross
Despite the publicity surrounding the tackle that broke Aaron Ramsey’s leg the 22 year old has received a positive response to his actions in the aftermath of the horror tackle. He has a commanding, committed style that fits into the Stoke ethos that has allowed Tony Pulis’ side to assert themselves in the Premier League.
Shawcross been one of the stand out defenders in the league this season earning himself an England call up and an outside shot at a place at the World Cup.
Centre Back – Thomas Vermaelen
Bought by Arsene Wenger as a replacement for Kolo Toure the Belgian defender has helped plug a leaky Arsenal defence with some commanding defensive displays.
Costing a seemingly bargain basement €10 million the defender has also shown a keen eye for goal netting an impressive 7 times already this season.
Whilst there have been some doubts over his ‘big game’ performances he edges others such as Richard Dunne and John Heitinga.
Central Midfield – Cesc Fabregas
Cesc Fabregas has been one of the best midfielders in the Premier League for many years despite his young age. This season has arguably been his best so far with the Spaniard adding goals to his creativity at the heart of the Arsenal midfield.
Likely to make the first team at any club in the world, Fabregas is an uncontroversial central midfield choice.
Central Midfield – Frank Lampard
Frank Lampard has scored more than 20 goals in each of his last five seasons at Chelsea, despite having detractors dating back to his days at West Ham the player has a record that dumbfounds the criticism.
After a slow start to the season, attributed to his role in the Ancelotti diamond, Lampard has returned to form and looks set to reach 20 goals for a sixth successive season.
Winger – James Milner
Aston Villa are once again challenging at the top end of the table, and this can largely be attributed to the speed and skill of their wingers, although now being played centrally by Martin O’Neil, James Milner has shown he is adept out wide and adds versatility to this XI.
An English player having a fantastic season, Milner looks likely to play a large role in England’s World Cup campaign.
Winger – Damien Duff
After seemingly fading into obscurity at Newcastle a move to Fulham has rejuvenated Damien Duff’s career, back to his dazzling best he has won many plaudits this season and scored some incredible goals.
With plenty of attacking options in the league it is the work ethic and consistency of Damien Duff which has given him the edge over Ashley Young, Nani and Florent Malouda.
Centre Forward – Wayne Rooney
The easiest selection of the lot, with 32 goals this season Wayne Rooney has come to the boil in a World Cup year and is seemingly single-handedly dragging Manchester United towards yet more silverware.
Centre Forward – Didier Drogba
During his Chelsea career Drogba has been prone to sulking and picking up ‘minor’ knocks with greater ease than most, particularly odd considering his bullish style and excellent technique. Under Felipe Scolari it seemed as if his days in the Premier League were numbered, but under Guus Hiddink and now Carlo Ancelotti the striker is back to his best, hassling defenders and chasing down Wayne Rooney in a bid for the golden boot.
A tough choice but Drogba just about edges out Rooney’s former team mate Carlos Tevez for the second striker position due to his goal return and ability to terrorise even the strongest of defences.
Substitutes: Gomes, Modric, Young, Pienaar, Valencia, Heitinga, Tevez
There have also been many stand out performers this season that did not make the line up, for this reason I have named a strong bench. Last year’s villain Heurelho Gomes is now the hero at White Hart Lane and constitutes the goalkeeping option. John Heitinga is rewarded for his fine form by being named as the main defensive back up.
The game changing options are provided by a strong midfield quartet and Carlos Tevez.
A certainty less than a month ago would have been Ashley Cole who despite his off field woes was having his best season in a Chelsea shirt, before injury made him a doubt for the World Cup and gave England a left-back dilemma.
Interestingly notable players such as John Terry, Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres and Rio Ferdinand have been left out. The reason for exclusion is due to either injury or in the case of Steven Gerrard them not being hitting the high expectations they have set in previous years.
All in all I think that any manager in the league would be happy to name this line up on form alone given the choice, it may not be the best XI in the league but on current form each player would be a test for any opposition.