Ah, it’s that time of the year again and I simply love it. No, not Christmas, but the end of the year lists that all end up being about the same everywhere you look. Seriously, I think every music magazine has awarded album of the year to Kanye West, but that’s a topic for another article. Here we discuss the Premier League and the individual footballers that make it one of the best leagues in the world.
2010 has been quite interesting if you’re a fan of the Premier League. We’ve seen current Champions Chelsea start the season on a flier only to loose out on some key players and suffer once again from the goings on behind the scenes as owner Roman Abramovich and his cronies have their way. Adding parity to the Premier League, all three promoted teams are comfy in mid table or there abouts while once boring Bolton have enjoyed a mini resurgence under current boss Owen Coyle. The end of last season’s title race was a close one with Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney picking up most of the accolades. Chelsea were deserved Champions but Manchester City and Tottenham have emerged as serious title contenders in the last four months.
While familiar faces currently hold the top two spots in the standings, 2010 hasn’t been the kind of year dominated by English football’s ‘big 4′. Liverpool are re-building under Roy Hodgson, Manchester United have been solid without being great, and Arsenal seem to be plagued by the same old problems that have hindered their title credentials for the last few years. Critics will say that the big 4′s lack of dominance has burdened an already top heavy league while proponents will argue just the opposite. Regardless of your stance on the overall theme of this year’s Premier League, there have been some standout performances which we’ll now take a look at in the form of the league’s best starting XI.
Author’s Note: While not an easy feat, the following list has been complied by analyzing performances from the entire 2010 calendar year. If readers fail to see a player on the list they feel was deserved, it’s likely said player had a great few months but was injured, suffered a drop in form, fell to the fact that only one player can occupy each position or simply wasn’t good enough over the course of the last 12 months. As always, feel free to leave comments and suggestions in the space below.
Goalkeeper – Joe Hart, Manchester City- While Chelsea’s Petr Cech has enjoyed his best form since 2007, the league’s best keeper thus far has been the England #1 Hart. Hart started 2010 on loan with Brum then was called back to his parent club Manchester City. He began the season in the kind of super-human form football fans are used to seeing on highlight reels and maybe even in their dreams. Manchester City are chasing the title and with Hart healthy, fit and between the sticks, they’ll feel their shot at the title will increase.
Right Back -Branislav Ivanovic, Chelsea- Having filled in for the injured, first choice right back at Chelsea Jose Bosingwa, Ivanovic slowly claimed the spot as his very own over 2010 yet remains available to fill in in defense wherever needed. A good crosser of the ball when getting forward to support attacks, Ivanovic is a staunch defender and able to score the occasional goal from a set piece when opportunities present themselves.
Central Defender - Nemanja Vidic, Manchester United – Vidic has arguably been the league’s best defender for a couple of years as well as this calendar year of 2010. Strong, smart and with brilliant defensive positioning, Vidic remains a staple in the heart of United’s back line and should be considered as one of the best defenders in the world.
Central Defender – Vincent Kompany, Manchester City- Although City have been leaky recently, they’re not challenging for the title for nothing. They finished last year in fifth and look to improve upon that this season. Kompany has been a rock solid defender for City through their resurgence up the table.
Left Back – Leighton Baines, Everton- Ashley Cole and Patrice Evra have also had a great 2010, but I grow tired of players the likes of Leighton Baines missing out on recognition. Baines has been one of a few standouts on an Everton side with not much to gloat about in recent weeks. And although one could argue that Baines isn’t asked to do as much as the aforementioned Cole and Evra, he remains as important to his team as Cole and Evra do to theirs. Baines just missed out on joining England at last summer’s World Cup to Aston Villa’s Stephen Warnock but it wasn’t because of form, but more because of the experienced players in front of him. Baines is a solid defender and possesses the attacking abilities that modern day full backs need to enhance the shape of their team moving forward.
Midfield (Right) – Nani, Manchester United- Nani’s stock has risen immensely in 2010 with some great wing play on the right, a number of important goals scored and has shown he possesses the kind of footballing maturity needed to succeed at United. Nani was brilliant in last season’s away victory at Arsenal on 31 January by turning in a man of the match performance and remains one of the league’s most dangerous attackers when on form.
Midfield (Attacking) – Samir Nasri, Arsenal- The brilliant Nasri can play on either flank or in central midfield in an attacking role. Quite possibly the league’s form player so far this season, Nasri has been an instrumental play-maker and attacker as Arsenal chase the Premier League title. Quick, a good link player, a goal scorer and emerging as a leader while Cesc Fabregas continues to struggle with injury, Nasri has excelled as a footballer in 2010.
Midfield (Defensive) – Nigel de Jong, Manchester City- What a year City midfielder Nigel de Jong has had for both club and country. His exploits in South Africa, while at times controversial, earned him a starting spot in the Final v Spain while he remains a staple with club. Strong in the tackle, a good distributor of the ball and a solid defender, de Jong is currently one of the most effective defensive midfielders in the Premier League.
Midfield (Left) – Gareth Bale, Tottenham Hotspur – No one in the world has been as effective on the left side of midfield in world football in 2010 as Bale has been for Spurs. First a left back with attacking abilities and now an out and out attacking winger, Bale’s stock has risen higher than any footballer this year. Bale’s a strong, marauding runner, a brilliant crosser of the ball, dangerous over a free kick and can score goals. His trickery in attack is only matched by his effectiveness when running at defenders while his abilities to defend shouldn’t be overlooked.
Forward – Didier Drogba, Chelsea- Drogba hasn’t been at his best in recent weeks, yet he’s still a top five goal scorer this season and was last season’s highest scorer. Although he’s battled sickness and injury, Drogba remains a threat the moment he steps out onto the pitch and let’s not forget, Chelsea are the title holders largely because of how good Drogba was earlier this year.
Forward – Carlos Tevez, Manchester City- Like Drogba, Tevez is always near the top of the goals scored list while his work rate remains mostly unmatched by any other forward in the Premier League. I’m happy to hear that he’s rescinded his transfer request and will remain at City, at least for the time being. Tevez is one of the league’s best and most exciting players to watch.
Bench: John Terry, Chelsea – Patrice Evra, Manchester United – Petr Cech, Chelsea – Darren Fletcher, Manchester United, Roger Johnson, Birmingham City – Florent Malouda, Chelsea – Wayne Rooney, Manchester United – Darren Bent, Sunderland – Stewart Downing, Aston Villa