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The No-Big-Four-Allowed EPL Team Of The Season

As we near the end of what has been and still is an exciting season in the EPL, the various gongs and awards are being given out. As usual, they create plenty of controversy, particularly in the case of Ryan Giggs, who was named Footballer of the Year despite only starting 12 league games this season.badges

The fact is that these awards always go to those players who enjoy plenty of column inches. Cristiano Ronaldo, for example, has had a quiet season by his standards and I would be willing to bet he wouldn’t even be in most Man Utd fans’ top three for their player of the season. At most clubs, the marquee name often does not pick up the fans’ award. It’s the left back who’s been dependable all season, or the hard-working centre midfielder.

In the Premier League there are always players who have been excellent yet are never considered for the big awards because they play for a less fashionable club, or perhaps because of the belief that you must play for a team likely to win a trophy to be taken seriously. That is rubbish, of course, so in honour of these players, I present my No-Big-Four-Allowed EPL Team of the Season:

Goalkeeper: Shay Given – Man City

When people talk Newcastle it’s normally about strikers. Or Joey Barton. Or the behind the scenes shenanigans. But for years their best player was Shay. Not the biggest keeper you’ll ever see, but there aren’t many safer goalies around. Now he’s run away from the circus to join Man City where he’s being just as brilliant. Apologies to Mark Schwarzer and Tim Howard who just miss out.

Right Back: Glen Johnson – Portsmouth

An exceptional talent at West Ham and a decent start at Chelsea soon gave way to a few years of struggle for Johnson. This season he seems to have grown up. His performances have improved, he has played with greater responsibility and under Paul Hart he has shown willingness to adapt to a new role further up the pitch. The England right back slot was up for grabs a few months ago. Now he’s nailed it.

Left Back: Herita Ilunga – West Ham

The rumour was that when Alan Curbishley lost George McCartney to Sunderland his solution was to sign Ben Thatcher. Relations with his Board continued to dwindle. Ilunga came in on loan from Toulouse and has been superb all season for Zola, part of a defence that looks extremely tight, especially since the arrival of coach Steve Clarke.

Centre Back: Brede Hangeland – Fulham

The 27-year-old Norwegian cost Roy Hodgson just £2.5m this time last year. Arsene Wenger must be sick because this is exactly the sort of dominating giant he needs at the heart of his porous defence. Hangeland has been outstanding in a mean Fulham back five that has conceded just 28 goals in 34 games this season.

Centre Back: Phil Jagielka – Everton

Poor Jags. He had the stones to step up and take a crucial penalty against Man Utd in the FA Cup semi-final after missing one in a previous UEFA Cup tie. He scored. If anyone deserved that glory it was him. Always a solid player, now, like so many at Everton, Jagielka has progressed enormously under David Moyes. It was sad news to see that an injury will keep him out of the Cup Final.  Being in this prestigious team of the season will be little consolation.

Right Midfield: Antonio Valencia

You have to sympathise with Wigan. Every time they discover a decent player (Palacios, Chimbonda) or rediscover an underappreciated talent (Heskey) it’s only a matter of time before they’re nabbed by a bigger club. Or by Spurs. Wigan fans must be wondering what colour shirt Valencia will be wearing next season. Steve Bruce rates him almost as highly as Cristiano Ronaldo.

Left Midfield: Ashley Young – Aston Villa

Ash should, of course, have been given more of a chance in the England squad, although his form in the last third of the season has not been as electric as the first two-thirds. Reached a zenith in December with those two goals away at Everton in a thrilling game that resulted in Martin O’Neill branding him a genius.

Centre Midfield: Stephen Ireland – Man City

Now it starts becoming really difficult. There are great central midfielders all over the shop in the Premier League these days. But I really like Stephen Ireland. Limitless stamina, he manages to be unselfish yet still score plenty of goals himself (13 in all competitions this season). A real talent and only 22 years old.

Centre Midfield: Gareth Barry – Aston Villa

It’s an obvious one, I know, but he deserves it. The chaos surrounding his transfer to Liverpool last summer was upsetting for Villa fans, but eventually he stayed and had the professionalism to get on with his job. You couldn’t say that about every footballer in the land.

Striker: Carlton Cole – West Ham

It’s been a low scoring year for strikers in the Premier League. With a few games left, Ronaldo has scored the most with 17 and Anelka is the only other player to reach 15. Until his injury, however, Carlton Cole was in the form of his life, proving plenty of doubters wrong and helping Zola to turn around West Ham’s fortunes. He even grabbed himself an England cap. Next season will be a big one for him.

Striker: Djibril Cisse – Sunderland

This was a real struggle. I almost stuck Tim Cahill up front as he was excellent there for Everton and Robinho has a case too, but I think his overall form has been too patchy. Robbie Keane had a tough time at Liverpool, Defoe has been injured a lot, Benni McCarthy has blown hot and cold, I like Tuncay but he hasn’t scored enough goals and Agbonlahor’s form has fallen away at times. Old warhorse Kevin Davies has had a tremendous season, but for me Djibril Cisse just about gets the nod, if only to have some variety in hairstyles in the team.

So there we have it. My No-Big-Four-Allowed EPL Team of the Season. Would it challenge the top four? I’d like to think so. Take your pick from David Moyes or Martin O’Neill to lead them into battle and I think you’d see some silverware. Please feel free to let me know where I’ve gone horribly wrong…

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  1. Sammy Spur

    May 6, 2010 at 9:33 am

    I’ll admit that there is a touch of Spurs Fan bias to the following, but:

    Considering Spurs finished 4th, why are there no Spurs players in your team?

    Gomes, King, Dawson, Modric, Lennon, Bale and may be Palacios should at least get a mention.

  2. PS

    May 4, 2009 at 2:31 am

    Wilson Palacios anyone? 1st half of the season Wigan rode his back to the top 7, and have dropped to bottom half without him, while Spurs have skyrocketed up the table once they got him…

  3. RF Interference

    May 4, 2009 at 1:58 am

    Lennon has been Spurs best player all season. It’s Modric that came good in the second half.

  4. Gaz

    May 3, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    Kevin Davies for up front!

  5. Dan Trelfer

    May 2, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    to be fair, i did give props to schwarzer and howard! just my personal preference, i think Given is ace. Friedel, in my opinion, hasn’t been as sound this year as in previous years, but is a great keeper. I will say that I would be more than happy toswitch Given and Howard if people demanded it.
    Dempsey has had a great season, been valuable in my fantasy team. But Danny Murphy has probably been more influential than him in the Fulham side and creates plenty of goals himself. Sorry, I think most people would pick Ireland ahead of him.

  6. RaiderRich2001

    May 1, 2009 at 9:57 pm

    I agree Everton has talent, the problem is most of the talent has spent long portions of the season on the bench or in the training room. Or in Fellaini’s case, suspended for yellow cards. Tim Howard has been the steadying hand on that team. And somebody had to save those PKs to get Everton into the FA Cup final. He is the MVP of that Everton team.

    I mentioned Friedel. Friedel should be considered. He’s been excellent, and he’s been missing Martin Laursen, without a doubt Villa’s leader in the locker room, but not ahead of Howard due to Villa’s recent form. Schwartzer definitely deserves consideration ahead of Given because Fulham would be in a relegation fight without him, but they’re not in Europe… yet. Given hasn’t elevated Man City at all since coming over from Newcastle. As for James… well, which David James will show up for Portsmouth in any given week? And if James is really that good, how come folks over there want Almunia to get UK citizenship and start for England?

  7. Sebastian Sebastian

    May 1, 2009 at 9:23 pm

    RaiderRich2001: Everton are certainly not a bottom half of the table club with any other keeper. Brad Friedel, Shay Given, Mark Schwarzer, David James? Your claim gives very little credit to a very talented squad, and very little credit to some very talented keepers in other squads.

  8. RaiderRich2001

    May 1, 2009 at 8:53 pm

    Look, Everton’s had a revolving door lineup the whole year because of injuries. The one constant Everton’s had is Tim Howard. Only Edwin Van Der Sar has been as intrumental in his teams success with an equally revolving door when it comes to MU’s defenders, and we’re only excluding him because he’s top 4. With any other keeper, Everton is in the bottom half of the table.

    Newcastle was only mediocre with Given. Man City is barely mediocre now that they have him, and is playing worse every game. Everton is playing in Europe next year. Man City is nowhere near Europe. Howard

    Friedel has been just a key factor for Aston Villa’s run this season. Just look at the difference between when he starts and when Brad Guzan starts. Yes, they’re slumping at the wrong time, but that’s because they’ve been worn down from having to play in the Intertoto Cup in addition to a full UEFA Cup and English schedule. Not quite as good as Howard, but a hell of a lot better than Given, who isn’t keeping his team anywhere Europe.

    As for Dempsey, he’s the only freaking midfielder for Fulham that seems to want to push forward, and he’s set up almost every goal Fulham scored post-transfer window that he hasn’t scored himself. Stephen Ireland has some good games, but he disappears in too many to make this list. (The other 3 are spot on, BTW).

  9. Nick

    May 1, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    Rich, I would say no,it seems like there is no anti-American bias. Just seems like there is better players out there than those two

  10. RaiderRich2001

    May 1, 2009 at 7:48 pm

    No Tim Howard? No Brad Friedel? No Clint Dempsey? You got some kind of anti-American bias?

  11. Dan Trelfer

    May 1, 2009 at 6:43 pm

    We’re not far off than, Matt!
    I think Lennon only really came good 2nd half of the season, but i could be wrong there. I’m not his biggest fan!

  12. LI Matt

    May 1, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    My team:

    Mark Schwarzer; Glen Johnson, Phil Jagielka, Brede Hangeland, Leighton Baines; Aaron Lennon, Gareth Barry, Tim Cahill, Ashley Young; Robinho, Kevin Davies.

  13. Martin

    May 1, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    List needs more Aaron Lennon….

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