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The Best Premier League Starting XI of 2010

Goodison Park Everton v Arsenal Premier League Leighton Baines (Everton) Samir Nasri (Arsenal) Photo: Roger Parker Fotosports International Photo via Newscom Photo via Newscom

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 BackBranislav 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

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  1. Orzan

    January 7, 2011 at 7:55 pm

    Tim Cahill should be there.


    December 22, 2010 at 1:09 am

    Who do you think is the EPL emerging player of this season? Vote….
    A:- ANDY carroll
    B:- samir nasri
    C:- gareth BALE
    D:- parker
    Vote FOR EACH player….

  3. trickybrkn

    December 21, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    Jesse, Midfield no Tim Cahill??? The guy scores from midfield he’s a top scorer in the league on a club that would be in the drop without him… He is the only glaring missing players. If you dump the diamond and play pure Engliush 4-4-2 he dumps de Jong
    there is the always overlooked Stoke City ML Matty Etherington. One of the most effective wingers in the league and has upped his game.

    Defenders Nedum Onuoha has been one of the best back liners in the league all year for Sunderland. Another is Liam Ridgewell… Birmingham would look a lot different without him.

    forwards.. Odemwingie WBA, a man who has made the transition from Russian football to the PL.( granted only half a season)…Elmander Bolton He has finally come of age…, Chamakh Arsenal.

  4. Football Souvenirs

    December 21, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    Drogba for the end of last season but for the start if this season I would think that Andy Carroll should be in there.

  5. Adam

    December 21, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    Is this based on the ’10 season or the calendar year?

    • The Gaffer

      December 21, 2010 at 1:31 pm

      Calendar year.

      The Gaffer

      • Earl Reed

        December 21, 2010 at 2:07 pm

        I do think that most people would expect a halfway team, not a 2010 team. It’s difficult to do an entire calendar year because of injury, relegation/promotion, and transfers. It’s like comparing apples and oranges.

        Let’s compare Lampard, who you say was injured, to Rooney:

        2010 EPL Stats:
        Lampard: 17 goals, 6 assists
        Rooney: 13 goals, 6 assists

        I think the one wears Blue, that probably counts for a 5 goal deduction.

        • The Gaffer

          December 21, 2010 at 2:18 pm

          At the end of each season, we do the EPL Awards, which includes best players. Plus at the end of the season we typically do a ‘team of the season’ post.

          The Gaffer

    • Adam

      December 21, 2010 at 1:42 pm

      Should have looked more carefully- I see my answer. I do not agree with you on half of the team, but you are entitled to your choices.

      • The Gaffer

        December 21, 2010 at 1:46 pm

        Adam, what team would you recommend?

        The Gaffer

        • Adam

          December 21, 2010 at 5:47 pm

          Goalkeeper: I would take Paul Robinson over Hart. I think here it is 6 or 1 and half dozen of the other, but would give Robinson the nod.

          Defense: Am I not mistaken, or did Vidic not miss considerable time last winter/ early spring? and when he re-appeared not be in the best form. Kompany is a bit suspect as a choice too as he was not in City’s starting 11 week in and out. Across the back 4 I would go Ivanovic (or Sagna as interchangeable), Samba, Distin, Ashley Cole
          Midfield: Nani, Parker, Bale
          Forwards: Malouda, Drogba, Tevez
          Bench: Hart, Vidic, Baines, Arteta, Ethrington, Bent, Gerrard, Milner

        • Adam

          December 21, 2010 at 5:54 pm

          Goalkeeper: I would take Paul Robinson over Hart. I think here it is 6 or 1 and half dozen of the other, but would give Robinson the nod.

          Defense: Am I not mistaken, or did Vidic not miss considerable time last winter/ early spring? and when he re-appeared not be in the best form. Kompany is a bit suspect as a choice too as he was not in City’s starting 11 week in and out. Across the back 4 I would go Ivanovic (or Sagna as interchangeable), Samba, Distin, Ashley Cole
          Midfield: Nani, Parker, Bale
          Forwards: Malouda, Drogba, Tevez
          Bench: Hart, Vidic, Baines, Arteta, Ethrington, Bent, Gerrard, Milner,

          • KillisKiss

            December 29, 2010 at 5:21 pm

            One only has to notice that you put Gerrard on the bench to know that you’re clueless. I am really sorry, but stick with your PS3.

  6. Dave C

    December 21, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    Rooney on the bench is bizarre. I know the list includes the second half of last season, but he has been off form since about March – i.e. he was only good for half of the second half of last season. He’s been rubbish for the other 3/4s of the year.

  7. King Eric

    December 21, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    everyone seems to forget that this list includes the second half of last season too carrying into the start of this season. expect carroll, etc. on the 2011 list if he keeps his consistent form.

  8. Brad

    December 21, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    Andy Carroll?

    • Greg

      December 21, 2010 at 4:15 pm

      Carroll absolutely deserves a spot above Tevez and Drogba. Newcastle might not even be in the Premier League this season if it weren’t for the Englishman. Not only has he scored 10 goals, but he did so against teams like Arsenal, Chelsea, and Liverpool. And let’s not forget about the home-opening hat trick against Villa. Poor decision

      • The Gaffer

        December 21, 2010 at 4:26 pm

        Greg, the list features the best Premier League players, but Carroll didn’t start playing in the Premier League this year until August.

        The Gaffer

  9. Phenoum

    December 21, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    Cesc Fabregas is nowhere?

    • The Gaffer

      December 21, 2010 at 12:45 pm

      Fabregas has only played in 11 out of Arsenal’s 17 Premier League matches this season. And he was out injured for all of April and May earlier this year.

      The Gaffer

      • Simon Burke

        December 21, 2010 at 7:28 pm

        Not sure I’d have De Jong over Fabregas.
        Certainly wouldnt over Reina. Over the whole year Reina has been
        unbelievable. Kompany too I’d remove. Rest of this more or less picks itself though.

        • KillisKiss

          December 29, 2010 at 5:14 pm

          Farbregas is a PLAYMAKER and that space is already been occupied by the magestic Nasri. De Jong fully deserves his place as best DM in the EPL. As for Kompany.. he has been superb. Excellent tackling, reads the threat well and is good in the air. A very tenacious CB and can’t think of a better CB in the EPL.

  10. Brian

    December 21, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    All of 2010, yet your personal bias refuses to put Ashley Cole in, and Frank Lampard doesn’t sniff the team at all.


    • The Gaffer

      December 21, 2010 at 12:47 pm

      Before Lampard’s appearance as a second half substitute against Spurs a couple of weeks ago, Frank Lampard’s last appearance in a Chelsea shirt was in August!

      The Gaffer

      • Earl Reed

        December 21, 2010 at 2:39 pm

        I would imagine the Voyeur on S1TV might point out that Rooney’s last appearance for ManUtd was in March. 😀

  11. Gaz Hunt

    December 21, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    Not a single Liverpool player.

    It’s not that I disagree. On the contrary, I absolutely agree. Just disheartening to see it in black and white like that. 🙂

    Good list.

    • eddyrazor

      December 21, 2010 at 12:51 pm

      I admire your honesty man!

      • Gaz Hunt

        December 21, 2010 at 1:15 pm

        Having said that, if I had to pick one Liverpool player it would probably be Lucas or Meireles.

        Jesus, me from a season ago would be appalled at the notion that Lucas would be mentioned as our best performing player.

  12. LC

    December 21, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    berbatov should have been on the bench, opposed to rooney

    • steve

      December 21, 2010 at 4:00 pm

      yh i think berbatov should’ve been at leaston the benchbecause of the wayhe plaed this season scoring 11 goals and i know he had some ups and downs but hescored a hat-trick inliverpool match and five goals against blackburn, so why isn’t he atleast on the bench?

  13. tnnelson

    December 21, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    sorry, but you are a damned fool if you don’t think stuart holden at least gets a look on the bench. he deserves to be in the top 11 if you ask me. in fact, in another list of the best 11(voted by the fans) he is a starter and it is well deserved

    • Earl Reed

      December 21, 2010 at 12:30 pm

      Now now, it’s not like Bolton is in the top half or anything.

    • Dave C

      December 21, 2010 at 12:53 pm

      Over on the Guardian’s website, they have a team of the year (or maybe just the season so far, I’m not sure) based on average ratings given by readers after each game. Holden is actually the highest rated player in the league on that basis!

      • The Gaffer

        December 21, 2010 at 12:59 pm

        Dave, The Guardian’s list is the team of the season, so far. Jesse’s list is for the entire 2010 calendar year.

        After being out injured for almost the whole season, Holden only played two games in the Premier League for Bolton between January and May of 2010. His performances this season have been very impressive, no doubt.

        The Gaffer

  14. spark

    December 21, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    Wayne Rooney should not be on this list.

  15. MG12

    December 21, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    “Author’s Note: While not an easy feat, the following list has been complied by analyzing performances from the entire 2010 calendar year.”

    Meaning this list takes into account the second half of the 09-10 season. If you take that into consideration, it is easy to include Rooney on the bench. It is also easier to understand why VDV is not listed. He has only played a handful of games in the premier league during 2010. I would echo the sentiments that it is hard to believe that Ashely Cole is on the list, if not as a starter.

    This list does seem weighed a little to much toward recent play. Nani and Nasri have played well this season, but were not a big part of Arsenal or ManU’s offense last season. Hard to see them on this list over Fabregas or Lampard if you consider the second half of the 09-10 season.

    • KillisKiss

      December 29, 2010 at 5:08 pm

      By NO, and I mean NO accounts does Rooney deserve to be mentioned. What has Rooney done to be mentioned? Score loads of goals? Assisted many goals? In fact, his influence is negligible compared to strikers more worthy to be added on the above list.

  16. Kyle

    December 21, 2010 at 11:47 am

    Very laughable that you have Wayne Rooney on the bench but not even a mention of Rafael Van Der Vaart…

    • Matt

      December 21, 2010 at 5:05 pm

      He clearly found some way to confuse Van Der Vaart with De Jong. Though I have no idea how.

      • KillisKiss

        December 29, 2010 at 5:04 pm

        I agree with Kyle that the precarious Rooney doesn’t merit a benchrole. Van der Vaart deserves mention but hasn’t played for a full season, I reckon this was a factor. @Matt, if you don’t know the difference between an attacking midfielder (van der Vaart) and a defensive midfielder (Nigel de Jong) you have no business discussing football. A balanced team NEED a DM and de Jong has been pivotal for City. Dare I say one of the best defensive midfielders in Europe for the obvious reasons.

  17. Dominic Pollard

    December 21, 2010 at 11:43 am

    Ashley Cole has to make the team, even if you do feel that Baines may not get the recognition he deserves, Cole has been the best left back in world in 2010, let alone the Premiership. Also, Downing seems like an odd choice on the bench. He has done very little since his move to Villa, certainly not enough to warrant selection ahead of his team-mate Young, to name but one.
    Other than that though, I agree with the selection. Worrying that only two English players, one of them the keeper, make a side of the most consistent and outstanding performers in the English top flight this year!

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