The 2014-15 Pele Confidential Alternative Premier League Team of the Year

mceachran

With some stalwarts of the game set to move on this summer, the time has come to recognise those ignored by the official team of the year. Sure, this might be because no one else even realised they were still playing in the Premier League, but that’s hardly important here.

 

Goalkeeper – Carlo Nash

The literalists among you may argue that Nash doesn’t even play in the Premier League, and sure, you’re technically right. However does any reserve goalkeeper ever really play in the Premier League?

Nash made 0 top-flight appearances in each of the last seven seasons, but was registered to Wigan, Everton, Stoke and Norwich for the entirety of the period. The fact that he retired last summer should hardly matter.

 

Right-Back – Kyle Walker-Peters

We all knew the replicants were set to rise up, but I don’t think any of us expected it to happen so soon. Walker-Peters is a second-generation AI, after the moderate success of Fulham’s Moussa Dembele in the 2013-14 season, while his operating system has been trialled in Montreal where striker Romario Williams made his debut earlier in the year.

 

Centre-Back – Alex Bruce

It takes some moxie to base your entire career on the Simpsons episode Bart Star, but Bruce found a way. Seriously, I’m not even mad.

 

Centre-Back – Zeki Fryers

When Manchester United let Fryers leave for Standard Liege in 2012, it was rumoured that the decision was an elaborate campaign to prove there were other Belgian clubs besides Royal Antwerp. The defender scored 0 goals in 7 games for the side, following that with an impressive 0 in just 7 for Tottenham. He now plays for Crystal Palace, allegedly.

 

Left-Back – Bryan Oviedo

A harsh lesson in the volatility of stock-trading, Oviedo enjoyed a fruitful 2013-14 after receiving investment from journalist Sid Lowe and long-haired meme Michu. However this year, just like fellow Costa Rican international Mauricio Bitcoin, his stock has plummeted, leaving him practically unusable.

 

Centre-Midfield – Josh McEachran

Josh McEachran is still a Chelsea player. Josh McEachran is getting kept out of the Vitesse team by other Chelsea players. Josh McEachran’s last Chelsea appearance came against Wolves in January 2012. Since that game, Wolves have been relegated twice and promoted once. They could be promoted again while Josh McEachran is a Chelsea player. Josh McEachran’s last Chelsea appearance came in a game involving Fernando Torres, Juan Mata, Raul Meireles, David Luiz, Ashley Cole and Bosingwa. None of these people still play for Chelsea. Josh McEachran is still a Chelsea player. These are facts.

 

Centre-Midfield – Chris Brunt/Graeme Dorrans/James Morrison/Craig Gardner

 

Centre-Midfield – Sebastian Lletget

Watch us wreck the mic, watch us wreck the mic, watch us wreck the mic…psyche! Lletget ready to rumble. Lletget ready to rumble. Get ready get steady and rumble. Everybody rumble. Sit back cracker jack don’t take no flack, rhyme in time to the rhythm of the track. Lletget ready to rumble.

No league appearances. Rumoured to be moving to MLS with LA Galaxy over the summer.

 

Right-Wing – Shaun Wright-Phillips

Shaun Wright-Phillips is 33 years old. Thirty-three. How did we, as a society, allow this to happen without making more of a fuss? He’s older than Sienna Miller. He’s older than Britney Spears. He’s older than long-retired Argentinean tennis player Guillermo Coria. Is none of this even a little bit weird?

 

Left-Wing – Mauro Zarate

In an example of peak Harry Redknapp, QPR’s transfer business this season has seen them sign a talented Chilean forward with talents not necessarily suited to the Premier League, then in the following transfer window bring in another version of the same guy. If that wasn’t enough, Eduardo Vargas and Mauro Zarate openly hate each other. And if *that* wasn’t enough, Redknapp attempted to send Zarate back to West Ham in the same window, a move which was literally impossible under Premier League rules. Top planning, there.

 

Striker – Facundo Ferreyra

Take a look at this! That right there is the mail. Now let’s talk about the mail. Can we talk about the mail, please, Mac? I’ve been dying to talk about the mail with you all day, okay? Facundo Ferreyra. This name keeps coming up over and over again. Every day, Facundo’s mail is getting sent back to me. Facundo Ferreyra. Facundo Ferreyra. I look in the mail, well THIS WHOLE BOX IS FACUNDO FERREYRA! So I say to myself, I gotta find this guy. I gotta go up to his office. I gotta put his mail in the guy’s goddamn hands otherwise he’s never gonna get it. He’s gonna keep coming back down here. So I go up to Facundo’s office and what do I find out, Mac? What do I find out? There is no Facundo Ferreyra. The man does not exist! Okay. so I decided, ohhhhh shit, buddy. I gotta dig a little deeper. There’s no Facundo Ferreyra? You gotta be kidding me. I got boxes full of Facundo. Alright, so I start marching my way down to Carol in HR. And I knock on her door and I say “CAAAAAAROL. CAAAAAAAAAAAROL. I gotta talk to you about Facundo.” And when I open the door, wha’ do I find? There’s not a single goddamn desk in that office! THERE. IS. NO. CAROL IN HR. Mac, half the employees in this building have been made up. This office is a goddamn ghost town.

Premier League Team of the Year 2013-14

Jonas

 

Like this, but good, here’s my alternative team of the year. It’s inevitably worse, less witty and more tiresome than yours, but I don’t care.

 

Goalkeeper – Heurelho Gomes

It takes some effort to go from being first choice for your club and a squad mainstay for your country to playing back-up to a 42-year-old back-up keeper and losing out to Toronto’s number one on the international stage. Many would have struggled to pull it off, but Gomes has that never-say-die attitude needed to keep Richard Wright out of the starting XI.

 

Right-back – Ryan Taylor

“But Ryan Taylor left Newcastle ages ago, he’s probably retired, or playing in MLS or something. Actually it’s probably Australia. There’s a Newcastle there too, right? He can’t still be in the Premier League, right?” Wrong. He’s still there despite injuries restricting him to three games in the last two seasons, which itself is probably more than you’d thought he’d played. See, this is educational.

 

Centre-back – Garry Monk

A few weeks ago, when Ryan Giggs took over as Manchester United player-manager, people wracked their brains to try and think of the last person to fill that role at a Premier League club. Either they didn’t realise that Monk was still registered as a player for Swansea, or they didn’t care. Probably the latter in fairness.

 

Centre-back – Antolín Alcaraz

It takes a special kind of defender to see his teammates overachieving and deciding “I’ll do something about that”. Step forward Antolín Alcaraz. Clearly distraught by his contribution to Wigan’s survival in 2012, the Paraguayan sought to redress the balance by sabotaging new club Everton’s pursuit of Champions League football.

 

Left-back – Florian Marange

Sometimes when you join a new club you expect it to take a while to be given a game. However you probably rarely expect your new manager to make you ineligible for Premier League games. When Ian Holloway can’t even think of a woodland animal analogy when criticising you, you know it’s bad. Thankfully things have improved in the new year, as Marange has realised his name is an anagram of ‘Granola Fireman’.

 

Central midfield – Abou Diaby

Forget that meaningless Koscielny and Mertesacker stat, Arsenal have a 100% record this season in games where Abou Diaby has been named in the matchday squad. If he’d been fit the whole season then they’d have 111 points – you can’t argue with cold hard numbers like that.

 

Central midfield – Jonas Gutiérrez

He might have only made five league appearances this season, but the man’s Twitter game puts sees him lock down a midfield berth. A mesmerising blend of dog photos, Bon Jovi lyrics and so much more, El Galgo puts us all to shame.

 

Right midfield – Sylvain Marveaux (captain)

Not going to lie, I’ve only included him here so I can use the line ‘Captain Marveaux’.

 

Left midfield – Iago Aspas

Just look at him. The focus. The precision. The drive. And then this.

 

Striker – Jordan Bowery

Apparently a real person, with skin and bones and Premier League appearances and everything. He’s yet to live up to the illustrious career of his father, who scored one goal in a prolific 10-game spell for Team Hawaii in the 70s (this is actually true).

 

Striker – Moussa Dembélé

When we look back on Fulham’s season, we will remember two things: The first is Rene Meulensteen’s attempt at a Schrödingeresque teamsheet against Manchester United (I’m at least 70% sure Muamer Tanković isn’t real, or at the very least he’s part of an inside joke shared by only Meulensteen, Chris Morris and the Stonecutters).

Second is Martin Jol’s decision to pre-empt his sacking by calling upon Football Manager regens as early as November. In much the same way that Swansea tried to trick their fans into thinking Jordi Gómez hadn’t left by signing Jordi López, Jol fasttracked Dembélé into the first team despite him being nine years younger than his recently departed namesake, not to mention a different nationality and a different position. Did it work? See for yourself.

How El Diego saved West Ham

maradona

At 6.30pm on Sunday January 12, 2014, a repeat of Mrs Brown’s Boys was interrupted to the delight of millions. The BBC cut to East London where David Sullivan was sat behind a desk, his face hanging solemnly like a novelty Ray Winstone nodding dog.

Speculation immediately began to gather on social media. It had been rumoured that defeat at Cardiff was the last straw for West Ham manager Sam Allardyce, and that he had merged with his clothes, shoes and dinner to form one glutinous, sausagey mess. Club spokeschild Jack Sullivan promised “Big news. No, really big, none of that Roger Johnson bollocks”. The nation waited with baited breath.

The co-owner of the club gauged the prevailing atmosphere, discarded a notepad full of inappropriate and probably racist ‘mood-lightening’ jokes, and cut to the chase. Gone was the world’s 13th-best paid manager (yeah, seriously) and replacing him was none other than Diego Maradona.

“Diego was the obvious choice,” Sullivan Sr. lied. “Everyone in the country already hates us, especially after Karren Brady got given a CBE. I mean what the shit was that about.”

“I’m standing right here,” Brady interrupted.

“Fuck you, I stand by it,” Sullivan continued. “So anyway, we’re in the rare situation where we can test out whether two wrongs actually make a right.”

Stunned into near-silence, the press turned their attentions to El Diego. Why had he chosen this job above any others? Speaking through an interpreter who looked suspiciously like Mauricio Pochettino, the new manager spoke of West Ham’s strong tradition of Argentines.

“Carlos Tevez is still well respected here,” began the interpreter, “and Javier Mascherano was an able backup to world-class midfielders like Hayden Mullins and Nigel Reo-Coker. Then there was Lionel Scaloni, erm, Mauricio Taricco…psst, help me out here guys…was Walter Lopez Argentinean or Uruguayan? How about Pablo Barrera? Mexican? Really? Actually that explains a lot…”

Having successfully bored the watching public into not caring about what he had to say, Maradona set about his task, bringing in Diego Milito on loan until the end of the season. Also, in a controversial move, he swapped Kevin Nolan for an ocelot and 30 copies of Lee Carvallo’s Putting Challenge. Fans rejoiced at the news.

The impact was immediate. Enjoying the famed new manager bounce, the Irons beat Newcastle 3-2 in Maradona’s first name in charge. Visiting manager Alan Pardew was furious, claiming a “Premier League conspiracy” and bringing up the previous season’s defeat to Paolo di Canio’s Sunderland.

“It’s unfair that we have to play these teams before the players realise how much of an assclown the manager is,” Pardew complained. Though he said “arseclown” rather than “assclown”, which doesn’t work quite as well.

After a 9-2 aggregate defeat to ManchesterCity, more signings arrived. Goalkeeper Roberto Abbondanzieri was coaxed out of retirement to replace Jussi Jääskeläinen, with the manager under the mistaken impression that you had to “replace all the letters, like in Scrabble”.

The strikeforce was bolstered further with the arrival of Garry O’Connor and Adrian Mutu, while former West Ham winger Shaun Newton also returned to the club. The manager spoke particularly highly of Newton’s “supply line”, before giggling to himself and scratching his nose.

Another player to make his return to Upton Park was Rio Ferdinand, though only on loan as the coaching staff admitted to not being sure about him.

Results from then on in were mixed. Milito ruptured his Achilles tendon scoring a late winner against Swansea, but an improvised centre-back pairing of Roger Johnson and a fit-again Andy Carroll (“he’s good in the air”, Maradona insisted) saw the club enter May just outside the relegation places, only for disaster to strike ahead of the penultimate fixture against Spurs.

Concerned about the North London club’s late-season form, David Sullivan looked to poison the opposition’s pre-match lasagne on the basis that no one would be stupid enough to suspect West Ham of doing the same thing twice. Jääskeläinen, by now sleeping rough on the streets of Newham, was promised a new contract if he injected the Spurs’ hotel’s supply of parmesan cheese with ricin, however he didn’t count on one thing – Tim Sherwood’s aversion to any cheese other than mild cheddar.

Sherwood denied his team a hot meal, insisting they prepare for the game with wine gums and pre-sliced ham straight from the packet, but that was still enough to help them see off a West Ham team who had been out on the piss the night before on the assumption that they just needed to turn up.

That meant a point was needed away at Manchester City in the final game, and with minutes left it looked like that was beyond Maradona’s side, with thunderbolt from the recalled Scott Sinclair sealing the title and wrapping up the winger’s place in the England squad for the World Cup.

However with the clock ticking down, Carroll headed clear a City corner and Newton gathered the loose ball. He sped down the line (geddit) and drove a high cross (ok I’ll stop now) into the box. It went over the head of Mutu but at the back post the ocelot was waiting to leap like, well, an ocelot I guess, and head the ball into the back of the net.

The crowd went wild, and Maradona sprinted onto the pitch to embrace the goalscorer, receiving a near-fatal mauling in the process.

After the game, Neil Warnock, manager of relegated West Bromwich Albion, called a press conference in which he went off on a tirade about the signing of the final-day goalscorer, pointing to an obscure FA rule which he claimed could be seen to forbid cross-species transfers. However the league ruled in West Ham’s favour and they lived to fight another day.

So that’s the story of how Diego Maradona saved West Ham. For more tales like this, you’re probably best writing one yourself. It’s bound to be quicker than getting me to come up with another one.

Against Modern Parnaby, or how a Middlesbrough youth player will help bring José Mourinho back to England

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Despite him playing more than 200 professional games, no one actually knows what Stuart Parnaby looks like. He really is that forgettable.

It is a testament to how far our society has come that if you mention the words ‘butterfly effect’ to someone their first thought will not be of Ashton Kutcher’s early-2000s cinematic abortion.

Instead, in an increasingly rare demonstration of our status as rational beings, thoughts will turn to the concept of one tiny change affecting the future, however insignificant that change may seem. And it is with that phenomenon in mind that I hope to explain why – if José Mourinho does indeed return to the Premier League at the end of this season – it will be thanks to Stuart Parnaby.

I could attempt to take things further and attribute the return of The Special One to our hero’s father taking charge of Middlesbrough’s youth team a few years earlier, however this story begins in 2007.

Following several years of near-unbridled success in Portugal and West London, Mourinho left Chelsea despite a team including Juliano Belletti and Tal Ben-Haim holding European giants Rosenborg at Stamford Bridge two days earlier thanks to an equaliser from star striker Andriy Shevchenko.

 —

Meanwhile, a couple of miles to the north, Arsenal were taking advantage of being the only London club in the top flight not to change managers in the previous 18 months. They had opened up a lead at the top of the table as we entered 2008, a year best remembered for the release of the underappreciated Seth Green masterpiece Sex Drive.

Chelsea still lagged behind under Mourinho’s replacement and sex worker enthusiast Avram Grant, meaning Arsenal held a three-point advantage over second-place Manchester United when they travelled to a Birmingham City side languishing in 17th despite the holy trinity of Liam Ridgewell, Franck Queudrue and – yes – our friend Parnaby arriving in the summer.

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Not sure whether this represents a step up from McLeish’s Birmingham

Arsenal were flying, with star strikers Emmanuel Adebayor and Eduardo da Silva forming a partnership poised to serve Arsène Wenger’s side for years. However their task was made harder when, in the opening minutes, Martin Taylor launched into a tackle described as premeditated by those who hadn’t seen him play before and as typically uncoordinated by those who had. The upshot was Eduardo’s exit with a broken leg – to be replaced by human meme-generator Nicklas Bendtner – and, perhaps more importantly, Twitter’s Mikael Forssell being withdrawn to make way for S-Parn (as he will never be known).

The away side, understandably shaken by the horrific injury, fell behind to a James McFadden free-kick. However inspirational leader and captain William Gallas helped his team-mates regroup at the break and two goals from “new Jermaine Pennant” Theo Walcott looked to have kept Arsenal on course for the title.

But then something happened to change the course of the game, and, indeed, the season. Blues manager Alex McLeish reacted, leaving striker Cameron Jerome on the bench and introducing defensive midfielder Mehdi Nafti, throwing Parnaby forward in the hope that he could add to his impressive tally of two career goals in barely 100 games. And that stroke of genius had the impact everyone anticipated as Parnaby’s last-minute dive over Gaël Clichy’s outstretched leg earned Birmingham a penalty from which McFadden equalised.

 

The iconic image of that game, in some people’s eyes, was Gallas’ subsequent reaction, which had a pained, ‘why-always-me’ quality then associated with Sami Kuffour in 1999 rather than LADbanter Sulia-whoring social media accounts and sub-‘Keep Calm…’ t-shirt slogans. While many Arsenal fans at the time denied the psychological impact of that moment, the fact remains that it sparked not only a downturn in form that season which saw Wenger’s team slide to third spot, but also an inherent fragility which – while often exaggerated – remains in some capacity to this day.

In tandem with this fragility, Arsenal’s descent from regular title challengers to a side chasing the top-four faux-trophy has seen the departure of Adebayor, Clichy and Samir Nasri to Manchester City, imbuing a sense of inferiority and semi-permanent fear of catastrophe in a team whose resources ought to prevent such an occurrence even if its history suggests otherwise.

While Adebayor may have moved on, the underwhelming performances of City’s French duo have played a part in two years of meh-against-boys in Europe, leading to the progress of the continentally immature Napoli and Dortmund mk.II at the Sky Blues’ expense. And, indeed, of José Mourinho’s Real Madrid.

Of course, few of you will need reminding of Mourinho’s post-Chelsea career path, suffice to say Massimo Moratti’s hilariously masochistic decision to replace him with Rafael Benitez following the 2010 Champions League win creates a neat little circle – and what is football if not a game of circles?

As Roman Abramovich seeks a solution to the destruction caused by his club’s current manager, who better to turn things around than someone whose own hard work was destroyed by the mere sight of Benitez?

Had Real Madrid failed to escape their Champions League ‘group of death’, Mourinho might have been reluctant to go out with such a whimper. However the confidence boost offered by the flakiness of a Manchester City side tainted by the memory of the Arsenal of 2008, plus the potential path to the final opened up by Barcelona’s 2-0 first leg defeat to a Milan side – with one of Mourinho’s former charges Sulley Muntari on the scoresheet – could offer the former Porto boss the chance to match Paulo Ferreira’s Champions League medal total and leave the Bernabeu on a high.

And so to Stamford Bridge, where Mourinho would have the opportunity to work with Ross Turnbull, who was given his football education by none other than Dave Parnaby, father of you-know-who. Don’t you just love it when things tie up neatly like that.

The best football writing of 2012

2012 has been a great year for football writing, quasi football writing and anti-football writing. Here are just some of the best examples I’ve read in the last 12 months. Some may have more literary merit than others, but all are great for different reasons. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Has the transfer market become self aware? by Andi Thomas for The FCF – http://thefcf.co.uk/2012/01/25/transfer-market-aware/10781/

Muamba: underneath the sensationalism is a genuinely positive story for football, at last by Michael Moruzzi for Regista Blog http://www.regista-blog.com/2012/03/can-we-make-the-positive-response-to-muamba-last/

AFC Wimbledon: The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart by Jamie Cutteridge for The Real FA Cup http://therealfacup.co.uk/2012/04/21/afc-wimbledon-the-pains-of-being-pure-at-heart/

Rafa’s Chelsea: A Journal by Rob Brown for The Carvalho Peninsulahttp://carvalhopeninsula.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/rafas-chelsea-journal.html

Coming up for air by Charlie Anderson for The Carvalho Peninsula http://carvalhopeninsula.tumblr.com/post/36841269534/coming-up-for-air

12 ways in which Fulham are ace by Max Grieve for Magic Spongers – http://magicspongers.blogspot.com.au/2012/12/12-ways-in-which-fulham-are-ace.html

The Danger of Mob Mentality by Ally Moncrieff for Balls, Boobs and Blow http://ballsboobsandblow.wordpress.com/2012/12/04/the-danger-of-mob-mentality/

Robin van POINTLESS by Magic Spongers http://magicspongers.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/robin-van-pointless.html

#34 – Emmanuel Frimpong by The 100 Worst People on Twitter http://100worstpeopleontwitter.tumblr.com/post/31332813011/34-emmanuel-frimpong

Nobody wins QPR ping-pong tournament by John Foster for Four Four Two

http://fourfourtwo.com/blogs/backofthenet/archive/2012/12/14/botn-nobody-wins-qpr-ping-pong-tournament.aspx

Gary Neville’s punditry is the best, but others need to raise their game by Michael Cox for The Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/blog/2012/nov/27/gary-neville-punditry-sky-bbc

Antisemitic chants are sickening – and West Ham fans must show they care by Jacob Steinberg for The Guardian – http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/blog/2012/nov/26/west-ham-antisemitic-chants-sickening?CMP=twt_gu

The Trial Of John T by Greg Theoharis for Dispatches from a Football Sofa ­http://dispatchesfromafootballsofa.com/2012/02/05/the-trial-of-john-terry/

Scott Murray on Cesar Luis Menotti’s Triumph by Surreal Football http://surrealfootball.com/post/34700950575/scott-murray-on-cesar-luis-menottis-triumph

An idiot’s guide to the Ballon d’Or shortlist by Tom Adams for Eurosport http://uk.eurosport.yahoo.com/blogs/early-doors/idiot-guide-ballon-d-shortlist-090448634.html

New advert for the Premier League is actually a terrible ‘advert for the Premier League’by Nick Dunmore for Fisted Awayhttp://fistedaway.wordpress.com/2012/10/26/new-advert-for-the-premier-league-is-actually-a-terrible-advert-for-the-premier-league/

Paul Jewell and the further decline of Ipswich Town – by Gavin Barber for The Two Unfortunateshttp://thetwounfortunates.com/paul-jewell-and-the-further-decline-of-ipswich-town/

Manchester United And Liverpool, Still Suffering From Their 2009 Hangover by Callum Hamilton for SB Nation http://www.sbnation.com/soccer/2012/9/22/3372736/manchester-united-and-liverpool-still-suffering-from-their-2009

Return of the rascal king by John McGee for Bring me the head of Keith Mincher http://www.keithmincher.com/return-of-the-rascal/

Soccer under the Swastika: Football’s forgotten Holocaust victims by Kieran Dodds for In Bed With Maradona http://inbedwithmaradona.com/journal/2012/9/17/soccer-under-the-swastika-footballs-forgotten-holocaust-vict.html

The whistleblower left out in the cold by James Horncastle for Eurosport http://uk.eurosport.yahoo.com/blogs/pitchside-europe/whistleblower-left-cold-164804765.html

2016-17: The Season in Review by Rob Langham for The Two Unfortunates http://thetwounfortunates.com/2016-17-the-season-in-review/

My First Game for Manchester United by Robin van Persie’s inner child for Ruud Gullit Sitting on a Shed http://rgsoas.wordpress.com/2012/08/21/everton-vs-manchester-united-as-it-happened/

Why ‘Vile’ Football Can Look Olympics In The Face by Jack Howes for The Daisy Cutterhttp://www.thedaisycutter.co.uk/2012/08/why-vile-football-can-look-olympics-in-the-face/

The Last Championsby Juliet Jacques for The New Statesmanhttp://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/lifestyle/2012/07/last-champions

A good piece of business?

Four goals in three games have seen Robin van Persie already begin to repay his transfer fee

 

by Rich Ward

In the wake of Robin van Persie’s very high-profile transfer to Manchester United, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger won praise from all quarters for a piece of “good business”.

The spin was that he had managed to offload an aging, injury-prone striker, with only a year left on his contract, for £24 million.

However, the reality is perhaps a little different. Despite coming with a ‘crock warning’, RVP actually made at least 33 appearances in three of his final four seasons with the Gunners – not to mention his tally of 37 goals in 48 appearances last term.

While it remains to seen whether Podolski, Cazorla and Giroud can provide enough firepower between them to compensate for van Persie’s exit, from Manchester United’s perspective they will be delighted that he appears to have started where he left off last season, with four stunning goals in his last two games.

The irony is that, with Wayne Rooney yet to recover from a deep gash to his leg, Alex Ferguson is currently relying on the “injury-prone” Dutchman to spearhead the Red Devils’ attack.

In fact, so seamless has the former Gunner’s integration at Old Trafford been that Rooney, who even before he was studded against Fulham looked far from the top of his game, might find it hard to get back in the starting XI.

If selling RVP was a good bit of business for Wenger, how must Sir Alex be feeling? Pretty satisfied I’d imagine.

 

About the author:

Rich Ward is a writer, journalist and guitarist. You can follow him on Twitter, if you feel so inclined.

Alternative Premier League Team of the Year 2011-12

Supervorm

I thought I’d try to come up with one of these before you’re inundated with them. You know the drill – one player per team, Scott Parker as captain, unfunny just-invented nicknames – the usual. Oh, and I’ve decided to go with the 3-5-1-1 formation that Wigan used against Man Utd. Because I can.

Goalkeeper: Michel Vorm – Swansea City

As a newly promoted team you don’t need your goalkeeper to perform better than most in the league (see R. Carroll, West Ham United 2005-06), but it certainly helps. With Supervorm behind them an already stingy defence got even stingier and at least 20% cooler. They may have got more lax in recent weeks but the Dutchman has already got thousands wondering how no one noticed him before, and not just in an Alan Shearer not noticing Hatem Ben Arfa kind of way.

Centre-back: Martin Skrtel – Liverpool

A brick shithouse in the Marco Materazzi mould, Teenage Mutant Ninja Skrtel has defied vowels and logic to emerge as the stand-out performer in an otherwise hilarious Liverpool season. Both by chipping in with important goals and by scaring the living shit out of team-mates and opponents alike, the Slovakian has forced Kenny Dalglish’s side to work harder than ever before to embarrass themselves.

Centre-back: Vincent Kompany – Manchester City

Dominant in the air, classy on the ground, possessor of a wonderfully spherical head – Vincent Kompany has it all. Based on Richard Ashcroft’s performances in his absence, it seems safe to say Manchester City’s title challenge would have already fizzled out long enough ago to make ‘The most important match in the history of everything’ (© Sky Sports) irrelevant. A dead cert for the captaincy if I didn’t worship at the altar of Scott Parker.

Centre-back: Jonny ‘fucking’ Evans – Manchester United

Convinced that his comedy value was running dry, and living in fear of a transfer to Steve Bruce’s Sunderland (where Manchester United players go to die), Evans has been good this season. Really good. Many feared the worst when the extent of Nemanja Vidic’s injury was revealed, but the man from Northern Ireland has – along with the paucity of much of the Premier League – helped put Manchester United in prime position to stumble over the finish line.

Right midfield: James James Morrison Morrison (West Bromwich Albion)

A.A. Milne’s favourite footballer has spent much of his career flattering to deceive, even living in the shadow of Stewart Downing for a brief period of time (somewhere I’m sure you’ll agree no one wants to be). However this year he’s done more than just shoot from impossible positions and hilariously kick the shit out of Cristiano Ronaldo. A six-point-five-out-of-ten footballer in a six-out-of-ten Albion side, his inclusion goes to show what a terrible season this has been.

Central midfield: Scott Parker (Tottenham Hotspur) – captain

Guaranteed his spot in the team by haircut alone, the kid from those McDonalds World Cup adverts has made the step up from mediocrity to a top four challenging side with ease, proving that it wasn’t just the media’s West Ham bias that earned him plaudits last season despite playing in one of the worst midfields in the history of football. He’s still doing those poncey little turns, but we can forgive him for that. Plus, according to some, he’s a war hero.

Central midfield: Lee Cattermole (Sunderland)

The immature child who could never learn has finally learned, and it only took several painful years (you know, apart from that whole vandalism thing – that was probably Bendtner’s idea though*). After spending the early part of the season hacking and scowling like a drop-kicked puppy, the king of high shorts has turned into the commanding midfielder Alex Smith always said he could be. When you bear in mind he’s still only 24 there’s still time for us to look back at the young eejit and laugh.

* or not, whichever stops me getting sued

Central midfield: Yohan Cabaye (Newcastle United)

Last season Yohan Cabaye won Ligue 1 with Lille while Joey Barton and Kevin Nolan finished mid-table in the Premier League. Hindsight is one thing, but the Frenchman was quite clearly a better footballer than those two anyway, the only mystery being why the fuck he chose Newcastle. A few more defense-splitting passes and long-range stunners and Geordies might start naming their kids after him like in Purely Belter.

Left midfield: Anthony Pilkington (Norwich City)

At first glance Pilkington comes across as a luxury player that an all-hands-on-deck promoted club can’t afford to have in their team, but far from just being a ‘Match of the Day player’ the youngster has pulled his weight for a manager who seems to know how to get the best out of him. Unfortunately I don’t know enough about him to justify any sort of witty or snide comment, so this is all you’re getting. Be grateful.

In the hole: Clint Dempsey (Fulham)

Deuce has scored 22 goals this season for Fulham. 22. For Fulham. Not bad for a player who shares his nickname with a bodily function (yes, it’s a poo joke – don’t worry we’re nearly at the end). This season under Martin Jol Fulham have been a delight to watch, and not even in a patronising way, and Dempsey has been a big part of that in allowing the surly Dutchman to play more wingers than should be reasonably possible.

Striker: Robin van Persie (Arsenal)

The best player in the league this season, his feats are made even more impressive by the fact that Arsenal’s performances for much of the season have been at best embarrassing and at worst Wolves-esque. Providing Holland get out of a disgustingly tough group, the prospect of facing them in Euro 2012 looks absolutely terrifying.

Substitutes:

Petr Cech (Chelsea) – Plastic club: check, Plastic fans: check, Plastic flags: check, Plastic head: Cech. Back to near his best since that incident with Stephen H*nt.

Sam Ricketts (Bolton Wanderers) – Purely here by virtue of not being Paul Robinson, which is surely enough. Also managed to amaze even himself by borrowing Philipp Lahm’s body for 45 minutes against Wolves.

James McCarthy (Wigan Athletic) – So good he cloned himself without anyone noticing, the Scottish Irishman has proved that ‘Hamilton’s finest’ doesn’t always count as damning with faint praise.

Alejandro Faurlin (Queens Park Rangers) – He might only move in slow motion, but the Argentine’s injury will likely send QPR down. It’s already forced us to look at Shaun Derry more than anyone would want.

Steven Fletcher (Wolves) – Proving why he was once a target for Real Madrid (not really – no one can explain that), he has hit double figures in back-to-back seasons in one of the least inspiring teams of the last decade. Which is more than enough for inclusion here.

Yakubu (Blackburn Rovers) – Feed the Yak and he will eat. Ever wondered what happened to Myles Anderson? All I’m saying is Yakubu’s packed lunch comes in a different box to that of everyone else.

Nikica Jelavic (Everton) – Part young Robin Williams, part Stilyan Petrov’s evil twin, not good enough for the Championship and unnaturally good for Everton to the point that the fans are waiting to find out what the catch is.

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