Premier League Team of the Year 2013-14



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.


Help, I’m turning into Patrick Vieira

Is Abou Diaby really that similar to his fellow French international?

Monday morning started much like any other. I’d been interviewed for this week’s Arsenal programme trying to wind up Sir Alex Ferguson with mind games. I was meant to be copying Jose Mourinho in 2004. But it seems my aim backfired, spectacularly.

The four comments shouted from car windows and posted on Twitter all said the same thing – I’d been transformed into none other than Patrick Vieira. “All you need is to get rid of that ridiculous facial hair”, said Cesc Fabregas, with no hint of irony. “What’s happened to you: the bald head, the long legs, the disappointing goalscoring record?” shouted Pat Rice from the dugout. “Great Shatner’s Ghost!” Lassana Diarra wrote on my Facebook wall.

Wow indeed, if I have morphed into Vieira then at least I’m not the new Remi Garde. Patrick is a great athlete and Arsenal fans love him. At least he’s not a laughing stock like Jermaine Pennant, or ginger like Ray Parlour.

He is not too horsey like Martin Keown, nor is he impossibly, off-puttingly Dutch. He is hard-working, I can sniff his bald-headed ambition.

I hadn’t realised it before, but we are shockingly alike in our approach to football. We both want nice things. We want to escape our ordinary past (his, growing up in Senegal. Mine, having everyone on Soccer Saturday call me Abu Dhabi). So yes, I might have Patrick’s baldness and hatred for Manchester United, but do we really look alike? Have I unwittingly copied his style of being lanky and black and playing for Arsenal?

I had thought I was much more attack-minded than Patrick Vieira. I play my best football in the final third, and haven’t made a clean, sliding tackle in my own area since 2008. I have repeatedly criticised him for not scoring enough goals. He is resolutely world-class, whereas I occupy the murky waters of reserve team games alongside Lukas Fabianski and Sebastien Squillaci.

But his ubiquity, the way that any black player of a similar build is called ‘The New Vieira’, means people like me and Steven Nzonzi are compared to him without even realising it. But there is a dangerous side to the fact that we want to play like Patrick Vieira. Being in the public eye means the need to commit stupid, mistimed fouls. He’s better than I am, and knows how to tackle, but why is his enviable aggression so worrying?

I’d never been sent off in my career before seeing him, but impressionable young men like me, those not protected by referees or footballing ability, say ‘I want to look like that’ and feel the need to go straight through Gretar Steinsson with their studs up.

The problem is that Patrick’s ability is so effortless that Arsene Wenger thinks it’s attainable. If even an intelligent French international like me can be seduced, what hope is there for Paul Pogba? Yes, copy Patrick’s athleticism and leadership, but please leave the mindless aggression and unrealistic targets to me. I still have an awful lot to learn.