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.

Bobby vs the Bookies

In his first guest post for Pele Confidential, Bobby Hare makes his predictions for a selection of the weekend’s Premier League games.

West Bromwich Albion/Birmingham City Premiership 18.09.10 Photo: Tim Parker Fotosports International Peter Odemwingie celebrates WBA 2nd goal Photo via Newscom

Payday’s a couple of weeks away, I’m precariously close to the wrong end of my overdraft and Christmas presents for the family aren’t going to buy themselves.

Nonetheless, there’s a cracking weekend of Premier League football to come so it’s time to get down the bookies (or onto their websites). Feast your eyes on my tips and you’ll be quids in. Hopefully.

Aston Villa vs West Bromwich Albion

As soon as Martin O’Neill decided to leave Villa in the lurch just five days before the start of the new season, it was always likely that they were going to have a season of transition.

Whilst a lowly position of 16th looks precarious, any judgement of Gerard Houllier’s team needs to be placed into context.

The tightness of the Premier League means that whilst the pessimist will point out that Villa are only two points from the relegation zone, a (wo)man of a cheerier disposition will retort that they are a mere three points from mid-table security.

Albion have enjoyed a great return to the top league, with Roberto Di Matteo promoting a style of ‘carpet football’ that regularly delights the neutral observer.

In Chris Brunt, Somen Tchoyi and Peter Odemwingie, the Baggies have an attacking triumvirate that are capable of hitting the net and the general (understated) quality of their squad means that they’ll be more than comfortable this season.

That said, their away form is rather hit-and-miss at the moment (only one win in the past five), while Villa have only been beaten once at home in eight outings.

With Ashley Young back in the side, Villa will add some much needed attacking impetus to a line-up that looked severely deficient at the sharp end against Liverpool on Monday.

Emile Heskey is also likely to start, although I am still undecided as to whether this will be to Villa’s detriment or not.

Considering Villa’s poor form, 11/10 for them to win is a little skinny for my liking, but given both sides’ propensity to ship goals, betting on over three goals at 2/1 is money in the bank.

Everton vs Wigan Athletic

Casting a quick glance over the fixture list tells me that there aren’t many bankers in the Premier League over the coming days, but Everton’s weekend assignment against Wigan is probably as
straightforward a task as any side will have.

David Moyes’ boys have struggled thus far, but it should come as no surprise whatsoever. There are seemingly three certainties in life: taxes, death and Everton having half a season of hibernation before they start bothering.

It’s a mystery as to why the Toffees seem to begin each season in such lacklustre fashion, but if they could replicate their frequent post-Christmas surges in the first half of each campaign, they’d be bona fide Champions League contenders.

Despite indifferent form, they’ll be buoyed by their recent (fully deserved) point at Stamford Bridge and this is probably the point they will start to kick on.

Perhaps not coincidentally, their squad is beginning to assume a more familiar complexion, with a number of injured absentees slowly returning to the fray.

Wigan, meanwhile, are a poor side. They’re frightfully inept in front of goal (only 13 goals in 16 games) and astonishingly accommodative to opposition attackers (28 conceded).

Perhaps more concerning is that Roberto Martinez can’t seem to compute the fact that they’re in dire straits.

Wigan will probably be relegated this season. There won’t be much of a fight. It won’t be very exciting. And once they’re gone, no one will really care.

Tim Cahill is Everton’s top scorer this season with an impressive haul of eight league goals. I’m tempted by him to score first at 9/2 (whilst the more conservative punter might be attracted by Cahill anytime at 6/5). Such will be the Merseysiders’ superiority in this one, I’ll be getting on Everton to win both halves at 2/1.

West Ham United vs Manchester City

If we discount West Ham’s demolition of Man Utd in the Carling Cup (and I really would urge everyone to forget that particular result) then it’s fair to posit that the Hammers are a struggling outfit.

They’ve collected only four points from their last five games and are arguably a long-term Scott Parker injury away from going down, unless some of the supporting cast can come to the fore.

Victor Obinna has played a more influential role in recent weeks, whilst Avram Grant will be hoping he can coax more of the sort of performance that Carlton Cole produced when he terrorised Jonny Evans in the aforementioned cup win.

With Rob Green enjoying a quietly effective season following his tortuous summer with England and Matt Upson slowly edging back to his best form, there is hope for the East Londoners.

Meanwhile Man City are besieged by infighting as Roberto Mancini (the third Roberto mentioned in this column!) apparently struggles to juggle the assortment of egos in the Eastlands dressing room.

If press rumours are to be believed (in this column, for the sake of a more interesting discourse, they will be) Carlos Tevez can’t stand his manager. But far from throwing a strop, the indefatigable Argentinean has channelled his frustrations postively – finding the net 10 times already.

And therein lies City’s problem. Tevez accounts for nearly half of all his side’s goals and he’s suspended on Saturday.

Shorn of their talisman and attacking inspiration, City could struggle to break their opponents down, while West Ham don’t exactly boast a galaxy of attacking riches either.

Something tells me that neither team will have enough firepower to win this one and I’ll be piling on the draw at a shade over twos.

Tottenham Hotspur vs Chelsea

Gareth Bale Tottenham Hotspur 2010/11 Rafael Da Silva Manchester United Manchester United V Tottenham Hotspur (2-0) 30/10/10 The Premier League Photo: Robin Parker Fotosports International Photo via Newscom

Perhaps it’s the fact that he’s not speaking his native language, meaning he can’t suitably paint a picture of how he truly feels, but Carlo Ancelotti is magnificently understated every time he tells
us: “it’s not a good moment.”

It’d be far more apt to say: “it’s an absolute fucking crisis to be honest.” But Carlo is a nice man, with a superb eyebrow, so I’m prepared to let it slide.

Sometimes teams suffer a loss of form and it’s difficult to pinpoint quite what’s gone wrong. This is not one of those situations.

Roman Abramovich has been a bit of a silly bugger by interfering with a side that started the season as though they were intent on smashing the 100-goal barrier for a second consecutive year.

Meanwhile, Tottenham are chugging along beautifully as the neutrals’ second team, playing a brand of football that relies on a swashbuckling ‘you score three, we’ll score four’ approach.

They also consigned a particularly troubling ghost to its grave when they completed an unlikely comeback over Arsenal at the Emirates last month: They finally beat one of the big boys away from home.

Whilst it can be argued that this was only one isolated victory, it’s still likely that Spurs have smashed a key mental barrier and they’ll feel as though they are now fully paid up members of the league’s ‘Big Four.’

Chelsea are a big-game team, and there is a school of thought that consecutive fixtures against Spurs (away), Man Utd (home) and Arsenal (away) is just what they need to overcome their malaise.

But I play truant from that particular school. Whilst it’s arguable that 8/5 for ‘Chewsea’ is an inviting price, I tend to think it’s a bit skimpy considering they’ve mustered a paltry three goals in their last six league games and collected just five points.

Instead, I’ll be looking at the in-form Gareth Bale (who has goals
against Arsenal, Chelsea and Internazionale against his name this calendar year), playing against one of Chelsea’s rickety right backs, to score anytime at 11/4.


Manchester United vs Arsenal

Arsenal and United are positioned one and two going into this weekend. The former are genuine title contenders once more and for the first time in a while between these two clubs, there appears to be an undercurrent of animosity and needling.

United’s Patrice Evra, the loon of a left back, has fanned the flames by stating that Arsenal are a club in “crisis” having not troubled the trophy engravers for five years, whilst Arsene Wenger’s retort is that his fellow countryman has been disrespectful.

However, shorn of combustible characters like Patrick Vieira, Roy Keane, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Martin Keown, the game itself is likely to go relatively incident free.

On the pitch, United-Arsenal games at Old Trafford have tended to be tight affairs of late. United have won two of the past three games 2-1, with the odd game being drawn 0-0.

Interestingly, in the two United wins, it was Arsenal who took the lead before being pegged back and eventually defeated. And that is pretty much an encapsulation of the current Arsenal crop: they beguile us at the beginning, teasing and tantalising us into thinking they can challenge, before they’re bought crashing down to the
ground by a grittier and more determined outfit.

Irrespective of the fact that both sides have conceded goals with alarming regularity, this game probably won’t be a goalfest. The stakes are far too high for an open exhibition of attacking football to
be displayed.

Given Arsenal’s penchant for a collapse, I’m tempted to have a flutter on Arsenal half-time, Man Utd full-time at a meaty 22-1.

Finally, if you like your doubles, why not get on Man Utd and Tottenham at over 4s?

Good luck and Merry Crimbo!

(All odds are from Bet365.com)

Premier League Round-Up 18/10/10

This week we had to wait until Sunday for the pick of the games, with Manchester City’s 3-2 win at Blackpool one of the early highlights of an at-times-underwhelming season.

The game was already exciting enough by the time a seemingly-offside Carlos Tevez flicked past Matt Gilks in the ‘Pool goal, but after that it really began to catch fire.

Marlon Harewood glanced in an equaliser before a fortunate deflection helped Tevez get his second, and David Silva’s curler sealed the points before a late consolation from Gary Taylor-Fletcher.

Roberto Mancini will be happy with his side’s attacking intent after switching to a 4-4-2 formation, but the centre-back pairing of Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott looked suspect as the hosts created plenty of presentable chances.

City’s local rivals Manchester United squandered a comfortable lead for the umpteenth time this season after Javier Hernandez and Nani had put them 2-0 up at home to West Brom before half time.

Somen Tchoyi

First Chris Brunt’s free-kick went through a paper-thin wall and deflected in of Patrice Evra, and then a howler from Edwin van der Sar allowed Somen Tchoyi to grab his first goal in Baggies colours.

While the draw was the result of individual errors, the United of old would not have surrendered leads on so many occasions.

Both United and City will be thankful that Chelsea failed to extend their lead at the top, although it was not for want of trying.

Branislav Ivanovic and Nicolas Anelka both hit the woodwork as Carlo Ancelotti’s side knocked at the Aston Villa door to no avail.

At the other end the Blues were grateful for some profligacy in front of goal from Gerard Houllier’s men, with Stephen Ireland and Nigel Reo-Coker failing to test Petr Cech when given a good sight of goal.

After their recent struggles, Arsenal got back to winning ways at home to Birmingham, although the visitors made it difficult for them.

Nikola Zigic gave the Blues a first-half lead after Alex McLeish’s men rode an early Arsenal storm, although a disputed penalty – converted by Samir Nasri – brought the hosts level.

Marouane Chamakh, the man felled by Scott Dann for the penalty in question, finally made the breakthrough just after the break, and they had chances to extend their lead before a red card for Jack Wilshere meant the game ended on a sour note.

Another player who saw red late on was Bolton’s Ivan Klasnic, who followed his late winner for Bolton against Stoke with two even later bookings.

Rory Delap

Lee Chung-Yong’s classy opener was cancelled out by a rare goal from Rory Delap before Klasnic’s volley on the turn earned Bolton all three points.

Tottenham remained in touch with the top four after a contentious winner helped them see off the spirited challenge of Fulham.

Diomansy Kamara gave Fulham an early lead, but the Senegalese striker also missed a host of chances and Spurs were allowed back into the game when Roman Pavlyuchenko tapped home after Rafael van der Vaart’s deft chip came back off the bar.

Tom Huddlestone’s low 20-yard strike clinched victory for Tottenham, with Fulham claiming William Gallas was offside despite the Frenchman making no contact with the shot.

The four sides occupying the bottom four places faced off this weekend, but Everton are the only ones who can be completely happy with their afternoon’s work.

David Moyes’ men saw off a tame Liverpool side with surprisingly little resistance, Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta with the goals in the Toffees’ most comfortable game this season.

Even with Fernando Torres, Steven Gerrard and Joe Cole in the starting line-up, Liverpool barely posed a threat in attack as they slipped to 19th in the table.

The only side below them are West Ham, who will blame referee Mark Clattenburg for wrongly disallowing what should have been a late winner from Frederic Piquionne.

Mark Noble earlier cancelled out Matt Jarvis’ opener from the penalty spot, before Piquionne was wrongly adjudged to have handled en route to slotting past Marcus Hahnemann.

Fabricio Coloccini

Fabricio Coloccini’s first ever Premier League goal helped Newcastle come from behind to draw with Wigan, in a game where Charles N’Zogbia came back to wreak revenge on his former club.

The French winger put the Latics 2-0 up inside the first 25 minutes with a couple of well-taken goals, but Shola Ameobi bundled the ball in to give Newcastle hope with 18 minutes remaining.

Then, deep into stoppage time, Andy Carroll headed a Jonas Gutierrez goalwards and Coloccini stooped to nod past Ali Al-Habsi and level the scores.

The Monday night game between Blackburn and Sunderland was a drab affair, perhaps made even less of a spectacle by a red card for Christopher Samba right on half-time.

Blackburn’s Congolese centre-back saw red for a professional foul on Danny Welbeck, but a tired-looking Sunderland side failed to capitalise on their one-man advantage.

The best chances of the game fell to Darren Bent, rushed back after injury kept him out of England’s draw with Montenegro and still looking short of fitness.

Team of the week (4-2-3-1)

Cech (Chelsea); Coleman (Everton), Cahill (Bolton), Distin (Everton), Assou-Ekotto (Tottenham); Stilyan Petrov (Aston Villa), Barton (Newcastle) van der Vaart (Tottenham), N’Zogbia (Wigan), Holden (Bolton); Zigic (Birmingham)

Premier League Round-up 13/09/2010

This weekend showed once again why the Premier League is so popular, with one of the most thrilling encounters of recent years being played out at Goodison Park.

Manchester United were without Wayne Rooney for the trip to Everton, but – whatever Henry Winter tells you – his absence did not lessen their capacity to win the game. Dimitar Berbatov led the line well and scored the third goal which seemingly clinched victory for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side, but Leighton Baines’ crosses caused havoc in the United box, allowing the hosts to score two injury-time goals and salvage a remarkable 3-3 draw.

Ferguson – who later saw his son’s team Preston throw away a similar lead to lose 4-3 at Burnley – must be concerned at his side’s failure to close out games, and he might begin to question the concentration of stand-in defenders Gary Neville and Jonny Evans. While the two are at opposite ends of their respective careers, they are perhaps equidistant from the pinnacle of their abilities.

Michael Essien

United’s late collapse allowed Chelsea to move four points clear at the top of the table with a comfortable 3-1 win against West Ham. Early goals from Michael Essien and Salomon Kalou meant the champions barely had to break sweat, as they sat back and allowed their hosts plenty of possession.

It is difficult to judge Chelsea’s start to the season based on the opposition they have faced so far, but you can only beat what is placed in front of you – something Manchester United have failed to do twice now.

While their rivals continue to hog the headlines, Arsenal are going about their business quietly yet effectively. The odd defensive hiccup remained in their 4-1 victory over Bolton, but Arsene Wenger’s side adjusted well to the loss of Theo Walcott and Robin van Persie.

The scoreline was harsh on a Bolton side very much in the game until the laughable dismissal of Gary Cahill, but Owen Coyle’s side needed to capitalise more on their concerted spells of possession and take the chances presented to them. If you don’t do that, Arsenal will punish you.

The ‘big three’ were joined in the top four by Blackpool, who continued their fairytale start to the season with a surprisingly-comfortable 2-0 win at Newcastle’s St James Park.

Ian Holloway’s men were reliant on goalkeeper Matt Gilks to preserve the lead given to them by Charlie Adam’s first-half penalty, before DJ Campbell sealed the win in stoppage time. Toon Army manager Chris Hughton may be regretting his decision to leave new signing Hatem ben Arfa on the bench, with the midfield trio of Nolan, Smith and Barton failing to provide the necessary creative spark.

Elsewhere Fulham saw off a spirited but indisciplined Wolves outfit at Craven Cottage, in a game which will be remembered for a distressing injury suffered by Bobby Zamora. The England man’s leg snapped under a challenge from Karl Henry, bringing back memories of former Arsenal striker Eduardo’s horrific break in January 2008.

Moussa Dembele

But unlike Arsenal on that fateful day, Fulham were spurred on to record a hard-fought win, Moussa Dembele’s double placating Mark Hughes’ misery somewhat. His opposite number Mick McCarthy, meanwhile, will be concerned that Christophe Berra’s late red card is one of three which could have realistically been awarded against his side.

Another player to see red on Saturday was Sunderland captain Lee Cattermole, who did not even last half an hour against former club Wigan. Two yellow cards in the space of five minutes brought an early end to the combative midfielder’s afternoon for the second time this season.

£13m man Asamoah Gyan still came close to securing an unlikely three points for the 10 men of Sunderland, but his well-taken volley was cancelled out by an instinctive finish from Antolin Alcaraz, who turned in Tom Cleverley’s wayward shot for his first goal in Wigan colours.

1-1 seemed to be the scoreline of the weekend, with Manchester City’s tie against Blackburn and Tottenham’s trip to West Brom both ending in the same scoreline.

City will rue defensive errors and attacking complacency, as they made a meal of coming back into the game after Joe Hart gifted the opener to Nikola Kalinic. Roberto Mancini’s men had 20 shots on goal to Blackburn’s 4, but could not find a way past a determined Rovers back-line.

Chris Brunt

And Spurs were similarly guilty of gifting a goal to their opponents, with a static defence failing to respond when Marc-Antoine Fortune’s shot looped up and spun towards the back post, allowing Chris Brunt to equalise with a rare headed goal from all of a yard out.

Sunday’s televised game was not one for the purists, with Birmingham and Liverpool playing out a dull goalless draw. The hosts had the better chances, but Pepe Reina was equal to everything thrown at him by the Blues, while at the other end an uncharacteristically-negative selection from Roy Hodgson left Fernando Torres feeding off scraps for the most part.

Team of the week (4-2-3-1)*:

Reina (Liverpool); Kaboul (Tottenham), Jones (Blackburn), Dann (Birmingham), Cole (Chelsea); Song (Arsenal), Scharner (West Brom); Arteta (Everton), Fabregas (Arsenal), Adam (Blackpool); Berbatov (Man Utd)

*Team selected ahead of Monday night game between Aston Villa and Stoke

Follow me on Twitter

Become a fan of Pele Confidential