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.

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 04/10/10

If fans were surprised by the top of the Premier League table in recent weeks, that is nothing compared to the sight of Liverpool in the bottom three after seven games of the season.

Roy Hodgson’s side lost their unbeaten home record to newly-promoted Blackpool thanks to goals from Charlie Adam and Luke Varney, and will also be without frontman Fernando Torres for some time after the Spaniard was forced off through injury.

Charlie Adam

The visitors were deserving of the victory, and are more than holding their own in the top flight after being tipped for relegation at the start of the campaign. A consolation from Sotirios Kyrgiakos was not enough to dampen their spirits and now it is Hodgson – rather than opposite number Ian Holloway – who is left with plenty of thinking to do.

To add insult to injury, local rivals Everton climbed out of the drop-zone with their first win of the season at the hands of Birmingham City.

Tim Cahill sealed the victory after a Roger Johnson own goal had given the Toffees the lead, and the result brings an end to Birmingham’s 18-game unbeaten home run in the league.

The other two spaces in the bottom three are filled by Wolves – who lost 2-0 at Wigan – and West Ham, who were held at home by Fulham.

Wolves were given an upward task as soon as captain Karl Henry saw red for an indefensible foul on Jordi Gomez which was so bad it even left Mick McCarthy unable to defend his player.

Karl Henry

Gomez recovered to open the scoring with a 65th-minute free-kick, before Hugo Rodallega deflected a Christophe Berra clearance beyond Marcus Hahnemann with five minutes to go.

West Ham had to come from behind to extend their unbeaten run, after Clint Dempsey was left unmarked 10 yards out to open the scoring before half-time.

Frederic Piquionne scored his third goal in as many games to level the scores, but the game lost all sense of rhythm thanks to a questionable performance from whistle-happy referee Andre Marriner.

At the top of the table, Chelsea extended their lead to four points after seeing off a wasteful Arsenal side at Stamford Bridge.

Didier Drogba and Alex got the goals with fine finishes, but the visitors will live to regret their profligacy in front of goal, with Laurent Koscielny the main culprit.

Second place is now occupied by Manchester City after Adam Johnson’s winner earned them a third successive league win.

Adam Johnson

But the game will be remembered for the broken leg suffered by Newcastle’s Hatem ben Arfa, just the latest in a worryingly-long line of Premier League players to suffer serious injuries in the season’s early weeks.

Carlos Tevez’s penalty and Jonas Gutierrez’s equaliser are mere footnotes in a match which reignited debates about dangerous tackling in the top flight.

City’s rise to 2nd is at the expense of Manchester rivals United, who have now drawn all four of their away games in the league.

Their game at Sunderland was one of few chances, and those which did come fell to the hosts. Steed Malbranque fired the best opening straight at Edwin van der Sar, while Bolo Zenden struck the outside of his fellow countryman’s post.

Another Dutchman hitting the headlines was Rafael van der Vaart, who scored both goals as Tottenham came from behind to beat Aston Villa.

Marc Albrighton had opened the scoring for Gerard Houllier’s men before van der Vaart capitalised on two Peter Crouch knockdowns to beat Brad Friedel either side of the break.

Hot on Tottenham’s heels are surprise package West Brom, who followed up last week’s win at Arsenal with a rather more subdued draw at home to Bolton.

They also had to come from behind after Johan Elmander lashed home a first-half strike, but after James Morrison’s equaliser the Baggies could have easily snatched all three points.

The final match of the weekend saw Stoke City climb into the top half of the table for the first time this season thanks to a hard-fought triumph over Sam Allardyce’s Blackburn.

Jon Walters scored the only goal of the game against the club where he started his career, tucking home from a Matty Etherington through-ball to add to his Carling Cup strike against Shrewsbury in August.

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

Gilks (Blackpool); Baird (Fulham), Bramble (Sunderland), Jagielka (Everton), Crainey (Blackpool); Mulumbu (West Brom), Reo-Coker (Aston Villa), Essien (Chelsea); van der Vaart (Tottenham), Etherington (Stoke); Elmander (Bolton)

A world cup to forget?

I hope you haven’t forgotten about the World Cup just yet – I know I haven’t. Last week I presented my team of the tournament, and now I will bring you a team of players who disappointed during the tournament.

While my team of the tournament used the much-lauded 4-2-3-1 formation, the nature of this team leads me to use the 4-4-2 which many(perhaps prematurely) now feel has had its day.

Goalkeeper – Robert Green (England)

Club: West Ham United. 11 caps (0 goals)

It may seem unduly harsh to select a goalkeeper who only made one mistake, but Green’s error is thought by many to have set the tone for England’s poor World Cup performance.

In a tournament where many ‘keepers were remembered for their impressive stops, individual mistakes stand out more than ever. This is especially true when – as was the case with Green – the individual in question is not given time to atone for his mistake.

With David James moving ever closer to retirement, both England and West Ham will hope the former Norwich shot-stopper recovers from the media scapegoating to reassert himself as first choice for club and country.

Right-back – Jonas Gutierrez (Argentina)

Club: Newcastle United. 19 caps (1 goal)

Just as fans of West Ham United gasped in shock when their right-back Lionel Scaloni kept former Argentina captain Javier Zanetti out of his country’s World Cup squad in 2006, Newcastle fans will have been surprised to see Gutierrez take Zanetti’s place this time around.

This is not merely because Newcastle had played the previous season in English football’s second tier – Gutierrez was signed with the club in the Premier League and was clearly too good for the division below. Rather the surprised glances came because the player known as ‘Spiderman’ had made his name as a winger, not a right-back.

The supposedly versatile 27-year-old was found out in the opener against Nigeria, and by the time his country’s final group game came around he had been replaced by the lumbering and one-dimensional Nicolas Otamendi. Given the way in which Otamendi himself was destroyed by a fluid German attack, Diego Maradona will surely be ruing the decision not to include a natural right-back in his squad.

Left-back – Patrice Evra (France)

Club: Manchester United. 32 caps (0 goals)

While France may have made hard work of qualifying for the tournament, they were still expected to cruise through a relatively easy group.

It is common knowledge that a lack of leadership – rather than a paucity of talent – is often responsible for Les Bleus struggles, but the quiet and understated Evra was supposed to provide a calming influence as captain.

Few could have predicted what would follow. Two games and one much-publicised clash with a fitness coach later, and Evra was stripped of both the captaincy and his place in the team. There have since been suggestions that the defeat against Mexico will prove to be Evra’s last game for his country, with former stars including 1998 World Cup Winner Lilian Thuram calling for him to be dropped indefinitely.

Centre-back – Fabio Cannavaro (Italy)

Club: Al-Ahli. 136 caps (2 goals)

Yes, the clues were there before the tournament began. Cannavaro’s decision to move to the United Arab Emirates suggested – at the age of 36 – the former Juventus captain felt he was no longer up to playing in Europe’s top leagues.

But few could have predicted the ignominy of his, and Italy’s campaign. Despite being more than matched in the opener against Paraguay, fans still expected the Azzurri to bounce back, as they have done many times before.

An embarrassing draw with New Zealand, during which Cannavaro was hopelessly exposed for Shane Smeltz’s goal, was the antipasti. What followed put to shame the defensive solidity on which the country’s success has been founded. The 3-2 defeat against an uninspiring Slovakian outfit may well go down as the moment at which Cannavaro – and the class of ’06 in general – were forced to give way to a younger and hungrier breed.

Centre-back – Simon Kjær (Denmark)

Club: Wolfsburg. 11 caps (0 goals)

How do you go from being one of the hottest defensive properties in world football to making an uninspiring move to a Europa League side? Well, why don’t you ask Simon Kjær – he should have the answer.

Just months after being sweet-talked by Sir Alex Ferguson in advance of a potential move to Manchester, the Danish defender is packing his bags for Wolfsburg.

The former Palermo man was hardly helped by an error-prone Danish defence, but he did nothing to suggest he had the solidity or leadership qualities required to succeed at the highest level, although – as you and I well know – one tournament rarely tells the whole story.

Right-midfield – Franck Ribéry (France)

Club: Bayern Munich. 48 caps (7 goals)

At this World Cup, the stage was set for Franck Ribéry to finish a disappointing season on the highest of high notes. Not disappointing on the pitch, although Bayern’s domestic double was achieved largely in spite of the French winger, but disappointing in a personal sense.

His achievements at club and international level were first blighted by a knee injury, and then by a prostitution scandal which rocked the French football scene.

International team-mate Karim Benzema had a similarly frustrating 12 months, but while the Real Madrid striker was left out of the World Cup squad – allowing him to take time out to confront his troubles – Ribéry had no escape. His abject performances in South Africa suggested one or more of these issues were still playing on his mind, and questions still remain as to whether he will ever be able to recapture his previous form on the pitch.

Left-midfield – Lionel Messi (Argentina)

Club: Barcelona. 49 caps (13 goals)

All things considered, Messi didn’t play that badly in the World Cup. He lit up proceedings against South Korea as Diego Maradona’s side destroyed their Asian opponents, and showed some good touches against Mexico in the last 16.

But fans and pundits have come to expect more of the enigmatic Argentine. He netted 47 goals in 53 games for Barcelona this season, including splendid hat-tricks against Arsenal and Valencia.

Yet when the world was watching, he failed to reproduce the same goalscoring form, culminating in his nation’s 4-0 loss at the hands of Germany – a loss which he could do nothing about.

Central midfield – Frank Lampard (England)

Club: Chelsea. 82 caps (20 goals)

Frank Lampard should count himself lucky referee Jorge Larrionda failed to notice his shot crossing the line in England’s loss to Germany. Why? Because now fans will remember his campaign in a more positive light.

Now when asked about Lampard’s performance in years to come, people will mention his disallowed ‘goal’ and not his complete absence in his country’s first three games.

This is not the first time the midfielder – almost untouchable at club level – has failed to perform on the world stage. It seems he is so used to being the focal point of the side at Chelsea that he has forgotten how to work for his team-mates.

No doubt he will become a world-beater again when he returns to Chelsea for the new season, free from the shackles of significant responsibility.

Central midfield – Steven Pienaar (South Africa)

Club: Everton. 51 caps (2 goals)

If the host nation South Africa had any hope of reaching the last 16, they would need their most famous footballing expert to pull the strings right from the get-go.

Sadly for them, Pienaar never really got out of first gear, and as a result South Africa lacked the creative spark needed to separate them from the other teams in group A.

While the opening draw with Mexico and the narrow victory against a French side in total disarray gave fans of the Bafana Bafana something to shout about, hard graft and enthusiasm will only get you so far. With Pienaar unable to impose his nous and footballing intelligence on the game, Carlos Alberto Parreira’s side got about as far as they could.

Striker – Wayne Rooney (England)

Club: Manchester United. 64 caps (25 goals)

Those making excuses for England’s poor performance at the World Cup have blamed the arduous Premier League season. However that is only part of the story as far as Wayne Rooney is concerned.

Rooney’s injury problems have been well documented, and many England supporters were relieved when he picked up a knock a few months before the start of the tournament.

Unfortunately, far from getting the much-needed rest enjoyed by the likes of Arjen Robben, Rooney was forced back into action far sooner than Fabio Capello would have liked. Still, with his team-mates offering little in the way of service, there is no guarantee that a fully-fit Rooney could have done any better.

Striker – Fernando Torres (Spain)

Club: Liverpool. 80 caps (24 goals)

Never before can I remember a striker featuring in every game for a World Cup winning country and having less of an impact.

Torres looked out of his depth, failing to score and failing to complete a full 90 minutes at any stage of the tournament. While his team-mates brushed aside their opposition en route to winning the World Cup, the Liverpool man was barely an afterthought in discussions of their success.

And just to cap it all, he picked up an injury in the closing stages of the final which will put a dent in his preparations for the new campaign.

Substitutes:

Fawzi Chaouchi (Algeria, goalkeeper) – Gaffe in opener against Slovenia effectively sealed his country’s fate

Glen Johnson (England, right-back) – Horribly exposed in defeat against Germany, ordinary going forward and absent at the back

Nemanja Vidic (Serbia, centre-back) – Far from his normal imposing self, gifted Germany a penalty in Serbia’s only win

Jean Makoun (Cameroon, central midfield) – Failed to impose himself after an impressive season for Lyon

Kaka (Brazil, attacking midfield) – Allowed himself to be bullied by opponents too easily, although his red card against Cote d’Ivoire was harsh

Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal, winger) – Victim of an overly-defensive set-up from manager Carlos Queiroz

Vincenzo Iaquinta (Italy, striker) – Static and lumbering, should have been replaced by Fabio Quagliarella far sooner.