The EPL is wrapping up–though not before a last gasp effort for Manchester City to wrestle the title away from their neighborly foes United.
Our picks for Best XI:
G: Tim Krul (Newcastle)
The skinny: Tough pick here. Krul kept Newcastle in games as they got their footing in the beginning of the campaign. He’s got a knack for big saves and didn’t spawn a single clunker all year. Over 35% of his starts were clean sheets–this for a team that just returned to the league and without having the benefit of immediate backline chemistry. Newcastle now is a stone’s throw from Champion’s League play. Unreal.
That said, a fantastic return to form by Petr Cech put the Stamford Bridge toll collector in the conversation. If Chelsea are not anemic in the middle of the year, Cech slots in.
Others considered: Michael Vorn, Peter Cech, Joe Hart
DEF: Jose Enrique (Liverpool), Martin Skrtel (Liverpool), Brede Hangeland (Fulham), Bacary Sagna (Arsenal)
The skinny: Enrique has been Liverpool’s biggest find this season, despite “bigger” signings of Henderson, Downing and Adam. He’s steadied what has been a notoriously inconsistent position for Liverpool and offered a lot going forward in the attack while providing solid defense.
Enrique just slides by Ashley Cole whose own candidacy is–again–a victim of Chelsea’s collective goal to get AVB fired. Leighton Baines for all his attacking might is highly negligent on defense. Down a rung.
In the middle there are just so many good candidates. Vincent Kompany will be a first-teamer on many ballots, but it’s another Liverpudian here as Martin Škrtel steps as best Premiership defensive anchor.
Skrtel has claimed the throne of “one nasty bad ass motherfu…” central defender from Nemanja Vidic in the Serbian’s absence.
I’m not sure why Brede Hangeland never gets credit in this race. He may not be the most proficient defender in 1-on-1 situations and his distribution may be suspect from time to time, but his impact on steadying and setting the Fulham backline cannot be underestimated.
Each year Fulham find themselves with some rotating cast of fullbacks and play the underdog in a most of their matches and each year Hangeland has the squad in the top 8 or better in goals conceded
Bakary Sagna rounds out the backline. Overcame some tough injuries and still was rock solid for Arsene Wenger. More importantly, Sagna allowed Theo Walcott to run around like a chicken with its head cut off.
Others considered: Vincent Kompany, Benoît Assou-Ekotto, Kyle Walker, Ashley Cole
MID: Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Alex Song (Arsenal), Yohan Cabaye (Newcastle), Antonio Valencia (Manchester United)
The skinny: The case for Clint Dempsey has been made here at TSG, many times over. For a player on a team that generates little offense, Dempsey is that offense with more than half of Fulham’s shots and goals.
Alex Song continues to be the most underrated player in the Premiership. Song eased the transition of Cesc Fabregas to Mikel Arteta and Tomas Rosicky–two players who are hardly known for their defense. Song is the glue of Arsenal’s midfield and while he’s not quite Makeleian in his holding role his being on the pitch is a necessity to Arsenal’s success.
Yohan Cabaye edges out fellow Tynesider Cheik Tiote here–more because of Tiote’s injury. Bet you didn’t know that Cabaye was the second leading tackler in the Premiership. This for a player who can be downright wizardly in possession. Cabaye can play on my team any day. What a find.
Antonio Valencia won’t be a popular pick. Many point to Paul Scholes form or Sir Alex’s managing as the reason Manchester United went on their tear to just about bring the title to Old Trafford. Valencia–quietly–is the league leader in assists (13) while adding width to a Red Devil attack that desperately needed. That and he play tireless defense, even deputizing at right fullback from time to time.
Note: David Silva was a shoo-in at the beginning of the year, but he’s underwent some sort of malaise during the time that City needs him most. Can’t in good conscience put him on the list in that he’s been absent when City’s needed him most.
Others considered: David Silva, Cheik Tiote, Scott Parker, Jonas, Juan Mata, Luka Modric
FW: Robin Van Persie (Arsenal), Papiss Demba Cisse (Newcastle)
The skinny: Arsenal’s RVP will likely top the 30-goal mark by season’s end. Despite facing double-teams, RVP has scored in everyway and exuded the leadership expected of a captain with only a few minor blemishes.
Papiss Cisse edges Wayne Rooney and the sneaky good campaign of Emmanuel Adebayor for the second forward spot, despite only having 10 games under his belt. None other than Eric Wynalda said it best on Sunday when he commented, “Cisse is a goal scorer. He realizes scoring is just passing to a bigger target.” Statistically, Cisse–11 goals in 10 matches–would score at higher clip over Robin Van Persie if it you extrapolated his numbers.
Others considered: Wayne Rooney, Emmanuel Adebayor, Sergio Aguero, Luis Suarez, Grant Holt, Demba Ba