It is fitting that the 2010/2011 Premiership season has been one of the most intriguing yet.
While the league’s unpredictability has left many a frustrated punter tearing up their accumulator betting-slip in disgust as another unexpected result robs them of that elusive fortune they so desperately seek, this season has been a journalist’s dream.
Chelsea stole all the headlines at the beginning of the season as they bulldozed their way through the Premier league in such a flamboyant style that it seemed a foregone conclusion that they would be crowned champions again. Yet, such is the nature of this season, that their blip became a slump, which in turn became a crisis and now they are making headlines for their lacklustre performances and self-implosion.
Ian Holloway and his Blackpool side have also been a revelation and quite rightly – if completely unexpectedly – have seen substantial column inches so far. They were written off as the league’s whipping boys before a ball had been kicked, but have shown such passion, team-work and commitment to the cause they have restored the faith of those cynics who thought there was no heart left in the Premiership.
Another highlight for journalists – if for no one else – was Wayne Rooney’s declaration that he wanted to leave the country’s biggest club because it lacks ambition, only to do a dramatic u-turn after the old master Sir Alex Ferguson gave an Oscar worthy performance as the tearful, dumfounded and betrayed father. That memorable press conference depicted Ferguson as victim and Rooney as the greedy, ungrateful and petulant son and left the latter knowing if he left United his reputation – which had already seriously damaged during the summer– would be tarnished forever.
The saga – which was closely followed by the eerily similar Carlos Tevez affair – also showed how ugly football had got, how obsessed with money players were and how powerful agents had become. Thus, further cementing Blackpool as everyone’s secret favourite club – one where football matters reigned supreme above all else and expensive cars, expensive houses and beautiful houses were an afterthought.
Alongside all this is an incredibly close league (five points separates West Ham at the foot of the table and Everton in 11th place, and table toppers Manchester United and fifth place Tottenham are also separated by the same margin) where no one team is considerably worse or better than everyone else. So it’s all very exciting and pundits and punters alike are being made to look very foolish as they try and second guess what is going to happen next.
In recent weeks everyone has had their say on the team of the year so far, and below you can find my humble opinions. Everyone is entitled to their opinion but I thought The Guardian’s team, which was based on statistics, only showed that stats only tell you half the story.
(Important to note that this is a TEAM of the year, so in a proper formation with an eye to how they would operate if they actually took to the field)
Goalkeeper: Pep Reina
No one keeper has been head and shoulders above the rest this season which has made picking a keeper extremely hard. While Gomez and Fabianski have battled it out for the title of worst keeper in the league, everyone else has been fairly reliable and consistent. Thus, I’ve picked Reina because during all the turmoil at Anfield this season and with a new centre-back pairing nearly every week he has marshalled a poor Liverpool defence well.
Left back: Assou-Ekotto
While Ashley Cole and Patrice Evra have performed well all season, I have chosen Tottenham’s left back ahead of them because he has emerged as a reliable defender having always been fairly handy going forward. Moreover, he shuns the celebrity life-style and does a lot of work for charity and so I have the utmost respect for him too.
Centre backs: Nemanja Vidic and Gary Cahill
Vidic has once again been exceptional and is flourishing as United’s captain. He leads by example and rarely makes mistakes. Sir Alex will be delighted that he managed to convince the giant Serbian to stay at Old Trafford rather than go to Real Madrid.
Cahill may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but his solid performances at the back have helped Bolton reach sixth place in the league. Thus, it is unsurprising to see that he has been linked with big money moves to Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal in recent weeks because his performances have warranted such speculation.
Right back: Rafael
The young Brazilian, like Assou-Ekotto, has really improved defensively this year and although he is still gets exposed every so often he is quickly becoming a permanent fixture in United’s defence.
Left mid: Gareth Bale
The Welsh wizard has been in sensational form for Tottenham this season since moving to the wing, which is because Assou-Ekotto has emerged a reliable fullback. With such blistering pace Bale at times is unstoppable, but crucially he (unlike Aaron Lennon on the opposite flank) consistently delivers an end product.
Centre-Mid: Scott Parker and Paul Scholes
Without Parker West Ham would have no chance of avoiding relegation. He is the heartbeat of that team and epitomises everything that England’s World Cup flops lacked: energy, passion, bravery and determination.
Next to him I’ve opted for the old master Scholes who provides the vital balance and anchorage for my highly attacking team – as well as an experienced head in times of trouble.
Right mid: Samir Nasri
The Frenchman has flourished in the absence of Cesc Fabregras and his excellent control, quick feet and eye for goal have made him a pivotal point of Arsene Wenger’s side. He is just as effective coming of the wing as he is in the middle of the park and is player who can win you a game with a piece of magic.
In-the-hole: Rafael Van der Vaart
Harry Redknapp must have got Daniel Levy one hell of a Christmas present because Levy got Redknapp the best gift of them: Van der Vaart. The little Dutchman has that ability to find space between the opposition’s midfield and defence and is quality in the final third is undoubted. Not only does he create chances but he has a real eye for goal and at £8m he has been the signing of the season.
Striker: Andy Carroll
Newcastle’s No.9 is having a fantastic campaign and his no nonsense approach to the game is infectious and he has quickly become a real favourite amongst the Toon. He might be a bit rough around the edges, but he puts himself about, works for the team and no centre-back likes playing against him. With 11 goals so far he also knows how to find the back of the net.
Bench: (players who just missed out but have been very impressive so far)
Joe Hart, Ryan Shawcross, Tim Cahill, Luka Modric, Leigton Bains, Darren Bent, Stuart Holden
Disagree? Have I missed someone out? Have you say below.