My post today is a little bit off from my usual style and usual topics but I hope you enjoy it nonetheless.
20 years of the premier league has almost passed and every man, dog and website with the remotest interest in football will be arguing their all time premier league XI.
Paul Ince & Mark Lawrenson have chosen theirs on the BBC Focus Forum. http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/17823283
They included 4 Arsenal players and I am certain there will be Gooners up in arms all over the world screaming that we should have had more. Their screams will probably be drowned out by millions of fans of other clubs who also believe that their ex-players (or current players) deserved a place too.
I can’t choose an all time premier league XI objectively but am going to list 3 players for each position that I think deserve to be considered above all others. To make things a little easier I am only going to choose players that have spent at least 5 years in the premier league.
Please comment on this article with your choice (in a 4-4-2 formation).
The first two names are the easiest to say but probably one of the most contentious football issues ever. Who was better Schmeichel or Seaman?
The third was tough because it was really hard for me to leave out Jens Lehmann, partially because he is an absolute legend, partially because I am a Gooner but mostly because how can you leave out a keeper who went a whole season unbeaten and kept 10 clean sheets in the champions league in a row?
Sadly for me Jens just misses out to Shay Given. I think Shay deserves his place because he has been a consistently good goalkeeper in the premier league for over 15 years.
Goalkeepers that deserve a mention are Flowers, Friedel, James, Keller, Reina, Cech, Cudicini, Schwarzer and of course Van Der Sar.
This is easy. Gary Neville, never has a defender been so universally hated by all opposition fans and that speaks volumes for his ability. Not many full backs could deal with players like Henry, Pires, Overmars, Robben, Kewell, Ginola etc but he did more often than not. I’ve softened to Gary Neville since he became a pundit and I think he is a really good pundit and miles away from even being a hint of how United biased I thought he would be. Lee Dixon, 10 years in the premier league as the best right back or at least in the top 2 makes him a total shoe-in.
For me there have been many half-decent right backs but it is between two Arsenal players for the final spot for me. Not because I am an Arsenal fan but because Sagna has been the best right back for 4/5 years and Lauren replaced Dixon with consummate ease and was part of probably the best Arsenal team ever. Lauren wins it for me.
This again is quite easy but I will get some stick for this. Dennis Irwin is one of my choices. Very underrated but did everything. Good for pace, strong in defence, good in attack, scored goals, took free-kicks, played with both feet. An excellent player. Ashley Cole for his longevity and many titles has to be in there. I hate the guy but cannot question his talent. For at least 3-4 years he was the best left back in the world.
The final spot is where I am going to get some stick. The choice for me is between Winterburn and Evra and I’m going for Evra. Evra has been the best left back in the league for 5+ years and has played against some fantastic players with strength, speed and skill. Winterburn, whilst not lacking in talent, guts or determination never really had to face the quality of player or speed of player as Evra did/does. It was a really hard call but Nigel misses out for me.
There are 6 to choose from and for me only two ‘current’ players makes the cut and they are Ferdinand and Vidic. The rest of the 6 is made up by Tony Adams, Steve Bould, Sol Campbell and Sami Hyypia.
Adams and Bould were the best partnership in premier league and can only really be rivalled by Vidic/Ferdinand in my opinion. I toyed with names like Pallister, McGrath, Toure, Terry and Carragher but I felt that Hyypia deserved to be there because he was the best part of fantastic for Liverpool for 10 years and Sol was a top defender for 12+ years in the premier league for Arsenal, Pompey and the scum. The rest narrowly miss out and if Jaap Stam had played for 5 seasons in the premier league then I probably would have included him over Sol.
Three names. Two United, one Arsenal. Ronaldo, Beckham, Ljungberg. Nuff said I reckon
The first two names are simple, Giggs and Pires. The third is quite hard because I think it should be Overmars but he doesn’t meet the 5 year criteria so I’m left with a hard choice. I want to put Le Tissier here but I think that would be cheating as he wasn’t much of a winger despite playing a few games out there. For me it is between Ginola and Kewell for the 3rd spot. I want to go for Ginola because of his extraordinary talent but want to leave him out because of his spud days. Kewell was fantastic at Leeds and at Liverpool and if memory serves right Arsenal were linked with him for a number of years. I’m going to go for Ginola because although he started to fizzle out when he moved to Villa he was still the second best left midfield in the premier league from ’95 to ’00 behind Giggs.
This was probably the hardest choice to make because the premier league has been blessed with some extraordinary midfielders.
The first three names are easy. Vieira, Keane, Scholes. None need an explanation. The final three were really tough because there’s some great players to consider like Le Tissier, Lampard, Gerrard, Fabregas, Alonso, Gazza, Speed, Ince and probably a few more. For pure unbelievable and effortless talent I’m going to go for Le Tissier for one of the spots. Fabregas has to go in there because he was the best midfielder in the premier league for at least 6 of his 8 seasons and completely dominated premier league midfield’s (and many European games, Juve & Madrid spring to mind but not as good as Jack’s domination of the so-called best midfield in the best team ever IMO) from the age of 16.
The final spot is tough because they are all great players. Do I go for the guys that dictate the pace of the game and keep the midfield working well like Ince, Speed or Alonso? No, I won’t. I already have Keane and Vieira so who do I go for out of the attacking talent of Lampard, Gerrard or Gazza? I’m going for Gerrard because to my mind he is probably one of the most complete midfielders to ever grace the premier league. A top, top player and someone who I used to dream about Arsenal signing. Him and Vieira would have been sensational and when Vieira left him and Fabregas would have been the best midfield partnership in the premier league IMO.
Three names instantly come to mind. Shearer, Henry and Bergkamp. Shearer the greatest goalscorer in premier league history. Henry probably the best player to have ever played in the premier league (although it pains me to say Ronaldo gives him a really good run for his money and would probably win out if I wasn’t so biased towards The King) and Bergkamp was probably the technically best, most astute and best passer the premier league has ever seen and probably will ever see. Scholes and Fabregas come a close joint second for best passer but Bergkamp’s vision was unparalleled.
The next three are also difficult because there have been some great strikers; Cantona, Cole, Di Canio, Drogba, Ferdinand, Fowler, Hasselbaink, Keane, Owen, Phillps, Rooney, Solksjær, Sheringham, Tevez, Van Persie, Van Nistelrooy, Viduka, Wright, Yorke and Zola.
Cantona, Di Canio, Drogba, Rooney, Van Persie, Van Nistelrooy, Wright and Zola made my final short-list. I had to weight everyone up and think of reasons why they shouldn’t be considered and I had to drop RVP purely because he has been very in and out during his career at Arsenal. If he hadn’t of had so many injuries he wouldn’t have just made the final short-list, he probably would have made the final 6. I had to make a choice between Zola, Di Canio and Cantona and against probably my better judgement I went for Cantona. I tried to think who would I prefer to have in my team and it would be Zola because Cantona was so mercurial but then I decided that this is about the best players and the volatility and reliability of player shouldn’t really come in to it so I opted for Cantona. Di Canio didn’t really get a look in when compared to those two.
Next it was a choice between Van Nistelrooy and Wright for my poacher spot and I’ve decided to go for Wright, not because he is an ex-Arsenal player but because he scored more goals. The horse had a better strike rate but if I was going purely for strike rate then I’d be choosing Torres over Wright!
My final choice was between Drogba and Rooney. Both talented, strong, (divers), can score with both feet and their heads, good in set pieces and able to score the spectacular. I decided to go for Rooney because he is a better all-round player than Drogba and has scored and assisted more goals.
So there we are, my short-list for the best all time premier league XI. I’d be interested to know what your final XI would be.
For what it is worth these would be mine:
This is just a bit of fun guys so feel free to disagree with me but no abuse please if you don’t like who I’ve chosen or why.
It’s interesting that most of the players are either Arsenal or United players. Just goes to show who the dominant sides have been.
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