And so, with another Premier League season drawing to a close, it’s time to once again indulge in a debate on who has performed well enough to get into the hypothetical best XI. The PFA’s official team was announced back in April, with Chelsea dominating the list with 6 players, but this one may be slightly different…….
Goalkeeper- David De Gea (Manchester United)
That the sound of his name belted down from the upper echelons of Old Trafford after United’s final home game of the season is testament enough to the regard the ‘keeper who has now become one of their main players.
No longer the slender boy that was bullied by opponents in the air when he first come to England but now confident, dominant and wonderfully agile, he has been a massive component to United’s return to the Champions League.
Saves against Liverpool, Everton and Crystal Palace stand-out in a sensational list of stops by the Spaniard who will leave a huge void behind should he join Real Madrid this summer. Louis Van Gaal may find it as hard to replace him as Sir Alex Ferguson did Peter Schmeichel.
Right-Back- Branislav Ivanovic (Chelsea)
Apart from Southampton’s Nathaniel Clyne, nobody comes close to keeping the Serbian out of this side. He has started all of Chelsea’s league games as they have sauntered to the title and, like the rest of Jose Mourinho’s back-line, he has been the embodiment of dogged defensive solidity. Only Joel Ward of Crystal Palace has won more duels than Ivanovic’s 223.
Known for his fearsome aggression and determination at the back, he has also proved an able asset going forward, creating 34 chances and grabbing five assists, as many as Mesut Ozil at Arsenal and Nacer Chadli at Tottenham, a respectable haul for a full-back who doesn’t take set-pieces.
Centre-Back- Jose Fonte (Southampton)
When Liverpool convinced Dejan Lovren to follow Adam Lallana up to Anfield from St Mary’s last summer it turns out the wrong defender was taken to Merseyside. As Southampton underwent an exodus, Fonte signed a new two-year deal, took the mantle left behind by Lovren and inherited Lallana’s captain armband, growing into one of the league’s most assured centre-backs.
Alongside a partner who is new to the league in Toby Alderweireld, the 31 year old Fonte has been a consistent part of a back four that has shipped just 31 goals, a record that is joint-best in the league with Chelsea.
Of the top seven clubs only Liverpool’s Martin Skrtel has contributed more defensive actions than Fonte’s 337 and his number of interceptions, 113, is the highest in the division. The Portuguese is now rumoured to rock up this summer at, yep you’ve guessed it…. Liverpool.
Centre-Back- John Terry (Chelsea)
Set to become only the second ever outfield Premier League winner to play every minute of every game, the superlatives have long since ran out for the standards Terry sets on the field. He has been the steel base on which Chelsea’s fourth title win has been built, now getting by more on intelligence and reading of the game than the full-bloodied committal that characterised his earlier career.
A model of resilience, he has made a mockery of Rafael Benitez’s claims he can now longer play two games in a week and at 34 he is by far the best defender in the league.
Left-Back- Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea)
Signed originally to provide cover at right-back, the Spaniard has proved an invaluable asset to Mourinho at left-back, filling the boots of Ashley Cole while keeping the £16 million Filipe Luis out of the side. Starting 28 times he has been another personification of grit and resolve that Mourinho instils in his team.
He was named as the league’s best defender by Sky pundits Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher while he has not yet made a single error that has led to an opposition chance. He has been typically understated, missing out on the PFA Team of the Year to Southampton’s Ryan Bertrand but Mourinho is a massive fan of his Spanish full-back. It is easy to see why.
Defensive Midfield- Nemanja Matic (Chelsea)
Who else? Matic has been the cornerstone of Chelsea’s title win and seemingly impregnable defensive effort, the outstanding holding midfielder in the league. Nobody has made more clearances or tackles in the entire league than the colossal Serbian who has missed just two of Chelsea’s games this season.
As well as being defensively imperious, the 26 year old who Mourinho braved-face to buy back from Benfica last January is also a gifted distributor of the ball, initiating the Blues’ attacks from deep and only Cesc Fabregas has completed more passes than Matic this term.
He is the very definition of undroppable to Mourinho.
Centre Midfield- Santi Cazorla (Arsenal)
Alexis Sanchez was the Gunners sole representative in the PFA version of the team of the year but Cazorla has been more integral to their excellent form in the second half of the season. Sanchez has more goals to his name but the cultured Spaniard has more assists and is Arsenal’s most consistent mover of the ball.
His form beside Francis Coquelin in the engine room of Arsene Wenger’s midfield since Christmas has been impressive and he has been Arsenal’s Mr versatile, filling in on the left and in a more advanced midfield role.
Full of work, energy and creative guile, he assures Arsenal of a shift wherever he plays.
Right Midfield- Phillipe Coutinho (Liverpool)
The Brazilian’s form has been a rare bright spot for Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool this season, scoring five goals and assisting five more while also signing a new long-term contract. The 22 year old has shown signs he can morph into a match-winner for Liverpool and his quick-feet and boundless energy has been too difficult for teams to deal with at times this season.
In the Liverpool squad nobody has completed more dribbles or taken more shots, while only Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling have created more chances. In the absence of Luis Suarez, Coutinho has become Liverpool’s most serious attacking threat, though he still has to become more clinical.
Faced with another crucial summer of recruitment, Rodgers can do worse than build his team around his gifted playmaker.
Left Midfield- Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
Becoming Chelsea’s fifth player on this team the Belgian has been the talismanic presence that has elevated Mourinho’s team above the contenders. 14 goals have been scored, including vital winners in games with Manchester United and West Ham, and he has the league-best total for chances created and dribbles completed.
His nimble-footed drives towards the opposition are a nightmare for defenders who have fouled him 110 times, another league-high. The 24 year old was the outstanding candidate for PFA Player of the Year.
Centre Forward- Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur)
The PFA’s Young Player of the Year has been one of the season’s best stories. Restricted by manager Mauricio Pochettino to a bit-part cup game role before November, Kane burst onto the Premier League scene with a winner at Aston Villa and has not looked back, hitting 19 more to sit on a total of 20 with one game to go, while in all competitions he has hit 31.
His uncontainable dynamism in-front of goal swept Chelsea and Arsenal away at White Hart Lane while he also did for West Brom, QPR and Leicester with displays of deadly finishing. Strong, fearless and clever on the move in the mould of Alan Shearer, the 21 year old was rewarded for his unexpected rise with an England call-up in March, where he scored on his debut.
Centre Forward- Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)
Now above Harry Kane in the Premier League scoring charts with 25 and on a personal best for a campaign with 31 despite missing a large portion of the season with injury, it has been a superb return from the Argentine who has been the stand-out player in City’s feeble defence of their title.
Blessed with a freakishly low centre of gravity and a wonderful balance, Aguero can often appear impossible for defenders to stop and he can run riot with ruthless accuracy in-front of goal when he is given the service.
Despite the huge overhaul planned for City’s squad this summer, keep Aguero, get him regularly fit and they will be some way to returning a genuine challenge to wrestle the title back next season.
Written by Adam Gray
Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250
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