Manchester United fan Reece Lawrence gives his Premier League team of the year...
Premier League Team of the Year (4-3-3)
Goalkeeper – Brad Friedel (Aston Villa and Tottenham)
In terms of consistency in 2011, there is no goalkeeper equal to the big American in the Premier League. He has not missed a league game since the 2004/5 season and is subsequently the current record holder for the most consecutive appearances in the top-flight. Oh, and he is 40 years old. To have moved clubs in the close season and still managed to have kept his rightful position as Spurs’ number 1 (usurping Heurelho Gomes in the process) says it all about his temperament, approach to the game in the autumn of his career and, of course, his ability as a shot-stopper.
RB – Micah Richards (Manchester City)
Roberto Mancini must have had good reason to offer Micah Richards a new five-year contract in the summer of 2011. An FA Cup winner’s medal aside, stellar performances, particularly in the latter part of the last campaign, helped Manchester City keep a league-high 18 clean sheets and propel them to third. Again a consistent performer, Richards has been a permanent presence on City’s team sheet this campaign while they challenge for the title and his impressive performances have merited a regular place in a competitive line-up. His technical traits have all improved, while his beast-like strength and speed on the ball has made him a threat in attack as well as a top full-back.
CB – Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United)
“He comes from Serbia, he’ll (expletive) murder ya”, goes the song from the Stretford End. Very fitting. United’s team captain will challenge for every aerial ball and will most likely win. He makes block after block, times his tackles to perfection, and has been 2011’s best central defender in the league. Soon after scoring in the win against Chelsea which all but wrapped up United’s 19th title, Vidic was named the Barclays Player of the Season. This season his return to the side after injury coincided with a run of clean sheets after United’s earlier uncertain form. News that he will miss the rest of the season is a huge blow for the club.
CB – Phil Jones (Blackburn and Manchester United)
It is hard to believe that this boy is not yet 20. The praise he has received from peers has been overwhelming. Now being talked of as a new Keane or Duncan Edwards, despite being a natural centre-back, Phil Jones has had a fantastic breakthrough year – not allowing the media hype to affect his performances for club and now country. He finished his time at Blackburn in stellar fashion – notably keeping a clean sheet at Arsenal – prompting Sir Alex Ferguson to pay £16m for him in the summer. At United he has simply flourished, playing more games than any of his team-mates this season.
LB – Leighton Baines (Everton)
Being left out of the England squad to South Africa may have, on some level, helped Leighton Baines. Since that disappointment, and especially this year, he has by a distance been Everton’s best player. Baines is an ever-present on David Moyes’s team sheet and for good reason. He has been the league’s highest assisting defender in 2011, contributing quality crosses from the left, while also taking responsibility for most of The Toffees’ penalties and free kicks. He possesses a wonderful left foot and fans have often left Goodison Park applauding the left-back’s style and composure on the ball.
DM – Scott Parker (West Ham and Tottenham)
It is perhaps a little bittersweet that Scott Parker is playing the best football of his career after he has turned 30. This year has undoubtedly been his most productive year, despite undeservedly being relegated with West Ham. He earned the Football Writers’ Player of the Year due to his committed defensive midfield performances for the stricken Hammers. His subsequent transfer to Tottenham has given him the ability to showcase his passing and controlling of games in a team of real quality, forging in particular a wonderful partnership with Luka Modric in midfield. It is no coincidence that he remains unbeaten for Spurs when he has played for them.
CM/CAM – David Silva (Manchester City)
Since Manchester City became genuine title contenders, all the talk has been of this little Spaniard. Constantly referred to as the league’s best midfielder, he has it all: dazzling trickery, the ability to accelerate away from opposition players, fantastic determination and a lethal finish – pretty much everything required to be a playmaker. He has chipped in with his fair share of goals and has assisted with nine already this current season. In Silva there is an air of a young boy just enjoying his football, while keeping his team flying high atop the Premier League as 2011 ends.
CM/CAM –Rafael Van der Vaart (Tottenham)
There was a time in 2011 when Rafael Van der Vaart carried Tottenham single-handedly through games to victory. The exceptionally talented Dutchman produced the goods and the goals, at times from nowhere, to ensure Spurs had something to shout about come May. He ended last season as their highest assist-maker and top scorer; the latter is a stat that is all the more remarkable considering he is not even a striker. This incredible form continued after the summer break, when van der Vaart equalled a Tottenham record by scoring in five consecutive league games.
ST – Demba Ba (West Ham and Newcastle)
Another player who has benefitted from performing well for a relegated team, Demba Ba has been a terrific addition to English football. He is a no-nonsense striker with a devastating eye for goal and since joining West Ham in January has scored 18 goals in the league – 11 of them this campaign. Alan Pardew at Newcastle has given him the perfect tactical set-up with which to add to his tally and he has repaid his manager’s faith. He has two hat-tricks already this season for the Magpies, while his goals and link-up play has contributed to their best start in years.
ST –Daniel Sturridge (Bolton, on loan, and Chelsea)
Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has recently questioned why Daniel Sturridge was allowed to leave the club in 2009 under old management. It is clear now that he would gladly have him back. Being loaned out by Chelsea to Bolton in January 2011 proved crucial for the 22-year-old and has resulted in a breakthrough year for the speedy forward. He was magnificent for the Trotters and scored eight goals in just 12 appearances. He has returned to Chelsea with confidence and as a genuine goal threat. A further eight league goals since August has kept the misfiring Fernando Torres sat firmly on the bench which says much about Sturridge’s current form.
ST – Robin van Persie (Arsenal)
There are not enough superlatives to describe this player in 2011. A round of applause from Thierry Henry after his stunning volley against Everton might just do his year justice, for van Persie is one goal from equalling Henry’s club record of 34 goals in a calendar year, and just three behind Alan Shearer’s all-time record in the same period. 33 goals in 32 league games is the kind of form Messi and Ronaldo are so used to, so it is not outrageous to say the Dutchman is, in terms of form, up with the greatest players in the world this year.