PFA Premier League Team of the Year: an alternative eleven

With the Barclays Premier League season coming to a close, the PFA team of the year has been announced. Not surprisingly, it looks considerably different to last season’s 11 which included six players from Chelsea’s title winning side. One year on and a lot has changed. This season has arguably been one of the strangest ever, although thoroughly entertaining! With just four games to go, early season relegation favourites Leicester City are top of the table and could create the most special moment in Premier League history if they become champions.

Therefore the PFA team understandably contains a few Foxes’ stars from their fairy-tale campaign. The squad is dominated by both Leicester and second place Tottenham Hotspur who make up all but three of the 11.

PFA Team of the Year: De Gea, Bellerin, Morgan, Alderweireld, Rose, Mahrez, Alli, Kante, Payet, Kane, Vardy

It’s hard to argue with that team, all selections are justified and understandable on statistics. However it is unfortunate that some of the top flights best performers are inevitably overlooked. Here I offer an alternative eleven which includes those who may have missed out on deserved credit.

Che Trophy

Champions? Not one Chelsea player deserved to feature in the PFA team of the year

 

Goalkeeper- Kasper Schmeichel

Table toppers Leicester City may have dazzled going forward but because of their defensive prowess, the Foxes have lost just a mere THREE games all season. Two of which were against Arsenal. Like father like son, goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel has been just as exceptional as former Manchester United stopper Peter Schmeichel. The Danish international has kept a league high of 14 clean sheets alongside PFA selected keeper David de Gea.

Defence-

Nathaniel Clyne

The Liverpool full back is likely to be England’s first choice on the right hand side of defence at Euro 2016 and deservedly so. Clyne offers pace and attacking impetus much like Hector Bellerin at Arsenal, the 25 year-old impressed at Southampton and earned a transfer to Anfield last summer. He and Bellerin have been the most consistent right backs this season.

Scott Dann

One of the surprise entrants on my shortlist is Scott Dann of Crystal Palace. The 29 year-old has scored more goals than any other Premier League defender this season but has been overlooked by England, perhaps because his side are struggling near the bottom of the table. With Roy Hodgson struggling for options in central defence, Dann deserves to at least be capped once by his country.

Robert Huth

With Leicester City captain Wes Morgan included in the PFA team of the year, his defensive partner Robert Huth had to be included in my alternative eleven. The giant German has been a rock this season and has enjoyed his best form in the later years of his career, notably in spells at Stoke City and of course now at Leicester. The 31 year-old has also contributed with three goals so far in 2015/16.

Aaron Cresswell

Aaron Cresswell is another English defender who is massively underrated. The 26 year-old has been paramount in West Ham United’s impressive final season at Upton Park but like Scott Dann, has never been considered for England duty. Having raised his game after moving up from Championship side Ipswich Town, Cresswell has been more than dependable for the Irons. He also provides excellent crossing ability from out wide, registering four assists and two goals so far this season. It’s clear that Cresswell is just as good, if not better than capped English left backs Danny Rose, Ryan Bertrand, Luke Shaw and Kieran Gibbs.

Aaron_Cresswell_West_Ham_Vs_Birkrikara_(19753530238)_(cropped)

Engine: Cresswell has made 43 appearances in 2015/16, playing nearly 3000 minutes

Midfield –

Mesut Ozil

Ozil has to be included. The German playmaker is just two assists away from equalling the Premier League record for most assists in one season, after registering 18 already. Strangely, Ozil has been shortlisted for PFA player of the year but unlike other candidates, he doesn’t feature in the team of the season. This has probably been the 27 year-olds best season at Arsenal to date. If it wasn’t for the mid-season injury to Alexis Sanchez, the Chilean would also be on my shortlist.

Eric Dier

Much like his Tottenham teammate Dele Alli, versatile midfielder Eric Dier has thrived this season. Spurs are Leicester’s closest challengers for the title but even if they don’t manage to catch Claudio Ranieri’s men they still have an exciting young side that can compete for years to come. Dier’s versatility is his biggest strength as the 22 year-old can play across defence and in holding midfield. He is also an exciting prospect for England and is already consistently performing for the Three Lions.

Mark Noble

Yet another Englishman warranting of at least an international call up is West Ham captain, Mark Noble. The box to box midfielder has enjoyed his most consistent season playing in claret and blue. His leadership, passing and tacking ability are key strengths that have been successfully applied this season. At 28 years-old, Noble is in his prime and looks to have lead the Irons to a top six finish and deserves creditability.

Danny Drinkwater

Similar to Noble, Danny Drinkwater has been in great form this season. After making his England debut against Holland in March, Drinkwater could be lifting the Premier League trophy with Leicester in a few weeks’ time. Alongside PFA player of the year nominee N’Golo Kante, Drinkwater has been an engine in the Leicester’s tireless midfield.

Strikers-

Marcus Rashford

At just 18 years-old, Marcus Rashford made his Premier League debut at home to Arsenal in February this year. He scored two and assisted once and has kicked on ever since. With seven goals in 13 appearances, Rashford looks like a real prospect and has been a shining light for Manchester United. His progression in such a short space of time is more than commendable.

Rashford

Hero: Rashford scores in the Manchester Derby

Romelu Lukaku

At just 22 years old, Romelu Lukaku is already one of the best strikers in England’s first division. The big Belgian has netted 25 goals this season and deserves as much credit as England forwards Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy. Everton may be struggling in mid table but if they can keep hold of Lukaku, the Toffees will always provide a real threat going forward.

 

 

 

 

 

The road to Euro 2016: Germany v England

After a reaching Euro 2016 with a perfect record of qualifying results, England travel to Berlin ahead of a showdown against Germany in preparation for the championships in France. Albeit a friendly, it’s a fixture that everyone associated with England will be desperate to win as the opposition are not only one of our great international rivals, but also world champions.

But realistically, are we good enough to defeat the efficient and ruthless Germans? It has been 15 years since the Three Lions romped to a 5-1 success in Munich with one of the finest squads in our history. The likes of Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Steven Gerrard and Michael Owen started in attack and midfield back in 2001. These were not only some of the finest players in the Premier League but also Europe. Even in defence, a solid backline of Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand, Sol Campbell and Ashley Cole sat in front of David Seamen. Looking back, all of which have achieved distinguished and decorated careers, complete with prestigious trophies. Beckham, Neville, Ferdinand and Scholes were key figures in Manchester United’s dominance of the top flight throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s. Cole and Campbell would go on to win the Premier League undefeated with Arsenal. Owen and Gerrard were Liverpool legends and most of the players tasted European success with their clubs in the Champions League.


Who are ja? England thrashed Germany 5-1 in 2001

Compare that to the present day. England are in a period of transition, there is no guaranteed starting eleven and some of the country’s best performers are blighted by injury. Disappointing showings in international competitions are becoming all too familiar and despite strolling through the qualifying stages, we largely come up against European minnows such as San Marino and Lithuania.

But why do we fail when it comes to the big time? When we do face better sides, our weaknesses are exposed. The defence lacks strength in depth; there is an alarming lack of quality especially in the central areas which is a position in which we were once well stocked. The only central defender who has performed consistently enough this season has been Chris Smalling for Manchester United. Gary Cahill has had a poor season and is no longer a guaranteed starter at Stamford Bridge but is perhaps the most favourable partner for Smalling. The highly rated John Stones has been underperforming in recent weeks and has rarely featured as a starter for Everton and his teammate Phil Jagieka, is past his best. Those are the few options Roy Hodgson has at his disposal. Yet Crystal Palace’s Scott Dann, who is currently the Premier Leagues top scoring defender, was overlooked and not included in the England squad. The considerable lack of quality options at the back beckons the question, are we going to be strong enough to compete for the title of European Champions?

Although there is reason to be optimistic, in other positions there is an ever-growing array of English talent emerging. Leicester City pair Jamie Vardy and Danny Drinkwater have been selected for England duty, largely due to their outstanding performances in the Foxes’ surprising season as table toppers. Exciting prospect Dele Alli has also been picked alongside Spurs teammate Eric Dier and in form striker Harry Kane. Despite the fact Captain Wayne Rooney is currently injured, strikers Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck are fighting to be involved, both have an excellent scoring record for England. Between the sticks we have Joe Hart and Jack Butland who will provide a safe pair of hands for years to come, something lacking in previous England sides. Our recent record in Germany is also promising, although England would surely have to be at their very best in order to get a result.

However in reality, England will not be able to field their strongest squad in Berlin. Although Hodgson can experiment and perhaps give some of the current in form players a chance to shine for their country, hopefully we will see a young and hungry team raring to face Germany and then the Netherlands. If England perform well in these friendlies and key players return in time to be fit for summer, they can at least give the nation some hope of going all the way in Euro 2016.

But as for now, a win in Germany would do just fine.

Five League Two players who should be at a higher level

With the Sky Bet League Two season drawing to a close, a series of players have impressed throughout the campaign and could earn moves to bigger clubs in the summer. Here are a few that I believe have the potential to play at a higher level.

 

1- Matty Taylor- Bristol Rovers

The former non-league striker is currently top scorer in League Two with 26 goals and has been labelled as the next Jamie Vardy by some. Taylor signed for Bristol Rovers in July 2014 when his contract at Forest Green Rovers expired. He scored 20 goals in his first season at the Memorial Stadium and helped Bristol Rovers secure an instant return to the Football League, beating Grimsby in the Conference play off final last season.

The 26 year-old has continued his prolific form this season. Bristol Rovers have a good chance of finishing in the top three and with Taylor’s goal contributions, the club could seal back to back promotions.

 

2- Kemar Roofe- Oxford United

Recently named as League Two player of the year, Kemar Roofe has made a massive impact at Oxford United this season. The 23 year-old has netted 25 goals in all competitions for the U’s, an outstanding achievement for a midfielder. Following a series of unsuccessful loan spells, Roofe left former club West Brom to link up with Oxford at the start of this season and has impressed ever since. He is considered as one of the hottest prospects in the Football League and has attracted interest from many Championship clubs, including QPR.

Oxford are on the verge of automatic promotion, however they are likely to face an uphill battle to keep hold of Roofe and his 20- year old teammate Callum O’Dowda in the summer, who is also showing great potential.

Roofe hits a stunner away at Brentford in the League Cup

3- Ollie Watkins- Exeter City

A product of the Exeter City academy, Ollie Watkins has burst onto the scene at St James Park. The 20 year-old attacker has recently been named as the Football Leagues young player of the Month in March after scoring four goals in six games, an incredible feat considering he had not managed to score before that time. Born and bred locally, Watkins looks set to follow in the footsteps of recently departed striker Tom Nichols, who impressed with goal scoring exploits before joining Peterborough United in February.

Watkins has recently expressed his desire to leave the club for a bigger team when he has fully established himself with the Grecians. For the time being, he and Exeter will look to cement a place in the League Two playoffs.

Watkins scores both goals for Exeter in Devon derby against Plymouth

4- Adam Smith- Northampton Town

Adam Smith has been named in the Football League team of the year, recognised as the best goalkeeper in all three divisions. The 23 year-old shot stopper has kept 13 clean sheets so far this season and has played a huge part in Northampton’s promotion campaign. This is also Smith’s first full season in the Football League after signing from Leicester City last summer.

Smith has attracted interest from Burnley and Swansea City and will no doubt be the subject of more next season. However with the Cobblers playing League One football, they may stand a chance of keeping hold of their talented keeper.

Smith’s season highlights, showing why he is regarded as one of the best goalkeepers in the Football League

5- Josh Windass- Accrington Stanley

Josh Windass has enjoyed a successful season at Accrington Stanley. The 22 year-old midfielder has managed to score 14 goals in just 29 appearances and has formed a deadly partnership with Billy Kee up front. Windass has helped sustain Stanley’s fairytale season, with the club currently occupying a playoff place.

Although due to Accrington’s limited resources, they may struggle to decline an offer for Windass regardless of what division they are playing in next season.

 

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Premier League review 2015/16, August- September

The Premier League has started with a bang and with just six matches played we have been treated to some truly magnificent moments already. Undoubtedly there will be more to come, with plenty of twists and turns along the way from a league that never fails to impress and consistently lives up to its reputation as the best in world football. Here I take a look at the top performers in terms of teams and players as well as selecting a result that has stood out from an entertaining opening few weeks of Premier League football.

Team

West Ham United- The Irons currently sit third in the table with 12 points from a possible 18 and have caught the eye with some resilient performances, particularly away from home where they hold a 100% record. Slaven Bilic’s men may not have made a start as consistent as the undefeated Leicester City but have produced a trio of victories on the road at Premier League giants Arsenal, Liverpool and leaders Manchester City.

Player

Callum Wilson- Perhaps a surprise to many, the 23 year-old striker has excelled in Bournemouth’s commendable start to life in the top flight. He is currently the Premier League’s leading scorer with five goals in six games and takes my plaudits over the likes of Riyad Mahrez purely because of the huge progress Wilson has made in recent year rising up the leagues, much like his club. His story and situation is very similar to another current top performer in former non-league striker Jamie Vardy.

Result

Chelsea 1-2 Crystal Palace- Once again Leicester City miss out on direct credit for their incredible comebacks against Aston Villa and Stoke City in the last fortnight, due to a landmark result at Stamford Bridge on match week four. After making an average start to the season, champions’ Chelsea were stunned by London rivals Crystal Palace as Jose Mourinho lost only his second league home game in charge of the Blues after 100 games at the Bridge.

Signing of the Summer

Dimitri Payet- There have been some impressive signings during the transfer window but perhaps the most striking has been Dimitri Payet’s move from Marseille to West Ham. The French attacking midfielder created more goal scoring chances than any other player in Europe’s top five leagues last season and has carried his exceptional form into the Premier League. With three goals and two assists Payet has been the engine in West Hams midfield posing both an attacking and defensive threat to opposition teams. The 28 year-old narrowly shades Andre Ayew, Petr Cech and Antony Martial for me.