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Football News: My All Time Premier League Eleven

My All Time Premier League Eleven
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All Time Premier League XI

 

I am going to be strict and go with a 4-4-2, old fashioned as it may be, it just allows me the most freedom of choice of players. Also, I am not going to pick anyone who has played just one season, I am looking at players who played in excess of 100 games at Premier League level.

 

Goalkeeper: Peter Schmeichel. Manchester United, Aston Villa and Manchester City.

This was a fairly easy choice, with only Petr Cech really coming close to comparison, as most of the other possibilities were at least partially pre-Premier League era. Schmeichel has been the one who stands out since the Prem began. It is not just his goalkeeping, it was the way he organised, cajoled and inspired his defenders to keep them on their toes, including blaming them for every error he made! They would play at 100% every game, just to try and avoid a shouting match with him.

 

Right Back: Gary Kelly. Leeds United.

A one club man, like Gary Neville, but never had the advantage of playing alongside the great teams Neville did, which is why I have edged for him. While Rob Jones was by far and away the best right back I have ever seen play the game, his injury problems put him out of consideration. Kelly was consistently good over a long period of time, one of those players you could count on each week to be 7 out of 10. One thing that did give him a major edge over Neville is his attacking, his crossing was better, usually. Probably stemmed from him being the modern day type of full back, a winger who was moved back, rather than Neville, who was the old fashioned type of centre back who was moved wide.

 

Centre Back: Rio Ferdinand. West Ham United, Leeds United, Manchester United and Queens Park Rangers.

Having decided I would go with one ball playing centre half, the choice was really down to Rio. He was the outstanding centre half of his era. Early on in his career he suffered due to being a ball player, as that was not popular in England in those days. He was seen as a bit of a fancy dan, his every mistake was highlighted extensively and blamed on his ball playing, even when it was unrelated. From my observations of Rio, throughout his career, his issue was not in trying to play out from the back, that was his strength. His real problem was concentration. The game was just too easy for him at times and he would get caught out because of that. On his day though, he was quick, strong, good in the air, positionally sound and extremely good on the ball.

 

Centre Back: John Terry. Chelsea.

This was tougher, there are so many that could have gotten the nod, however, much as it is difficult to like him as a person and opposition player, Terry has shown, over the years, an ability to defend and put his body on the line for his team. Whether he would have been anywhere near as good playing for any other team is impossible to know for sure, but it did seem like he was playing out of his skin for the team he supports. That is probably his most endearing quality, his desire to give his all for his team, like any supporter would. As a defender, Terry was lacking in pace, his main weakness, but he was excellent in the air, good on the ball, had good control of the ball with his chest, was positionally excellent, a good organiser and strong.

 

Left Back: Ashley Cole. Arsenal and Chelsea.

It is difficult to even consider anyone else, though I have to admit I was torn by Dennis Irwin, as Cole was probably the best left back in the world at his peak. That is the point, he was, for a number of years, untouchable in his position and he has to be in this team.

 

Right Midfield/Winger: Cristiano Ronaldo. Manchester United.

How can you not put one of the two best players in the world into your team? Even if he had not quite reached those heights when he left United to join Real Madrid, he still developed into an incredible player there, after being initially dismissed as a show pony. At times he won games for the Red Devils on his own, he was just that good.

 

Central Midfielder: Xabi Alonso. Liverpool.

Alonso has to be in there as he is one of the great midfielders of the modern era. Defensively he was comparable with another great, Claude Makelele, but there is no comparison to what he offers the team with his passing, other than Paul Scholes. Alonso was truly special, with the vision to create or score goals and the defensive responsibility and positional sense to make a significant difference to his team's defending. Xabi did lack pace, but his positional sense made up for that. Also he was good in the air, strong, had an incredible shot, the vision and range of passing that almost nobody in the modern game compares to. Really the only person I could compare to him is Scholes, but Alonso would actually tackle and win the ball cleanly rather than foul them and pretend he just did not know how to tackle.

 

Central Midfielder: Patrick Vieira. Arsenal.

It was a toss up between Vieira and Roy Keane, but I had to go for Vieira simply because he was, in my opinion, ever so slightly better, and I do mean slightly. It was simply his physicality that made him a better player, he had more power, pace, height and that allowed him to do things with those long legs of his that Keane could never physically do. It was summed up perfectly by Vinnie Jones, who said that he knew it was time to consider retirement when he first faced Vieira. After years of being able to physically dominate any opponent he faced in England, he came up against Vieira, smashed into him and bounced off flying. Vieira just stood there, completely unperturbed. Vieira was an athlete, which makes him the perfect partner for Alonso.

 

Left Midfield/Winger: Ryan Giggs. Manchester United.

The problem with doing a Premier League XI is that the period has been so dominated by one team, that you end up with a team full of their players. While I considered picking Damien Duff, Robert Pires or Gary Speed, Giggs is the standout left winger in the Prem era. For short periods of time, all three of those alternatives were better than him, but Giggs was consistently good over such a long time, he has to get the nod. So good even his sister-in-law preferred him....

 

Forward: Dennis Bergkamp. Arsenal.

Bergkamp was such a special player, it was a genuine pleasure to watch him play. If there is one thing good that came out of the Bruce Rioch period at Arsenal, it was the signing of Bergkamp. Some of the stuff he did was just pure genius. More of a creator than a goalscorer, but he still scored some truly wonderful goals. You have to be good to keep my favourite player out of the team, but he just about kept Robbie Fowler out, purely because Fowler's injury problems hindered him at Liverpool and he was a shadow once he left.

 

Forward: Alan Shearer. Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle United.

This was the toughest choice of all. After ruling out Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke etc, it was left as a choice between Thierry Henry and Shearer. Henry at his peak was better. I have no doubt that Henry was a long way ahead of Shearer in overall ability. Shearer also did not win as many trophies as he could have done, by choosing to go to the Toon, the club he supported. However I admire him for that, as it was not lack of ambition that saw him turn down other offers, it was a burning ambition to play in the black and white stripes of the Magpies and win trophies with them, that saw him sign for them and stay there. His style was physical, brutal even, rather than the graceful, almost beautiful style of Henry, who glided across the turf rather than ran. However Shearer was a goalscorer, who scored a huge number of goals over a much longer period than Henry graced the Prem for. That longevity just got him my pick.

Written by Tris Burke May 06 2017 09:37:12