It began in the wake of David De Gea’s outstanding performance against Liverpool, which was lauded as one of the best goalkeeper displays ever. A little over the top I thought, excellent though it was. Then I started to muse, as we approach the halfway stage of the football season, who would I pick as the best eleven players to make up the ultimate football fantasy team.
I decided against checking the countless stats providers to select my team. I doubt Pellegrini, Mourinho etc select their teams in that way so my selection, a personal choice, is based solely on what I have seen of the players so far this campaign.
Starting in goal there was a lot to suggest Thibaut Courtois as goalkeeper for the way he displaced Petr Cech at Chelsea and maintained his place until recently. He has been a dominant force and is likely to be a major factor in Chelsea’s push for the title. But I am going for Joe Hart. After his dip in form last season he has come back stronger than ever. Like DeGea and Courtois, Hart has been in splendid shot saving form but the reason I go for him as this team’s goalkeeper is the way he has made crucial saves at crucial times during crucial games. Either keeping City in a game or safeguarding their victory.
At right back, in a team formation of 4-4-2, I have been very impressed with Southampton’s Nathaniel Clyne who took impressive Premier League form onto a higher level with England and looked enough at home there to worry the likes of Glen Johnson, Kyle Walker etc. But my right back is Seamus Coleman. As good an attacker as he is a defender, can tackle, create and score goals he is the yardstick by which all full backs should be judged. A medium term, maybe even short term, target for one of the big four or even La Liga?
My two centre backs are Gary Cahill and Vincent Kompany. They are consistency personified. Both are dominant in the air, will tackle, correctly, anything and neither are slouches when it comes to playing the ball out from the back, with the odd goal or several thrown in for good measure.
Left back was a difficult one because there are a number of players who are nailed on left backs, a number who are played out of position in that role and all of whom are doing quite well. But I am going for Cesar Azpilicueta. Good enough to replace Ashley Cole last season and good enough, in Jose Mourinho’s view, for him to allow the England man to move on to Roma. Strong, dogged and sound temperament.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and James Milner are my two wide midfielders. Normally I would have a left footed player on the left but these two are two footed enough to not consistently check inside, from the left, to use their right foot. Each can play wide right or left so interchanging, good for a team and bad for the opposition, is a plus. Both are defensively responsible, both can carry the ball, pass well, create and goals are not that rare. Both Alex and James are top character when it comes to their football and their attitude is top notch. Milner has bounced back from being surplus to requirement at the Etihad and is on the verge of a new contract. Oxlade-Chamberlain returned from injury an even better player than he was before.
The central midfield duo is Eden Hazard and Cesc Fàbregas. The Belgian has been on fire as Chelsea raced to the top of the table and the goals are flowing freely. Fàbregas leads the table in assists and the way he is going the record he could set by the end of the campaign may never be beaten. Those two are likely to be major factors in Chelsea winning the Premier League.
Strike pair, Agüero and Sánchez. Cannot be anyone else. What about Costa I hear rumblings from the dissenters. Well, I am not into subs for purposes of this select team but if there were subs he would be one of them.
I go for Agüero and Sánchez because, apart from being world class at their day job, scoring goals, they contribute far more than normal, from a striker, to the rest of the team. They track back, run the channels, close down defenders and are not too selfish to set up a teammate for a goal. And they don’t moan, well Sánchez doesn’t do so too much and never to the detriment of his game. That puts them ahead of Costa in my reckoning.
Oooh look, eight of the eleven are from the top two teams in the league. No surprise there.