When the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) Premier League team of the year was announced, there was almost universal disquiet at the lack of Michu, Swansea City’s swashbuckling Spanish attacking midfielder, among others.

WORD | Words. (Image | FTB Pro)

Swan shake | Michu took the Premier League by storm last year, but his 18 goals and flamboyant celebration were not enough for the PFA. (Image | FTB Pro)

How, asked many, could a player that scored 18 goals in 35 top-flight appearances, was the lynchpin of a League Cup-winning side, and cost a bargain £2million not be included among the crème de la crème of the Premier League?

The point is that the views of supporters and pundits may occasionally converge, but almost every XI would be different, perhaps influenced by bias, a desire to be different and choose a “left-field option”, or simply good old-fashioned disagreement.

In that vein, here is the “alternative” Premier League team of the year, a collection of footballers perhaps overlooked, playing for less-fashionable clubs, or simply disregarded for one reason or another. This is the hipsters’ list. Naturally, the team has a 3-5-2 formation.

Goalkeeper | Simon Mignolet (Sunderland)

There is nothing cooler than a Belgian in football right now. Rather like hipsters, they are everywhere. From Vincent Kompany at Manchester City to Eden Hazard at Chelsea, the land of chocolate and beer is certainly well represented at the moment.

Simon Mignolet, although plying his trade for lowly Sunderland, stood out last season as a remarkable performer in the face of adversity. The Black Cats defence was one of the worst in the Premier League, but Mignolet started all 38 of Sunderland’s games, made 224 saves and kept 11 clean sheets, the fifth-highest in the division.

Left centre back | Sébastien Bassong (Norwich City)

Despite the recent tabloid furore over a photograph of him posing with a gun, Sébastien Bassong was a deserving winner of the Norwich City player of the year award after a successful first season at the club.

A rather costly acquisition at £5.5million, especially for a defender, Bassong became one of manager Chris Hughton’s most reliable performers, and was one of the main architects of the memorable rearguard displays in the 1-0 victories over Arsenal and Manchester United.

Centre back | Phil Jagielka (Everton)

Phil Jagielka is the epitome of reliability and, in partnership with the also-excellent Sylvain Distin, helped Everton rack up one of the most impressive defensive records in the division, conceding just 40 goals in the Toffees’ pursuit of UEFA Champions League football.

Apparently now a £10million target for new Manchester United boss David Moyes, Jagielka signed a two-year contract extension to June 2017 in January, and may wish to reach a decade, not to mention 300 appearances, marshalling the Everton backline.

Right centre back | Gareth McAuley (West Bromwich Albion)

Voted supporters’ and players’ player of the year, Gareth McAuley enjoyed an imperious campaign at the heart of the West Bromwich Albion defence. Despite shipping five goals against United during Sir Alex Ferguson’s final match, McAuley led a solid unit and helped the Baggies to an impressive eighth-place finish.

Neither exciting nor a superstar, McAuley is one of few players in the Premier League to represent the more traditional values that once characterised English football. The 33-year-old’s two-year contract extension was a just reward for his performances, which led boss Steve Clarke to describe him as  the “stand-out performer” of the season.

WORD | Words. (Image | The Independent)

Control | Wigan Athletic midfielder James McCarthy shone throughout the campaign, despite the Latics’ relegation. (Image | The Independent)

Centre midfielder | James McCarthy (Wigan Athletic)

Another player to feature in all of his side’s Premier League matches last season, James McCarthy will not be playing in the Championship this coming year, unlike his current employers Wigan Athletic.

Among a handful of players likely to be rescued from the relegation nightmare at the DW Stadium, McCarthy has matured into a good top-flight footballer, and few could blame him for wanting to be reunited with former manager Roberto Martínez at Goodison Park.

Elegant, hard working and creative, the 22-year-old is by no means a one-dimensional centre midfielder, and would surely add similar value to that which he did at Wigan for a club playing at a rather higher level, and surrounded by players capable of improving his game even further.

Centre midfielder | Santi Cazorla (Arsenal)

Voted player of the year by Arsenal fans, diminutive Santi Cazorla has been a revelation at the heart of the Gunners’ midfield. Scoring 12 goals, laying on 11 assists and generally dominating all comers, the playmaker often referred to as “Carzola” by pundits, perhaps in a nod to the former Chelsea wizard, was another worthy candidate ignored by the PFA.

Around 55 per cent of Arsenal supporters put a cross next to Cazorla’s name, the sort of overwhelming majority that a certain Robin van Persie might have enjoyed the previous year. The former Málaga man, clearly not content with being the toast of North London, has vowed to improve even further in his second season, a thrilling prospect for all those in red.

Left midfielder | Robert Snodgrass (Norwich City)

For any team of the year to include two Canaries is unusual, but Robert Snodgrass, runner-up to Bassong in the end-of-season voting, consistently won plaudits for his accomplished displays on the flanks, and playing in all but one of Norwich’s matches last season.

Statistics reveal that the former Leeds United winger was one of the most effective crossers of the ball in the 2012/13 season, and finished up second in the goalscoring charts behind striker Grant Holt. Only an ankle injury kept Snodgrass from starting every single Premier League game, but despite this, he still managed to make more appearances than any other City player.

Right midfielder | Kevin Mirallas (Everton)

Another Belgian to make a splash in the Premier League last season was winger Kevin Mirallas, who defied several injuries to enjoy an influential campaign for Everton and score a series of spectacular goals, including a superb solo strike against Stoke City.

Had the 25-year-old been available around the halfway mark of the campaign, it is possible that the Merseyside club might have sustained their push for the top four a little longer. Expect Mirallas to shine again next season, even without the guidance of Moyes.

Attacking midfielder | Michu (Swansea City)

Rarely in modern football will a player with the skill possessed by Michu end up at a club such as Swansea. If one does, they are usually recruited at great expense in order to display ambition and purpose, not signed for a bargain fee simply because other teams failed to get their act together.

Michu was by no means a hidden gem, having scored 15 goals in 37 matches for Spanish La Liga side Rayo Vallecano the season before last. Yet the Swans, displaying a nous and expert utilisation of the transfer market that has seen the Welsh giants firmly establish themselves in the top flight, stumped up for the 27-year-old and were rewarded with 22 goals for £2million. Funny old game, football.

WORD | Words. (Image | talkSPORT)

Breakthrough | Romelu Lukaku, in helping to fire West Bromwich Albion into eighth, has ensured himself a bright future at Chelsea. (Image | talkSPORT)

Centre forward | Romelu Lukaku (West Bromwich Albion)

In perhaps one of the most generous loans in recent memory, Chelsea decided Belgian starlet Romelu Lukaku was not quite ready to lead the line at Stamford Bridge, sending him out to West Brom to show what he could do.

Turns out, he can do rather a lot, namely find the net 17 times and potentially be the solution to the “Fernando Torres problem” for incoming Blues boss José Mourinho.

At 20, Lukaku is a player for the future out-performing in the present, rather like Wayne Rooney did after bursting on the scene at Everton as a youngster. Should he keep up his performance level, and continue to develop, Chelsea’s £18million investment will be vindicated as money well spent.

Centre forward | Christian Benteke (Aston Villa)

Described by team mate Fabian Delph as a “monster”, Christian Benteke had a phenomenal breakthrough season in English football. Tall, strong and imposing, the Democratic Republic of the Congo-born Belgian international was one of the main reasons for Aston Villa remaining in the top flight.

His 19 league goals, which have supposedly led the Villans to demand £40million from interested suitors, more than justified the £8million splashed out on the 22-year-old last summer.

While it is an easy comparison to make, a similarly athletic and “unplayable” centre forward enjoyed a superb few years in the Premier League. His name was Didier Drogba, a man Benteke may well have the potential to emulate.

Have your say | Tweet the author | @chriskking

Back to Football

Twitter | @armchairpundit2

Facebook | The Armchair Pundits

————–

Interested in writing for The Armchair Pundits?

We’re always on the lookout for aspiring journalists, click here for details on how you can start contributing.

 

Advertisements