Picking a Premier League team of the year is no easy task due to the embarrassment of talent riches available to the clubs competing in England’s top flight.
And, while the official PFA XI is certainly made up of players that have enjoyed stellar campaigns, Ladbrokes has picked an alternative side that would more than match the PFA boys.
The Bosnian, still only 25-years-old, has gone from strength to strength at the Britannia. His confidence and consistency has helped Stoke to keep an impressive 13 clean sheets in all competitions this year and Potters boss Tony Pulis seems resigned to losing his man to one of a queue of big clubs, having already bought a replacement in Jack Butland.
Rumour has it that Rafael was brought to Old Trafford as the lesser half of a defensive duo with twin brother Fabio. However, the 22-year-old’s performances this year, including a wonder strike against QPR (a team relegated with Fabio in the side), have helped ease the fears over replacing Gary Neville. Always a threat going forward, the Brazilian has upped his game in the defensive stakes, making the United right back position his own.
Everton threatened to break the Manchester/London stranglehold on the top four until late in the season, with only Arsenal and Man City conceding fewer goals going into the final day. Jagielka was the lynchpin in David Moyes’ side and while the England man has attracted admiring glances from top clubs in the past he could now be set to join Moyes on his Old Trafford adventure.
With goals in the league, cup and Europe this year, the Frenchman has emerged as a leader in the Arsenal camp but it is commanding defensive displays that earn him a spot in the Ladbrokes XI. Since his return to the fold he has forged a solid partnership with Per Mertesacker helping the Gunners to eight wins and two draws in their last ten games.
Whether it was the persistent links with Leighton Baines, the arrival of Alex Buttner or the hairdryer treatment from Fergie after losing the title to City, Patrice Evra has had a cracking season. After looking like a faded star at times last term, the French ace chipped in with four goals this year and provided some much-needed consistency and leadership in an oft-changed United back four.
Netting against Liverpool, Man United and Spurs, in a first season that yielded 12 league goals and 11 assists, saw Arsenal fans instantly take to the diminutive Spaniard. Few players in the league look as comfortable in possession with the ball at either foot and a hat-trick against Reading shows the midfielder has an eye for goal that might just end the Gunners’ trophy drought sooner rather than later.
Steven Gerrard (Captain)
Gerrard played every minute of every league game until going off injured in the 6-0 drubbing of Newcastle. Mr Liverpool shows no signs of dipping in form, playing arguably his best football in five years. With 10 goals and nine assists the England captain even made a Gary Neville team of the year and if he’s good enough for G-Nev, he’s good enough for us!
After an underwhelming spell at White Hart Lane, Pienaar has once again shone under the Goodison Park floodlights. Playing in front of Leighton Baines, the South African has been one half of the deadliest left-sided duo in the league, contributing six goals and as many assists to a season which once again saw the Toffees punch above their weight.
Yes it was against Bradford, but Michu’s goal in the Carling Cup final all but sealed the deal for Swansea and typified the Spaniard’s input this year. At £2 million and with 18 league goals to his name so far, no manager can lay claim to finding a bigger bargain. The 27-year-old is contracted until 2015 but many will look to test Michael Laudrup’s resolve before that time comes.
The Belgian striker was unfortunate to miss out to Gareth Bale in the running to be named young player of the year after firing 19 league goals in his first year at Villa Park. But for the presence of the 22-year-old, the Villan’s would almost certainly be plying their trade in the Championship next season.
All odds and markets accurate as of publication’s time and date