The Premier League has been graced with some of the greats in football ever since its inception in 1992. The most followed league in the world truly came to the forefront in the 2000s when brand building was the priority and huge amount of money was rolled in to get the services of world stars to play for top clubs in England.
The last decade of the Premier League has seen some extraordinary and landmark instances in football. Manchester United’s solo dominance of the league was finally broken by the rise of Roman Abramovich's Chelsea, Arsenal went on to produce the Invincibles and last a whole season without losing a single match in the 2003/04 and Cristiano Ronaldo emerged as one of the best players in the world.
There were a plethora of immensely talented players to play in the last decade and, therefore, choosing a team of eleven players was no joke. If the 1990s was the era of Eric Cantona and Ryan Giggs, the 2000s was the era of Thierry Henry (who’s obviously an automatic inclusion) and… well, will not give the names up that easily.
Read more to find out what we think was the greatest EPL team of the 2000s which plays in a 4-4-2 formation.
Petr Cech established himself as one of the best goalkeepers in the world following his move to Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea in 2004. In his first season for the Blues, Cech set a record of keeping 21 clean sheets in the season and conceded only 15 goals in the process, which was another record in itself, and helped Chelsea win the Premier League title after years of mediocrity.
Considered one of the best shot-stoppers in the game, Cech is also widely appreciated for his presence in the box and in one-on-one situations. Cech had been ever-present for the Blues between the sticks and has won the league four times for Chelsea. He has been inducted twice in the PFA Team of the year and is considered one of the best in his generation.
Cech played in a team which was inherently defensive minded and often parked the bus to suffocate the opponents into giving up which Cech had to make far more saves than the average goalkeeper. However, Cech excelled in the role for more than a decade and continues to do so and that is why he makes the team of the decade as the first choice goalkeeper.
Ashley Cole (Left Back)
Ashley Cole is widely considered as the greatest English left back of all time. Cole was an integral part of the Arsenal Invincibles which went on to win the Premier League title undefeated in 2004. The England international then made a controversial move to London rivals Chelsea in 2006 after being offered a contract he couldn’t refuse with William Gallas moving the other way.
A world class left back who was quick and had an outstanding ability to read the game, Ashley Cole was one of the few players who could keep Cristiano Ronaldo in his pocket at his prime. He wrecked havoc in attack down the left flank for both Arsenal and Chelsea, but always being there when his team needed him in defence.
Ashley Cole, in many ways, was a perfect full-back capable of walking into many such lists such as this.
Cole was inducted to the PFA Team of the Year four times in his career. He won the Premier League thrice and the FA Cup a record seven times. After moving to Roma in 2014 following a World Cup snub by Roy Hodgson, Cole now plies his trade for Major League Soccer side LA Galaxy.
Rio Ferdinand (Central Defence)
Rio Ferdinand is one of those rare English centre-backs who possessed an immense amount of technical ability and was more in the mould of continental players. He broke the British transfer record twice and makes the list as one of the centre-backs.
An outstandingly talented player from the West Ham academy, Rio Ferdinand moved to Leeds United where he developed significantly for Manchester United to come calling in 2002 signing him for another record fee of 30 million pounds. His positional play, accurate tackling, distribution of the ball and reading of the game made him one of the best defenders in England and was integral in Manchester United’s exploits in the 2000s.
Ferdinand won six Premier League titles in his time at Old Trafford and famously lifted the Champions League trophy in 2008 after United defeated Chelsea in the finals of the competition. After years of serving Manchester United in the Alex Ferguson era where he established himself as an outstanding defender, Ferdinand played for QPR in the 2014-15 season before announcing his retirement in 2015.
John Terry (Central Defence)
A centre back who may not be known for the grace he exudes on the pitch, John Terry is one of a kind player who went on to become one of the best defenders in the world largely because of his sheer will and determination to give his best every time he stepped onto the pitch
A Chelsea academy graduate, John Terry has been a beacon of solidarity for the Blues ever since breaking into the first team in 2000. Despite not being the fastest defenders around, John Terry’s skill lies in his brilliant reading of the game and selfless service for his team. Terry’s leadership qualities on and off the field are not unnoticed as the Chelsea fans gave him the title of ‘Captain. Leader. Legend.’
One of the finest defenders to come out of England, John Terry has won four Premier League titles for the Blues. He deservingly redeemed himself by lifting the Champions League trophy (in spite of being suspended in the final) in 2012 after a penalty shootout slip had handed Manchester United the title in 2008.
Gary Neville (Right Back)
An integral part of Sir Alex Ferguson’s Red Army wich dominated the Premier League in the 2000s, Gary Neville makes it to the list as a no-nonsense defender who epitomised hard work and commitment and gave it all for the fans at Old Trafford.
The full-back was known both for his defensive and attacking prowess, often finding pockets of space in the flanks to let free a winger to run with the ball. He wasn’t the quickest or the strongest, but his tactical awareness and work rate more than made it up for his lack of technical abilities.
In his time at Manchester United which spanned twenty years, Gary Neville won eight Premier League titles along with two Champions League trophies. He was a firm favourite at Old Trafford and one of the best right backs to play in the Premier League.
Frank Lampard(Central Midfield)
The fact that there is no other player in English football who scored as many goals from central midfield as Super Frankie Lampard did is enough to earn him a place on this list. A player of the West Ham academy, Frank Lampard joined Chelsea in 2001 and went on to become one of the greatest midfielders of his generation.
The Englishman, who is attributed as having incredible stamina and ability to read the game, scored at least ten goals in the league every season since 2003. His attacking runs late into the penalty box and therefore, avoiding markers, became his USP and enabled him to maintain an incredible goal scoring record in his career.
His ability to score big goals in big matches, even if not the most beautiful ones you’ll see, made him an undroppable asset in the Chelsea team for years.
Lampard won the Premier League three times for Chelsea and featured in the PFA Team of the Year on five occasions. He is one of the rare breeds of players who have become synonymous with the club they played for and are an out and out winner on the football field.
Paul Scholes (Central Midfield)
Paul Scholes is arguably the best midfielder of the Premier League era. He has won it all for the Red Devils which includes an incredible 11 Premier League titles and 2 Champions League titles.
Renowned for his technical prowess, accurate passing and intelligent movement, Paul Scholes gave his heart on the pitch for Manchester United. He played for twenty seasons at Old Trafford and amassed more than 700 appearances for the club. Such was his importance to Manchester United that Sir Alex Ferguson brought him back from retirement to be the clockwork in midfield for the Red Devils.
Tenacious and capable of playing in any midfield position, he was regarded as the best midfielder of his generation by his peers which included the likes of Xavi (another midfield great), Zinedine Zidane and Pep Guardiola. A legend in his own right, Paul Scholes is selected as the heart of midfield in this team.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Left Wing)
In spite of playing for only six years in England, it was here that he established himself as one of the best players in the world and, therefore, makes it in the team of the decade. Signed by Manchester United as an 18-year-old boy from Sporting Lisbon, Ronaldo was incredibly skilful but erratic.
In the mentorship of Sir Alex Ferguson, the Young boy developed into one of the best players in the league who won everything in his time at Manchester United.
Ronaldo was one of the key figures responsible for bringing Manchester United back on track in terms of silverware after Chelsea had run away with the league for two consecutive seasons. He terrorised defences with his dribbling and speed and awed audiences with his free kicks.
In his time at Manchester United, Ronaldo won the Premier League three years in a row and also lifted the Champions League trophy in 2008. He was voted the FIFA World Player of the Year in 2008 and went on to sign for Real Madrid in 2009, where he has become the ultimate goal scoring machine.
Steven Gerrard (Right Wing)
The only player who makes this list in spite of not winning any Premier League trophy is Steven Gerrard, who is considered to be one of the two greatest Liverpool players of all time alongside Kenny Dalglish. At his prime, Gerrard was unstoppable and a true box-to-box midfielder- creating goals, scoring goals and stopping goals.
Gerrard finds a place in the wings on this team because he played in that position for a number of games for Liverpool and, that too, successfully.
Gerrard was often regarded as a one-man team, singl handedly driving the Reds from midfield- most notably the incredible comeback from being 3-0 down at half time in the Champions League Final against Milan in 2005. It was one of the greatest nights in Champions League football and Steven Gerrard was the heart of it.
A player with incredible technical skill, vision and passing range, Gerrard has picked the Liverpool team up from the dumps into giving them wins in important matches. He was inducted to the PFA Premier League Team of the Year eight times despite never getting his hands on the EPL Trophy.
However, he has etched his name in the Premier League folklore as a true legend of The Kop.
Didier Drogba (Forward)
Didier Drogba became an instant hit at Stamford Bridge following his signing from Marseille in 2004. The Ivory Coast forward was one of a kind and, in many ways, the epitome of the lone striker many teams play with nowadays.
He was strong, quick, possessed immense aerial threat and retained the ball well which made him Jose Mourinho’s number one striker in his time at Chelsea. Many strikers joined Chelsea since, from Andriy Shevchenko to Fernando Torres, but nobody succeeded in displacing Didier Drogba from the starting lineup of Chelsea.
Drogba’s influence in big games was huge with him scoring ten times in ten cup finals for Chelsea, including the Champions League Final win in 2012 against Bayern Munich. Drogba was instrumental in Chelsea’s consecutive Premier League titles in 2005 and 2006 and was the top scorer in the league in Carlo Ancelotti’s title winning season in 2009-10.
Drogba, in his prime, was one of the most feared strikers in the world and the ultimate big game player which made the fans dub him the ‘King of Stamford Bridge.’
Thierry Henry (Forward)
Thierry Henry is an Arsenal legend and arguably the greatest player to grace the Premier League. At his worst, Henry was sublime, scoring goals at ease. At his best, he was magical, dancing past defenders and making them look like helpless pins on the practice pitch, Henry was a complete striker.
When he was signed by Arsenal from Juventus , he was an inconsistent winger who was developed into one of the most lethal forward in Europe by Arsene Wenger. Henry was the final piece in the Arsenal Invincibles squad which won the League without losing a single game.
Henry’s achievements in England speak for themselves. He won two Premier League titles with the Gunners and was inducted into the PFA team of the Year six times. Such was his influence in the Premier League that Arsenal erected a bronze statue at the Emirates Stadium on their 125th Anniversary celebrations in 2011.
There was, is and will be only one Thierry Henry.
Formation and substitutes:
Edwin van Dar Sar: The Dutchman was an absolute champion between the sticks for United helping them lift the 2008 Champions League trophy.
Nemanja Vidic: Formed one of the best central defensive partnerships with Rio Ferdinand in the Alex Ferguson era winning a plethora of titles.
Patrice Evra: Another Manchester United defender who was impeccable under Alex Ferguson and instrumental in United’s dominance in England.
Patrick Viera: One of the best central defensive midfielders of the Premier League, he was an integral part of the Arsenal Invincibles and narrowly misses out from the team.
Ryan Giggs: The most decorated Premier League player of all time, Ryan Giggs makes it to the substitutes bench.
Cesc Fabregas: One of the best creative midfielders around, Fabregas possesses immaculate vision and passing who captained the Arsenal side in the post-Invincibles dry period.
Wayne Rooney: Narrowly missed out from the starting lineup. However, he is one of the best Premier League strikers out there.
Who else but Sir Alex Ferguson who won 5 league titles in the 2000s and 13 in total.