London XI: The best stars of London
Another year of enthralling and scintillating football draws to a close, one which has seen new powers rise to the zenith in football at the cost of old ones. Long-reigning giants have been defeated, and some dormant ones have been resurrected to the top. The rise of Manchester City and the consistency of United coupled with instability at Arsenal and Chelsea has caused the balance of English football to shift due north from London towards Manchester. The London versus Manchester battle seems to be tipping in favor of Manchester. With the lone exception of Chelsea’s Champions League victory – which they have failed to defend since – this year has had the limelight stolen from the English capital by the two Manchester giants, whose rivalry is perhaps the English answer to the El Clasico.
That said, with six teams in the Premier league, the teams of London boast of talent matched by few other cities anywhere across Europe, let alone England. Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, Fulham have established their presence in the English top flight, while two teams in QPR and West Ham have had a yo-yo existence in the Premier League, moving to and from the Championship in recent years.
Keeping in mind the performances of the players over this season, here’s the best team (in a 4-4-2 formation), complete with seven substitutes that can be fielded from the sides of the English capital – The London XI.
Petr Cech (Chelsea)
If there is one department where London have the clear upper hand over Manchester, it would have to be goalkeeping. The Chelsea keeper is a class apart, and is matched by only few keepers anywhere in the world. The Czech international was the reason behind Chelsea’s Champions League victory, pulling out incredible saves game after game. He even took up the captaincy when Terry was sidelined with a ban. Hardly any doubt about this one.
RB: Kyle Walker (Tottenham)
A relatively new arrival on the scene – but an effective one nonetheless – Kyle Walker has made rapid progress in quite a short period of time. And hey, he has got a powerful shot on him which can test the keeper from range. His expertise from dead-ball scenarios is noteworthy as well. Voted as the PFA Young Footballer of the Year in April and included in the PFA Team of the Year, he is definitely the man to watch out for in the coming years. It could just as well have been Bacary Sagna in his place, but the Arsenal full back has been on the injury table for quite a large part of this season.
CB: Thomas Vermaelen (Arsenal)
Consistency meets capability. The Belgian is a determined defender and an aggressive attacker. A powerful left foot and a strong header which serves him both in defence and attack, the “Verminator” has proved to be a capable leader for Arsenal, leading the defence and the side quite effectively. He has come to his side’s rescue several times this season with crucial interceptions and clearances. In the Premier League in particular, he made vital defensive contributions for Arsenal. He has led the defence well, playing the offside trap effectively.
CB: David Luiz (Chelsea)
Perhaps one player who does not get the credit that he deserves is this defender from Chelsea. In a side that is studded with stars, it is easy to overlook David Luiz. But make no mistake, his contribution at the back this season has been nothing short of vital for Chelsea. Besides his effectiveness at the back, he can chip in with goals going forward as well, which more than justifies his selection.
LB: Ashley Cole (Chelsea)
The one strength which sets Ashley Cole apart from others is perhaps his strong sense of anticipation, which maybe comes from his experience. But that, together with his precisely-timed tackling makes him a rock at the back. He is the player, who other then Cech, was the most vital in Chelsea’s Champions League victory in May.
RM: Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
The much-hyped young Belgian star has lived up to his expectations, if the performances shown by Hazard thus far is anything to go by. Exceptional control on the ball and skilled dribbling make Hazard just that – a ‘Hazard’ to the opposition. He generally plays down the left, but his versatility allows him to be played on the right as well. Started off really well at Chelsea, with three man of the match awards in his first three Premier League starts and has not disappointed since.
CM: Santi Cazorla (Arsenal)
Undoubtedly the best signing of the summer transfer window, Santi Cazorla has adapted to life in the Premier League quickly, and Van Persie’s departure has made him the centrepiece of the Arsenal attacking force, so much so that the Arsenal build-up play now seems to be revolving around him. A skilful player who can shoot from range as well as set up other players, he is undoubtedly one of the best playmakers in the Premier League. He has scored 7 goals already in half a season in addition to four assists, but stats do not reveal the entire story. The significance of Cazorla to the Arsenal attack is more than what meets the eye. Every Arsenal build-up this season seems to either begin, move through or end with Cazorla.
CM: Juan Mata (Chelsea)
Mata is to Chelsea what Cazorla is to Arsenal. A player with an acute sense of vision, a fine finish and accurate passing, the Spaniard typifies the game played by his national team so effectively. If there is a player that could be singled out as the one who dictates the pace of the Chelsea build-up, it would have to be Juan Mata. Winner of the Premier League Player of the Month, Mata held the reins of the Chelsea attack when things looked bleak with the departure of Drogba, the ineffectiveness of Torres, and the large periods of absence of Lampard.
LM: Gareth Bale (Tottenham)
Consistency personified – the Welshman’s raw pace and persistence in attacking has more often than not paid dividends for the Spurs. On many occasions after the departure of Modric, he has persisted as the lone warrior for Tottenham when the rest of the team was not performing or were turning in less-than-spirited performances. It was this quality in him that has won the interest of major clubs from across Europe. While his goal tally this season is a little less than what he might want, he has scored some amazing goals (like the one at Arsenal) and has produced some accurate crosses for his team-mates to get on the end of.
ST: Jermain Defoe (Tottenham)
Defoe might not be the name that comes to mind when one speaks of the best strikers in the Premier League, but he has proved himself to be a clinical finisher. He has delivered when called upon by his side and his second spell at Spurs is turning out to be quite fruitful. With 9 goals to his credit already this season, he is the fifth highest goal scorer in the Premier League and the highest from the London clubs, which is why he is preferred over any other striker from the London clubs.
ST: Fernando Torres (Chelsea)
That’s right. Torres! The player who has found himself to be the butt of all jokes for his sudden fall from a prolific goal scorer to an out of place and out of form player who couldn’t fit in anywhere. Experts thought of him as a square peg in a round hole; criticizing Roman Abramovich for persisting with him – what they thought was a lost cause, much to the trolls’ delight. But after a miserable one and a half seasons, the ‘El Nino’ of old is back and looks promising. Whether or not that has anything to do with Rafa Benitez taking over at Chelsea is open to speculation, but Torres has proved he is still capable of producing remarkable moments. With each passing game, he is proving that the poor spell is now a distant memory. He started off really well this season with the opening goal in the Community Shield and continued in the same scoring vein before a mid-season drought that stretched for some time, before he found his scoring boots again with two goals in the Champions League game against FC Nordsjaelland and scored twice more against Sunderland within a week.
GK: Brad Friedel (Tottenham)
CB: John Terry (Chelsea)
RB: Bacary Sagna (Arsenal)
CM:Jack Wilshere (Arsenal)
CM: Ramires (Chelsea)
RM: Theo Walcott (Arsenal)
ST: Dimitar Berbatov (Fulham)