TSG: Premiership Best Eleven 2011-2012

The EPL is wrapping up–though not before a last gasp effort for Manchester City to wrestle the title away from their neighborly foes United.

Our picks for Best XI:

Krul, not kind to opponents....

G: Tim Krul (Newcastle)

The skinny: Tough pick here. Krul kept Newcastle in games as they got their footing in the beginning of the campaign. He’s got a knack for big saves and didn’t spawn a single clunker all year. Over 35% of his starts were clean sheets–this for a team that just returned to the league and without having the benefit of immediate backline chemistry. Newcastle now is a stone’s throw from Champion’s League play. Unreal.

That said, a fantastic return to form by Petr Cech put the Stamford Bridge toll collector in the conversation. If Chelsea are not anemic in the middle of the year, Cech slots in.

Others considered: Michael Vorn, Peter Cech, Joe Hart

DEF:   Jose Enrique (Liverpool), Martin Skrtel (Liverpool),  Brede Hangeland (Fulham), Bacary Sagna (Arsenal)

The skinny: Enrique has been Liverpool’s biggest find this season, despite “bigger” signings of Henderson, Downing and Adam. He’s steadied what has been a notoriously inconsistent position for Liverpool and offered a lot going forward in the attack while providing solid defense.

Enrique just slides by Ashley Cole whose own candidacy is–again–a victim of Chelsea’s collective goal to get AVB fired. Leighton Baines for all his attacking might is highly negligent on defense. Down a rung.

Dino Zoff-esque...

In the middle there are just so many good candidates. Vincent Kompany will be a first-teamer on many ballots, but it’s another Liverpudian here as Martin Škrtel steps as best Premiership defensive anchor.

Skrtel has claimed the throne of “one nasty bad ass motherfu…” central defender from Nemanja Vidic in the Serbian’s absence.

I’m not sure why Brede Hangeland never gets credit in this race. He may not be the most proficient defender in 1-on-1 situations and his distribution may be suspect from time to time, but his impact on steadying and setting the Fulham backline cannot be underestimated.

Each year Fulham find themselves with some rotating cast of fullbacks and play the underdog in a most of their matches and each year Hangeland has the squad in the top 8 or better in goals conceded

Bakary Sagna rounds out the backline. Overcame some tough injuries and still was rock solid for Arsene Wenger. More importantly, Sagna allowed Theo Walcott to run around like a chicken with its head cut off.

Others considered: Vincent Kompany, Benoît Assou-Ekotto, Kyle Walker, Ashley Cole

Name this Toon.

MID: Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Alex Song (Arsenal), Yohan Cabaye (Newcastle), Antonio Valencia (Manchester United)

The skinny: The case for Clint Dempsey has been made here at TSG, many times over. For a player on a team that generates little offense, Dempsey is that offense with more than half of Fulham’s shots and goals.

Alex Song continues to be the most underrated player in the Premiership. Song eased the transition of Cesc Fabregas to Mikel Arteta and Tomas Rosicky–two players who are hardly known for their defense. Song is the glue of Arsenal’s midfield and while he’s not quite Makeleian in his holding role his being on the pitch is a necessity to Arsenal’s success.

Yohan Cabaye edges out fellow Tynesider Cheik Tiote here–more because of Tiote’s injury. Bet you didn’t know that Cabaye was the second leading tackler in the Premiership. This for a player who can be downright wizardly in possession. Cabaye can play on my team any day. What a find.

Antonio Valencia won’t be a popular pick. Many point to Paul Scholes form or Sir Alex’s managing as the reason Manchester United went on their tear to just about bring the title to Old Trafford. Valencia–quietly–is the league leader in assists (13) while adding width to a Red Devil attack that desperately needed. That and he play tireless defense, even deputizing at right fullback from time to time.

Note: David Silva was a shoo-in at the beginning of the year, but he’s underwent some sort of malaise during the time that City needs him most. Can’t in good conscience put him on the list in that he’s been absent when City’s needed him most.

Others considered: David Silva, Cheik Tiote, Scott Parker, Jonas, Juan Mata, Luka Modric

Robin and Boy Blunder....

FW: Robin Van Persie (Arsenal), Papiss Demba Cisse (Newcastle)

The skinny: Arsenal’s RVP will likely top the 30-goal mark by season’s end. Despite facing double-teams, RVP has scored in everyway and exuded the leadership expected of a captain with only a few minor blemishes.

Papiss Cisse edges Wayne Rooney and the sneaky good campaign of Emmanuel Adebayor for the second forward spot, despite only having 10 games under his belt. None other than Eric Wynalda said it best on Sunday when he commented, “Cisse is a goal scorer. He realizes scoring is just passing to a bigger target.” Statistically, Cisse–11 goals in 10 matches–would score at higher clip over Robin Van Persie if it you extrapolated his numbers.

Others considered: Wayne Rooney, Emmanuel Adebayor, Sergio Aguero, Luis Suarez, Grant Holt, Demba Ba

Your thoughts?

35 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Kevin on 2012/04/25 at 11:02 PM

    Surprised by Arteta not even being in “Others”, Arsenal’s big push came when he adjusted to his role in the team. His accuracy was excellent as well. And now without him that midfield suffers tremendously.


    • Posted by KickinNames... on 2012/04/26 at 9:11 AM

      I think Arteta’s “Glassman” tendency makes it difficult to put him in the first 11. He seemed to take quite a few games before he made an impact and then….down he goes. Shame for a guy of his talent and impact when he is on his game.


      • Posted by matthewsf on 2012/04/26 at 10:42 AM

        Unfortunately I agree here. Not easy to step into Cesc’s role even if you do have RVP and Theo Endline ahead of you.


        • Posted by Kevin on 2012/04/27 at 6:17 PM

          While he does get injured at times, he didn’t have a significant injury until the end of the season. He is the reason they are in third place regardless of RVPs form. They made their run because of his impact on this team. You can’t say he doesn’t deserve to be in the first 11 for going down when Sagna and Cisse make the list.


  2. […] we have been complaining about the PFA Team of the Year, the folks over at The Shin Guardian came up with their own XI of the Year for the Premier […]


  3. Posted by 4now on 2012/04/26 at 1:28 AM

    Coach of the year?


    • Posted by KickinNames... on 2012/04/26 at 9:04 AM

      DiMatteo hands down))))….
      Or that friggin old bulbous nosed Scotsman who always seems to knit together a few highly talented core players, a few old standbys who never blink on the big stage and pitch perfect tactics and substitutions to keep on top of it all. Hate em but respect the hell out of him.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2012/04/26 at 10:37 AM

      Coach of the Year… I’d go with Roberto Martinez who finally varied his game plans enough instead of jamming one style against all competitions.

      Given was Martinez can do with Wigan and on *that* pitch, he’s in line for a promotion somewhere.

      David Moyes/Alex Ferguson are on the list; Martin Jol despite Fulham’s success is not. To me he’s benefitted from shrewd transfers and improved play.

      But I think this year you need to give to Arsene Wenger (and not for his transfer record)–roundly criticized, he lost Cesc, Nasri and Clichy. he salvaged Arteta’s career. had to make due without Vermaelen for long stretches and still saw RVP have a career year when many considered the armband for the Dutchman a bad idea.

      You guys?


      • Posted by KickinNames... on 2012/04/26 at 11:16 AM

        Arsene gets my award for………EPL’s.Puffiest Coat.

        He made too many of his own problems to get credit for their modest success IMO. RVP saved his ass. It’s not like he took him off the scrap heap and he turned into a monster. He has been a left footed beast since most of last year and continued it through this year.


        • Posted by Kevin on 2012/04/27 at 6:19 PM

          Arsene had an okay year… no matter how they finish, the fact that they weren’t prepared to start the season when they had to play the teams they did right off the bat took them out of the title race early. That is more than enough to keep him out.


      • Posted by lukesandblom on 2012/04/26 at 11:31 AM

        brendan rodgers and alan pardew definitely up there


  4. Posted by brian on 2012/04/26 at 4:38 AM

    leighton baines and fellaini both deserve consideration.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2012/04/26 at 10:29 AM

      Agree on Fellaini who is one of my favorite players to watch. I would absolutely love to see him on a team with more talent to see what his vision/passing could do.

      But Fellaini misses because he is still picking up silly fouls. Fouls Committed: 74!!! Fouls suffered 19. Thankfully with Distin, Timmy, Jagielka Everton is proficient in defending set pieces.

      Do love watching him play though…and of course, this deserves the video tribute.


      • Posted by matthewsf on 2012/04/26 at 10:29 AM

      • Posted by KickinNames... on 2012/04/26 at 11:18 AM

        Fellaini is a beast and a force but still a bit too young and inconsistent.

        Baines I agree took a step back or maybe just suffered from increased expectations with England inclusion etc. Same player but a bit harsher glare…


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2012/04/26 at 10:38 AM

      As for Leighton Baines, he took a step back for me this year. Was easily beaten in 1:1 situations on many occasions. Baines is still a fantastic player going forward, but I put defense first in the role.


  5. Posted by Nick on 2012/04/26 at 6:02 AM

    Papiss Cisse is an excellent choice for Best XI. I’m not sure Newcastle would be on the brink of the Champion’s League without his torrid form.


  6. Posted by EFG on 2012/04/26 at 6:17 AM

    I think your strikers are spot on. I think Kompany slots in ahead of Hangeland and I have no real opinion on Skrtel so I can be talked into that. At first I was beside myself that Bale was left off but comparing the numbers of Valencia and Bale I can see how Valencia is added, but I really like Bale.


  7. Posted by John Henry on 2012/04/26 at 7:11 AM

    props to TSG for recognizing Song. I know some of the faithful – (dth included) – seem not to like monsieur billong. But to me other than Koscielny and RVP, he’s been the back-room engine of that team. He also set up two of the most memorable goals of the season. Those delicate and precise chips over the back line that RVP volleyed in. Simply stunning.


    • Posted by dth on 2012/04/27 at 8:19 PM

      Oh, god, I think Song’s terrible as a defensive midfielder/pivot/#6/whatever you want to call him.

      I’m not sure whether TSG is trying to create an actual team or just list the 11 best players. If the latter, Silva has to be on the list. Yes, I know he’s faded, but just far too brilliant to be left off the first eleven (if attempting to list best 11.)


      • Posted by matthewsf on 2012/04/27 at 9:49 PM

        I/We judged players by how well they played their position. Song is a terrific midfielder.

        I think sometimes–because he like Parker is not positionally as excellent–people see his running as being out of position when he is really covering for everyone that gets forward.

        Song has Sagna bombing forward, Vermaelen going forward often, Walcott, Arteta, and more and yet he shields the backline.


      • Posted by matthewsf on 2012/04/27 at 9:51 PM

        Silva unfortunately has faded terribly and you just can’t do that when you are the main conduit to the attack at City.

        You want to know why Teves is getting time lately. It’s because he drops well to carry the ball as Silva has vanished in this role.

        Silva, terrific player, but only brought it for 66% of the season.


  8. Posted by Bode on 2012/04/26 at 7:54 AM

    I’m not sure who should be picked ahead of him at left-back, but Enrique’s form has really dipped in the last couple of months, to the point where Kenny preferred to play Agger out of position at left-back instead of Enrique. At the beginning of the year, he was a dominant force but I don’t think he deserves to be on the team of the year because he hasn’t been able to keep up his form.

    That being said, he’s probably the best defensive LB I’ve seen in some time. The way he can remove any right winger from the game is incredible.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2012/04/26 at 7:56 AM

      Agreed on Enrigque — his form dipped at the end of the year. I personally think he was just tired, but that pick is up for debate for sure.


  9. Posted by KickinNames... on 2012/04/26 at 8:32 AM

    Always thoughtfully presented insights. Props to you Matt.
    RVP and Cisse are excellent picks.
    Song- I watch a lot of Arsenal and he just never thrills me like he does many fans. Seems to go through long stretches of trying to do too much and gets pulled into rabbit holes fairly regularly with his wild dribbling forays. As much as it pains me, I’ve come to appreciate Parker and his role as the glue with Tottenham and his 150% shift he puts in every time with very little to complain about.
    Skrtel has been dominant.
    Krul has been routinely fantastic and deserves whatever plaudits he gets this year.
    And you get mad bonus points for inserting the phrase “Makelelian” here or anywhere for that matter)) . Claude is always God’s 1ST pick for DMF on his Heavenly Eleven IMO.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2012/04/26 at 10:22 AM

      Parker had an excellent campaign. I have two challenges with Parker that relegate him in my mind.

      First–and Song occasionally does this–he picks up some really dumb and costly fouls from time to time.

      Second–and you see this when Tottenham get blown out against top tier teams…Parker is so good at allowing Modric, Bale and company to do their thing…except when he faces players that are faster than he is.

      Chelsea, Man United, etc. all have places that challenge Parker’s ability to ping around the field. Parker is sort of like the former Michael Bradley in that his engine allows him to make up for some positional deficiencies here and there.

      As defensive mids go, this year it was: Tiote, Song, Parker for me. Tiote merely drops because he’s only going to play about 60% or so of the campaign.


      • Posted by KickinNames... on 2012/04/26 at 11:11 AM

        Speaking of Mikey…anyone with a clear eyed view (beside DKrank))) who has feedback on Mikey’s year at Chievo. They showed a few of his early matches on Fox.Gol but then not much after. Obviously saw a level of class in his game for the MNT that indicates he’s done well.
        Just wondering how his performance is received by the home crowd and press.


        • Posted by matthewsf on 2012/04/26 at 11:59 AM

          I’ve watched 3 games and he’s gotten just so much better in the two areas he’s needed to. On the ball and defensive discipline. he’s never going to be a visionary congested area passer, but I think he’s pretty much reached the ceiling–physically–of his development. Maybe another 5-10%?


          • Posted by justin on 2012/04/26 at 1:17 PM

            I agree. I’ve watched his last few matches on espn3. He has defiantly become the “swing/switch” guy in the midfield. He’s no Pirlo, putting balls into the middle. But hit the wingers on a long ball from the middle now much better than he could 1-2 years ago.
            One of the things about his game that is hard to rate is his composure under pressure in the midfield. Especially in Italy where teams would rather sit back and counter than pressure the middle 3rd of the field.
            And defensive positioning is much better.
            Compared to the beginning of the year to now for Chievo. He is taking all the free kicks, corner kicks, and he is always picking up the ball out of the back from the defenders and turning to send the ball forward. Those last two things I think will be of most importance to the mnt. Much less square passes.


  10. Posted by KickinNames... on 2012/04/26 at 11:06 AM

    Oh and….feel free to join in..

    Chelsea Football Clu-uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuub!
    Weeeeeeee’re Chelsea Football Cluuuub! only 3 short weeks…


    • Posted by SamT on 2012/04/27 at 1:26 PM

      …until you return to England after a lopsided defeat at the hands of the home team. The only question in my mind is whether Di Matteo is sacked as a result.


  11. Tough for me to give a guy who only played 10 games best XI – even if it was an insane 10 games. Hate to be that guy, but Rooney was steady all year and is nearly all the way “back” if you want to say he ever wasn’t there. Felt like he was even more instrumental in possession and distribution this year and, though this doesn’t really matter, I prefer watching his silky smooth technique and game to Valencia’s controlled chaos. 26 goals ain’t bad, either.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2012/04/26 at 1:02 PM

      Extremely fair criticism. I made a special exemption for Cisse while not doing it for others.

      On Cisse, I just feel like if he’s not there — with Demba Ba trailing off — that Newcastle are easily in 9th right now.

      Very fair point. For Rooney, I dock him points for “pulling Beckhams” — that is getting in the face of the ref even while a play is happening. Small note I know. he’s right up there — probably just a case of not wanting to make the boring pick. :>


  12. Posted by TheRipSkippy on 2012/05/07 at 1:03 AM

    The thing that sticks out most to me about this list is the amount of quality in the EPL. Blows the mind when ya step back and think about it.


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