Friday, June 14, 2024

Premier League Team of the Decade

As the 2010s draw to a close, plenty of people have been giving us their “Premier League Team of the Decade” – so today, I thought I’d give you mine. All of my choices are based on who has been the best over the course of the whole decade, or at least most of it.

A lot of the fans and pundits I’ve seen have a crack at this have concentrated far too much on the players who are good right now and who’ve only been in the league for a year or so – I haven’t done that, as a result, most of my team are old as hell these days. Formation wise, I’ve opted for a 4-2-3-1 to fit the midfielders I decided had to be in the team.

Goalkeeper David De Gea

There was absolutely no doubt in my mind who was getting this position – actually, that’s not entirely true. I did, for a brief moment, flirt with the idea of putting Petr Cech in here but I couldn’t justify not having De Gea as the keeper. He’s been a rock in the net for Manchester United since Sir Alex Ferguson left. Over the last nine years, well, forgetting the first one, De Gea has won game after game for United with his acrobatic saves and General-like leadership.

Right-back – Pablo Zabaleta

The Argentinian right-back Pablo Zabaleta has cemented himself in both Manchester City and Premier League folklore over the last ten years or so. After signing for Manchester City in 2008, he was a vital part of the 2011/12 Premier League winning team that snatched the title from the clutches of Manchester United in the dying embers of the final game. One thing a lot of people forget is that in that famous game at the Etihad, Zabaleta got the first goal – playing his part in a pretty important slice of history. He would win the Premier League at City one more time in 2013/14 under Manuel Pellegrini, the man who is incidentally his current boss at West Ham United.

Centre-Back – Vincent Kompany (C)

Picking Vincent Kompany to wear the captains armband and lead my team of the decade from the back was genuinely the easiest decision I’ve ever made. From the moment he signed for Manchester City in 2008, it was clear they’d found a great. Tough tackling, fierce leadership and, as we found out in his eleventh year at the club, a vicious long range strike. Kompany won four Premier League titles, two FA Cups and four League Cups in his time at the Etihad. For me, he’s not only one of the best of the decade, he’s one of the greatest centre-halves in Premier League history.

Centre-back – Virgil Van Dijk

Given that I said I wasn’t going to just pick players who have been at the top of their game for most of the decade, this one may be a tad surprising – but he’s just so damn good I couldn’t possibly have left him out. For me, Van Dijk is the best centre-half in the world right now, by an absolute mile. So much so that I was genuinely uncertain whether or not he would take the Ballon d’Or from Lionel Messi – the greatest to ever play the game. He’s been in the Premier League for five years now, representing both Southampton and Liverpool – thoroughly deserving of a place in the team of the decade.

Left-Back – Cesar Azpilicueta

Yes, I know he’s not a left-back, but I had to get this man in the team somehow. The man who the Chelsea staff affectionately know as “Dave”, has been a rock for Chelsea across the entire back-line since his arrival in 2012. Right-back, centre-back, left-back – he’s played them all, and he’s set the example for the rest of the league in each of those positions. He has also developed into a fantastic leader and wears the armband at Chelsea with pride. He’s a Blues legend and for me, one of the most underrated footballers this league has ever seen.

Central Defensive Midfield – N’golo Kante

Since Leicester City unearthed this absolute diamond of a man in the French league back in 2015, he’s been consistently one of the best midfielders, not just in the Premier League, but in the world. His energy and work rate in that holding midfield spot played a massive part in the biggest fairytale the Premier League has ever seen – Leicester City’s 2015/16 Premier League winning side.

He then went to Chelsea and brought the same energy and quality to their midfield – and won the Premier League again a season later. Then, in 2018, just to add a cherry to the top of an already delicious looking cake, he was a key part of the France side that won the biggest trophy in football – the FIFA World Cup.

Even since the arrival of Maurizio Sarri at Chelsea last season, when he was instructed to play further forward, he’s shown his quality. Given that he had eight goals in his whole career before Chelsea, he wasn’t much of a goalscoring midfielder – but that’s all changed and he now has nine goals in three years at Stamford Bridge. However, for all his talents on the field, nothing will ever compare to his humility and sunny disposition off it. A great footballer, an even better man – and completely deserving of a spot in the Team of the Decade.

Central Defensive Midfield – Fernandinho

The Brazilian defensive midfielder Fernandinho has been probably the most important piece in the puzzle that is Manchester City for at least the last five years. So much so that when it comes to transfers, all we talk about is how Manchester City are “looking for the Fernandinho” replacement. The truth is, unless they’re willing to spend an absolute fortune on a Kante or someone similar, they won’t be able to effectively replace this man.

His ability to protect the back four from that deep-lying midfield role, as well as keep the game ticking over with his passing has been so vital to City’s style of play for a long time now. This season, he’s been forced to fill in at the back while City have struggled with injuries and for me, that’s a big reason they’ve struggled lately. Even if he has been their best defender, despite being a midfielder, they miss having that protection in midfield. It seemed as though Rodri was brought in to fill his shoes – but hasn’t quite managed to his those lofty heights just yet.

Right-midfield – Sadio Mane

Yes, he does usually play on the left, but my left-sided player needs that spot in the team more than he does. Sadio Mane, since his arrival at Southampton back in 2014, has been consistently one of the best players in the league. In his first season at St Mary’s, he set a new record for the fastest hat-trick in Premier League history – netting three times in 2 minutes 56 seconds, to beat the old record held by Robbie Fowler. Scoring lots of goals really fast? Just about sums up his time in the Premier League to date.

Since joining Liverpool, his game has hit new heights – particularly as part of the deadly attacking trio with Roberto Firmino and Mo Salah. Despite the incredible talents of both of those players, for me, Mane is the clear standout – he is an outstanding footballer with a real knack for scoring goals. He won the Champions League last season, it looks like he’ll win at least the Premier League this season and who knows, a Ballon d’Or might just follow.

Central Attacking Midfield – Yaya Toure

The ultimate marauding central midfielder – Yaya Toure had to have a place in this team. Obviously he’s more of a box-to-box midfielder, but given the system I’ve opted for, this is the logical place to put him. After scoring 59 goals in his eight years at Man City, he had to be the attacking midfielder really. With his pace, power and ability to just glide past a defender with the ball at his feet – I loved watching Toure play.

He also had a knack for scoring world class goals too – the one against Villa and the one against Sunderland in the League Cup final spring to mind. During his time at City, he won African player of the year four times (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014) – making his status as an all-time African great official. Despite being 36 years of age, he’s still persisting with his career – currently representing Qingdao Huanghai in the Chinese Super League.

Left midfield – Eden Hazard

Eden Hazard arrived at Chelsea in 2012, a very highly rated youngster with a plethora of fantastic goals to his name from his time at Lille in the French league. At Chelsea, he lit up the Premier League with his dazzling runs down the left wing as well as some truly phenomenal goals.

This summer, he left the Premier League to go to Real Madrid after what felt like at least three years of speculation linking him with that move. Despite one or two periods of inconsistency, he beats out the likes of David Silva and Christian Eriksen to make it into this team based on his goalscoring prowess. He has been so incredibly important to Chelsea and their style of play over the last seven years, winning the title twice, the league cup and FA Cup once each and the Europa League twice.

Striker – Sergio Aguero

Sergio Aguero has been consistently one of the best strikers in the league, and probably the world, since the moment he arrived in Manchester back in 2011. Despite a few injury setbacks here and there, he’s still going strong in front of goal. The general rule of thumb has been “when Aguero does well, City win trophies” and well, City have won four Premier League titles, four League Cups and an FA Cup since he’s been at the club.

The lowest goal return of his time at Manchester City came in the 2012/13 season where he was plagued with injury and managed 17 goals – a lot for most strikers but a drop in the ocean for Aguero’s usual standards. He’s managed over 30 goals in five of his eight full seasons at City and in the the other three seasons, he hit 17 (2012/13), 28 (2013/14) and 29 (2015/16). A true goalscoring great, a true Premier League great, and due to the sheer longevity of his goalscoring prowess, a worthy inclusion in the Premier League Team of the Decade.

There you have it, that’s my team of the decade. Did you agree? Tell me what you’d change in the comments below.

Check out our last piece, ‘Remembering the football stars we lost in 2019’ here.

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