International breaks offer a chance to reflect on club football with some perspective. The lack of upcoming matches in England’s top flight and ‘Super Sunday’ extravaganzas lends time to really assess what has gone on so far in the Barclays Premier League.
It has to be said this season is largely not going the way in which many, including myself, envisaged it. Southampton sold just about everything apart from the training kits and are absolutely flying. Everton spent big and retained their best players and have faltered, whilst Liverpool just cannot rediscover last season’s mentality or results.
Here is my team of the season so far, with eleven games played.
Goalkeeper: Thibaut Courtois
This is a fairly straight-forward call. The weight of expectancy on the young Belgian prodigy should not be underestimated, Petr Cech has reigned supreme in the goal at Stamford Bridge for a decade and it was going to take something supreme to knock him off his spot as their number one. Courtois has settled into the English game with no real problems and has looked domineering in every aspect of his game. Solid.
Right-Back: Nathaniel Clyne
The young English right-back has been by far the stand-out full-back in the division this season. He has perfectly judged the balance between needing to be solid in defence and needing to get up the pitch and offer a pacey overlap to his team-mates. He has been in stunning form and thoroughly deserved his call-up to the national squad.
Centre Back: John Terry (C)
There isn’t much remaining from Jose Mourinho’s triumphant first spell as Chelsea manager but one thing that has not changed is that in terms of reliability, leadership, organisation and determination he has the best centre-back in England. Terry has proved that despite his career clearly being in the latter stages he can be trusted to deliver at the highest level.
Centre Back: Jose Fonte
Southampton boast the best defence in the league so far this season, they have conceded only five goals, less than half that of the next best team. That is a phenomenal statistic in its own right, then you add in the context of the summer of upheaval at St.Mary’s and it becomes even more astounding. Fonte has been an outstanding part of their defence and looked classy in the middle of the back four.
Left Back: Leighton Baines
It is a tough job maintaining a high level of performance in a team that is struggling around you. That is exactly what Baines has achieved. Whilst other members of the squad have let themselves down, he has kept up his standard being a constant source of creativity and providing six assists.
Midfield: Cesc Fabregas
He has been the outstanding player in the Premier League this season, it’s as simple as that. When Jose Mourinho sanctioned the transfer of the Catalan playmaker to Chelsea this summer it was about much of a ‘sure thing’ transfer as you were ever going to see. Fabregas was always going to slot straight into the team and light up the Premier League once again. With a string of imperious performances in the bigger league games and nine assists in eleven league games Fabregas walks into this team.
Midfield: Dusan Tadic
Everything pointed towards Southampton struggling this season, they sold several of their best players from the previous seasons and even lost their manager. Southampton fans needed a new superstar to fill the void left in particular by the loss of Adam Lallana and Tadic stepped up to the plate. He has been phenomenal and one of the main reasons behind the Saints’ exceptional start to the season.
Midfield: Gylfi Sigurdsson
This final spot in the centre of the pitch was the toughest to pick because there are a handful of players who, it could be argued, deserve to be in this best XI but Sigurdsson nicks it for me above the likes of Matic, Downing, Chadli and Di Maria. Sigurdsson has shone for Swansea in an advanced role providing them with firepower in his second spell with the team.
Left-Wing: Eden Hazard
The little Belgian has dazzled down the left as Chelsea have steamrolled their way to the top of the league. His talent has never been up for debate, it is there for all to see, yet his commitment to the team cause and ability to deliver in the biggest games have been the only question-marks next to his name. This season seems like it will be a huge one for Hazard as he aims to kick on and join the top rank of world footballers. He has made a good start on doing that.
Right-Wing: Alexis Sanchez
The little Chilean has been the bright-spark in an Arsenal team that look to have the same flaws that have almost become synonymous with the Gunners. There is certainly a touch of Luis Suarez to the way Sanchez plays, with his irrepressible energy inspiring those around him and his pace and firepower really kicking his team on in league games most weeks. He has been incredible and is fast becoming a fan-favourite.
Striker: Sergio Aguero
Despite the emerging talents and goal-scoring prowess of players like Diafra Sakho, Saido Berahino and Granziano Pelle there could only be two contenders for this spot in the team. There is an outright battle at the top of the Premier League in terms of goal-scoring between Sergio Aguero and Diego Costa. At the moment Manchester City’s little Argentinian superstar is in the lead. He has fired his team out of trouble on a couple of occasions this season and is often the one person to grab the points for his team as they stumble through games.
That’s it. Anyone who deserves to be in there, you think?