The XI of the season so far

The hardest thing about choosing a side like this is the formation. So I’ve ignored that problem and cheated. This side is set out as a 4-4-2, but please not that the wing positions are considered interchangeable with those of their more advanced counterparts in a 4-3-3. Anyway, I digress. Here’s my team of the season so far:

GK: Joe Hart (Birmingham City) – Harsh it may be to overlook the form of Shay Given, but it would be even harsher to ignore Birmingham’s remarkable unbeaten run. Predicted by many for relegation at the start of the season, Birmingham sit a credible 8th with the league’s 3rd best defence, having conceded only one more goal than Chelsea and Aston Villa. For this, much credit must go to Hart, an immense presence in the Birmingham goal. Indeed, he has played so well that he is being touted for the World Cup. In the future certainly, but not yet. Remember what happened to a promising young Scott Carson?

Narrowly missing out: Shay Given (Manchester City) – New team, same terrible defending, same brilliant goalkeeping. Except this time, his brilliance seems destined to be rewarded with trophies.

LB: Ashley Cole (Chelsea) – Once again deserves the tag of ‘greatest left back in the world’. It has taken years for him to accomplish the feat at Chelsea, but much of the credit for his renewed brilliance must go to his importance in Carlo Ancelotti’s wingless system. Always an excellent defender, Cole is now once again a serious terror going forward, and is even chipping in with goals. This one against Sunderland would have made Dennis Bergkamp proud, no kidding.

Narrowly missing out: Patrice Evra (Manchester United) – Who else? With Gael Clichy injured and generally short of form the men most would name the finest left backs in the league have proven once again to be so this season.

RB: Branislav Ivanovic (Chelsea) – Unsuprisingly, another Chelsea defender makes the cut. Even playing out of his preferred position, Ivanovic has looked excellent. Many centre halves look cumbersome when switched out to full back, but not this man. As threatening going forward as he is solid at the back.

Narrowly missing out: Glen Johnson (Liverpool) – Personal injury and his club’s poor form have cost him further honours, but my he looked good in September didn’t he?

CB: Richard Dunne (Aston Villa) – Making his old club look silly for selling him with each towering performance. Supposedly surplus to requirements at City, Dunne is currently leading the level best defence in the league, while various players are failing to fill his boots at Eastlands. Would presumably have taken great satisfaction in scoring against City too.

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Thomas Vermaelan (Arsenal) – The commanding centre half Arsenal have been dying for. He may only be 5″10, but showed in consecutive wins vs Bolton that even Kevin Davies can’t overpower him. It would of course, be selling Vermaelan short to note only his brilliant defending. He is utterly composed on the ball, and possesses the sort of left foot most strikers would die for. Tied with the man above him in this list for signing of the season.

Narrowly missing out: Roger Johnson (Birmingham City) – It is a measure of how good Birmingham’s defence has been that this place could easily go to centre half partner Scott Dann. Alex McLeish was ridiculed for the side of supposedly championship level players he was assembling. Nobody is laughing now.

CM: Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal) – In utterly magnificent form. Clearly relishing the freedom Arsenal’s formation allows him, Fabregas has scored an incredible 11 league goals already from midfield, indeed he either scored or assisted 22 out of Arsenal’s first 55 league goals this season. Utterly dominates games, and as seen in his personal demolition of Aston Villa, is the spark that is giving Arsenal hope in the title race

James Milner (Aston Villa) – As if Martin O’Neill didn’t love him enough already, he had to go and add another layer of versatility to his many talents. Versatile often means Jack of all trades, master of none; not true of Milner. If anything he has produced the best form of his career in the centre of Villa’s midfield. Not only his club manager’s favourite, but also the apple of Capello’s eye too.

Narrowly missing out: Alex Song (Arsenal) – So close to making this side. Song provides the muscle that Arsenal otherwise lack, but don’t let anyone tell you he can’t play football. He makes Denilson look average in more than one area. Fast becoming a huge fan favourite to boot.

Otherwise notable: Tom Huddlestone, Wilson Palacios, Scott Parker, Lee Bowyer
RM: Aaron Lennon (Tottenham) – At his best this season Aaron Lennon has been utterly unstoppable. Just ask Erik Edman and Sylvinho what it’s like to chase this man on his day. Lightning fast, capable of dribbling in either direction, and now a decent crosser of the ball, Lennon should be an absolute lock for the World Cup.

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Narrowly missing out: No-one really. United’s Valencia in patches, and at a push.

LM: Craig Bellamy (Manchester City) – This is where I’m cheating. Is now back to playing up front, but has spent much of the season to date as a left winger and has been absolutely fantastic. City have produced the most dazzling football of the season, with much of it flowing through Bellamy’s rocket-powered boots. It’s just a shame Bellamy has never been able to settle long enough to keep this form going. He would have had twice the career.

Narrowly missing out: Ryan Giggs (Manchester United) – Still got it. In receipt of more awards and rightly so. Still the man United turn to if Rooney is firing blanks.

CF: Wayne Rooney (Manchester United) – Though speaking of Rooney, he hasn’t fired many of those this season. It’s only January and Rooney has already comfortably eclipsed his previous best goal tally. He promised that he would make the most of becoming the main man and has done just that, scoring 19 in the league and dragging his otherwise dour side into title contention. Indeed one would ask ‘Cristiano who?’, were it not for the fact that Rooney so often seems to be ploughing a lone furrow this year. For England though, his form can only be good news. Keep it up Mr Rooney, South Africa awaits.

Didier Drogba (Chelsea) – At his best Drogba is brutally effective, just ask Arsenal fans who sat and watched two clinical finishes pushed Chelsea to comfortable victory. Though he is not just capable of scoring from anywhere; his all round play has been widely credited as crucial to Chelsea’s barnstorming form. The only mystery is how they are doing so well without him, but that speaks more for the side’s overall quality than any deficiency in the Ivorian. His return should still be the push that keeps Chelsea ahead of the rest this year.

Narrowly missing out: A joint award here, to Carlos Tevez and Darren Bent. The former in the goalscoring form of his life, and the latter showing, again, what a quality Premier League goalscorer he is when actually playing.