EPL: Picking a Premier League Team of the Year
So, the nominations for the 2011-2012 season's PFA Player of the Year are out.
Joe Hart, David Silva, Sergio Aguero, Wayne Rooney, Scott Parker and Robin van Persie are all up for the main prize, which will be presented on Sunday, April 22.
What about the Team of the Year then?
Before the official announcement of the PFA's picks, I've decided to go ahead and pick out a team of players who I believe fully deserve an inclusion for this season's awards.
Read on for the full list of 11 starters, plus a seven-man bench—and feel free to have your say in the comments below.
GK: Joe Hart
As part of the league's best defence this season (so far), Joe Hart has played an important role in Manchester City's ascent to the Premier League elite.
Whether or not City do end up regaining the top spot from their rivals Manchester United by the end of the season remains to be seen, but Hart has firmly established himself as the best goalkeeper in English football with 14 clean sheets this season.
RB: Micah Richards
Given Manchester City's relentless player recruitment, Micah Richards had every right to be worried about his first-team status in a squad of world-class stars and seasoned internationals.
If he ever was worried, he didn't need to be.
Richards has come on in leaps and bounds this season, forcing his way back into the England setup, impressing all onlookers with his power, pace, tackling and attacking support, and weighing in with a handy five assists.
CB: Jonny Evans
Who would've thought that Jonny Evans could be anywhere near a team like this?
Scratch that—who would've thought that Jonny Evans—not Chris Smalling, not Phil Jones—would be the one to step into the breach and fill the considerable void that Nemanja Vidic left with his injury?
He has matured into a composed and classy defender over the course of the season, prompting Sir Alex Ferguson to call him one of the best defenders in the country.
Now that he has firmly established himself in the Manchester United rearguard, Rio Ferdinand might be the player Vidic will be replacing on his return, not Evans.
Who would've thought?
CB: Vincent Kompany
Without a doubt one of the best central defenders in the world, Vincent Kompany has led City's title charge from the heart of their defence, contributing to a stellar defensive record.
Alongside the much-improved Joleon Lescott, Kompany has become indispensable for Roberto Mancini—who has the hapless Stefan Savic as backup. No wonder he was so sorely missed whenever he was out.
LB: Leighton Baines
It's been yet another fantastic season for Everton's Leighton Baines, who has scored four goals and contributed two assists from his left-back position.
His dead-ball prowess, crossing ability and attacking runs have cemented him as the Premier League's best left-back—and the natural heir to Ashley Cole's position in the national team.
RM: Antonio Valencia
With four goals and 13 assists in the league, Antonio Valencia has been directly involved in over a fifth of Manchester United's 82 goals scored this term.
It's no coincidence that United's second-half surge towards the top has seen Valencia turn in electric performance after electric performance, as he increasingly sounds himself out as the Red Devils' main man.
CM: David Silva
Even more impressive is David Silva, who has single-handedly been involved in 19 out of Manchester City's 85 total goals this season, with six goals scored and 13 assists.
A late-season dip notwithstanding, Silva has been the league's most outstanding playmaker this year. And with his form on the up once again, he might just provide a photo finish to the Premier League title race.
CM: Scott Parker
Harry Redknapp went all out for the former West Ham captain last summer, and now it is clear why.
Scott Parker has been a revelation for Tottenham Hotspur, and his driving, tenacious displays at the center of the Tottenham midfield have seen them compete once again for the top four—and, just a few months ago, for the top prize.
LM: Gareth Bale
Truth be told, there was only ever one choice for this position.
After another scintillating season for Tottenham, Gareth Bale is fast cementing his reputation as one of the best wingers in the world.
He is approaching double figures in both his goals and assists counts, and he might just be the X-factor to land Redknapp another season in the Champions League for Tottenham.
ST: Wayne Rooney
Was it only last summer that Wayne Rooney was making noises about leaving Manchester United?
Well, it certainly seems like an age ago, because of the way Rooney has turned his career around at Old Trafford.
Currently only trailing leading scorer Robin van Persie by three goals, Rooney has provided that much-needed spark up front for Ferguson's team to overtake their rivals at Manchester City, and is as crucial as ever to the United setup.
ST: Robin van Persie
Completing the first team is Arsenal's strike phenom Robin van Persie, who should surely win the PFA Player of the Year award for a simply stellar season.
With 27 goals and 10 assists, which means he has contributed more than half of Arsenal's total tally this season, van Persie has brought in an even more important attribute: leadership.
His elevation to team captain after Cesc Fabregas' departure last summer brought all the attention and pressure onto his shoulders, and how he has responded in kind.
Carrying at times the entire Emirates Stadium all by himself earlier this season, his contributions will go down in Gunners history as they prepare to finish as comfortable second runners-up.
Not so much a crisis, eh?
Sub: Michel Vorm
For all of Swansea's achievements and confident passing play in the Premier League this season, the man ensuring their comfortable mid-table finish is none other than Michel Vorm, one of the signings of the season.
Picked up last summer for a mere £1.5 million, Vorm currently has 13 clean sheets to his name, second only to Manchester City's Joe Hart. His reflexes and aerial ability have seen him make a name as one of the league's best goalkeepers.
Small wonder, then, that he has already been linked with other Premier League clubs (according to Sky Sports).
Sub: Kyle Walker
Second to Micah Ricards as England's best young defender is Tottenham's Kyle Walker, who has duly been nominated for the PFA Young Player of the Year award.
With power and pace to burn, Walker's forays up and down the right flank for Harry Redknapp has wreaked havoc for many a Premier League defence.
England's longstanding worries at right-back should be shelved for another decade or so.
Sub: Fabricio Coloccini
The goalscoring exploits of Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse up front, the playmaking contributions of Yohan Cabaye, and the brilliant inventions of Hatem Ben Arfa have dominated the headlines as Newcastle have gatecrashed the top-six party this season, and rightly so.
But all the while, Fabricio Coloccini has quietly gone about his task, solidifying his status as one of the Premier League's best defenders in the process. His impressive displays for the Toon Army this season have been the bedrock for Alan Pardew's successes.
Sub: Alex Song
Behind every strike phenom is a midfield support act. Alex Song is Arsenal's answer to Yaya Toure, and then some.
With nine assists to his name, Song has turned in accomplished performances at the heart of the Arsenal midfield, with driving displays of energy, tenacious tackling and fantastic creative vision.
He has matured rapidly in recent seasons and is now one of the league's most complete midfielders.
Sub: Juan Mata
Some quarters maintain that Mata doesn't score enough goals, but the fact remains that, with six goals and 11 assists, he has been directly involved in over 30 percent of Chelsea's 56 league goals this season.
Chelsea face a fascinating fight to finish in the top four, but if they don't, the future might still be Blue with Mata in charge of playmaking duties at Stamford Bridge.
Sub: Clint Dempsey
Currently leading the Fulham charts in terms of both goals and assists, Clint Dempsey is enjoying his—and any American football player's—finest ever season in the Premier League.
So often has he provided the spark in Fulham's attack that he is increasingly being spoken in accordance with a move to a bigger club. (In the case of this Guardian report, it's Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester United linked.)
For now, Dempsey will continue his status as the USA's most successful player in the Premier League—and the star to lead Fulham to a comfortable mid-table finish.
Sub: Sergio Aguero
Up until only a few weeks ago, when Manchester United and Wayne Rooney once again showed their credentials, Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero was a shoo-in for this first team.
But his status as a substitute should not take the gloss off an undeniably magnificent first season on English shores, and his achievements have duly been recognized with nominations for both the PFA Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year categories.
With 21 goals to his name, Aguero is a mere three goals away from equalling Fernando Torres' record as the most prolific foreign goalscorer in his debut season in England.
That would sum up his first year in the Premier League quite nicely.
So there you have it—my pick for the Team of the Year.
Do you agree with my choices? Who did I leave out that you believe should have been included?
Have your say in the comments below.