English Premier League Best XI of 2012
As 2012 draws to a close, Bleacher Report looks back at a wonderful calendar year to bring you the top performers.
The choices were tough, and some genuinely excellent players had to settle for the bench, but we've crafted one hell of a team set out in a 4-4-2 formation.
Be aware: To qualify for the list, all players needed to be stellar performers all year long, so no John Terry, Joleon Lescott, Antonio Valencia or Glen Johnson.
GK: Joe Hart
For all of Manchester City's attacking talent, they relied upon some wonderful displays from Joe Hart to stay in the title race until the very end.
His reflexes, agility and pure athleticism make him almost impossible to beat—a lesson Newcastle learnt the hard way this weekend after he made four elite saves.
Many believe he's set to become the best goalkeeper in the world one day, and many could be proved right soon enough.
Highlight of the year: Winning the Golden Glove Award for the second straight year.
RB: Pablo Zabaleta
The debate as to who the best right-back in the English Premier League continues to rage on, but over the course of the entire year, Pablo Zabaleta was the top performer.
He's one of the very few Mark Hughes signings to have survived all this time in an ever-changing Manchester City lineup, making himself a firm fan favourite thanks to his hard work and tenacity.
His versatile game has bailed Roberto Mancini out countless times this year, while his clever footballing brain allows him to pick his moments going forward.
Highlight of the year: Scoring the opener in Manchester City's title-clinching 3-2 win over Queens Park Rangers.
CB: Phil Jagielka
Consistent centre-backs are tough to find, so when you've got your hands on one, you should never let go.
Phil Jagielka had an outstanding 2012 and was rightly surprised when he missed the cut for Roy Hodgson's European Championship squad for Poland and Ukraine.
He was eventually called up to replace the injured Gareth Barry, but his strong play toward the end of the 2011-12 season merited automatic inclusion.
He's continued his fine form this season, becoming one of Everton's undroppable players and a standout leader in the back line.
Highlight of the year: Getting the call to join Hodgson's squad, or the incredible performance he put in against Queens Park Rangers.
CB: Vincent Kompany
The phrase "Captain Fantastic" is thrown around a lot, but Vincent Kompany is one who deserves the title.
He's played through the pain barrier this season and perhaps hasn't lived up to his exceptionally high standards, but it still took 15 weeks for his team to be beaten, and they've conceded the second-fewest goals in the league so far.
He lifted Manchester City's first ever English Premier League trophy on a truly memorable day at the Etihad Stadium.
Highlight of the year: Winning the Premier League Player of the Season award in 2012.
LB: Leighton Baines
The year 2012 was kind to Leighton Baines.
He finally received the adulation he's deserved for two or three years, spent significant time on the pitch in an England shirt and is recognised, in most quarters, as the best left-back in the English Premier League.
He's been a prolific creator this season, leading Europe at one stage for the most accurate crosses per game and directly contributing to Everton goals on a consistent basis.
Highlight of the year: The moment it appeared he had truly entered Roy Hodgson's considerations for the No. 1 LB spot on the England roster.
RW: David Silva
When he's not busy winning the European Championships with a star-studded Spain squad, David Silva is tearing the English Premier League apart piece by piece.
He's shown versatility by swapping wings with Samir Nasri on multiple occasions, while he can also play through the middle in the No. 10 position.
He led the EPL in assists last season with 15, while he's overcome niggling injuries and fatigue to produce top-tier football this season after an extended break following the Euros.
Highlight of the year: Every single time he plays a clever reverse ball to set one of his teammates in the box. No one does it like he does, and he does it a hell of a lot.
CM: Marouane Fellaini
Marouane Fellaini has grabbed all the headlines this season for his excellent performances in a variety of positions for Everton.
He is revolutionising the No. 10 role by using his size, strength and close control to become a deep-lying target man, and while he stole the show by bullying Michael Carrick in the season's opener, it was actually last season David Moyes experimented with this.
The Belgian was pushed forward at Old Trafford and was instrumental in securing a 4-4 draw.
Highlight of the year: A Man of the Match performance against Manchester United on the opening weekend put Everton's "slow start mentality" to bed.
CM: Yaya Toure
What a year Yaya Toure has had.
Arguably Manchester City's MVP in their title-winning season, scorer of long-range stunners, master of the short pass and a physically dominant presence—the Ivorian ticks every box.
City are set to miss him dearly when he departs for the African Cup of Nations at the beginning of 2013. The footprint he's put on the club makes it hard for anyone to step into his role and perform.
Highlight of the year: When he scored against Newcastle United, you almost knew City were going to win the title. What a weapon!
LW: Gareth Bale
It doesn't matter who's manager, Gareth Bale is a stud in any formation and any footballing system.
He's moved on from a touchline-hugging speedster and begun to introduce new elements to his game. He's looking more and more like Cristiano Ronaldo every month as he cuts inside, shoots from distance and powers past people.
A dynamic threat anywhere on the pitch—tough to believe he started as a left-back.
Highlight of the year: Ripping Manchester United's defence to shreds as he scores at Old Trafford.
ST: Robin van Persie
Robin van Persie has had an exceptional 12 months of football, leaving us all to wonder what he'd be capable of if he managed to stay injury-free for the first seven years he was in England.
Coming off the back of a 30-goal season with Arsenal, Sir Alex Ferguson gambled on his age and ankle after losing the English Premier League title on goal difference.
He has 17 goals from 21 starts in a Red Devils shirt, confirming his status as one of the premier strikers in world football.
Highlight of the year: Netting the winner at the Etihad Stadium with a sumptuous curling free kick.
ST: Sergio Aguero
After costing a handsome £38 million, you'd pretty much expect Sergio Aguero to make this team.
We've seen plenty of high-profile flops in the past though, so thankfully the Argentine adapted quickly and showed his best form week in, week out.
He is still undoubtedly Manchester City's best striker and continues to score goals at crucial times as well as during routs.
Highlight of the year: This, obviously.
GK: Petr Cech
RB/LB: Glen Johnson
ST: Luis Suarez
ST: Wayne Rooney
M: Mikel Arteta
CB: Daniel Agger
Wing: Juan Mata
Manager: David Moyes
David Moyes has had another superb year.
He's unlocked the full potential in Leighton Baines and helped Phil Jagielka find some real consistency in his game.
He's switched Marouane Fellaini's position to devastating effect, brought Steven Pienaar back to his former club (a move that rarely bears fruit) and bought well in the transfer market yet again.
He's also handled the darker side of the game with genuine integrity. He fined Phil Neville for diving and had him issue a public apology, while he also condemned Fellaini for headbutting. Superb honesty we rarely see.