Creating a North XI vs. South XI from the Premier League's Best of 2013-14
We've all created and agonised over fantasy football teams at the beginning of the campaign, switching and swapping the best and most expensive players and hoping they have a great season.
At the end of the year, the Premier League Team of the Year merges players from different clubs, too, creating a best-of from the top flight for fans to dissect and argue over.
This time, we're going one step further: tearing the country in two, to create a best of the north against the best of the south.
Click through to see who makes our selections and leave your own choices in the comments section below.
Splitting the Nation and Honourable Mentions
We're saved from having to kick middle-of-the-country teams such as Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion to either the top half of the nation or the bottom by their relatively disappointing form over the course of the season.
Not-very-surprising spoiler alert: The starting XIs are entirely chosen from the top eight teams in the Premier League, four from the north and four from the south.
Even so, a few other players from the bottom 12 bear naming for decent spells throughout the season:
Yohan Cabaye, pre-move from Newcastle United
Mile Jedinak, Crystal Palace
Mark Noble, West Ham United
Tom Huddlestone, Hull City
Mathieu Debuchy, Newcastle United
Curtis Davies, Hull City
Geoff Cameron, Stoke City
Steven Caulker, Cardiff City
Fabian Delph, Aston Villa
The north has rather more form to choose from than the south in this area.
Manchester United haven't had a great season, but David de Gea has been one of their most in-form and impressive performers all campaign long.
Meanwhile, Joe Hart has rediscovered his top form after a winter stumble, and Tim Howard has helped Everton keep 13 clean sheets this season, a number surpassed only by Chelsea. Liverpool stopper Simon Mignolet has had ups and downs but has mainly been in impressive form, too.
Down south, Petr Cech has been back to his best this season. Wojciech Szczesny has struggled at times due to being left entirely unprotected by his team too often, and Hugo Lloris meanders from the great to the surprisingly poor.
North: David de Gea
South: Petr Cech
The modern-day full-back is entirely vital to most teams' methods and tactics at both ends of the pitch, and the very best combine athleticism and technique with great stamina levels.
Luke Shaw has, of course, gotten rave reviews this season, while England left-back Ashley Cole has been ousted from the Chelsea side by the incredible success of Cesar Azpilicueta, having switched from right to left.
Kyle Walker has enjoyed some spectacular performances at Tottenham, but the same can be said for Bacary Sagna.
Both of Everton's full-backs are encouraged to help develop build-up play high up the field, making the most of their excellent contributions in the final third, while Liverpool's Jon Flanagan has won himself a regular place with a number of top-class displays.
Choosing between the likes of Gael Clichy and Aleks Kolarov at Manchester City isn't easy either, but thankfully for City, they're able to regularly rotate the duo at will.
North: Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines
South: Branislav Ivanovic and Cesar Azpilicueta
In the middle of defence, many of the best seem to be part of a solid partnership: Terry and Cahill, Distin and Jagielka, Mertesacker and Koscielny.
However, that can overlook how one at times helps mask the mistakes of the other—that's what being a partnership is about, after all.
Individually, a number of standout candidates present themselves, including several who have had half-seasons, or split periods, of good form: Mamadou Sakho, Jose Fonte, John Stones and Vlad Chiriches are all such examples.
None of those, though, can really claim to be amongst the top two for their regions, having not put together 25, 30 games of imperious form this term.
North: Martin Skrtel and Vincent Kompany
South: Gary Cahill and Per Mertesacker
Here we find our first split in formations. The numbers in each area of the pitch and the quality on show dictate that we field two different systems for our two teams: a diamond midfield in the north and a fluid 4-2-3-1 in the south.
In striving for balance, we'll leave some of the exceptional performers out of the teams because there would be no point in lining up, for example, four attacking midfielders in a 4-4-2.
The central or holding midfielders in the Premier League are, by and large, exciting and impressive to watch from both a tactical and technical standpoint: from the physical and lung-bursting, driving runs of Yaya Toure and Aaron Ramsey to the controlled, creative build-up play of James McCarthy and Morgan Schneiderlin.
Roles and in-game duties of central midfielders are varied and can change on a weekly basis; we'll take advantage of that to pick two entirely different systems.
North: Steven Gerrard, Yaya Toure and Fernandinho
South: Aaron Ramsey and Nemanja Matic
As a direct result of the central midfield choices, we're also looking at differing numbers for attacking midfielders: one for the north, a central playmaker; and three for the south, a line of fluid attackers cutting in to support the forward.
The north, then, have a few to choose from: Liverpool's young duo of Phil Coutinho and Raheem Sterling have been excellent, Everton's Gerard Deulofeu has impressed and Manchester United's Adnan Januzaj has done likewise.
In the south, Southampton, Tottenham, Arsenal and Chelsea have all fielded 4-2-3-1 systems with regularity, giving us plenty of options to choose from.
Oscar, Santi Cazorla, Jay Rodriguez and others have all shown flashes of excellence this season but perhaps don't quite have the longevity over the campaign as a whole to take a starting spot this time.
North: David Silva
South: Adam Lallana, Christian Eriksen and Eden Hazard
A diamond midfield leaves us two strikers from the north, while just one is required from the south.
Regarding the latter, the form of their collective attackers is a big part of the reason why a 4-2-3-1 system was chosen; despite their high places in the tables, strikers such as Samuel Eto'o or Demba Ba haven't exactly set the world alight too often, while Roberto Soldado and Fernando Torres have been downright awful.
The north is a different matter, with a host of top attackers in very good-to-great form.
Aguero, Lukaku, Rooney, Sturridge and the league's top scorer, Suarez...the names roll off the tongue and score plenty on the pitch.
North: Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge
South: Olivier Giroud
Final XIs and Subs
The managers pick themselves, and the substitutes are made up of those who either didn't fit the starting systems or were very closely ousted from starting spots.
These are our final lineups and squads—and it's safe to say they've all had a great impact on the Premier League this season.
North (4-4-2 diamond)
De Gea (MNU); Coleman (EVE), Skrtel (LIV), Kompany (MNC), Baines (EVE); Gerrard (LIV), Toure (MNC), Fernandinho (MNC), Silva (MNC); Suarez (LIV), Sturridge (LIV).
Subs: Howard (EVE), Zabaleta (MNC), Distin (EVE), McCarthy (EVE), Sterling (LIV), Aguero (MNC), Rooney (MNU).
Manager: Brendan Rodgers (LIV).
Cech (CHE); Ivanovic (CHE), Cahill (CHE), Mertesacker (ARS), Azpilicueta (CHE); Ramsey (ARS), Matic (CHE); Lallana (SOU), Eriksen (TOT), Hazard (CHE); Giroud (ARS).
Subs: Lloris (TOT), Lovren (SOU), Shaw (SOU), Schneiderlin (SOU), Rosicky (ARS), Willian (CHE), Adebayor (TOT).
Manager: Jose Mourinho (CHE).
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