Alternative Premier League XI to Challenge the PFA Team of the Year
The Professional Footballers' Association Team of the Year was announced on Sunday evening by the PFA on Twitter, with 11 of the Premier League's best performers voted into the all-star side.
Whilst many of them have been outstanding for their clubs this term, as usual, there were a few who caused a little consternation, with talented rivals vying for the same positions.
As such, we've come up with a team—and a few extras—who could lay claim to deserving a place alongside the stars of the season with our Alternative XI.
Actual team of the year: Cech; Coleman, Cahill, Kompany, Shaw; Lallana, Gerrard, Toure, Hazard; Sturridge, Suarez.
Goalkeeper: David De Gea, Manchester United
David De Gea's impressive form for Manchester United this season has been largely overlooked on account of the rest of the team putting in such constantly dire displays under David Moyes.
In truth, the Spanish stopper has had an excellent personal campaign, continuing his growth into one of Europe's top keepers. His agility and reflexes continue to be his chief attributes, but he has become more consistent, able to take high balls with confidence, and his positioning has also improved.
The Spaniard certainly should have been a consideration for the team of the year.
Right-Back: Cesar Azpilicueta, Chelsea
The actual team of the year doesn't worry about putting players slightly out of position, so neither shall we.
How the Chelsea right-turned-left-back failed to make the team of the year, on either flank, is a complete mystery. He's probably been the best defensive-first full-back in the league this term, and he certainly should have taken a spot in the official list.
He's in ours, anyway.
Centre-Back: Martin Skrtel, Liverpool
Liverpool's strength has been their attack, but that means they rely even more heavily on their central defenders to do a good job when under pressure.
Martin Skrtel has been largely excellent this term, playing every game since late August, consistently clearing the Reds' defensive lines and also contributing at the other end.
It's hard to argue against the "chosen two," but Skrtel certainly gives them a run for their money.
Centre-Back: Per Mertesacker, Arsenal
Arsenal's giant German, Per Mertesacker, has also continued his ascent to being one of the league's top defenders.
He, and his team-mate Laurent Koscielny, have had the odd game in which they've been hit for six by pace, power and incisive play of the kind Arsenal themselves used to be known for, but much of those defeats can be attributed to the tactical incompetence ahead of the defensive line and the refusal to alter, not the defence itself.
The centre of it, anyway.
Mertesacker has been resilient, impressive and consistent; less error strewn than his club partner, he's the man to partner Skrtel in our team.
Left-Back: Leighton Baines, Everton
Leighton Baines looks an almost-certain starter for England at the World Cup now, though he hasn't actually even been the best full-back at Everton. Team-mate Seamus Coleman rightly made it into the team of the year, but Baines shouldn't have been far off the counting for the left-back spot.
Impressive in possession and when raiding forward to cross or play passes infield, Baines is a constant outlet for Everton down the flank and yet possesses the defensive mindset to quickly get himself back in position and contribute in the back four significantly.
Right Midfield: Raheem Sterling, Liverpool
Liverpool attacking midfielder Raheem Sterling has thrived on both flanks and centrally this season, but he has operated in most starts from the right flank.
His immense pace and acceleration, coupled with good dribbling skills, make him a ridiculously tough opponent to keep quiet all game, while his use of space on and off the ball has vastly improved this term.
Sterling has added goals and chance creation to his game on a regular basis this term and would likely have been favourite for Young Player of the Year if the award was actually handed out to young players.
Central Midfield: Aaron Ramsey, Arsenal
What could have been?
Arsenal fans will point to Aaron Ramsey's long-term absence as a reason for their inability to challenge harder in the Premier League and the Champions League.
The Welsh midfielder started the season in immense form, scoring goals and showing his great technique and ability to break defensive lines with runs from deep, and he has quickly settled back into that rhythm after returning. More games and performances along these lines, and he could have been in the main 11.
Central Midfield: Fernandinho, Manchester City
Fernandinho's debut season in England has been extremely impressive after perhaps a slow opening month or so.
Dominant in the centre of the park as the only real "sitter" in Manchester City's midfield, he shows equal aptitude in winning back the ball, distributing it with positive intent and in breaking forward to support attacks when the team selection allows him to.
Overshadowed somewhat by team-mate Yaya Toure's attacking exploits, Fernandinho's absence from the team arguably gives City greater problems to replace.
Left Midfield: David Silva, Manchester City
Another City player now: David Silva.
The Spanish playmaker didn't have an incredible first half of the season, but his form since the turn of the year has been up there with the league's best. Especially in big games, his ability to take control and make things happen for his team has been extremely important for City.
Gifted in possession, great creativity and vision are complemented by Silva's incisive passing ability and the odd unexpected effort from range.
Forward: Wayne Rooney, Manchester United
No Manchester United players featured in the team of the year this season, but Wayne Rooney couldn't have been a million miles away from the top two forwards, even if they were shoo-ins to feature.
The United forward has been one of a small handful to impress with movement and work ethic over the course of the season, also scoring 19 goals in the process.
Playing as a centre-forward is clearly his best role, and it arguably helps the team most, too, but he's certainly been United's best outfield player this season in any case.
Forward: Sergio Aguero, Manchester City
Sergio Aguero's injury problems have prevented him from making as many appearances as he would have liked this season, and they have likely stopped him from competing for the player of the year award and the Golden Boot.
Even so, he's scored 27 for Manchester City in all competitions, with his ability to score from any angle just as much as his all-round, on-the-ball ability a cause for concern for opposition defenders.
Another 10 appearances from Aguero and City might be clear at the top of the table, instead of chasing with three games to go.
Honourable Mentions: Defensive Players
Dejan Lovren, Southampton
Allan McGregor, Hull City
Branislav Ivanovic, Chelsea
Curtis Davies, Hull City
Mathieu Debuchy, Newcastle United
Honourable Mentions: Offensive Players
Jay Rodriguez, Southampton
James McCarthy, Everton
Christian Eriksen, Tottenham Hotspur
Romelu Lukaku, Everton
Wilfried Bony, Swansea City
There are several managers who could be in the running for the top boss award, though your point of view on what constitutes a great achievement could change who deserves it the most.
Tony Pulis has taken Crystal Palace from relegation certainties to midtable safety in just a few months, while Mauricio Pochettino has Southampton into the top half and behind the seven "big teams" in the league.
Roberto Martinez has taken Everton to the verge of Champions League football, and Steve Bruce has promoted Hull City already safe from relegation and into an FA Cup final.
It is most likely, though, that Brendan Rodgers' achievements with Liverpool this season should land the manager of the year award. The Reds were seventh last season yet sit top of the Premier League table this term with just two games to go. A defeat to Chelsea last time out has halted their long run of wins, but they are still top.
Two more wins could yet take the title to be decided on goal difference, and whether that sees Liverpool win or not, the team under Rodgers have already surpassed every expectation possible of them this campaign.