2007/2008 Premier League Team Of The Year: The Midfield
Right Midfielder: Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United)
In what could possibly go down as the only 'undisputed' pick for the Team of the Season, Cristiano Ronaldo's goal-crazy season has generated all sorts of media attention, as journalists are dubbing him as the best player in the world.
With 41 goals (and counting) to his name, there's no denying that Ronaldo's season puts him up there with the likes of Manchester United legend George Best.
Simply put, the stats speak for themselves.
Forty-one goals is already an astounding achievement for any striker to be putting in the back of the next, but for a winger? That's almost unheard of these days. For a player of Ronaldo's caliber, there really is no limit as to whether he has even reached his full potential.
Perhaps, Ronaldo can be a little selfish when closing in on goal, but it takes a player that knows how to finish in order to put the ball in the back of the net. A master from any dead-ball situation, whether it be from the spot or beyond, Ronaldo has defied all logic on his way to claiming the PFA Player of the Year and Golden Boot awards.
Unrivaled free-kick ability, pace, heading ability, stamina, vision, pure skill, trickery with moves, and almost a cocky demeanor are part of the aura that is Cristiano Ronaldo.
He's certainly proven the doubters wrong; particularly, the ones that criticized him for overdoing his overzealous step-overs and teasing runs all over the pitch, and those who claimed Ronaldo wasn't delivering enough when it mattered most.
There are still claims that Ronaldo may still go down too easily, but Manchester United supporters will be quick to remind skeptics that opponents, on a weekly basis, almost always target CR7 heavily through rough challenges.
Thanks to a season for the ages delivered by Cristiano Ronaldo, Alexander Hleb (Arsenal), David Bentley (Blackburn) and Mikel Arteta (Everton) most likely found their names omitted from any consideration when football fans were compiling their squad for the Team of the Season.
With rumors of Hleb leaving for Inter Milan, Arsene Wenger could ill-afford to lose another talented youngster to the Italian clubs, with Mathieu Flamini already leaving for AC Milan. Often described as one of the most skillful player in the Premier League, Hleb's play down the right and left flanks was a big reason why Arsenal was capable of playing such captivating football—despite the long-term injury suffered by Tomas Rosicky.
Blackburn's David Bentley has had countless comparisons of himself with David Beckham as he looks to set his sights in unseating the LA Galaxy midfielder as England's starting right midfielder.
After he openly admitted that he was tired of wallowing away on the sidelines at Arsenal, Bentley switched over to Blackburn where he has shone as Mark Hughes' star man down the right. A big money move could be imminent, considering the interest being shown by Liverpool and Spurs.
Mikel Arteta from Everton also garners praise for his efforts as the Toffees' maestro and playmaker. Although fighting stomach pains since December, Arteta has put in another consistent season where he's proven to be the focal point of Everton's midfield along with Tim Cahill
Central Midfielders: Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal) and Gareth Barry (Aston Villa)
It’s hard to believe, but it was only seven months ago when Gareth Barry finally shot to the scene as an England player with a role to play at the international level. With over 350 appearances under his belt, the Aston Villa captain’s performances this season at Villa Park have earned him the nod—ahead of Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Michael Essien, and Javier Mascherano, just to name a few.
Although it’s almost become something of a rarity for a player to possess a strong left foot in the central midfield, Barry is amongst one of the few players that is capable of doing so. His ability to spray the ball left and right across the pitch has all sorts of pundits falling head over heels with his quality as a footballer.
With nine goals and 10 assists to his name in league play this season, his quality in the holding midfield role has won the admiration from Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez, as he looks to close in on a deal for Barry, much to Martin O’Neill’s chagrin.
Despite his young age of 21, Cesc Fabregas heads into the upcoming Euro 2008 Championships as one of the greatest players that the footballing world has to offer. Along with his partnership with Mathieu Flamini in the heart of the Arsenal midfield, Fabregas has officially developed into the product that Arsene Wenger had always envisioned him to be.
As well as scoring 13 goals in all competitions, he was also on the end of delivering 20 assists, a stat that reflects his quality as a playmaker.
Pace, vision, youth, leadership, and uncanny tackling ability: Cesc Fabregas is the entire package when it comes to being the ideal central midfielder.
Teammates Javier Mascherano and Steven Gerrard (Liverpool) have also put in an excellent season while in Liverpool colors with their darting runs and solid tackling abilities.
Frank Lampard, Michael Ballack and Michael Essien (Chelsea) had their moments of magic while bringing the Blues’ back to surprising glory in both the Premier League and the Champions League. Ballack, in particular, has bounced back from a previously disappointing season in the Premier League, and figures to be a key player in Chelsea’s long-term future.
Despite Mathieu Flamini’s (Arsenal) decision to bolt to Milan, the Frenchman officially emerged as a player capable of playing a world-class level with his strong challenges and calming presence in front of the Arsenal backline. His departure will mean that Wenger could be looking at another potential target to fill the void left by Flamini.
England duo Michael Carrick and Owen Hargreaves (Manchester United) have proven themselves as more than capable of filling in the central midfield, and are often highly regarded by pundits for their distribution qualities, both through the long ball and shorter passes.
Tim Cahill’s (Everton) absence from the Everton lineup didn’t go unnoticed as the Toffees struggled without their energetic Australian in the starting eleven. His darting runs and timely goals are a big reason why David Moyes’ men are in the position that they are in today.
Left Midfielder: Ashley Young (Aston Villa)
With the talent that Ashley Young brings to the table in Aston Villa colors, it's not wonder why Martin O'Neill coughed up an estimated record £9.0 million to land his star winger from Watford.
Blessed with great pace and ability to get the ball into the box with his deep crosses, Young is proving to be one of the most exciting domestic talents that the Premier League has to offer.
With such solid performances at the age of 22, O'Neill might have to face stiff competition to keep his record signing happy at Villa Park after putting up eight goals and 17 assists in the 2007/2008 campaign.
If Young can continue to produce at such a consistent rate, he should have a role to play by the time the 2010 World Cup takes place in South Africa.
While Elano's form dipped drastically after Sven Goran Eriksson's men were hit by the injury bug, Martin Petrov (Manchester City) continued to provide consistent service down the flanks in his first season in England's top flight. Following in the footsteps of Dmitar Berbatov, Petrov has made his mark in the Premier League and will look to play a key role in City's domestic and European campaigns.
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