English Premier League: Best 11 Players at This Point in the Campaign
A popular part of American sports is the selection of an all-star team. Selection to such a team is a player's validation for their performance over a season and many players strive to make their respective all-star teams.
This is not to suggest that the English Premier League needs to select an all-star team at the conclusion of their season. They don't. The MLS All-Stars were no match for a weak Manchester United team during the offseason.
The idea, however, is interesting. Think if the best players in the Premier League could get together and square off against all-star teams from other leagues. You can't tell me you wouldn't be interested.
Here is the starting 11 if it were to be picked at this point in the 2011-12 campaign.
Joe Hart: Goal Keeper
Joe Hart gets the nod at keeper above Newcastle United's Tim Krul. It was a difficult decision, but considering that Manchester City is at the top of the table and that Hart has more saves that Krul and the same number of clean sheets I went with Hart as my "number one".
The 2010-11 winner of the Barclay's Golden Glove for keeping the most clean sheets in the Premier League (18), Hart has continued his fantastic form so far this season. His 26 saves in the league are impressive, although not tops.
The more impressive figure is his four clean sheets. Hart is a big reason why Manchester City has gotten off to such a hot start in the league.
Long gone are the days when Hart had to worry about Shay Given threatening his status at City. While Given is still a fine keeper, Hart is at the top of his game and is only getting better. I expect him to continue his great form and win another Golden Glove this season.
Ashley Cole: Left Back
Ashley Cole was selected as my starting left back. He was picked over Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Jose Enrique.
While the forms of both Assou-Ekotto and Enrique have been good, Cole was found to be a little better. All three have recorded two assists in the Premier League, but Cole sets himself apart defensively.
Cole does well going forward to supplement the attack, but his recovery skills are a true asset to Chelsea. Defensively he is one of the best, if not the best, left backs in the Premier League.
Another attribute that sets him apart is his threat on goal. So far this season, he has taken five more shots than Assou-Ekotto and Enrique combined.
Cole's reputation precedes him, but he is not getting by solely based on reputation. His form has been good and if Chelsea hope to challenge the Manchester teams, Cole will be a big part of their plans.
Vincent Kompany: Center Back
Vincent Kompany, the big center back from Manchester City, may surprise some to make this list. Not so long ago, Kompany was viewed as an extra piece of City's defense, with Joleon Lescott and Kolo Toure seen as better options. This is certainly no longer the case.
Kompany has become a fulcrum in City's defense and has played a big part in the Blues four clean sheets.
Kompany, a Belgium international, has struggled with some injuries in his career, but seems to be over them for the time being.
The best part? Kompany is only 25 and is just entering the prime of his career. Give him a few years and he could be one of the best center backs in the world.
John Terry: Center Back
There are many things that have been said about John Terry, the most recent being that he is a racist. At times his off-field issues, true or not, have overshadowed his considerable talent. That's saying something for a player who has been one of the best defenders in England over the past several years.
Terry's inclusion on this team is not based on reputation, however. He has been in exceptional form so far this season.
Terry offers a legitimate goal threat from the center back position on set pieces, as he already has two to his tally so far. His leadership skills also set him apart from other players and he would most likely be the leader of this team.
Terry is now on the wrong side of 30, but so far it doesn't seem to be slowing him down.
Only time will tell if he can maintain this level of play, but as of now he is as good as it gets for central defenders.
Danny Simpson: Right Back
Danny Simpson is no doubt the biggest surprise on this list, but those who feel that he doesn't belong haven't watched him play this season.
Simpson has been very solid on both sides of the ball and has been a large part of Newcastle's success this season.
The former Manchester United man wasted no time in becoming Toon's first choice right back. Simpson has become one of the most valuable players at his club, with Newcastle recently offering him a three and a half year contract extension.
Toon has the best defense at this point in the Premier League, allowing a league low six goals this season.
The sky is the limit for the 24 year old Simpson and I expect him to establish himself as one of the best right backs in the Premier League.
Ashley Young: Right Midfield
Ashley Young has been known as one of the best wingers in England since his days with Watford and then Aston Villa, but he has taken his game to the next level with Manchester United.
With great pace and an even better cross, Young is unplayable when he is on form. To this point in the season, he has two goals and five assists in nine games.
He has been a great complement for Nani on the left wing, something United badly needed since Ryan Giggs has taken on a deeper role.
I see the Premier League being only a two horse race by the end of the season and if United hope to keep pace with City, Young will have to continue his good form.
Frank Lampard: Central Holding Midfield
Frank Lampard is a player that many will expect to have made the team based on his reputation, but his form has been as good as any player on this list.
Lampard has already scored four goals and added three assists this season. He is on pace to score 16 goals which would be the second most he's scored in a single season.
Lampard is possibly the smartest player in the game as well as being one of the most consistent. He is a true box-to-box midfielder, capable of playing just about any role.
At 33, Lampard's best years are likely behind him, but for the time being he is playing some fantastic football. Unless injuries creep up on him, I don't see him slowing down this season.
Rafael Van Der Vaart: Central Attacking Midfield
Rafael van der Vaart was Tottenham Hotspur's leading scorer and arguably their best player a year ago. The good news for Spurs fans is that he doesn't seem to have slowed down so far this season.
Van der Vaart has five goals and two assists in the current campaign and has begun the scoring for Spurs in the past four matches.
Sure van der Vaart doesn't play much defense and sure he is hard to fit in a typical formation, but he is a match winner when on his game.
Since van der Vaart joined Tottenham, he has played with a chip on his shoulder and, with the way Real Madrid let him go, I don't blame him.
If he continues on his current pace, he will surpass his stats from last season.
Van der Vaart brings something different to the attack and is a real goal scoring threat, and he deserves his spot on this team
David Silva: Left Midfield
David Silva, in his second season with Manchester City, has established himself as one of the best players in the world. He is smart, tricky and extremely hard to dispossess.
The sprightly Spaniard could play on either wing, as part of a front three, or in role behind the strikers. He is that versatile.
So far this season, Silva has three goals and six assists in league play. He has formed a real connection with the City strike force, and is probably their best player.
City has such a wealth of talent that they would still be good without Silva, but they wouldn't be top of the table good. He is their engine and, as this season progresses, more people will come to realize just how good he is.
It's ironic that Silva is one of the best players in his league, but struggles for playing time on the Spanish national team. That speaks to the quality of Xavi and Andres Iniesta, but it shouldn't be long until Silva is a regular with Spain.
Wayne Rooney: Striker
There is no question that Wayne Rooney has returned to his best after a meltdown threatened his future at Manchester United early last season. So far this campaign, Wazza has been spectacular.
Rooney has already scored nine goals in league play, tied for the lead.
This is especially impressive considering that Rooney doesn't always play the role of a forward. Often he can be seen deep in his own half tracking back on defense or collecting the ball to start a new attack.
Rooney is one of the most unselfish strikers around, often looking to tee up a teammate rather than trying to score on his own. However, he is also a great finisher with an eye for the spectacular. Rooney is possibly the most complete striker in the world.
Don't be surprised if Rooney is the leading scorer in the Premier League at the end of this season and in seasons to come.
Sergio Aguero: Striker
I wonder what the people who thought Sergio Aguero would have trouble adjusting to the Premier League are saying now. They couldn't have been more wrong. Aguero has been on fire to start the season.
Scoring nine goals in eight appearances is no easy feat, but doing it among Manchester City's striking depth is even more impressive.
Aguero has been playing so well that he has made Carlos Tevez (whom I would still consider to be one of the world's best strikers) surplus to requirements at City.
Aguero offers a different attacking style than Wayne Rooney, but would complement him perfectly. Aguero is the more ruthless striker, he always seems to be in the right place and is never scared to take a shot.
Imagine if Rooney and Aguero were strike partners. There would be no limit to what they could achieve.
I know this all-star team is only for fun, but I can't help but get excited about the thought of these players all wearing the same jersey. It would certainly be fun to watch.