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An alternative Team of the Decade

With 2020 fast approaching, an entire decade of Premier League football has passed us by in the blink of an eye. With that in mind, Sky Sports pundits Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher each announced their team of the decade on Monday Night Football causing quite a stir online. Whilst there is no doubt that each of their sides was fulled on quality, some world class players were also left out. As such, we decided to make an alternative team of the decade. Check out who the boys selected before viewing our own selections. Which of the teams do you think is best?

 

 

GK – Joe Hart

Stop laughing for a moment and cast your mind back to a time when the fresh-faced Hart was yet to become the face of Head and Shoulders and, later, the Burnley bench. Instead he was the heart of a nouveau riche Manchester City who would win their first Premier League in the 2011/12 season.

Such has been Hart’s decline in the latter part of the decade that it’s easy to forget what he accomplished in the first half, including winning the Premier League Golden Glove award,  given to the keeper with the most clean sheets, four times in five seasons between 2010 and 2015.

When he eventually left Manchester City in 2018, forced out by the rise of the ball-playing goalie, he had kept 137 clean sheets in 348 appearances for the club, winning the league twice, as well as three domestic cups and earning 75 England caps.

 

 

Also considered: Petr Cech / Thibaut Courtois

 

RB – Branislav Ivanovic

Despite interest from across Europe, the Serbian right back was a relative unknown on these shores when he arrived at Stamford Bridge in 2008 but nine years later he left a household name.

It actually took Ivanovic a couple of seasons to break into the Chelsea side, with neither Luiz Felipe Scolari nor Guus Hiddink giving him a regular run. However, under Carlo Ancelotti Ivanovic was given a chance to make the right back position his own and never looked backed.

Although not responsible for signing him, Jose Mourinho was a huge fan. He said;

“Is he one of the club’s best signings? I think so. He came immediately after I left and after that he made a fantastic contribution for this club. He is a competitive animal with a big heart.”

Ivanovic eventually departed with an impressive haul of three Premier Leagues, two FA Cups, a League Cup, a Europa League, a Champions League and two inclusions in the PFA Team of the Year. His lowlight undoubtedly came at the hands of professional killjoy Geoff Shreeves.

 

 

CB – Toby Alderweireld

Virgil Van Dijk made a name for himself  transforming Southampton’s defence before doing the same to a member of the big six. However, Toby Alderweireld was blazing that particular trail long before it was trendy.

Spending the 2014/15 season on loan at the Saints from Atletico Madrid, Alderweireld formed a formidable partnership with Jose Fonte. Southampton conceded just 33 goals, finishing the campaign with the league’s second best defensive record and finishing seventh.

Staying on the south coast for just a single season, Alderweireld made a permanent move to Tottenham where struck up an even better double act alongside fellow Belgian Jan Vertonghen. Conceding 35 goals in 2015/16, Spurs had the joint best defensive record in the Premier League before taking the crown by themselves in 2016/17 when they only shipped 26.

It wouldn’t be unreasonable to suggest that Alderweireld was the best defender in the country over that period of time and he deserves his place in any team of the decade.

 

 

CB – John Terry

Captain, leader, legend. Not in the eyes of Wayne Bridge or Rio Ferdinand, perhaps, but certainly the view of the Chelsea fans who watched their greatest ever defender enter his peak years in 2010.

Often unfairly regarded as a throwback to the Tony Adams and Terry Butcher era of no nonsense cloggers, John Terry was so much more. In fact, so good was his distribution that in 2011 he had the third best passing success rate in the world behind Barcelona’s mercurial Xavi and, bizarrely, Swansea’s Leon Britton.

Already highly decorated by the turn of the decade, Terry added three Premier League titles, two FA Cups, a League Cup, the Europa League and the Champions League to his medal collection after 2010 had ticked over. His retirement from the England national team, which he had captained, in 2012 was seen as a bitter blow for the national side.

Morally questionable? Certainly. However, Terry is arguably the league’s finest ever defender and has to be included.

 

LB – Andrew Robertson

Probably the least experienced addition to this team but left back was a surprisingly difficult position to fill. Ashley Cole was beginning to wind down by 2010 or would have been a shoo in. Leighton Baines was also under consideration, having made two PFA Teams of the Year, but loses out due to my unashamed big club bias.

Instead I’ve opted for Baines’ city rival, Andrew Robertson. With two relegations on his CV at Hull, he seemed an unusual signing for Liverpool in the summer of 2017 but, after two and a bit seasons at the club, he has become arguably the best left back in the world.

Joining for just £8 million, a fraction of the price Liverpool would pay for Virgil Van Dijk, the marauding Scot has been as impressive as his Dutch teammate in the initial stages of his Liverpool career.

Pacing the opposite flank to Trent Alexander-Arnold, surely a candidate for the team of the 2020’s, the duo make up the finest wing back pairing in world football and are redefining the role.

Since making his debut, Robertson has played 128 matches for the Reds. He has won 65 of them, kept 36 clean sheets and, significantly, contributed 25 assists.

 

 

Also considered: Antonio Valencia / Jan Vertonghen / Kyle Walker / Gary Cahill / Leighton Baines / Rio Ferdinand / Ashley Cole

 

DM – Fernandinho

When the Brazilian joined Man City from Shakhtar Donetsk, few would imagine the importance he would grow to have.

Three Premier League titles and four domestic cups later, Fernandinho’s significance is best illustrated by the stats that compare City’s performances with and without him in the side.

Without Fernandinho, City’s average points per game drops from 2.42 to 1.83, their scoring declines from 2.54 goals per game to 2.25 and their goals conceded increases from 0.76 per game to 1.5.

So concerned was Pep Guardiola about the impact of Fernandinho’s eventual departure from the club, he will be 35 at the start of next season, that last summer the Spaniard prioritised the £60 million purchase of Rodri, the intended heir to the defensive midfield throne, instead of the defensive reinforcements that City so desperately need to try and lessen the impact of the change over.

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In an era when N’Golo Kante has taken many of the plaudits as the finest defensive midfielder in the league, if not the world, Fernandinho’s sizeable impact shouldn’t go unnoticed.

 

 

AM – Kevin De Bruyne

The best player in the Premier League at the moment. Arguably in the top three players in the world. One can only imagine that that the injuries he suffered were what kept De Bruyne out of Neville and Carragher’s team of the decade, otherwise it’s a complete mystery to me.

De Bruyne’s trophy cabinet and honour roll may not be as glittering as it should be for a player of his undeniable calibre but that should not detract from the notion that he is a class above any other player in the league. A statement that was true even before Eden Hazard departed.

In 2017/18 he registered 16 league assists but suffered an injury hit 2018/19. The sensational Belgian seems to be back to his best this season though, providing 9 assists in his first 12 appearances.

Since joining City he has registered 55 assists and 26 goals in 132 games, directly contributing to a goal every 1.6 games, a remarkable record that most strikers would be proud of, let alone an attacking midfielder.

 

 

AM- Christian Eriksen

Perhaps a controversial choice given that Spurs, and by extension Eriksen, have won nothing since he moved to London in 2013. Indeed, the final midfield spot was a tough position to fill.

James Milner can consider himself incredibly unlucky to miss out after defying all laws of aging and exceeding his natural talent to become a vital cog at both Manchester City and Liverpool. Cesc Fabregas, Michael Carrick and Santi Cazorla were also in contention.

However, Danish playmaker Eriksen gets the nod in our alternative team of the decade owing to his outrageous creativity and the goals he contributes. It is telling that, over the last three seasons, as a midfielder he has probably only been outperformed on this metric by the man who sits before him on this list.

The stats are straightforward; 217 games for the club, 50 goals and 61 assists. That’s a goal contribution just under every two games. It’s not quite as profilic as De Bruyne but don’t forget that whilst Belgian has been surrounded by a team of world class players who have just registered the two highest points tallies in Premier League history and is able to feed Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling, Eriksen was often playing alongside Vincent Janssen.

 

 

Also considered: Cesc Fabregas / Michael Carrick / Santi Cazorla / James Milner

 

FW – Jamie Vardy

Whilst it may be his wife who broke the internet this year, don’t let it escape your notice that Jamie Vardy is continuing to write one of the most incredible stories in modern football history.

Playing in the Conference Premier Division as recently as 2012, Vardy’s scoring record earnt him a move to Championship side Leicester City and a professional contract.

Four goals in his debut season suggested that he may have climbed too far, too quickly but 16 goals in the following campaign as the Foxes won promotion dispelled that notion.

Making his Premier League debut at the age of 26, Vardy wasn’t expected to set the division alight and a modest return of five goals in 2014/15 suggested that he may have found his level. However, what happened next wasn’t part of the script.

In arguably the greatest underdog story in the history of sport, Vardy notched 24 league goals in 2015/16 as 5000/1 Leicester won the Premier League. He hasn’t stopped scoring since.

Scoring 75 league goals in the four seasons leading up to the current campaign, Vardy is showing no signs of slowing down. The 32-year-old has scored 12 in 13 games this term and leads the golden boot race, with Leicester embarking on another unlikely title charge.

 

 

FW – Diego Costa

For three glorious seasons, Diego Costa proved himself as the finest footballing s***house that this country has ever seen.

During his time at Chelsea his list of newsworthy incidents could be a standalone blog. The highlights include abducting Antonio Conte from a press conference, threatening journalists with a fire extinguisher, playing with John Terry’s bum, pouring Lucozade into his own eyes during an interview and slapping Laurent Koscielny. He received 26 yellow cards in just 89 league games and was dubbed the dirtiest player in the league.

However, unlike other basket cases who have graced the division (see: Mario Balotelli) Costa was, quite simply, an absolute beast on the football pitch as well. Despite looking the wrong side of 50, Costa was utterly clinical in front of goal, scoring 52 and contributing 18 assists in those 89 games. That equates to a goal contribution every 107 minutes in which he played.

Having scored twenty goals in two of his three Premier League seasons, winning the league in both as well as the League Cup, Costa eventually departed for a second stint at Atletico Madrid in typically controversial fashion after Antonio Conte told him by text message that he had to leave.

The sort of player that you love on your team but hate to play against, he has to lead the attack of the alternative team of the decade.

 

 

FW – Mo Salah

Last, but not least, the most surprising omission from Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville’s teams of the decade, Egyptian attacker Mo Salah.

Just like Kevin De Bruyne before him, Salah played in the Premier League previously with an unsuccessful spell at Chelsea before departing for a foreign league. Returning to England before the start of the 2017 season, he joined Liverpool for a club record £38 million.

Salah got off to a positive but unspectacular start, scoring five goals in Liverpool’s opening ten matches, However, it was an away game against West Ham on matchday 11 when things suddenly clicked. Scoring a double against the hammers, he followed up with a consecutive brace against Southampton the following week.

The Egyptian didn’t stop scoring for the rest of the season. His final total was a remarkable 32 league goals which remains the highest ever haul in the Premier League season, winning him the Golden Boot. Following it up with 22 goals the following season he retained the trophy, albeit in a three way share with teammate Sadio Mane and Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

With 60 goals and 25 assists in 85 league games so far for Liverpool, Mo Salah has outrageously scored or created a goal every 90 minutes on average, a record that puts him up there with the finest players on the planet.

Having reached the Champions League final in each of his opening seasons, winning one of them, Salah looks set to inspire Liverpool to their first ever Premier League title this year. By the time he leaves, just how highly will he be considered on a list of all-time Premier League greats?

 

 

Also considered: Alexis Sanchez / Wayne Rooney / Robin Van Persie / Raheem Sterling / Romelu Lukaku

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