x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

The alternative best XI in the Premier League

Richard Jolly picks his eleven from those overlooked for the PFA Team of the year.

Making Tim Krul first choice goalkeeper at Newcastle has proved to be an inspired decision by Alan Pardew.
Making Tim Krul first choice goalkeeper at Newcastle has proved to be an inspired decision by Alan Pardew.

Even as the players had their say, they overlooked some of their own. The PFA Team of the Year had some worthy inclusions but several notable omissions, footballers whose achievements deserve to be acknowledged. So here is an alternative team of the season:

Goalkeeper: Tim Krul (Newcastle United)

Rewind eight months and it is worth remembering that Krul was a controversial choice to start the season. Harsh as it was on the long-serving Steve Harper, Alan Pardew's decision has proved correct. The agility, athleticism and all-round excellence of the young Dutchman have been key factors in Newcastle's rise.

Right-back: Micah Richards (Manchester City)

Like Kyle Walker, the PFA's choice, the high-speed surges Richards makes up the right flank have been a feature of the season. Perhaps unlike the Spurs player, and his rival for a place in the England team, however, the City man has been terrific defensively. Every aspect of his game has improved and his sense of responsibility was recognised when he captained City in Vincent Kompany's absence.

Centre-back: Johnny Heitinga (Everton)

While he is a World Cup finalist, in Heitinga's first two years at Goodison Park, he was part odd-job man, part substitute. This year, however, the Dutchman has become a cornerstone of the defence, finally granted an extended run in his preferred position, keeping Phil Jagielka out of the team and helping Everton become one of the most frugal teams in the division.

Centre-back: Daniel Agger (Liverpool)

High on the charge sheet of crimes committed by Roy Hodgson at Anfield was his decision to select the cumbersome Sotirios Kyrgiakos ahead of Agger in the centre of defence. Kenny Dalglish has made no such mistake and has reaped the benefits. When the Dane is fit, Liverpool's defensive record is comparable to Manchester United's. When he is alongside Martin Skrtel, the Slovakian plays better.

Left-back: Ryan Taylor (Newcastle United)

This is a tough one: Leighton Baines is the outstanding left-back in the division. But, given Newcastle's progress this season, Taylor may have proved the most influential. His winner at Sunderland in August gave them momentum. A second superb long-range goal, against Everton, was a sign of his technical ability. A right-sided midfielder parachuted into the back four when Jose Enrique was sold, his can-do attitude has summed Newcastle up.

Right winger: Antonio Valencia (Manchester United)

A striker's dream. Valencia has been the most reliable supply line in the division this season, with 13 Premier League assists to his name. Many are the product of a no-frills approach: his methodology rarely strays beyond sprinting past his immediate opponent and crossing accurately, but it rarely needs to. And while his goals are rarer, an unstoppable swerving effort at Blackburn may be one of the most significant in the title race.

Centre midfield: Leon Britton (Swansea City)

The midfield metronome. There was some surprise when statistics showed the Londoner was the most accurate distributor in Europe, just ahead of Xavi at Barcelona, but he has laid the platform for Swansea's Barca-esque passing game. Plenty of distinguished opponents have tried to disrupt it. Most of them have failed.

Centre midfield: Paul Scholes (Manchester United)

The comeback of the season. Scholes began the year in retirement, rescinded it in January and has made a remarkable return. United have won 12 and drawn two of his 14 league games with the 37 year old providing a series of masterclasses in passing the ball precisely and perceptively. One of Old Trafford's all-time greats is savouring his second chance.

Left winger: Clint Dempsey (Fulham)

It may not be a travesty of justice that Dempsey was neither in the PFA's Team of the Year nor on the shortlist for their Player of the Year award, but it is not far off being one. With 22 goals in all competitions, the American has only been outscored by Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Sergio Aguero. With 16 in the Premier League, he is overshadowing some rather expensive strikers. And yet he has spent much of the season on the left flank, cutting in with purpose and potency.

Striker: Demba Ba (Newcastle United)

Now he is sacrificing himself for the side, and the prolific Papiss Demba Cisse in particular, on the left flank, but Ba's run of 15 goals in as many games between September and January was phenomenal. Without him, there is no way Newcastle would have confounded expectations the way they have. And, recruited on a free transfer, the Senegalese may be the signing of the season.

Striker: Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)

If there was something predictable in the PFA's choice of Rooney ahead of Aguero, it may be a little unfair. The Argentine has been the sharpest striker in the League, making a seamless adjustment to a new club and new country. For all the talent at City's disposal, he has shouldered a huge burden with Carlos Tevez absent for much of the year, Mario Balotelli ever unpredictable and Edin Dzeko flattering to deceive.

Substitutes: Michel Vorm (Swansea City), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal), Michael Carrick (Manchester United), Yohan Cabaye (Newcastle United), Ramires (Chelsea), Grant Holt (Norwich), Yakubu (Blackburn).

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