Arsenal, Liverpool players dominate early English Premiership XI
Posted Saturday, October 19 2013 at 01:00
Way too much pressure is being heaped upon English Premiership players and their managers this season, but it is the price all involved are paying for being beneficiaries of the highest grossing football league in the world.
With no two players is the mayhem better spelt out than with Mesut Ozil and Marounne Fellaini, men shipped in for tones of cash to change the fortunes of their clubs and promptly asked to deliver. Ozil has gotten off in a hurry, the king of the assists laying on one for Olivier Giroud with virtually his first kick in an Arsenal shirt at Sunderland, and then quickly growing in stature with enthralled onlookers acting like they knew he would.
By contrast, Fellaini has had a torrid time on the pitch so far and is taking a good old fashioned hammering from all and sundry.
Ridiculous as it obviously is, the big Belgian has already been branded ‘worst signing of the season’ by a good few in England, after only three starts and a couple of substitute appearances in a team clearly suffering from the initial pangs of change and transition. To say that the decree is premature is to grossly understate matters, in much the same way as it is to assume that for the mercurial Ozil it will always come as easy as it has so far. The German’s decidedly subpar showing at West Brom a fortnight ago was meant to be the reality check that got lost in the hype.
But that is what the world’s most over sold commercial product has become, one in which Martin Jol mournfully tips himself as the next managerial casualty because of a rocky start, in which Liverpool become title favourites and Crystal Palace relegation fodder long before the Christmas lights go on.
Regular readers of this column will not be worried though that I have got sucked into this rash and impulsive culture just because I choose to pick a best eleven only seven games in. It is just a game which for years I have loved to play just so I keep tabs on proceedings, just so at the end of it all in May I don’t pick a season’s line-up made up of late bloomers or momentary hot streakers.
So, who has been the best so far? Encouraged to pick only three at the back by the occasional but successful use of the same ploy already this season by bold, innovative young managers like Brendan Rodgers, Mauricio Pochettino and Michael Laudrup, I go for a 3-4-3 formation.
One of those to enhance this growing culture of ‘instantism’, the Belgian got between Liverpool’s sticks and hastily proceeded to fill his Reina-sized gloves with a man-of-the-match exhibition on his debut against Sunderland. He hasn’t put a paw wrong since.
One of my picks in the back three I am fronting, Toure has emulated his goalkeeping teammate with instant impact, turning back the clock with outstanding performances in central defence and out of position at right back. Whether he can maintain that level throughout is another matter, but for now he is bang in the thick of it.
The Premier League’s Mr Consistent is at it again. The managerial changes at Chelsea have never got in the way of output, and whether he has been asked to slot in at right back or in central defence it hasn’t mattered in the past, and hasn’t now either.
On the left side of the back three is the Everton man who is showing no signs of transfer window blues after his much-touted big move to Man United didn’t materialise. The unfailing Ashley Cole and Patrice Evra have started strongly too, but Baines has bettered them for goals, assists, tackles, leadership, the works.
The deepest-lying of my midfield four, Flamini is yet another who has got off in great haste. Going about like one eternally grateful for landing a second chance he didn’t expect or deserve, the Frenchman has given Arsenal the base from which to launch the relentless attacks that have put them top of the pile.
Alongside Flamini I put the untiring Ramires, the Brazilian ‘manufactured’ to Jose Mourinho specifications who has been a mainstay in Chelsea’s otherwise rotating line-up, his box-to-box endeavours paying great dividends on both ends.
Ahead of the two grafters comes Yaya Toure, the man who after all these years still remains Man City’s all-action driving force. In the absence of David Silva and with many changes in front of him game-to-game, Yaya has had to lead by example and is joint top scorer for Man City. In ahead of Everton’s Ross Barkley.
The fourth of my midfielders is the man charged with the playmaking role for this team, the jewel in the crown if you like, who has strolled into England and made hard work look like, well, a stroll. Gliding across Premiership pitches with amazing grace, he has turned the previously under-valued ‘assist’ into a fashion statement in the English game.