The Best Players of the Premier League Season So Far…

Goalkeepers

Michel Vorm (Swansea City), Joe Hart (Manchester City), Tim Krul (Newcastle United)

When Swansea City won promotion to the Premier League, I thought it was a steal by Wolverhampton Wanderers when Mick McCarthy signed their keeper Dorius de Vries, but half a season gone, it appears they’ve not missed him at all.

City boss Brendan Rodgers signed another Dutch keeper in Michel Vorm, who’s been one of the best performers in the EPL so far, with 9 Clean Sheets already, a superb stat for a newly promoted club to the ‘best league in the world’.

City’s Joe Hart continues to keep his high level of performance with a number of outstanding saves, including one-on-ones which is only good news for England fans. And Tim Krul’s efforts in goal for Newcastle have not gone unnoticed.

Defenders

Micah Richards (Manchester City), Benoit Assou-Ekotto (Tottenham Hotspur), Fabricio Coloccini (Newcastle United), Phil Jones (Manchester United)

Full-Backs have stolen the limelight so far this season with Micah Richards of City and Assou-Ekotto of Spurs putting in consistent performances which go ignored more than centre backs. How Fabio Capello can exclude Richards from the England squads still amazes me.

Newcastle’s impressive half to the season was down to their back Four being unchanged until injuries interrupted form. Steven Taylor certainly looks to have improved on his game, whilst his fellow defensive partner in the middle, Coloccini has got a whole lot better since he first arrived on Tyneside.

Is he a defender or a midfielder? Maybe he’s both, it’s Phil Jones, who’s had a good spell in midfield for United but I’ll include him in the Defenders section. Despite his own goal at Newcastle, Jones has still had a good season and has taken to United like a duck to water. Good things to come, for many years.

Midfielders

David Silva (Manchester City), Nani (Manchester United), Tottenham’s Quartet, Swansea City, Mikel Arteta (Arsenal), Anthony Pilkington (Norwich City), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Juan Mata (Chelsea)

The arrival of David Silva to the Premier League has been a joy to behold, his class has been entertaining on many occasions this season but he’s also joined by other good performers in the middle for City in the likes of Yaya Toure and Gareth Barry.

Silva and Nani, top performers

United’s Nani has been fairly consistent this season, perhaps considered more of an attacker than a midfielder, the dazzling winger has provided a fair share of goals and assists. Does he have enough in his engine to keep going?

I have been wholly impressed with Spurs quartet or quintet. The signing of Scott Parker has been important as well keeping Luka Modric, whilst Aaron Lennon, Gareth Bale and Van der Vaart are always dangerous going forward.

Impressive

Swansea City’s flair can be founded in their midfield, various stats have appeared this season which show Mark Gower, Joe Allen and Leon Britton to have better passing rates than Barcelona’s, although stats can be misconstrued, Brendan Rodgers has Swansea playing attractive possession football with an attacking threat. Also, Scott Sinclair has taken the Premier League by storm on the wing having been let go by Chelsea many seasons ago.

No Fear for the Premier League

The other impressive promoted club Norwich City have Anthony Pilkington, signed from League One Huddersfield Town, in the summer. The versatile midfielder has chipped in with a few goals already and does not look out of place like his team-mates and manager in the EPL.

As for Chelsea, Juan Mata has added the creativity they needed in an ageing team and whilst they may have missed Michael Essien, Frank Lampard has had a better season than most people would lead you to believe. He’s got 9 goals from the middle, despite missing a number of games and although he’s now the wrong side of 30, he’s still got quality.

Attackers

Demba Ba (Newcastle United), Sergio Aguero (Manchester City) Emmanuel Adebayor (Tottenham Hotspur), Jonathan Walters (Stoke City), Steve Morison (Norwich City), Danny Graham (Swansea City)

Of course, plaudits go to Magpies forward Demba Ba, who’s certainly made the Toon Army forget about Andy Carroll a year since their prodigal son departed for pastures new. Ba has been sensational and he’ll be sorely missed whilst he plays in the African Nations Cup.

Sensational So Far...

What I like most about Ba, is his eye for goal. He has composure at times, but also stays positive and even chases down lost cause, a player certainly playing with confidence and class.

Sergio Aguero has been an ideal replacement for Carlos Tevez for Manchester City and they’ll hope he continues his scoring form in the business end of the season. Whilst they loaned out of favour Adebayor to Spurs, they probably did not expect he’d have helped them challenge for the Title.

Jonathan Walters was one of my favourite Championship players for many years and I was delighted to see him have a bright start to the Premier League and Stoke City. The same can be said for Steve Morison at Norwich and Danny Graham at Swansea, their summer transfers from the Football League were criticised but both have popped up with 8 goals each already this season.

Morison winning a header versus Sunderland

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Friday Focus: FA Cup Weekend

Its FA Cup weekend once again as the 2nd Round proper kicks off tonight with Blue Square Bet Premier side Fleetwood Town hosting League One Yeovil. With plenty of Non-League sides still competing in the prestigious competition many will be hoping to be in the pot for the 3rd Round draw comes Sunday afternoon. A home tie to Liverpool or an away trip to Old Trafford could financially fund a Non-League team for a whole season which is why this is a big, big deal.

Some interested fixtures in tomorrow’s games sees Stourbridge who previously knocked out Plymouth Argyle in a replay host Stevenage which could see another upset. One of the lowest ranked teams left in the Cup, Redbridge have a tough task travelling to Crawley Town.

There are some guaranteed Non-Leaguers entering the 3rd Round in January with a few all-non-league fixtures like Salisbury versus Grimsby and Gateshead versus Tamworth. Both Sheffield clubs host League Two opposition with Torquay going to United and Aldershot playing at Wednesday.

On Sunday, the televised games see AFC Totton, another one of the lowest ranked teams in the Cup this year host League Two Bristol Rovers. Could the part timers cause an upset? Sutton United also host Martin Allen’s Notts County side.

Meanwhile there’s Premier League and Championship action to also enjoy that is set to be a weekend Football feast.

Can Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas change things around with a win at Newcastle United? And will Martin O’Neill be in the dugout for Sunderland’s trip to Wolves on Sunday?

Friday Focus: The EPL kicks off with new boys QPR and Norwich plus interesting fixtures in the Football League

Another new feature on Verbal Football is Friday Focus, much like the regular feature ‘Monday Muse’ is a round-up of the weekends football action, Friday Focus is an opinionated preview on what the weekend could offer us with fixtures up and down the country.

This weekend sees the opening fixtures of the 2011/2012 season for the English Premier League with 6 games scheduled tomorrow (Saturday) after Tottenham Hotspur vs. Everton was called off due to the UK Riots. We are lucky that it was the only cancellation, but only makes the decision more bizarre that only one fixture in jeopardy.

It’s also the opening weekend of Non-League football with England with the Conference, Conference North & South and further down the pyramid kicking off the season. The Football League take on their 2nd weekend of league games as well as competing mid-week in the League Cup.

Focus is obviously mainly on the EPL this weekend, with a bundle of players making their Continue reading

Favourite Five…full-backs in the EPL this season

  Arguably the most underrated of all positions on the football pitch, the full back position whether left-back or right-back plays the unsung hero role. Whether it’s helping out the central defence and goalkeeper with vital interceptions and tackles, the full-back also links the defence with midfield.

In today’s game, the full-back position has transformed and progressed from that of the past. Despite full-backs in the past often asked to overlap and supply crosses into the area from deep they were more defensive minded than the modern day players, who are more like wing-backs.

Perhaps it is the change in football tactics and philosophy as well as the athleticism of the sport that have contributed to this but it’s no surprise these days to see the likes of Fabio, Raphael, Glen Johnson and Kyle Walker (to name a few examples) bursting forward like an old fashioned winger from the full back position.

The English Premier League has been gifted with some of the best right and left backs in the last decade with the likes of Ashley Cole and Gary Neville, the latter announcing his immediate retirement this season. This years EPL season has had plenty of criticism in terms of quality but there still has been some top performers. So who have been my Favourite Five full-backs in the EPL?  Continue reading