By David de Winter – Sports Writer
The 2013/14 Premier League season has been one of the most exciting in recent memory. A title race that went down to the wire, a Houdini-style escape by Sunderland, Alan Pardew going a bit loco, and Manchester United finished in 7th. What’s not to like? Here are the eleven players who excelled themselves this term.
Goalkeeper: David Marshall (Cardiff City)
It’s almost unheard of that the goalkeeper of the league’s bottom club is regarded as the best, but that is the reality. Without Marshall, Cardiff would have been relegated long before they actually were. Week after week he would produce mind-boggling saves, and whilst all around him people were losing their heads (most notably, the owner), Marshall was single-handedly keeping his, and his club afloat. Deserves another shot at the big time. An honourable mention goes to Newcastle United’s Tim Krul, whose performance against Spurs in November was one of the greatest I have ever witnessed.
Right-Back: Seamus Coleman (Everton)
Coleman and his compatriot Leighton Baines were a big factor in Everton’s record points haul this season. Their attacking thrust down the flanks provided a dual threat and it is no surprise that the Irishman finished with 7 goals in all competitions. 15 clean sheets is no mean feat either.
Centre-Back: John Terry (Chelsea)
The Chelsea stalwart was back to his imperious best this season after a few injury-hit years. As you would expect from a Jose Mourinho stopper, he marshalled a defence which conceded the fewest goals and recorded the most clean sheets. He has formed a formidable partnership with Gary Cahill, which can only benefit England this summer. Chelsea fans will breathe easy now that he has signed a one-year contract extension.
Centre-Back: Per Mertesacker (Arsenal)
As much as I want to include Manchester City’s title-winning captain, Vincent Kompany, he did make a few high profile mistakes. Individually, I thought the BFG Mertesacker was the most consistent throughout the season. He was instrumental in keeping Arsenal at the top of the league until Christmas, and his experience guided the Gunners to victory in their final five games to secure a Champions League spot. 16 clean sheets says it all really.
Left-Back: Leighton Baines (Everton)
Yes, Luke Shaw had an impressive debut season and was part of a Southampton defence which was nigh-on impenetrable up until December, but the Everton man was at least Shaw’s equal in defence and far superior going forward. Like all good attacking full-backs, Baines marauds forward at every opportunity, but it is his golden left foot that stands out. His delivery into the box is the best since David Beckham and to provide five assists and five goals from full-back is an excellent return. He will be a key player for England at the World Cup.
Midfield: Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
The Belgian started and ended the season slowly, but in the middle he was unstoppable scoring 14 goals and providing 10 assists. Alongside Oscar, he was the heartbeat of the Chelsea side that couldn’t quite get over the line in the closing weeks of the season. His touch, passing and finishing were a joy to watch. Hopefully he can resolve his differences with Mourinho and get back to his sublime best for next term.
Midfield: Steven Gerrard (Liverpool)
What can one say about the Liverpool captain? There aren’t enough superlatives in the English language to describe his performances this season. With his advancing years, Gerrard is no longer as effective with his trademark forcing runs from midfield. Brendan Rodgers has created a quarter-back role for him (almost a modern-day sweeper) in the mould of Andrea Pirlo and it has reaped massive dividends for the club, almost culminating in a first league title in 24 years. His passing has improved immeasurably and nowadays he hardly ever gives the ball away (watch this: www.youtube.com/watch?v=nvOQZbSoPPI). Also, he’s deadly from the penalty spot. Despite that infamous slip against Chelsea, he has had a brilliant season and he is back where he belongs – the Champions League. A last hurrah with England awaits in Brazil.
Midfield: Yaya Toure (Manchester City)
What a season this lad has had. Twenty goals from midfield is an absolutely staggering achievement. Toure is the complete footballer. He has pace, power, vision, shooting ability, he has developed into a dead-ball specialist, and, most importantly, he has unswerving desire. The penultimate game against Aston Villa was a case in point. 3-0 up in the last minute, City break from a corner. Who’s making the lung-busting run to score a fourth? Toure. Wholeheartedly deserves his winners’ medal.
Midfield: Adam Lallana (Southampton)
David Silva and Raheem Sterling both had brilliant finishes to the season, but for his overall consistency, I have plumped for the Southampton captain. Apart from Jack Wilshere he is probably the most technically proficient English footballer currently playing. This season he has added an inner steel and confidence to his game as well as improving his finishing (nine goals) and assists (also nine). A very intelligent footballer. Definitely one to watch in Brazil.
Forward: Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)
God knows how far ahead City would have finished if the Argentine had been fit for the whole season. Despite only playing 23 games, Aguero contributed 17 goals and 11 assists. His livewire running constantly stretched defences and his finishing was spot on. Needs to sort out his terrible haircut to become a truly great player. An honourable mention goes to Daniel Sturridge who had an excellent season but went missing too often in games for my liking.
Forward: Luis Suarez (Liverpool)
Who else? The PFA and Football Writers’ player of the year scored 31 goals in just 33 matches. Add to this 25 assists and you have the complete modern-day forward. The Uruguayan has no weakness to his game, but his most important facet is his tenacity. Like Toure, he is always trying his heart out for the team, be it the first or the last minute, and whilst he does overstep the mark on occasions, he is exhilarating to watch. He is Liverpool’s most important player by a mile and his reaction to the agonising draw to Crystal Palace shows just how much he cares. A superlative footballer.