16 May 2014

Boston Gooners Team of the Season 2013/14

As promised, here are the results for the first ever Boston Gooners Premier League Team of the Season. Thanks to everyone who submitted their entries, and thanks for the varied opinions; this whole exercise would have been a lot more boring if everyone just voted for Arsenal players.

NB: There won't be match preview today - I do not want to tempt fate in any way, shape or form. There are several professional ones out there should you choose to look for them.

Boston Gooners 2013/14 BPL Team of the Season - Football tactics and formations

Goalkeeper: Wojciech Szczęsny (Arsenal)
Szczęsny really grew in to the role of number one this season, and tied Petr Čech for the most clean sheets in the Premier League this season, on 16, earning him a share of the Golden Glove award. Despite several high profile, heavy defeats at fellow title contenders, Szczęsny only conceded 41 league goals this term, the fifth-best record in the league. He was an integral part of the team that lead the league as late as February.

An important part of Szczęsny's improvement came with the ball at his feet; as the season progressed he made fewer mistakes with his distribution, especially on back-passes, which in turn gave his defense much more confidence in the man behind them. Szczęsny averaged 2.05 saves per game,  1.11 goals conceded, and a claim success rate of 96%. While Lukasz Fabiański took Arsenal to the FA Cup Final, many pundits expect Szczęsny to start the final tomorrow.

Also receiving votes: Simon Mignolet, Petr Čech, David De Gea, Artur Boruc, Joe Hart, Vito Mannone, David Marshall, Tim Howard.

Right back: Bacary Sagna (Arsenal)
Sagna earns his place in the team despite close competition from Everton's Seamus Coleman. The Frenchman submitted consistently strong performances week-in, week-out for the Gunners, while also offering Arsène Wenger tactical flexibility by covering at center-back several times during the season. While he may have lost some of the pace he used to have, he has played what looks like his final season the same way he started his first - strong in the tackle and in the air and with a penchant for bombing forward. His final ball has improved too, as evidenced by the 21 chances he created in the league this season and a passing success rate of 85%. Sagna made just one error that lead to a goal-scoring opportunity this season. He is likely to start at Wembley on Saturday in what will probably be his last match in red and white.

Also receiving votes: Seamus Coleman, Pablo Zabaleta, Branislav Ivanovic.

Center backs: Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny (both Arsenal)
The Big Effin' German is on several team of the season polls around the internet, and deservedly so. Mertesacker played more games than any Arsenal player this season; in fact, across all competitions, he played more minutes - 4,605 - than any other Premier League outfield player. His consistency and seemingly telepathic relationship with Koscielny helped Arsenal finish fourth, while his goal in the FA Cup semi-final against Wigan may prove to be the most important one of the Gunners' season. Per's passing accuracy was at 93% for the season and he won 62% of his defensive duels.

Koscielny is almost the perfect central defensive partner for Mertesacker; more mobile than the big German, Koscielny's pace and positioning allow him to make crucial blocks and interceptions. He totaled 22 blocks and averaged 2.9 interceptions per game in the League this season. He also provides a threat on the offensive end with good movement in the box from set-pieces, which earned him two goals this season. This partnership has been so good for at least a season and a half that they have kept club captain Thomas Vermaelen from the starting line-up. Wenger - and indeed Gunners fans everywhere - will be hoping that this stability in the back line will carry on in to a sustained title challenge next season.

Also receiving votes: Vincent Kompany, John Terry, Gary Cahill, Sylvain Distin.

Left back: Leighton Baines (Everton)
The first non-Gunner to make our team, Baines' has fully established himself as one the Premier League's best left backs this season. As a key part of Everton's defense, he helped the Toffees sustain a run at Champions League positions that went to the last few games of the season. The Everton captain was solid at the back while providing marauding runs from deep and is probably the face of new manager Roberto Martinez's new-look, attacking Everton side. He has a wicked left foot that he puts to great use at set-pieces. Baines scored five goals this season and created more chances (49) than any other defender in the league this term. His form has also seen him earn the starting left back spot for England at the World Cup.

Also receiving votes: Luke Shaw, Kieran Gibbs, Cesar Azpilicueta, Gael Clichy, Nacho Monreal.

Central midfielder: Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal)
What more can I add that hasn't already been said about Rambo? The Welshman came bursting out of the blocks this season, scoring 13 goals in 27 matches before sustaining an injury against West Ham in December that kept him out for over three months. During that time, Arsenal's title challenge faltered and the Gunners slipped to fourth, but Rambo has come back firing, looking like he missed no time at all and returning to scoring form. The Final could be the perfect stage for Ramsey to finish his breakout season with a great performance.

Aaron scored 10 goals and created 32 chances in 23 PL matches - 8 of which were converted by another player. It wasn't just the number of goals, but also the manner in which they were scored. His goal against Norwich on the last day of the season stands out; his movement was perfect and you could see a last minute readjustment that allowed him to unleash a volley in to the top corner. He also formed a great partnership with Mesut Özil in Arsenal's midfield (more on that in a bit). Fingers crossed for an injury-free season.

Central midfielder: Yaya Touré (Manchester City)
The big Ivorian laughably finished behind Steven Gerrard in the official voting for Player of the Season - you could argue that he was player of the year as best player on the champions - but he rightfully takes his place in the BG Team of the Season. Touré was the inspiration and driving force behind the title-winning side, becoming the first midfielder (also, only the second ever) to score 20 league goals in a season since Frank Lampard. When it mattered, Touré drove his team to five successive wins and a league title, while Gerrard could only fall flat on his face in one of the biggest chokes of all time. His strength, skill and finishing were put perfectly on show with his goal against Aston Villa in the penultimate match of the season, as he picked up the ball 15 yards inside his own half, drove through a retreating Villa defense before burying the ball past Brad Guzan.

Also receiving votes: Adam Lallana, Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson, Mikel Arteta, Mathieu Flamini, Ross Barkley, Tomas Rosicky.

Attacking midfielder: Mesut Özil (Arsenal)
Özil came in to the season with high expectations, with Wenger smashing the Gunners' transfer record to sign the German playmaker, and he started well. He gelled quickly with the squad, forming a special relationship with Ramsey, looking at his best when interchanging passes with the Welshman and setting him up for goals. Despite spending time injured, and contrary to a media narrative that he was 'underperforming', Özil still created more chances than most in the Premier League last season. One of his key abilities is finding open space, which gives him time to analyse what is around him before picking the perfect pass - check Jenkinson's goal against Norwich again and you'll see this in the build-up. You could also argue that we are yet to see the best from the German, and with a season of English football under his belt, and a full pre-season, we should be in for a treat next time round.

Attacking midfielder/forward: Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
The Belgian star won the official Young Player of the Year award - while I won't argue that he's a great player, I debate that he is "Young" - and was a bright spot in a relatively disappointing season for Chelsea. He scored 14 league goals in 35 appearances and finished the season with an 83% passing accuracy rate. Hazard created 92 chances for teammates this season, more than any other player in the league, and with a decent striking option to convert those chances, Chelsea should be closer to the title at the end of next season. With more consistent high-level performances, the winger could one day be a serious contender for Ballon d'Or awards.

Attacking midfielder/forward: Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool)
Sturridge led the line for Liverpool at the beginning of the season during Suarez's ban, and once his striker partner returned, they combined to help lead the Anfield club's charge to the top of the table. While he scored less - and less frequently - than his partner, you could argue that Sturridge's goals were more valuable. Take his goals from the final scores in matches in which he scored and Liverpool would be 18 points worse off; Suarez's goals only earned 15 points. Sturridge also scored 5 of his 21 goals in situations when Liverpool were behind, compared to one such goal for Suarez. It seems the England striker has finally found a comfort zone, having been deemed surplus to requirements at Man City and Chelsea in the past.

Also receiving votes: Lukas Podolski, Santi Cazorla, Juan Mata, Theo Walcott, David Silva.

Striker: Luis Suarez (Liverpool)
Imagine where Arsenal could have been had they upped their bid for the controversial Uruguayan last summer. Suarez was due to miss the first six games of the domestic season as part of his infamous biting ban, yet the Gunners were still willing to bid over £40m for the striker (we've had enough jokes about the exact figure). After returning to the Liverpool line-up, Suarez was on fire for the rest of the season, bagging 31 goals in 33 games while also setting up 12 goals for his team-mates. Some sensational goals and team play have gone a long way to restoring his reputation, but we should never forget that he has twice been banned for biting (once at Ajax) and once for racist comments to a fellow player. However, he fully deserves his spot in the team of the season and there can really be few arguments.

Also receiving votes: Olivier Giroud, Sergio Agüero, Romelu Lukaku, Wilfried Bony, Wayne Rooney.

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